Wednesday, Aug 23rd

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Thursday, 21 May 2015 12:27

Light of Great Love Shines on Island

Written by  Low Hai Loon, Klang / Translated by Susan Ong

Volunteers from Klang would go to Pulau Ketam monthly to join the islanders under the “Light of Great Love” in their practice. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]

Pulau Ketam is an off-shore century old village of Klang. Four years ago, Tzu Chi volunteers set up a recycling centre to facilitate recycling activities so that garbage will not be thrown into the sea. Now, Dharma is brought to the island through the local volunteers’ participation in Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance. Despite the many challenges faced, these volunteers have persisted in leading the islanders in performing sign language at the “Light of Great Love” section.


 
“Cloak....cloak....cloak.....” the sound of bicycle riding across the wooden planks rang in the ears from far to near, and before long, a mother in simple attire rode pass quickly. Her little son held on to her waist tightly from behind; and in one hand, she held an umbrella to shield them from the blazing sun.
 
The older buildings in Pulau Ketam are mostly built on wooden planks but to avoid the impact of tides, cement has replaced the wooden surface for newer constructions. Bicycles are still the only mode of transport, and when they pass by the wooden platform, the sound will vibrate. On every fourth Friday night of the month, such sounds will vibrate continuously at the recycling centre around 8pm.
 
Tzu Chi donating member, Xie Ai Lian, has been selling hand-made buns on the island. At the invitation of volunteer Tan Sow Lang, she arrived for the practice of Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance at the centre. She parked her bicycle and untied from the back seat a basket full of corn pudding, a big box of fried bananas and fried sweet potatoes. All these skillfully made pastries are Ai Lian’s treats for the participants.
 
Ai Lian has a simple and enthusiastic characteristic typical of other islanders. When she laughs, one can see her teeth but not her eyes, which have been camouflaged by her dark, suntanned complexion. When queried about her sending the pastry on the day of practice, she just laughed off and said, “Nothing. It’s my pleasure.”
 
Despite her regular practice attendance, she humbly said she knew nothing, only follow the teacher’s instructions on sign language. She did, however, admit to having gained some insight into Water Repentance. She has a loud voice, probably due to her bun-selling business on the island. She shared, “Whenever I raised my voice in conversation or quarrel, I knew it was wrong and will later suffer the karma.” As such, she is very conscious of the verses, “The Law of Karma never fails. For the karma created, we must repent”.
 
Practice makes perfect
 
The recently renovated recycling centre is complete with a simple setting. There is a computer on the left for audio visual control, a projector screen in the middle, as well as displays of activity posters and bamboo banks. 
 
“In the dark night, stars glitter. The Milky Way is brightly lit…” When the music to this song started, all would raise their left hand. The monthly practice involves about 60 people, mostly senior citizens; and many mothers also bring along their children to participate. 
 
One senior citizen, Hong Ming Shi, who had installed Da Ai TV in his home years ago, has a profound association with Tzu Chi. Four years ago, he started participating in recycling activities, and has also attended every practice session of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance on the island since last year.
 
Initially, it was difficult for Ming Shi to learn the sign language, as he has to remember the movements and the directions. When he practised at home, he would skip the parts he was unsure of and made a note on the sign language sheet so that he could get clarifications from the teachers at the next practice. After repeated practice, he has improved.
 
Now, Ming Shi is able to memorize all the lyrics and movements, and is able to complete the sign language without the music. Even though the movements for the “Light of Great Love” section are simple, as a 70-year-old senior, he still needs constant practice to perfect the movements.
 
He said, “I would practise one time each before and after my morning walk. When doing my exercise at the ‘airport’ (a helipad near the dock on the island), I would also practise a few times repeatedly.” He had walked all over the “airport”, practising the sign language in this wide open space.
 
Ming Shi disclosed that whenever he had overworked himself, he would feel depressed and unwell. To forget about the discomfort, he would practise the sign language of Dharma as Water from beginning till end. By so doing, he also stretched and eased his tensed muscles.
 
After each practice, he felt fresh and energetic. Through his participation in the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance, he has learnt not to focus too much on his illness and to take things easy. Whenever he shared with his friends, they were amazed that he had gained so much through learning the sign language.
 
From environmental protection to spiritual protection
 
Since the establishment of Tzu Chi’s Pulau Ketam Recycling Centre, the residents have been led by Sow Lang in collecting and sorting out recyclables. With such activities in place, the island has regained its fresh appearance. Now, Sow Lang has to overcome all obstacles in leading the residents to further understand the Dharma through the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance.
 
She shared that as islanders practise secular beliefs, there are challenges in trying to make them understand the Dharma and Water Repentance because their knowledge about Buddhism is limited to chanting and paying respect to the Buddha. Hence, whenever there is a Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance practice, she would treat it as an opportunity to interact with the islanders. Many, who joined out of curiosity initially, would most likely join again eagerly when they understand the teachings behind the sutra.
 
Furthermore, most elderly islanders, who participate in the performance, are illiterate and so have yet to fully understand the meaning in the sutra. For this reason, Sow Lang is deeply indebted to Dharma as Water leaders from Klang, who go over to the island each month without fail, to facilitate the smooth learning process for the islanders. 
 
Another challenge facing the islanders is the requirement to be on vegetarian diet for 108 days. Sow Lang said, “The response may be poor if we try to push through aggressively. So I encouraged them to go gradually on the vegetarian diet, so that it will slowly become a trend and the promotion of vegetarianism on the island will move one step forward.”
 
Even though Sow Lang is only leading the islanders under the “Light of Great Love” section, with relatively simpler sign language, her involvement in the Dharma Accompaniment Team has made her realize that every verse in the sutra is a reminder of her own defilements, which can only be cleansed with the Dharma. Despite the many challenges facing her, she is determined to bring the teachings of the Water Repentance to this island she calls home.
 
 
From promoting recycling to the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance, Tzu Chi volunteers are rowers, who ferry the islanders with the Dharma, so that the century old island will flourish into a “Dharma island” one day.
 
 
Thanks to the affinity to practice Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance, Tzu Chi volunteers are like rowers who ferry the islanders across with the hope that one day the island will become a “Dharma island”. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]   Tan Sow Lang (right), the first Tzu Chi volunteer on Pulau Ketam, is seen here practising hand movements together with 70-year-old Hong Ming Shi (left).
[Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Thanks to the affinity to practice Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance, Tzu Chi volunteers are like rowers who ferry the islanders across with the hope that one day the island will become a “Dharma island”. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]
 
Tan Sow Lang (right), the first Tzu Chi volunteer on Pulau Ketam, is seen here practising hand movements together with 70-year-old Hong Ming Shi (left). [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Hong Ming Shi, who would practise sign language before his morning exercise said, “I felt fresh and more energetic after each complete set of practice.” [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Bun seller, Xie Ai Lian, who joined in the practice of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance realized that “The Law of Karma never fails. For the karma created, we must repent” as stated in the sutra. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Hong Ming Shi, who would practise sign language before his morning exercise said, “I felt fresh and more energetic after each complete set of practice.” [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
 
Bun seller, Xie Ai Lian, who joined in the practice of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance realized that “The Law of Karma never fails. For the karma created, we must repent” as stated in the sutra. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Although illiterate, Huang Mei Diao (right) is very musically inclined. So she was able to move in tandem with others in the group. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Xie Ai Lian (in red top) joined others in the practice of Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance and shared the Dharma joy. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]

Although illiterate, Huang Mei Diao (right) is very musically inclined. So she was able to move in tandem with others in the group. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
 
Xie Ai Lian (in red top) joined others in the practice of Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance and shared the Dharma joy. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]