Performance by Divine Performing Arts Illustrates Heavenly Secrets
(Clearwisdom.net) The Divine Performing Arts troupe has not only delivered high-level art performances in 2007, but also touched the souls of audience members with its artistic achievements. It has illustrated profound and meaningful content in every one of its programs. Here I would like to comment on the dance program "The Monk Who Endured." Its perfect form and embedded heavenly secrets are truly inspiring and educational for all that view it.
Cultivating in the Buddha and Tao Schools
People of ancient Chinese society were very devout. Many Chinese emperors practiced cultivation in the Buddha or Tao school. Many Chinese emperors worshiped Buddha and believed in Heaven. The following are some examples:
The Yellow Emperor, who reigned from 2697 to 2598 B.C., practiced in the Tao school and became a Taoist deity.
Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, who reigned from 502 to 549 A.D., embraced Buddhism. He spent time in a Buddhist temple, so he could cultivate.
Emperor Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty, who reigned from 626 to 649 A.D., saw Monk Xuan Zang off when he left for India to get Buddhist scriptures. They were needed to spread Buddhism in China's Tang Empire.
Emperor Xuan Zong of the Tang Dynasty, who reigned from 712 to 756 A.D., traveled to Famen Temple and brought Buddha Sakyamuni's finger bone (called sarira or Ringsel) to the royal palace.
Emperor Hui Zong of the Northern Song Dynasty, who reigned from 1100 to 1125 A.D., named one of his paintings after a temple. (Note: This was written down in a novel by Jin Yong and is not a historical fact.)
Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty, who reigned from 1643 to 1661 A.D., abdicated and became a monk.
Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (1613-1688 A.D.) chanted Buddhist scriptures.
Emperors were role models. Therefore, every family believed in Buddha. Every household burned incense and others praised those who were able to cultivate and said that they had excellent inborn quality. The families of cultivators were admired and thought to be of good virtue. Buddhism holds that one must go through the six states of Samsara [existence]. Cause and effect indicates that one is predestined to receive retribution for past misdeeds or reward for having helped another in a prior life. One has to do good deeds to accumulate virtue. This became the basis for behavior in society.
"The Monk Who Endured" displays the social norms of that time. It was a way of life left for humans by gods. Buddhist priests played a special role in society. They spread Buddhist literature, showed compassion, and were meant to save humans from disaster, provide relief, and calm people down. Of course, there are people who are practicing Buddhists. There are those who believe in Buddha, beg Buddha for something, and slander Buddha. The dance performance truly reflects the social form that gods gave to humans. Regardless of gender, age, or social status, when people encounter disaster and ordeals, they beg Buddhas and gods for help. When Buddhas see the devout and find in them compassion, Buddhas and gods will help them by giving hints or a compassionate solution. People believe in Buddha and ask for the Tao. The human heart becomes compassionate, wisdom opens up, and peace reigns. Therefore, not only is a stable social order maintained, but also the overall morality is kept at a relatively high level.
Heaven will ultimately reward good deeds and punish bad deeds
The theme that heaven will ultimately reward good deeds and punish bad deeds is well illustrated in "The Monk Who Endured." A maiden, fearing potential condemnation from society for giving birth to a baby out of wedlock, gives up her newborn son. She is tormented by the separation from her child. The young woman's mother is also ashamed and hides from the public. Fortunately, the young woman's lover keeps his word and comes for her after he has won first place in the civil service examination. He returns to marry her and they take their son back from the Enduring Monk. This is a happy ending.
The monk who has endured the humiliation of being accused of having fathered the baby that was born out of wedlock continues to cultivate. Finally he reaches Consummation and obtains Right Fruit. This is his reward for his kind deeds. On the other hand, the wealthy woman in the play was arrogant and showed disrespect for Buddha and Buddhist monks. She only wanted to stir things up and create trouble. She meet with immediate retribution when she trips and falls. This is but a small warning from Heaven. When the Enduring Monk reaches Consummation, the wicked woman doesn't witness the magnificent moment, because she is not allowed to see such a sacred scene. If those who had spread rumors about the monk had repented and improved themselves after learning the truth, Buddha would have given them the opportunity to start over. The theme that Heaven will ultimately reward good deeds and punish bad deeds permeates the dance.
Cause and effect--retribution--is a heavenly principle and comes from the mercy gods and Buddhas have for sentient beings. Punishment that reduces karma is actually a good thing. Minor punishment is to give warning, while severe punishment is to repay the sin. This truly is a sign that a person should stop committing bad deeds. While receiving retribution, the person can eliminate the karma and be given the chance to make the correct choice. At the same time, retribution is able to warn other sentient beings that this is truly for the benefit of the individual. Evildoers suffer sudden death when they commit heinous crimes. This is the consequence for doing evil. The Buddha Law is compassionate and perfectly harmonizing. If a life can redeem itself, give up doing evil, and be compassionate, it has saved itself from extinction of body and soul. It is up to sentient beings to grasp every chance that comes their way to do well. It is good to remember that evil begets evil and doing good is rewarded with goodness.
Those who cultivate Buddhahood may achieve fruit status. Whatever happens comes from one's actions and behavior. It is said, "What you obtain in this life comes from what you did in the last life. What you do in this life will determine what you will obtain in the future." This is a principle that Heaven grants people. This principle tells people to live by the heavenly principles, be kind, and have a positive attitude. It tells us to become compassionate and do good deeds. Only then will the result be good.
In ancient times, perfect etiquette and higher moral ethics restrained sentiments between men and women. People believed that love was built on the foundation of marriage, and only then was love acceptable. This was also accepted and sanctioned by society and government. Love and sentiment before marriage were unacceptable and disrespectful of society's standards. Different dynasties, different nations, and different regions had different methods of punishment for those who ignored society's taboos. In the performance "The Monk Who Endured," a maiden gives birth to a child. She is despised. She knows that she has broken society's taboos and is ashamed. Therefore, she wants to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.
