The 2013 “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation may have concluded, but the participants still remember what the six months of rehearsals and the two years of community study sessions have ingrained in them. A total of 960 Tzu Chi members gathered at Jing Si Hall and together, relived their experience of the joy of Dharma when they participated in the Dharma assembly together.
The 2013 “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation may have concluded, but the participants still remember what the six months of rehearsals and the two years of community study sessions have ingrained in them. A total of 960 Tzu Chi members from the east, north and south zones gathered at Jing Si Hall for a sharing session and together, relived the joy of Dharma they had felt when they participated in the Dharma assembly together. They also vowed to keep the teachings and the spirit alive, by attending the early morning Dharma teachings by Master Cheng Yen and to be of service to humanity.
Cleansing Hearts and Thirsting for the Dharma
“Doubtless, the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation is still fresh in everyone’s mind, let’s all present the segment on making vows with sincerity again!”Though volunteers had not practiced their singing and sign language in a month, they had not forgotten anything; in fact they appeared even more relaxed as they joyfully presented the segment.
Volunteer Wu Mei Fang used to be a strict mother in the eyes of her four children. In fact, her children never had the right to say “no” to her. Once, without allowing her elder son to explain himself, Wu berated him for making his sister cry. As she was about to punish him severely, he rushed into the room and locked himself inside. After some time, Wu opened the door with a key, only to hear him sobbing out that he wished to end his life. At that moment, Wu was extremely regretful of her actions— she could not understand why her correction had resulted in so much distress to her child.
In front of her audience, Wu spoke from her heart as she revealed how, because of the high expectations she had for her son, she was extremely strict with him, and how sorry she had felt upon looking back at the past. Upon signing up as a participant in the adaptation, she realized what the particular line in the “Water Repentance” text meant when one’s “anger, rage and maliciousness… often cause hurt to others.”Wu decided that the way in which she taught her children had to change, and she started to encourage them more often. Now, her children even mimic the way in which she used to get angry in the past just for laughs, and the atmosphere at home has become more harmonious.
Among the volunteers sharing their experience was a mother and son pair, Guo Qiu Xia and Zhou Shi Hong. Tzu Chi member Guo shares how even before she had signed up to participate in the stage adaptation, she had been urging her son, Zhou, to take part in recycling and care visits to institutions with her.
Zhou reveals that whenever he saw others suffering, he would realize how fortunate he is. However, he had not been involved in volunteer training nor sharing sessions till his mother moved over to stay with his brother. Without her, his life became very quiet. Gradually, because he missed her, he started to appreciate that filial piety and engaging in good deeds are two things in life that cannot be delayed. From a casual volunteer, Zhou became a committed volunteer who desired to enter the Dharma. Though he had to uphold a vegetarian diet in order to participate, it was not difficult for him to do so and he received lots of support from his friends and colleagues. In celebrating his birthday, they even brought him to a vegetarian restaurant. “Shrink your concept of self, and think of others more often.” Zhou tells those present how whereas he used to think only of himself, he has now become more accommodating towards others. Guo adds that her son now keeps a cooler head than he did in the past.
There participants in the stage adaptation range in age from primary school children to the white-haired elderly; among them was 75 year old Zhang Xiu Li, who, with the encouragement of her facilitating sign language teacher, surmounted the obstacles of pain in her legs while performing the kneeling and standing motions, and a declining memory. Zhang reveals that she had to copy down the lyrics until she could finally remember them by heart. She was rewarded when she was finally able to stand on stage to present the Dharma to others.
In addition, Zhang told of how she would ensure that two meals in a day would be vegetarian. However, after she was selected to present the Buddha’s image on stage, she was even more conscious of upholding a purely vegetarian diet. Though she was glad to have the support of her family, it was her friends that would often call to persuade her not to eat vegetarian meals as it would inconvenience them when they went out together. Yet, even with her friends egging her on to do the contrary, her determination did not waver and she even became inclined to persuade them to uphold vegetarianism.
Arising Early for the Dharma Teachings
Wang Xiang Ying defines her concept of freedom as not subjecting oneself to any self-imposed restraints such as time or place. Wang is a very family-oriented person and in the past, she had hoped to contribute as a volunteer only if she had time to spare. As her work location was far from the Tzu Chi community meeting points, she had to travel for one and a half hours if she wanted to attend the study sessions or sharing sessions. “I would end up being almost late every time, and I could only attend the class for half an hour. In the end I decided not to come.”
