On 3 Sept at the Water Repentance sharing session, 301 volunteer cadres circumambulated the Dharma Hall singing the Great Repentance verse with hands clasped in front of their chest:
"Times of crisis call for great awakening
Alarming catastrophes necessitate great compassion
Deluded times have need of great insight
Chaos and disorder compel deep reflection
In these momentous times, only repentance can change the tide"
How did the sutra come about?
More than a thousand years ago in the Tang Dynasty, there was a National Master Wu Da who suffered terrible pain from a human-faced sore on his knee. After learning that the sore was karmic retribution for the killing he had done ten lifetimes earlier, Master Wu Da sincerely repented his wrong and retreated to a hut in the woods to write the Water Repentance text, sharing his experience with people the karmic law of cause and effect - how the mind creates everything that is good or bad and how these are manifested in our speech and deeds which eventually bring about consequences.
On 17 Apr 2003, with the SARS pandemic looming and the Iraq War just broke out, Master Cheng Yen began expounding on the ancient Buddhist text in her Wisdom at Dawn lectures every day, naming it 'Dharma as Water', hoping that the Dharma, like water, will wash away the filths tainting people's minds. The lectures lasted through five years with 535 installments expounded.
Year 2011 marks the 45th year since the founding of Tzu Chi Foundation. Seeing that the time has ripened, Master Cheng Yen declared at the start of the year that "Deep Repentance" will be the anniversary theme and appealed to all Tzu Chi volunteers to "diligently study the Water Repentance text, respect all living things and go vegetarian".
The Buddhist text was also arranged into a musical production for thousands of volunteers and donating members to perform in 24 public shows around Taiwan in August. After more than half a year of spiritual and physical cleansing through text study sessions, rehearsals and abstinence from meat, the effect of the repentance practice could be greatly felt among the 30,000 performers. Everyone became much humble and more accommodating to one another.
Here in Singapore, study sessions were also held extensively across communities with volunteers inviting donating members and friends to delve into the Water Repentance text and pray for world peace.
The local Tzu Chi branch too modified its monthly 4-in-1 cadre sharing session into the Water Repentance sharing session since 2 July to share the Water Repentance text and to engage its cadres in keeping close watch on their mind, body, and words.
Brother Chang Cheng Chang, the convener of the South District study group, touched particularly on the text's Prelude and Origin chapters in the September session, the second of such session. He reckoned that one needs to have "three mentalities" to purify one's mind; they are the "pure heart of a newborn baby, a brave heart like the lion's, and perseverance like the camel". Living with such mindfulness everyday, one will be able to rid of afflictions.
Brother Chang continued, "Even if we have a good heart, even if we do good deeds, we will keep committing wrongs and create bad karmas if we don't get rid of our unwholesome habitual tendencies. By reflecting and improve on our everyday doing and thinking, we will be able to attain peace and be at ease."
Speaking on the origin of the Water Repentance text, Brother Chang reminded fellow cadres to remember that it was the act of Master Wu Da helping the sick monk (who was the avatar of Venerable Kanaka) earlier that helped him get away from his ordeal brought by his misdeed ten lifetimes ago. "That's why we need to form positive connection with people, and we need to be prudent and pious in our thoughts and actions so that we don’t create 'mental mudslides' for ourselves."
Sister Jane Wu, who copies the Water Repentance text regularly to enhance her understanding of the teachings, confessed to everyone that her past misdeeds kept flashing through her mind when she copied the text. The line "Repentance for attachment…Greed for fame, wealth and power" struck her particularly as it reminds her of the wrongs she committed for 20 years just to please her boss. She also repented for her greed for good food that led to many lives being killed. She now finds peace in copying the Water Repentance text and is happy that her son and daughter were willing to study the text together with her.
Towards the end of the sharing session, CEO Brother David Liu urged the cadres to make great vows and stride on the bodhisattva path with "sincere heart" and "positive attitude", affirming that a life dedicated to Tzu Chi's deeds is a blissful one. He also pointed out that even though it is challenging to explore charitable opportunities in Singapore and that Tzu Chi's Da Ai TV is yet to be allowed into the local scene, there is still work that Tzu Chi volunteers can take up and he hopes that everyone would take Master Cheng Yen's dharma into their hearts and continue to inspire the multitude as what Master wished for.
With frequent disasters plaguing the Earth, Master Cheng Yen had likened Tzu Chi volunteers to a Dharma ship in the wide sea and wishes that everyone comes together to alleviate worldly sufferings. The Master also hopes that everyone takes good care of their mind and be the change the world needs, particularly with shunning meat to help mitigate global warming.