On 12 and 13 Jan 2013, Tzu Chi Singapore Branch held 4 sessions of the Year End Blessing Ceremonies at Kallang Theatre with a Musical & Sign Language adaptation of the “Water Repentance Sutra” as its main theme. This is the first time that closed to 800 volunteers from the branch’s 3 community zones (North, South and East) came together to perform the sutra adaptation. With over 3 months of intensive practice, the sutra adaptation was put on stage as well as downstage by this great number of volunteers to form a solemn Sea of Dharma.
Water Repentance ~ Rise of the Dharma Sea
The lyric on ‘The Mind Creates Afflictions’ from the ‘Repent the Obstruction of Affliction’ in the Water Repentance Song was performed. An artist painted out that transgressions and sufferings came from the body, speech and mind and the six senses. Your thoughts influence your life so via the act of repentance for past wrongdoings can we cleanse our minds and attained wholesomeness. The realistic short play from ‘the Bottomless Pit of Desire’ told of how greed is as deep as the deepest ocean, while desire and insatiable needs cause great suffering. 13 volunteers from the drama team acted out that conditions and retributions are all interdependent.
This was followed by the performance of ‘One by One, I Repent All my Wrongdoings’ and ‘Correct the Past and Cultivate the Future.’ With song and sign language, 180 volunteers’ onstage moved to form different formations. The formations include Butterfly, Dharma Ship, a blossom Lotus flower and finally the formation of the Earth which signifies the 6 realms.
Downstage, 124 volunteers seated at the front portion of the theatre forms the ‘Great Love Zone’. Together, they formed the shape of a ship and took concerted action with the volunteers onstage. With everyone united as one and fully devoted to the performance, the volunteers piously expressed the Dharma via their actions. As spirits went high, the attention of the audiences were drawn to the screen depicting a heavenly scene of the bright blue sky with the changing sun, moon and stars following through the ‘Water Repentance’ stage adaptation. At that instance, everyone seems to be present in the serene pure land of the Buddha......
The 30 minutes ‘Water Repentance’ sign language song adaptation aims to encourage the audiences to rid of their greed, anger and delusion and to repent over their wrongdoing so as to eliminate the past bad karmas and develop compassion and wisdom to help all beings.
Last but not least, the audiences were invited to participate in a simple sign language song of the ‘Great Repentance’ . With everyone in unison, it is hope that the ship of compassion could sail far and wide to reach everyone around the world.
Looking ahead with gratitude
As we usher into the New Year, it is a time to reflect on the past and look ahead into the future. For the past one year, we have witnessed the occurrence of many natural and man-made disasters around the world. It is indeed a blessing to be living in a peaceful society and we should be grateful for that.
Master Cheng Yen is very grateful to the volunteers and members around the world that give of themselves to support Tzu Chi missions and help to shape a better world. Each year, Tzu Chi will specially held year-end blessing ceremonies as a sincere gesture by Master Cheng Yen to express her gratitude and blessings to everyone.
Living in accordance to the Tzu Chi Way is the mission of all Tzu Chi people. To welcome the New Year, it is Master Cheng Yen’s hope that Tzu Chi people around the world could lead a simple life and grow in wisdom with compassionate love.
The audiences watched the ‘2012 Tzu Chi Global Treasury Sutra’ and ‘2012 Tzu Chi Singapore Treasury Sutra’, an annual report capturing the Great Love footprint left behind by Tzu Chi volunteers around the world as well as locally. Each year, Master Cheng Yen uses her entire royalties collected from her publications and put them into each of the ‘blessings and wisdom red packet’, which are given out to the worldwide Tzu Chi volunteers and donating members. The volunteers and members brought their bamboo coin banks back, which are the accumulations of a kind thought each day.
Besides taking part in the sutra adaptation on stage, Tzu Chi volunteers Lee Teck Hock and Raymond Koh also shared on their personal experience of how after joining Tzu Chi has helped them changed for the better and left their troubled past behind.
Your thoughts influence your life
In order to include the Musical & Sign Language adaptation of the Sutra during the Year End Blessing, the branch office has been striving to reach out to Tzu Chi members and members of the public. Ranging from the youngest 11 years-old student to the oldest 86 years-old grey haired volunteer, volunteers pledged on vegetarianism and participated in the Sutra adaptation with a cleansing mind.
Madam Zhang Yu Nian suffered from depression and was tormented over the years. In her 60s now, she has been striving to find peace within her. 5 years ago, she got to join Tzu Chi and took part in institutional care, but she did not continue due to issues on people’s affairs. She re-joined the team after her group leader Zheng Yu Mei, who has persisted in caring for her, asked her to return and participated in the study group and the performance.
Through the study sessions and community activities, Zhang Yu Nian has a fresh understanding of what it meant by putting the Dharma into action. As she has weak knees, she chose to participate in the ‘Great Love Zone’ downstage where she will be seated during the performance. Although she lacked the confidence for the performance initially, she managed to overcome this with lots of encouragement and care from her fellow volunteers.