With the encouragement of her sign language group coordinator Luo Xiu Li, Wang took on the role of a sign language facilitator. After attending a series of community study sessions, she started to change her mind and vowed that she would turn up for every community study session as well as the sharing sessions. “If I can hear one sentence of the Dharma teachings, I will strive to practice that teaching in my life, benefitting myself and others. Knowing that I may be late, I would also try to up my productivity at work.”
Wang had wanted to attend the early morning teachings of Master Cheng Yen, but was faced with the problem of transport availability in the early hours of the morning. Fortunately, on a reporting trip to Taiwan, she had gotten to know another facilitator Wu Shi Cheng. Wu had his own car and was keen to attend the morning sessions at the Tzu Chi Free Clinic at Redhill. Wu invited a few volunteers who lived nearby, including Wang, to take his “bodhisattva car”and together, they proceeded to attend the morning sessions.
During the trip to Taiwan when Wang was at the Jing Si Abode, she was asked by one of the monastics: “Do you know yourself?”Wang had kept the question inside her heart and had ruminated deeply upon it. “I had been studying Buddhism, and I thought that I knew myself well, but this is in fact not true.” During the course of preparing for the stage adaptation, knowing that she would feel helpless at the point of death, she would feel panicky whenever the day drew to a close and with it, came the silence of the night. Faced with the prospect of impermanence, she did not know what to do.
However, she also found the answer — to follow the teachings and example of the Master. Wang says that when her time comes, she will face it calmly and her faith in the Master never wavers. Wang hopes that in future, she will be able to contribute in international relief and medical missions. Though she knows the road ahead is long, she will focus her efforts on basic charity and medical voluntary undertakings and is confident that she will reach her goal one day.
Finding One’s Spiritual Home in a Foreign Land
“Tzu Chi saved me while I was in Singapore.” In September 2013, Deng Yang Yang, a Tzu Ching (a member of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth) had just arrived from Shanghai and had been working for a week in Singapore. He was invited to be part of the stage adaptation and with prior experience in sign language, he agreed without hesitation. It was only later that he found out that sign language was actually rather difficult.
Deng works at a construction site and is tired out by the end of the day. Though the only thing in his mind is to return home earlier to rest, he persisted in his efforts to learn sign language under the care and encouragement of the volunteers. “During practice, I didn't have any particularly deep impressions, but during the three days when the stage adaptation was presented (to the public), I started to feel that the teachings had penetrated deeply into my heart.”
After the stage adaptation had concluded, Deng frequently plays the songs from the adaptation and sings along. He also watches the “Life Wisdom” programme. Whenever he sees Tzu Chi in action in his hometown in Guizhou, China, he feels especially warm. During his university days, he would take part in Tzu Chi recycling activities, study sessions and camps accompanied by the volunteers, while today, he has joined the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers hoping to continue on the bodhisattva path.
Pan Lin, on the other hand, hails from Yang Zhou in China, and has been studying and working in Singapore for close to ten years. Last year, her mother, Lin Yan Fang, joined her in Singapore. Pan shares how after she had entered the Dharma, she no longer buys the fresh meats on sale whenever she is at the supermarkets. Frequently, she also finds that the lyrics of the adaptation would spontaneously pop up in her mind and she would remind herself to beware engaging in evil.
Pan’s mother would often engage in charity work back in China, and was keen on doing the same in Singapore. With this in mind, Pan located Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) which was nearby their residence. After the adaptation, both of them applied to be grey uniform volunteers and together, they aspire to live out a more meaningful life.
After more than two years of immersing themselves in the teachings of the “Dharma as Water” text, many volunteers and members of the public have understood the importance of filial piety and doing good deeds. Tzu Chi Singapore (Foundation) has also seized upon the opportunity to develop its four missions further and has already welcomed 350 of the adaptation’s participants as volunteers. In addition, the management team lead all to continue the vegetarian fast for an additional 108 days, and together, they vowed to walk the bodhisattva path as they served humanity.
（By Tai Kai Pik, Bernard Ng, Yip Wei Juinn, Zeng Mei Fen and Huang Fu Shun; Translated by Shu Yin，12/01/2014）