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Home Feature Stories Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance

Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act III

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Article Index
Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text
Act I: Prelude
Act II: The obstacle of affliction
Act III: The obstacle of unwholesome action
Act IV: The obstacle of karmic retribution
Act V: Finale
All Pages
Act III: The obstacle of unwholesome action
Scene 1: The law of karma
Scene 2: The three vices of bodily conduct
Scene 3: The four vices of speech
Scene 4: Repenting our wrong ways
Scene 5: Making vows after repenting


Scene 1: The law of karma

Onstage, there are three people dressed in white and three people dressed in black. Originally, the six people were together on the same path. Gradually, the three in black were led astray by temptations and deviated from the right path. One of them comes to realize he has gone astray and tries to get back onto the right path. The other two try to stop him, but after much struggle, the repentant one succeeds in returning to the right path, even bringing the other two with him.

The lyrics in this section explain the law of karma:

In the cycle of rebirth, we always carry with us the karma we created in our past lives. The sutras tell us that the karma we created brings karmic retribution, which comes to fruition in three ways: in our current lifetime, in our next life, or in our future lives. While we may not see the karmic retribution for the karma we created in this life, it will eventually come to fruition under the right conditions.

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Scene 2: The three vices of bodily conduct

Through a series of artistic and theatrical sketches, this section shows how people in our modern times commit the three bodily vices of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.

Sketch 1: Various acts of killing are presented through artistic expression: killing animals for food, killing another human being to take his possessions, killing for fun, stepping on insects or bugs, sacrificing animals for cultural or religious rituals, hunting for sport, killing oneself, or instigating others to kill.

The Buddha tells us that all living creatures have the Buddha nature and therefore are equal. All creatures value their own life, just as humans do. Because humans do not see this, they take the life of other creatures without remorse.

Sketch 2: One example of the act of stealing is presented. A government official and a businessman scheme to turn protected land to business use for their own personal profit. Through unscrupulous means, they take away an elderly couple's property to build a bus stop. The elderly couple's world is shattered as they lose the land they had lived on for most of their lives.

Sketch 3: One example of sexual misconduct is presented. A womanizer angers a woman he was involved with when he pursues another woman. In revenge, she hires thugs to harm both him and his lover. In the end, the lives of all three are ruined.

Through song and sign language, those onstage express the lesson to be learned:

People should be aware of the harm of sexual misconduct and uphold their marriage vows. If people can carefully guard their minds from going astray, abide by their marital responsibilities, and respect family values, they can build a good, happy family.

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Scene 3: The four vices of speech

This section shows the ways we can create negative karma with our speech, namely by using abusive words, propagating falsehoods, speaking with sweet but empty words, as well as bearing tales. These four kinds of unwholesome speech are like a sharp knife that can hurt people and cause harm. The message is conveyed by a mischievous fairy wearing a green vest with protruding knives, symbolizing unwholesome speech. She takes us through four theatrical sketches to show us how unwholesome speech can harm people, using examples from modern times.

Sketch 1: The harm of speaking abusive words is presented. A tough businesswoman always speaks harshly to her family, hurting their feelings and causing her relations with her family to become strained.

Sketch 2: The harm of lying and spreading false beliefs is presented. A man gives false predictions of misfortune and doom, causing fear among people who blindly believe him; he then sells them a "lucky charm" (in actuality, just a yellow slip) that supposedly will ward off the evil or misfortune. A righteous man with correct views guides people to stop believing in such superstitions.

Sketch 3: The harm of sweet yet empty words is presented. Two people use sweet promises to attract consumers for their health and beauty product. Those who use the product later develop health problems. When the product is discovered to be harmful, the two people run away.

Sketch 4: The harm of bearing tales is presented. The mischievous fairy with the knife vest goes between two people to bear tales, sowing discord.

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Scene 4: Repenting our wrong ways

The previous sections show how unwholesome conduct and speech can cause harm. In a formation representing the waters of the ocean, those onstage lead everyone to reflect and repent through song and sign language, the lyrics expressing some of the things to repent for:

Let us repent for killing living creatures and
committing acts of violence to harm others
Let us repent for killing other creatures accidentally or
for sport, and for abusing animals, not realizing that all creatures are equal
Let us repent for giving rise to greed when
enticed by money, and for failing to observe the precepts
Let us repent for being deeply entrenched in
desire and losing ourselves in the sea of lust
Let us repent for lying to secure personal gains,
and for speaking meanly to hurt others
Let us repent for speaking insincere words of
flattery and causing discord through gossip and tale-bearing
Let us repent for giving rise to greed
when our eyes have come in contact with pleasant sights
Let us repent for letting our ears pursue pleasant sounds and sweet words
which can cloud our good judgment
Let us repent for giving rise to unwholesome thoughts
when we come into contact with pleasant fragrances
Let us repent for eating all kinds of living creatures in our attachment
to taste and the desires of our palate
Let us repent for our desire for fine and smooth textures
as our body pursues the contact of touch
Let us repent for having a deluded mind as we filled it with false views
and perceptions and negative emotions


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Scene 5: Making vows after repenting

The repentance practice teaches that the true nature of every one of us is as pure as the Buddha's—this is Buddha nature. Yet, we have lost touch with our Buddha nature as we go through life. Out of our ignorance, we create negative karma with our body and speech. After repenting for our unwholesome conduct and speech, we can prevent repeating our errors by making vows not to create more negative karma.

In this section, a formation of the Tzu Chi logo with eight petals is presented, signifying the Eightfold Path of proper conduct in life. Vows are made through song and sign language:


We vow to protect life by not killing and
by eliminating our hatred and resentment
We vow to be vegetarian life after life
so that animals do not have to be killed
We vow to be content by reducing our desires
and transcending thoughts of stealing, jealousy, and greed
We vow to be generous and charitable by not being stingy and greedy.
Through the practice of giving, we accomplish our spiritual cultivation
We vow to uphold the precepts, to keep our heart pure,
and to be free from lustful thoughts
We vow to realize that desire acts like a shackle that restrains us,
and to let go of our greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep
We vow to avoid speaking gossip and abusive words,
instead speaking good words in a gentle voice
We vow to treat others with sincerity
by not lying or spreading hearsay
We vow to speak beneficial words that can bring harmony
and reconciliation among people
We vow to be humble and to be prudent in our speech,
not exaggerating or using flattery
We vow to purify our six sense organs
so we won't be deluded when encountering the external environment
We vow to end our unwholesome ways
and prevent future unwholesome actions

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