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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Thursday, 18 June 2015 11:34

Overcoming Language Barrier to Learn the Dharma

Written by  Soon Fock Chuan,Klang / Translated by Chong Pei Fen

Although unfamiliar with the verses, Shammugawali has learnt to reflect upon herself. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Besides learning to comprehend the Dharma and cultivate themselves with the wisdom of the Buddha, the participants, including the Indian volunteers, of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance also shoulder an important mission to convey and promulgate the Dharma.


Fourteen Indian volunteers from PPR Padang Jawa and Klang have signed up for the “Light of Great Love” team for the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance despite being completely new to Buddhist teachings and not knowing Mandarin. They have to learn the synchronization of the hand gestures to the lyrics of 11 songs, adding the beauty of religious harmony to the graceful sign language.

Understand the Dharma and reflect upon oneself

Shammugawali, a petite mother of four, listened attentively to the song, “One by One, I Repent My Wrongs”, and performed the hand gestures together with other participants. Despite her participation in recycling activities and English Group’s study group, this is the first time she is learning the sign language.

She said, “I was completely lost initially, and just performed the hand gestures blindly according to those in front of me. After a few practices and with explanations from volunteers, we gradually understood the meaning behind each gesture.”

Although she was worried that she could not do it well due to language barrier and was afraid to disappoint the mindful volunteers, she knew she could redress that by practising hard. However, she did not expect her husband to be her greatest deterrent.

She disclosed, “My husband had rebuked me for my involvement in activities of a different religion, and when I refuted him, he raised his voice.” To avoid further aggravation, she never practised sign language at home. She admitted that the misunderstanding could have been avoided if she had handled it tactfully.

Despite not fully understanding the meaning of the verses, Shammugawali was slowly influenced by the positive environment at the practices and was always joyful. Noticing that she has not only adhered to the Hindu teachings but has also learnt some practical Buddhist teachings, her husband has stopped finding faults or fight with her. Instead, he will reason things out with her.

With her emotional burden lifted, Shammugawali, who is now more tolerant of her husband, is always smiling. She also practises repentance in her daily life and leads her family to discover the way of wisdom in daily dealings.

Assured direction in life

“Meenachi, what are you there for?” “Is it really that good? What do you bring home?” were some of the questions thrown at Meenachi by her relatives and friends.

Impervious to their doubts, she would explain patiently, “I did not bring anything but life’s principles home. We should repent for our wrongdoings and remind ourselves not to repeat them again. What I have gained will last till the end of my life!”

The place that Meenachi’s relatives and friends referred to is the venue for the “Light of Great Love” practice sessions. Forty-five-year-old Meenachi could not contain her joy whenever the sign language practice is mentioned. She shared, “There are many things in life that do not come naturally. I joined Tzu Chi not only for its pleasant environment and atmosphere, but also to repay Tzu Chi’s kindness to my family.”

Meenachi, who received only primary education, works as an operator in a factory. Her husband had initially objected to her involvement in Tzu Chi as he could not understand why she chose to volunteer with a Buddhist organization.

Later, when her husband suffered from myocardial infarction and had to stop work for his treatment, a kind neighbour referred their case to Tzu Chi. Volunteers then visited the family and provided them with financial and mental support.

Touched by the help rendered irrespective of the differences in religion and race, her husband finally changed his perception on Tzu Chi and has since supported Meenachi’s involvement in the Foundation. After recovering from his illness, he has also started to partake in recycling activities at the flats.

Her husband’s support has boosted her confidence. Thus, she was undeterred even though she could not fully comprehend the verses. She would watch the video recordings of the Dharma as Water performance at home repeatedly to feel the peace and serenity of the Dharma assembly and listen to the songs to familiarize herself with the melodies and verses.

Her heart is always filled with peace and joy at each practice. She shared, “We must deal with everything in life with a grateful heart, as only then will society be harmonious and we can free our minds from worries resulting from our desires.”

A positive mental attitude

A tall and well-built Murugan is a hardworking and good “student” in the eyes of the sign language instructors. He has never missed any study group or sign language practice, and would always sit upright and listen to the sign language instructors attentively. He reasoned that he is slow in his movements and has poor memory, thus, cannot afford to miss the practice sessions.

Despite being a man of few words, he interacts well with his team members from the PPR flats, where he is one of the key persons behind the recycling point.

From the study group, he has learnt that one should admit one’s past mistakes and do not repeat them in the future. He shared, “I hope to share what I have seen and learnt here with my neighbours, especially the consequences of our wrongdoings. Whatever you do, there will be resulting consequences.”

That is Murugan’s interpretation of the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect in the Buddhist scriptures. He hopes to remind himself to have a positive outlook in life, and inspire more people to change their habits and attitude towards life, stop repeating their mistakes and contribute to society.



With the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance fast approaching, members of the “Light of Great Love” team have been practising together with members of the Dharma Expressionist and Dharma Accompaniment teams. Hopefully, everyone could feel and pray sincerely for their joint wish for purified minds, a harmonious society and a world free from disasters.

 

Fourteen Indian volunteers in Klang learnt the hand gestures for the “Light of Great Love” section. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   From the sutra study, Meenachi learnt that a heart of gratitude will bring harmony to society and free our minds from undue worries. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Fourteen Indian volunteers in Klang learnt the hand gestures for the “Light of Great Love” section. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
From the sutra study, Meenachi learnt that a heart of gratitude will bring harmony to society and free our minds from undue worries. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Through his participation in the sutra adaptation performance, Murugan (2nd right) learnt that one must repent for one’s mistakes and never repeat the same mistakes again. [Photograph by Ng Su Lim]   Some Indian volunteers and Chong Sui San happily posed for a group photo after a study group. [Photograph by Ng Su Lim]

Through his participation in the sutra adaptation performance, Murugan (2nd right) learnt that one must repent for one’s mistakes and never repeat the same mistakes again. [Photograph by Ng Su Lim]
 
Some Indian volunteers and Chong Sui San happily posed for a group photo after a study group. [Photograph by Ng Su Lim]