Marriage is an important facet of life. It can't be treated lightly! In ancient times one obeyed the rules set by parents and what matchmakers dictated. Parents wanted to keep their children safe and everyone trusted matchmakers. Also, the ancients believed in gods and Buddhas and in the predestination of marriage. Men and women were not allowed to have marital relations before the wedding. This eliminated many social issues. It also was the manifestation of a high moral level concerning marital relations. In ancient times, people made the rule that marriage needed the approval of Heaven and the parents, the church and the guardian. Anything else was regarded as a betrayal of the trust put into the individual.
The ancients believed that marriage was a union of moral obligation. Marriage represented "graciousness, righteousness, sentiment, love." Marriage was the vehicle by which one entrusted one's life to that of another. Ancients expected the husband to be righteous and to uphold "favor, friendship and moral obligation." To be the husband means to "support." The husband was the true head of the household, and all the family members depended on him. He would uphold the moral obligations toward parents, wife and children, family and society. In "The Monk Who Endured," the young man who fathered the child, after achieving academic honors, returns to marry the girl who had entrusted her life to him. This is also the manifestation of "a husband's righteousness."
An ancient proverb still survives today and counsels society, "One day of being husband and wife represents one hundred days of indebtedness to each other."
"'When you're nice to me I'm happy, and when you're no longer nice to me the feeling is gone.' Then how could you count on that thing? Could emotional ties sustain a marriage? With human beings there's not just moral obligation involved, but also, between man and wife, you are indebted to each other. So in terms of the woman, when she has put her whole life in your hands, the man should realize, 'This woman has entrusted her whole life to me. I have to be responsible for her.'" ("Teaching the Fa at the Meeting with Asia-Pacific Students")
Achieving high levels academically and being gracious shows that the man is an emotional and righteous person.
The ancients paid respect to Heaven and gods and put emphasis on filial piety. Therefore, at the time of marriage, they did obeisance to Heaven and Earth: "Let Heaven and Earth acknowledge that they obey their parents and have gotten approval from their parents. Husband and wife complement each other and must acknowledge responsibility to and for each other." The performance "The Monk Who Endured" has a good ending for the young couple and their out-of-wedlock child. It legitimizes the union. This is what Heaven, Earth, gods, and humans all hope for.
Endure Humiliation and Cultivate
Buddhist literature stresses the importance of practicing tolerance. Cultivators in ancient times spent their entire lives practicing tolerance. Tolerance is like a knife that might pierce the heart. That knife grips the heart, punctures the heart, and no matter how painful, one must endure and remain unmoved. Tolerance means that the innermost feelings are firm and resolute, and one can endure what others cannot endure. The monk in this performance had achieved the standard and realm needed for being tolerant. This is not in the realm of non-cultivators. Cultivators must follow the principles "Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance." Although the main focus of this article is that the monk cultivated tolerance, truthfulness and compassion cannot be ignored.
A monk cultivates for his and two prior generations, society, and the world. But how can an unmarried lady who has had a child out of wedlock survive and live in the human world? The mother is anxious and worried about her daughter. How can she hold up when shamed by people? Also, how can the newborn baby survive? The monk does not think about the ramifications of the situation. His compassionate thoughts and actions are the merciful behavior of a cultivator. He is unselfish because his thought is only on what happens to others. On stage, the monk's ability to endure is in evidence when people point their fingers at him.
The silent story focuses on the monk in the temple: How can he raise a newborn baby? How much suffering and how much sacrifice must he endure? What about milk, food, diapers, and clothes? What about facing other people's attitudes throughout the entire episode? The audience can only imagine what happens when, as the child grows up, he becomes ill, cries, harbors dislikes, and so on. The question is, how will the monk deal with each situation? What about the other monks in the temple? How do they feel about it and how do they react?
The monk holds himself strictly to the standard of a cultivator. In the face of people's accusations, he looks but does not see. He turns a deaf ear, holds no complaint or hatred and has a heart that is tranquil like still water. The monk has to look after a mischievous and yet lovable child. He protects a life. When the child's parents come for the child, he does not resist. He can give up what he has nurtured for so many years. Everything happens naturally. He does not hold an average man's sentiment. When the child's family wants to pay him, he is oblivious to this gesture. He unconditionally does everything for all living beings and his heart is not moved! When non-practitioners understand the truth, praise him, and feel grateful, he is not joyful. He does not show off. He is completely outside human sentiment and beyond the ordinary. At that time, he completes his cultivation. This is the cultivation process of a monk.
During the finale of the performance, the monk reaches Consummation. The mountains and rivers shake! The Buddha light illuminates everywhere! All is holy and magnificent. At the same time the humans kowtow, bending their knees and bodies in supplication, indicating deep respect for being able to witness the monk reach Consummation. They understand the honor of being present at such an event.
Why do the mountains and rivers shake? Why is the head of the enlightened monk bathed in light? The Consummation of any enlightened being is an earthshaking and important event. When this happens, the earth may shake, a bright light can be seen, and a sound like thunder is heard. All this alerts humans to an important event. When a monk reaches Consummation, the light of wisdom and the light of truth appear in human world. All sentient beings bow in appreciation, thanking those above for their benevolence.
The performance tells a secret. Falun Dafa tells non-practitioners that gods and Buddhas are in the human world, enduring shame (hardship) to provide respite and are mercifully saving people. "Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance" is the highest manifestation of the Buddha Law. It is offered to you. Take it!