Let Go of Notions, Follow Master's Teachings, and Strive Forward Diligently to Save Sentient Beings
(Clearwisdom.net) Greetings Master! Greetings, fellow practitioners!
Divine Performing Arts has been warmly welcomed and highly acclaimed as we tour around the world. On the surface, the success results from the outstanding synergy among the dancers, musicians, backdrop, lighting, audio, and the rest of the people and elements involved in the production. Being a part of this endeavor, I have deeply realized that this is the inevitable outcome of Master's Fa-rectification. It manifests Dafa's power, results from Master's designing, organizing and instructing in person in every aspect related to Divine Performing Arts, and it results from the fact that Master has chosen the form of performing arts to save sentient beings in this period of the Fa-rectification. It is Master's immense compassion and infinite grace that have empowered this.
I feel extremely fortunate to be part of it, and I am immensely grateful. At the same time, our personal cultivation is involved throughout the process. I will next share with you a few of the things I learned.
1. Look Inward and Problems Resolved
Once during a performance, a musician in the orchestra was playing his solo part slower than the tempo I was conducting. I exaggerated my gestures in order to get him to play faster, but he didn't follow me; I tried to pull him along, but he still did not follow the tempo until he was done with the solo part. I was very upset with him. After the show, I ran into him face-to-face in the hallway, but he did not look at me. When I told this to another practitioner, I said angrily, "He should know he was wrong. But he wouldn't even look at me." Then I ran into him again, and I was still bitter with complaint. I lost my temper and said to the practitioner next to him, "He just wouldn't keep up with my tempo. Why? Why?" He didn't say a word and walked away.
The next day, I was thinking about criticizing him after our group Fa study. But another practitioner told me that he was terribly upset with himself. This suddenly reminded me of the Fa principles that Teacher taught us in Zhuan Falun, that as cultivators we should always be considerate of others, that we should first think about whether others can bear it, that if we have a bad temper we should get rid of it, and that we should look inward, as looking outward is just not an option. As these thoughts ran through my mind, I lowered my head and said, "Ok, let me go talk to him."
After I apologized to that musician, he shared his predicament. He said, "By the time I realized I was playing slower than your tempo I was already half a beat behind. If I were to catch up with you immediately, the audience would surely notice the skipped notes and find it odd." Upon hearing that, I thought to myself, "That's right, what's most important is the music heard by the audience and how well it flows with the dancing. Had we forcibly gotten to the tempo I wanted right away, even if the soloist had been able to catch up with it, some of the other musicians might have failed to do so, and it might have ended up in a mess and affected the performance more negatively. I realized that when I was trying to force the tempo, something subtle was at work, that is, the idea that the entire orchestra should follow me absolutely, and no one is permitted to respond slowly at all. So behind the lofty rationale that we need to be responsible to our performances, this impure idea concerning self was mixed in. The inclination to uphold some personal authority or to center things around oneself is selfishness and ego at play, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to get rid of these in cultivation? Otherwise, how am I different from a non-practitioner conductor? When these impure things are brought into my conducting, it can make the music impure and impair the effectiveness in saving people. After I realized this, instead of criticizing that musician, I shared after the group Fa-study the problems I found in myself. That musician also expressed his regret in not keeping up with the tempo given by the conductor. And it evolved into a group discussion on how to best handle any similar situations during our performances in case it happened in the future, and how to improve our synchronization as one body.
I learned that being mindful of whether others could get hurt and cultivating myself by looking inward at all times are master keys for resolving interpersonal problems.
2. Only by letting go of our notions are we able to truly follow Master's teachings
In regards to the relationship between the music and dancing in Divine Performing Arts performances, Master's Fa principles are very clear. Although Master has spelled it out quite a few times, I didn't fully get it. A notion lingered deep inside my mind: "Dancing has to go by the music, right? I just need to do the best I can to get the tempo right for each part of the dances, and then the dancers will follow whatever music the orchestra plays." In addition, when the story or mood of a dance was transitioning, I always kept my eyes on the music score and tried my best to make sure the musicians were doing it right, being afraid that there would be a mistake if I moved my eyes away from the score. So of course I had some embarrassing moments. Once when we were rehearsing with the dancers, the choreographer said, "Let's do it one more time from the trio part." And I was at a loss as to where to start, that is, at which point in the music does the trio dance begin? Another example was, during "The Risen Lotus Flower," the Falun Gong practitioner in the dance died as the result of the persecution and was taken up to Heaven by two fairies. Well, at that point of the dance I was always so busy guiding the musicians in the orchestra that I never noticed what exactly was going on with the dance. After many rehearsals I still had no idea how the practitioner was taken up to Heaven.
So when it came to the art of conducting dance music, my focus was often limited to trying to get the right tempo specified by the composers and expressing the musical connotations and ideas. I did not put enough attention on the rhythm of the dances. Once when the orchestra was rehearsing with the dancers, the music and dance failed to synchronize, which made it hard for the dancers. My solution was to ask the choreographers whether the music should go faster or slower, instead of keeping in mind the fundamental issue that I should watch and feel the movements of the dancers. During a rehearsal before last year's Holiday Wonders shows, our music and dancing couldn't stay together. Master said to me - I am paraphrasing - "you need to watch the dancers, this is not conducting a symphony, when you are conducting dance music you cannot do it without observing the dancers." With Master's direct "stick warning," I had no choice but to awaken!
So I had to find the root cause. Well, I couldn't take my eyes away from the full score, and couldn't take my main attention from the musicians. These problems were rooted in my notions. I couldn't break from the idea that the musicians need to take cues from the conductor, and I underestimated their abilities. Also, I felt I was familiar with the rhythm of the music, so was confident to follow the rhythm of the music and not confident to follow that of the dance. I put more attention on making the music nice-sounding, instead of making sure the music is best suited for the dancers to dance to. In a way I was having the dancers follow me--wasn't this self-centered? I decided that I must let go of that attachment, and truly follow the dancers' movements.
