In 2014, Tzu Chings in Singapore celebrated their 15th anniversary. Tzu Chi Singapore presented an adaptation of the “Sutra of Profound Gratitude Towards Parents” on 20 and 21 September at the Nanyang Auditorium at NTU to more than 4,250 people over 3 production runs. During the musical, the true meaning of filial piety as taught in the Sutra was presented to the audience.
In order to inspire filial piety in other youths, Singapore Tzu Chings took on the responsibility of the largest scale event they have ever organized so far. The adaptation of the “Sutra of Profound Gratitude Towards Parents” is a music, drama and sign language production by more than 100 tertiary students. The VIPs, and Minister of State Ms Sim Ann, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Communications and Information, acknowledged that due to the rapid pace of urban life, traditional virtues like filial piety have gradually been forgotten, and the Profound Parental Love musical serves as a reminder for us to remember these values.
Ms Sim Ann said, "Ensuring that the virtue of filial piety is passed down the generations needs a long term view and (towards this end), the schools and society play a pivotal role, and this is especially true for the individual family units. I'm pleased to see these youths partake in the musical adaptation, as they will be an important driving force in our society’s development."
Reaping Lifelong Benefits from the Dharma
The 135 cast members included Tzu Chings, Tzu Ching seniors, Tzu Ching Parent Facilitators and other Tzu Chi volunteers. Member of Parliament Mr Yeo Guat Kwang also played a role as "Buddha" in one of the shows. After eight months of preparation, from founding the committee, to assembling the cast members, to intensive rehearsals, Tzu Chings had conducted 18 study sessions so as to better understand the Dharma. They have also kept to a vegetarian diet for 108 days in order to enter the Dharma with piously with body and mind.
It had always been difficult for Tzu Ching Chen You Yi to be a vegetarian as she found it hard to resist the temptation of eating fish cake. However, after the musical, she realized deeply that all beings are equal and would remind herself that she did not have the right to take the life of another being. Whenever she was faced with temptation, she would transform her fondness for fish cake into compassion for the animals.
Many Tzu Chings also have a renewed understanding towards filial piety. One of the verses in the section entitled“Repaying Kindness” reminded He Yao Yong that he was not being respectful enough to his parents; he was reminded that even in carrying out filial actions, one must also be aware of one’s demeanour.
He said, "I have always thought it was easy to be filial, which is to follow parents' instructions. Now I realize it is beyond that. Sometimes my parents just want to have a meal together but I will ignore them if I have homework to do; I may even end up quarrelling with them over such trivial issues.”
During one of the study sessions, many Tzu Chings plucked up courage to share their rebellious past and how they made an effort to improve their relationships with their parents. Some had saved up to buy air tickets to invite their families and parents from overseas to watch the musical and took the opportunity to express their love and gratitude with a cup of tea after the production ended.
Tzu Ching Zheng Shi Hui's father was not keen to attend at first, but since the entire family was attending, he felt obliged to do so. Unexpectedly, after the musical, he felt moved and sentimental as he thought of his late mother. He commented that Tzu Chi is a wonderful organization and what children learnt from Tzu Chi, including filial piety and contributing to society, can benefit them for life.
Filial Piety - The roots of Humanity
The 73 minutes of “The Profound Parental Love Musical” spanned across eight interrelated scenes to remind us that we are forever indebted to our parents; from the moment the fetus is inside the womb to when the child is born, grows up and does wrong due to bad company, never once did the parents give up on their child. Before the start of the musical adaptation, there were also three videos which described the nobleness of three mothers’ love in taking care of their disabled children. Such enduring love has moved many audiences.
Ibrahim, a Muslim member of the audience said, "The theme (of the production) is very unique and with the English subtitles, I can fully comprehend its meaning." Qiu Guo Bao, who is a member of the NTU Buddhist society said after watching the scenes in the section entitled“Pregnancy”: "I just knew it was a ten-month process but I never knew the discomfort my mother felt."
NTU Professor Zhang Wei Rong also praised the students for doing something meaningful outside their studies. He said, "I believe their efforts and dedication will inspire many people."
Meanwhile, it was teeming with people outside the auditorium. Members of the audience made their own way to the “filial piety zone” and the exhibition areas. Be it serving tea to their parents or writing postcards to them or taking family photos, everyone was taking the opportunity to express their gratitude to their parents.
Huang Mei Ting is from Malaysia but she works in Singapore with her husband. As her parents and children are still in Malaysia, they make frequent trips back home. After watching the “Profound Parental Love Musical,” she said the first thing in mind is to declare her love and gratitude to her parents and in-laws. As a result, she has decided to send them a postcard.
Hong Wen School Chinese teacher Lin Mei Lan said, “Filial piety is not just talk, we must also let the students experience it with their hearts. In schools, when we teach filial piety, it is through theory and logic, but this musical adaptation truly lets students understand the concept.” Ms Lin has also brought along six students, two colleagues, and her nephew with her to watch the musical.
The musical adaptation reminded Lin of her late mother and she wept. She realized that filial piety must be done in a timely manner and so she brought her students along. Ten year old student Li Shou Xing said, “I am going to take good care of my parents while they are still with me, so as not to have any regrets.”
The “Profound Parental Love” musical serves as a reminder for the cast members and inspires reflection in the audience. As Master Cheng Yen said, one should uphold the Dharma, maintain purity in our hearts, and make filial piety a priority. Filial piety is the root of the family. When the root is firmly established, then naturally, one will be set resolutely on the right path.