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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 11 August 2018 00:00

Cultivating Compassion, Joy and Giving through Buddhist Themed Theatrical Performance

Written by  Tzu Chi Documenting Team,KL & Selangor / Translated by Chai Soo Ai

Heartbroken and filled with self-blame over the death of its herd of deer, the Deer King went to see the human king to seek a solution. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]

For three days from August 11, 2018, a total of 57 people from Rondo Ballet Theatre, Tzu Chi Senior High School affiliated with Tzu Chi University and accompanying teachers, presented four sessions of a ballet performance based on Buddhist stories at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall, Tsun Jin High School, and Malacca Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. These four performances in three venues attracted a total audience of 4,350.


On August 11, 2018, the beginning of the auspicious 7th lunar month, Rondo Ballet Theatre and students of Tzu Chi Senior High School Affiliated with Tzu Chi University (TCSH) from Taiwan, jointly presented two ballet performances at the KL Tzu Chi Jing Si Hall. These two sessions attracted an audience of about 2,700 people.
                                            
This theatrical performance is a culmination of three art forms; of ballet, music and dramatic arts, bringing to life two Buddhist tales of “The Benevolent Deer King” and “A Poor Woman’s Light Offering”. The performers successfully and beautifully portrayed the essence of compassion, benevolence, equanimity and respect for all sentient beings through their performance.

Practising compassion and giving

The first scene preludes “compassion” as the exposition of the performance, where the benevolent Deer King was reluctant to have his herd of deer become prey to the human King and his ministers during the hunting season, to satisfy their craving for meat. The heartbroken Deer King blamed himself and sought an audience with the human King in order to find a solution. However the human King instead, requested for a deer to be voluntarily sacrificed to the palace every day in order to stop the hunt. Unfortunately, this did not solve the issue of deer killing.

One day, a pregnant doe begged the Deer King to allow her to deliver her fawn before being sent to the palace to be sacrificed. The Deer King was so deeply touched by the love of a mother for her offspring that he decided to offer himself instead. When the human King knew about it, he felt deep remorse. It was only then that he truly realized that even animals could have such a benevolent heart as opposed to humans. The human King deeply regretted what he had done and issued a royal edict to ban deer hunting. He also abstained from consuming meat from then onwards.

The second scene depicts one’s deep faith and sincerity of pursuing the Dharma in “A Poor Woman’s Light Offering”. Being very poor, the woman had to sell her long hair in order to purchase a small oil lamp which she then humbly offered to the Buddha. Her selfless offering of a small oil lamp illuminates her deep faith in the Buddha and her determined earnest desire to cultivate and practise the Dharma. Hence, it was more resistant to the strong winds compared to other larger oil lamps which were easily extinguished by the wind.

Dharma teaching resonates through ballet performance

Venerable Yong Li and Venerable Dao Yuan from Fo Guang Shan Bandar Baru Klang were impressed by the theatre performance. Venerable Yong Li expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Tzu Chi for its efforts in promoting Buddhadharma through such performances. Presenting Buddhist stories through the medium of a drama musical and ballet performance would help the modern audience to be more receptive to learn the Dharma.

“Such performances that promotes right view and mindfulness should be held annually. Hopefully more people will come to understand the true meaning of the auspicious 7th lunar month and evoke compassion in people’s hearts”. Venerable Yong Li was also moved to learn that the entire theatre performing team had personally financed their trip from Taiwan to Malaysia. Such is their dedication and sincerity in propagating the Dharma.

Lee Siew Kheng, who lives in Kepong, came with her mother and children to watch the performance. Being a mother herself, she was deeply moved and understood the pregnant doe’s concern for her unborn baby. She opined that Buddhist stories are meaningful because of its educational moral values besides being inspiring. She believes that all living beings have Buddha-nature and hence deserves respect. Thus, her goal for her family including herself is to be vegetarian, thereby respecting life.

“It is such good affinity that I was able to attend this wonderful performance and also learn about stories told by the Buddha. I will use Buddhist stories as bedtime stories for my children from now onwards,” said an inspired Siew Kheng.

Taking to heart what we have learnt

Tan Soh Imm, a teacher from SJK(C) Khai Chee, Pasir Penambang, and 87 others, came from Sekinchan in two chartered buses. As a child, she had heard of this fable but after watching this performance, she now has a better understanding of the message behind the story of “The Benevolent Deer King”. It teaches us the importance of respecting and loving all living beings and to have compassion for all. She hopes to improve herself in these aspects.

Cheong Min Yuu attended the performance after finding out about it while visiting the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall with her family. She was grateful that she was able to watch the second session of the performance. What captured her attention was that no deer within the herd was willing to sacrifice their life by replacing the pregnant doe except for the honourable Deer King.

She said, “If I were the pregnant doe, I would also give birth before sacrificing myself. Such is the greatness of a mother’s love.”

Min Yuu also gained a better understanding of the significance of giving. She realized that it is not the value of the offering that matters most but one’s sincere intention that holds the utmost value, and although she is not rich, she can still contribute to help the underprivileged. As a Buddhist, she sends her children to Dharma classes and she hopes her children will learn to be kind and compassionate towards all living being.

All four sessions of the ballet performances were a great success, thanks to the astonishingly committed team of 57 performers and backstage assistants from Taiwan. Their great efforts were not in vain. It had definitely inspired and implanted in the minds and hearts of their audience the beauty of doing good deeds no matter how small and cultivating compassion towards all.

 

Rondo Ballet Theatre and Tzu Chi Senior High School affiliated with Tzu Chi University team performed four sessions of ballet performance, “Deer King and Poor Woman”. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   The ballet performance, “Deer King and Poor Woman”, brought out the compassion of Buddhism and the spirit of Great Love promoted by Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]

Rondo Ballet Theatre and Tzu Chi Senior High School affiliated with Tzu Chi University team performed four sessions of ballet performance, “Deer King and Poor Woman”. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
The ballet performance, “Deer King and Poor Woman”, brought out the compassion of Buddhism and the spirit of Great Love promoted by Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
Teacher Yao Chia-Ling (left), a member of the Rondo Ballet Theatre, played the role of the poor woman in the “Deer King and Poor Woman”. [Photograph by Lim Su Nguan]   “A Poor Woman’s Light Offering” portrayed the determination and perseverance of a poor woman in seeking the Dharma. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]

Teacher Yao Chia-Ling (left), a member of the Rondo Ballet Theatre, played the role of the poor woman in the “Deer King and Poor Woman”. [Photograph by Lim Su Nguan]
 
 
“A Poor Woman’s Light Offering” portrayed the determination and perseverance of a poor woman in seeking the Dharma. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
Venerable Yong Li (1st left) was deeply moved to know that the performing team members travelled from Taiwan on their own expenses. [Photograph by Lim Su Nguan]   Zhang Xin You (right) took the opportunity to watch the “Deer King and Poor Woman” performance with her husband and children while visiting KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Venerable Yong Li (1st left) was deeply moved to know that the performing team members travelled from Taiwan on their own expenses. [Photograph by Lim Su Nguan]
 
 
Zhang Xin You (right) took the opportunity to watch the “Deer King and Poor Woman” performance with her husband and children while visiting KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]