I realized that in order to really go by the dancing without any burden, I had to memorize the full music scores. I made up my mind to do so, but lacked confidence. We had over twenty pieces of dance music, and each was several minutes long. And there were many tempo and mood changes or dramatic storyline changes in each. It seemed incredibly hard to memorize all of them. Perhaps as I had the wish to follow Master's requirement, very quickly a fellow practitioner in the orchestra came to share with me. I think it was Master giving me a hint through her. She said, "When Master loudly spoke to you, He was in fact sending over the energy to you to help you resolve the challenge." And I happened to utter the "sending over" part at the same time she did! I believed in what she said, and this greatly boosted my confidence in memorizing the full scores.
Then I found that it was not so hard to memorize the scores. Although there is a row for each instrument on every page, so I had to read 20 rows in one glance, through the rehearsals I had come to be very familiar with the melodies and instrumental arrangements. I just needed to work hard on memorizing certain critical parts. Within 2 weeks, by setting aside some time every day, for the most part I was able to memorize the more than 20 pieces of dance music.
But when I first put the full scores away, I still lacked confidence. What if I forget something all of a sudden? I prepared over a dozen slips of paper, with the critical points of each music piece written on them, so that I could quickly refer to them when it came to conducting. Before long, I became attached to these slips. At critical points during the dances, I was reading my paper slips instead of watching the dancers. That was still not good. Just at that time Master suggested to me that I listen to our recordings more, as it would help me memorize all the tempos well. Exactly, shortly after I began listening to the recordings and reviewing the full scores at the same time, I was able to get rid of my paper slips. When we performed, all I had on my music stand was the program list - I was able to go by my memory while conducting. Occasionally, when I forgot something, the orchestra continued to play their parts according to their scores, and I would just follow along and pick right up.
It's true that only when I have memorized the scores can I watch the dancing attentively and direct the orchestra to accompany it accordingly. I can then be free from being enslaved by the full scores and be proactive.
I observed that different dancers have different feelings about the dances and they dance differently. Also, the same dancer may have a different sense of creativity or spur-of-the-moment inspirations in different shows. They may even feel differently between a matinee and an evening show, as the condition of their body can vary, too. This attributes to the dynamic nature of performing arts. So it follows that the live music played by the orchestra needs to change accordingly. When the audience says that our music and dance come together seamlessly, that's accomplished by our dancers and musicians having followed the requirements of Master's Fa.
During our performance tour, Master told us more specifically that the orchestra should keep in mind that the dance performance is paramount.
This is plain and simple, and Master has spelled it out so clearly in the Fa. But why is it so hard to do it in real life? As I thought it over, it's not that I dared to disobey Master's Fa, it was my notions impeding me. My notions could mislead me--there were times when I thought I was following Master's Fa, but in fact I was following my wrong notions. Only when I'm clearheaded or am able to reflect on myself, look inward, and abandon my notions after I've made mistakes, can I break away from "everyday people will forever crawl within the boundary delimited by their own ignorance," (Lunyu, Zhuan Falun) and step on the righteous path of Master's Fa principles.
I was able to conduct by memorizing all the full scores during this year's performance tour. Though this is a breakthrough, it only paved the way for doing a better job at synchronizing our music to the dances. To truly synchronize with the dancers, I must be able to observe the rhythm of the dance, which is fundamental for keeping up with the dance well. The first thing that needs to be achieved is the artistic perfection with our human side, whilst the rhythm of Divine Performing Arts shows is not ordinary rhythm, but one of the divine, which has specific meanings. Their effect is far from ordinary--it is truly magical and superb! Besides, there are celestial beings involved. In other words, although we are the ones performing on stage or in the orchestra pit, the real work is in fact done by Master and His countless Law Bodies. The most wondrous power of salvation and compassion is sent through our performances, backdrops, sound, and energy. Divine Rhythms, it is indeed the rhythm of the divine! It is indescribable by any human language.
Not too long ago, one of the principal dancers said to me, "Looks like you've become insightful of our dances." Now that was a great encouragement! So I've learned a little, just a little. The Chinese say that those outside of the profession notice what catches the eye, while those in the profession perceive the true quality. My goal is to gain in-depth knowledge of dancing, and become someone who can perceive the true nature of things in terms of dancing. This is something a conductor of dance music should be able to achieve. And I have to hasten my steps in my learning, because assisting Master in the Fa-rectification and saving sentient beings are such urgent tasks at this point.
Master has often praised the purity of some of our young dancers and musicians. Purity is beauty. Purity is true beauty. Purity is utmost beauty! This is clear even in this dimension. In other dimensions, purity might be enormous, righteous power. Master requires that Divine Performing Arts shows present consummate beauty and goodness. So all of those involved in the performances need to be pure. Sometimes I wish I could be a young Dafa disciple myself. With my age, I have so much to cultivate. But of course, while I cannot change my age, I can reach pristine purity by cultivating in Dafa! Divine Performing Arts is a great place to temper ourselves, and we can be diligent and progress in cultivation while being tempered. Step by step, we become increasingly pure as we cultivate ourselves. In this respect, it is more urgent for us to become pure than to improve our artistic skills.
Let me conclude with Master's poem, "Assisting the Fa," which our orchestra members always recite together before each of our performances:
"Assisting the Fa
Making a wish to save sentient beings,
Assisting Teacher in his journey in this world;
Aiding me to turn the Fa wheel,
The Fa succeeds and free in heaven and earth."
Thank you, Master! Thank you, everyone!