“From the singing of the Dharma lyrics, I reflect upon myself every day and keep my arising thoughts of greed, anger and jealousy in check. I have learnt to let go. When I come to Tzu Chi now, sometimes I do feel tired, sometimes I could not sleep but I am happy to volunteer myself. Haha!” Performing the stage adaptation helps to cleanse the mind. The cheery laugher of Zheng is the best proof that her depressed soul has found a new lease of life.
12 years old Xie Shu Hui, who has just entered secondary 1, is the youngest volunteer performing in the Sign Language zone. She joined her mother Hou Mei Qing to perform on stage.
Shu Hui’s grandmother is a Tzu Chi commissioner from Malacca who had taken part in Sutra Adaptation in the Malacca branch before. During a school holiday two years ago, Shu Hui went to the Malacca branch with her grandmother and started to take an interest in Tzu Chi sign language. After returning home, she encouraged her mother to join Tzu Chi. In August 2012, Hou Mei Qing took part in the Sutra adaptation for the Auspicious Month and Shu Hui readily signed up for the Year End Blessing Sutra adaptation after completing her Primary School leaving examination.
Hou Mei Qing was not afraid to disclose that both she and her daughter have very bad temper. She has high expectations of her only child and the mother-child relationship was not quite good. Initially, Shu Hui was worried as she did not do well in her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) but after feeling that her mother has changed, she could breathe a sigh of relief.
“My mother’s temper has improved a lot. She told me that good moral conduct is more important than getting good grades” Now, mother and daughter has grown closer to each other. While practicing sign language at home, Shu Hui would guide her mother and assist to correct her when her sign language action was incorrect. Their conversation topic would revolve around Tzu Chi and the mother-daughter relationship has vastly improved.
The answer is in Tzu Chi
Graduate Tzu Ching (in short for Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association) Ye Ren Hui focussed on his career and family after his graduation in the year 2000. Busy building his career and family, he hardly participated in any Tzu Chi activities. 2 years ago, Ye and his wife Lin Pei Pei who was also a graduate Tzu Ching, accompanied their children to take part in the Tzu Chi Parent-Child Bonding Class and thus have an opportunity to continue their affinity with Tzu Chi.
When the branch office initiated the Water Repentance stage adaptation for the Year End Blessing, Ye seized the opportunity and started to take part in the study sessions and sign language practice sessions. He was subsequently invited by the drama team to perform the ‘Artist’ role which slowly led him to deeper realisation.
While immerse in the role of the “artist”, he realised that one’s thoughts build one’s life. From emptiness to form, desire is akin to a bottomless pit. “After reading ‘The Water Repentance’, I understand about Karma. We have to be grateful when people treat us nicely; however, we also have to treasure the chance to create a good affinity with people who do not treat us nicely. All these gave me the motivation to finish reading the ‘Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance ’ written by Master Cheng Yen.”
Ye Ren Hui frankly admitted that although he knew what he should do, but this does not translate into practice. After joining the stage adaptation, he got to better understand the teaching of Master Cheng Yen. He vowed that when good affinity arises in the near future, he aim to be able to engage himself wholeheartedly in Tzu Chi Missions.
The Year End Blessing saw the highest turnout over the years with 5,442 people taking part over the 4 sessions held in the 2 days. With the objective of sharing the Dharma and the Great Love footprints of Tzu Chi people to the audiences, the planning committee had put in a lot of efforts to prepare for the ceremonies.
“The ‘blessings and wisdom red packet’ from Master is a form of blessings and is dear to me. Each time, when I do not feel good, I would take out the beloved red packet and then I can feel the blessings from Master and Tzu Chi people; this makes me feel much better.” Halijah, who was once a Tzu Chi care recipient and is now a donating member attended the ceremony with 4 relatives, dressed in traditional Malay costume and wearing a headscarf, Halijah stands out amongst the crowd.
Halijah has been in contact with Tzu Chi for many years and has long treated Tzu Chi people as her family. Although she is a Muslim, she makes it a point to attend the Year End Blessing every year and this year is her seventh time attending. Holding on to the red packet, Halijah is very happy about it. She feels great that she could participate in Tzu Chi recycling activities and also contribute her cooking skills with delicious Malay Lontong for Tzu Chi’s Charity Fair.
“I make a right choice for coming here today. I have found what I want to do for the next 20 years.” After searching for a few years, single-parent Zeng Si Hui finally found her answer.
Zeng’s good affinity arose from her elder sister who is a Tzu Chi volunteer in Kuala Lumpur. This ceremony is something that she has been looking forward to. Today she brought her 11 years old son Li Yuan Hao with her to the ceremony with some excitement. She felt good the moment she stepped into the venue. The warmth from the volunteers made her feel at home. After watching the videos of the charity work done by Tzu Chi people, she deeply feels how fortunate she is. The selfless giving by Tzu Chi people and the repentance by volunteer Lee Teck Hock deeply touched her and moved her to tears.
“From this Water Repentance stage adaptation, we realise that as long as everyone is united, we can do wonders.” Zeng said touchingly: “A person should not be worrying too much; simplicity is the key to happiness.” She felt that unity is strength and look forward to join the Tzu Chi big family soon.
It is Master Cheng Yen’s hope that the state of the world and people’s mind can be liberated by the Buddhist dharma. With the congregation of all volunteers, the great vessel of Dharma can be set to sail and inspire more people along the way.