On 15 December 2013, before the curtain lifted for the last presentation of the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation, close to 2,000 participants and helpers gathered at the Singapore Indoor Stadium for the sharing and appreciation session. In the midst of the expressions of mutual gratitude, everyone relived their journey over the last six months together as images flashed by on the screen overhead.
The spacious venue of the indoor stadium became the grounds of a sharing and appreciation session on the morning of 15 December 2013. About 2,000 people who were the participants, helpers and drum team members of the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation, were seated below the V-shaped stage. Among them, there were elderly participants who were seated on chairs which others had thoughtfully provided for their use.
Two thousand pairs of eyes were trained onto the stage, as images appeared one after another on the huge screen onstage. These photographs captured the hard work that everyone had put in over the last six months; from the community study sessions, chorus and sign language rehearsals, to the small group practice held in volunteer’s homes, right up to the combined rehearsals.
“Hey, that’s you in the photograph!” “Oh, look at how focused (on the activity) he is!”The pictures captured the faces of the many volunteers as they went about their preparations. Some volunteers cried as the images brought back many emotions; some had a look of blissful joy on their faces, while others were thankful that they had been part of the huge undertaking.
As volunteers later took to the stage to share their experiences with everyone, it was observed that though it may have been the first time that some of them had stood on such a big stage to address so many people, they were not in the least bit shy. This was, afterall, their stage, where they had worked so hard to bring the Dharma assembly alive.
A Successful Dharma Undertaking Needs Both You and I
Dr. Xu Zhen Xing, who undertook the role of the artist in the stage adaptation, used his hands to trace the outline of the Chinese character that has the meaning of “unity” ”I saw in Tzu chi, this unity,” he says to thunderous applause downstage. Dr. Xu shared that a week before the debut of the stage adaptation, CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) Brother Low Swee Seh, finally got hold of him after five phone calls and hesitantly invited him to take on the role. Thinking that it would be difficult to get another person to agree to the undertaking as it was so near to the debut, he agreed to try his best.
Dr Xu is very grateful to the Taiwan team that came down to give them pointers, as this resulted in him having a better grasp of the meaning behind every little action he has to present onstage. With this, he was able to bring forth the meaning of the lyrics contained in the “Water Repentance” text, and accomplish the goals of the dignified Dharma assembly.
While he had thought that he could not participate in the stage adaptation because his children were still young and needed his attention, he and his wife eventually signed up together just two weeks ago, after finding out that the adaptation still lacked the sufficient numbers. His 14 year old son joined in as well, and though they were all late by four months, they made efforts to catch up. He shares that even his four and two year olds at home, could sing the lyrics along with them at home.
“I’m here because of you all,”said Dr. Xu with emotion. “I’m grateful to my own family members, as well as to my Tzu Chi family members.” As applause started up once again, he thanked everyone by singing “Song of the Valiant,”a tune from the “Water Margin”movie, likening their determination and spirit to the 108 valiant men in the classic tale.
Drumbeats of Dharma Eliminate Arrogance
Lin Ming Zhong, a new citizen from Hainan Island, had initially signed up to be part of the drum team in the adaptation with the attitude that it would be a piece of cake for him since he had some foundation in western drums. However, he soon realized that the drum team’s emphasis was on teamwork and not individual performance. Seeing how those team mates of his with no music background could make big strides in their progress because of their hard work, while he himself seemed not to have made any, he felt ashamed and was motivated to do better.
Lin explains that at work, he practices by tapping on the table, and even practices as he walks. While driving, he would try to synchronize his taps with the beat of the traffic signal. His mindful practice paid off when he was finally able to coordinate his drumbeats with the rest of the team.
During the past half year, Lin saw the strength in the aspirations of the Tzu Chi volunteers. He saw how his young team member, Huang Yong Xin, had attended the practice session even though she was ill with fever; how Lee Foo Tien had to wear layers of protective waist bands after sustaining an injury during drum practice; and how another team member, Fu Hua Ren carried on with the preparations even while grieving over the recent passing of her father.
Seeing an entire family go onstage to share their experiences, he was full of admiration and hopes to bring his family into the fold of Tzu Chi in future.
Achieving Much with United Hearts
The neat formations achieved on stage, could become a reality only when aided by colorful markings on the floor that cued stage adaptation participants quickly to their places. The initial markings were done with the help of more than a hundred people on 12 December 2013, but the next day, at noon, Chief Director and Choreographer of the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation, Sister Ci Yue gave the feedback that the markings were unsightly, and in order to create the dignified look befitting a Dharma assembly, it was best to have the floor carpeted.
