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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Friday, 29 May 2015 15:12

Spreading Dharma Seeds as an Dharma Interpreter

Written by  Koh Poo Leng, Klang / Translated by Jacqueline Khoo

Through understanding the Dharma, Har Lai Choo has realized that before transforming others, one must first transform oneself. Photo shows her teaching the performing volunteers the correct hand gestures. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Volunteer Har Lai Choo has taken time off her busy schedules to do meaningful things. She has turned the recycling centre into a practice venue for the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance to enable the elderly to refine their hand gestures through repeated practices.


“I would wake up at 5 am daily, watch ‘Wisdom at Dawn’ on Da Ai TV, then send my kids to school at 6 am, going through heavy traffic and reaching home around 7.30 am. After finishing house chores, I would leave for my grandma’s house to help her wash up, accompany her for breakfast or take her to the doctor. At 10.30 am, I would fetch my mum to the recycling centre to sort out recyclables. Before lunch at 12 noon, I would revise the hand gestures with volunteers in the ‘Light of Great Love’ section. After lunch, I would rush to pick my kids up from school and later to tuitions, and then fetch my niece for tuition… Basically, I am always out after 9.30 am,” recounted Har Lai Choo, who has no complaints about her tight daily schedule.

“Your hands should be slightly lower; you should move your hands slower…” could be heard as a petite, bespectacled Lai Choo patiently coached the elderly at the Tzu Chi Meru Educational Recycling Centre.

Ten years ago, she developed a problem with her left eye. Whenever she is tensed up, the muscle around her left eye would keep twitching until her eye shuts involuntarily. Although she has to see a Traditional Chinese Medicine Physician every Tuesday and Thursday, she still allocates time to coach the elderly.

“Being involved in the sutra adaptation performance is such a good affinity. We can all use the Dharma water to cleanse our impurities. So we must seize the opportunity and not regret only after the affinity slips us by,” said Lai Choo, who agreed immediately when offered the role as a Dharma interpreter for the “Light of Great Love” section.

Practising the Dharma in daily life

Four years ago, when Lai Choo’s younger sister suffered from depression, she felt helpless. Then her younger brother, Har Chee Leong, introduced her to Tzu Chi volunteer, Aw Yong Siew Hooi. Initially, she thought that Tzu Chi has a counselling centre that can help her sister. Instead, Siew Hooi took her on home visits and recycling activities. Even though she was filled with doubts while doing all these, she had gained the spiritual joy she never experienced before.

As the eldest sister in the family, she was always worried for her sister. Whenever there was something wrong with the latter, she would be irritated and start scolding her; and when her sister refused to cooperate with her, she would have a troubled mind instantly. Due to a communication breakdown, the sisters would always have conflicts. When their mother saw them arguing, she would be fretful, and when she failed to stop them, she would join in the argument, causing disharmony to the family.

In recalling that period of time, Lai Choo understands that if one does not cultivate the “mind” well, one would not be able to guard one’s actions, words and thoughts. As the verse goes, “anger and rage often hurt others”, Lai Choo repented for her past mistakes, and realized that not only should she cultivate her mind, but she should also strive to achieve inner stillness.

She said, “When facing problems, we must first calm our minds. We may be able to express (the Dharma) well, but what is more important is to ensure that we practise what we preach; that is the true Dharma. Not only that, we have to be determined too. If we truly aspire to change for the better, then we shouldn’t be afflicted when challenges arise.”

Happy with the changes in her, Lai Choo’s husband and children have been supportive of her involvement in Tzu Chi.

It was only after joining Tzu Chi that Lai Choo realized that before we can transform others, we must first transform ourselves. Although changes do not happen overnight, Lai Choo has learnt the truth through her involvement in Tzu Chi; and she is willing to use it in her daily life.

Purifying the mind with the Dharma

“In 2012, I attended Tzu Chi’s Year-end Blessing Ceremony for the first time after I became a volunteer. With encouragement from Siew Hooi, I joined the sutra adaptation performance. I found it really good and started to love sign language since then,” shared Lai Choo of the Dharma joy she experienced in her first sutra adaptation performance.

Lai Choo admitted that this year’s performance is more difficult than the one held in 2012. Not only has she to memorize all 11 songs, she must also be very clear of each hand gesture. As a Dharma interpreter, she cannot be complacent at all. To assist the volunteers in the “Light of Great Love” section to focus totally on the sign language practices as soon as possible, she chose to learn and grow together with them at the Tzu Chi Meru Educational Recycling Centre.

“I am very glad to see their progress from last October till now. Some recycling volunteers in their seventies had given up learning altogether. But after seeing and listening to my daily 30-minute teaching, they would intuitively follow my hand gestures. This is the best reward I can ever ask for,” said a smiling Lai Choo.

Other than using her time in the afternoon to teach at the recycling centre, Lai Choo would also follow the team to Sekinchan to teach other volunteers there. In the process, she was deeply touched and amazed by the Indian volunteers. Although they are unfamiliar with the sutra, they still wanted to be a part of the “Light of Great Love”, performing hand gestures with other volunteers.

“From what I see, the Indian volunteers have really practised well; at least they know what the next gesture is. They cannot understand Mandarin, but during the English Group’s weekly study group and practice at Taman Eng Ann, they always pay full attention to what is being taught. They know when to show which hand gesture according to the songs. They are indeed good role models for us to emulate.”

After her grandmother, whom she had been taking care of for months, passed away in January 2015, Lai Choo decided to dedicate more of her time. Whenever there is a need, she will give her best, all for the upcoming sutra adaptation performance.



Thirty minutes might seem short, but it allows Lai Choo to play her role and guide the elderly at the recycling centre to join the sutra adaptation performance. The sutra verses might not have fully penetrated the hearts of the elderly, but they have been learning and practising diligently since October 2014. They are doing all this with the hope that the audience could witness the true “Light of Great Love” this July!

With the aid of doll images (sign language illustration sheets), Har Lai Choo coached volunteers in the “Light of Great Love” section at the Taman Meru Educational Recycling Centre. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Har Lai Choo guided volunteers in the “Light of Great Love” section heedfully. Photo shows the performing volunteers paying attention and performing the hand gestures accordingly. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

With the aid of doll images (sign language illustration sheets), Har Lai Choo coached volunteers in the “Light of Great Love” section at the Taman Meru Educational Recycling Centre. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Har Lai Choo guided volunteers in the “Light of Great Love” section heedfully. Photo shows the performing volunteers paying attention and performing the hand gestures accordingly. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
The convulsive twitching of the muscles around her left eye is never an obstacle for Har Lai Choo to give all she has. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Har Lai Choo juggles her family and voluntary work well; and her husband and children are happy to see the positive changes in her. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

The convulsive twitching of the muscles around her left eye is never an obstacle for Har Lai Choo to give all she has. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Har Lai Choo juggles her family and voluntary work well; and her husband and children are happy to see the positive changes in her. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]