Though it meant that the backstage team had to re-do the floor markings after the carpets were laid, and in the face of serious time and manpower constraints, team leaders Lin Yang Bao and Wu Shi Cheng said only these words, “Okay! We’ll do it!”
During the sharing and gratitude session, Lin told everyone how he subdued his “fiery heart” and focused on getting the task done well, so that everyone could assume their correct places on stage and together, bring the Dharma to others.
“With each floor marking, I would recite the name of the Buddha. Training my patience thus, I eventually finished the job." Team member Chai Jiuan Hua shared how the experience had developed him spiritually. He expressed great gratitude towards Lin, whom he said was very open to discussion and gaining a common consensus. “I learnt the meaning of “unity” in this team, no matter what sort of challenges we face, we would solve the problem together.”
Factories Transform into Cultivation Grounds
Businessman Shen Xi Zhou, who was in charge of receiving the VIPs invited to the stage adaptation, is moved to tears after listening to the sharing on stage.
He recaps how difficult it was to get a practice venue for the rehearsals, yet fortunately enough, the first level in his factory, which was suitable for assembling a makeshift stage for 504 chorus and sign language presenters, had recently been vacated. Shen says this is testimony to the saying that “with will comes blessings.”
The joy of giving written all over his face, Shen Sen Ping, also a businessman, had lent his factory grounds for the use of the drum team’s practice sessions. Knowing that the drum beats might disturb the nearby neighbours, the drum team had to relocate to an industrial area sited away from residential areas. With Shen’s timely offer, the factory became another cultivation ground as drum beats rang out from within its premises. At the conclusion of the stage adaptation, the grounds would be transformed back into an educational recycling station and play host to Tzu Chi’s community activities.
The Dharma Assembly Never Ends
Sister Ci Yue, whose team had come down from Taiwan twice to give pointers to the Singapore stage adaptation participants in the two weeks leading up to the day of its debut, had this to say: “The‘Dharma as Water’stage adaptation symbolizes that the Dharma ship has already set sail. Don’t let it stop there; at any Tzu Chi event, volunteers can present the Dharma ship segment (Repenting the Obstacle of Karmic Retribution) from the stage adaptation), and with this, we ensure that the tradition of Dharma assemblies that started from Buddha’s time will carry on.”
“Why must we present the stage adaptation? Because we have to first eliminate our negative habituations and purify our afflictions. The Master has great love for us and wishes that we can do away with our afflictions and uphold the vegetarian precept before we pursue the teachings of the “Sutra of Innumerable Meanings”and actualize the path of a Bodhisattva. With pure hearts we can then bring the Dharma to others.”
Sister Ci Yue went on to ask those willing to become vegetarians to raise their hands, and borrowing a line from the adaptation, exhorted everyone to uphold the vegetarian precept, that they may never hear the mournful cries of the slaughtered. It was heartening to note that in response, roughly 90 percent of those present raised their hands.
Vowing to Bring Purity to the Lion City
Ex-CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) Brother David Liu came to support the first presentation of the stage adaptation on 13 December 2013, which was also a media reception event. Seeing the almost-flawless presentation unfold before him, with participants coordinated and orderly in their formations, he gave a rating of 95/100.
During the sharing and appreciation session, Brother Liu encouraged volunteers to continue in their cultivation of both wisdom and blessings, as this is the true path for a practitioner of Buddhism. The two past and current CEOS of the Singapore branch also lead the executive team to make sincere vows to increase the number of members beyond 50,000 by December 2014, pledging their determination to lead more towards the Bodhisattva path.
Expressing gratitude to Master Cheng Yen for making the stage adaptation available as a means to enter the Dharma, Brother Liu expressed that as the Master’s teachings are broadcast by Da Ai TV station and via video conference, the organization hopes that everyone can attend the morning Dharma teachings together.
In the midst of the preparations for the stage adaptation, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) did not forget those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. In the four days after the stage adaptation, the organization was busy with the next project— raising funds for the survivors via a street fundraiser. Brother Low said, “We will not rest even after the stage adaptation, in the days ahead, we will create even more fields of merit for everyone!”
We need the waters of Dharma to purify our world; by influencing others to engage in kind thoughts and deeds, we enrich lives and make them more meaningful. In appreciation of the gift of the sutra adaptation, Singapore volunteers cannot slacken; in continuing their efforts in the communities, they bring harmony to our society.
（By Huang Fu Shun; Translated by Shu Yin，15/12/2013）