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Home Feature Stories Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance

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

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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 I: Prelude
Scene 1: Introduction
Scene 2: The story of Dharma Master Wu Da
Scene 3: Introducing the practice of repentance

Scene 1: Introduction

Through song and sign language, this section introduces the following message:

In the cosmos full of stars and planetary bodies, there is planet Earth. Our world, the Earth, is full of changes and impermanence, such as the changing seasons and the changing of day and night. Besides humans, there are also other creatures living on this Earth.

Impermanence is the underlying principle of everything; nothing is permanent or in stasis. As causes and conditions come together, different things come into being, continue, decay, and go out of existence. Through unwholesome actions, negative karma is created, eventually bringing about karmic retribution. Yet, underlying all the changes is an eternal, never-changing nature—the Buddha nature—our original pure nature.

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Scene 2: The story of Dharma Master Wu Da

Through artistic expression, this section introduces the message of how the human heart and mind can create karma, leading to karmic retribution in the cycle of rebirth:

Since beginningless time, living beings have been reincarnating in the six realms in an endless cycle. Though living beings possess a pure nature to begin with, this pure nature gradually gets covered with impurities as they go through the cycle of rebirth. As a result, their hearts and minds become full of ignorance; they create karma and reap karmic retribution, suffering life after life.

Onstage, the three people dressed in white symbolize human conscience, or the pure heart. The people dressed in black symbolize unwholesomeness, or the tainted heart.

Next, the life story of Dharma Master Wu Da, the author of the Water Repentance text, is presented in a Taiwanese opera dramatization:

Dharma Master Wu Da was a Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty. When he was young, he travelled around China to study Buddhism. On his travels, he encountered an ill Indian monk, Venerable Kanaka. Out of compassion, Master Wu Da tended to Venerable Kanaka and helped him recover his health. Before parting ways, Venerable Kanaka told Master Wu Da that if he should ever encounter problems, he could look for him in Western Sichuan, by the twin pines.

Master Wu Da then continued on his journey. After many years of diligent cultivation and upholding precepts, he became a venerated Buddhist master. The emperor of China established him as the national master and bestowed a chair made of precious agarwood for him to sit on when preaching the Dharma. Upon receiving the chair, Master Wu Da gave rise to a sense of self-importance. As he was about to sit in the chair, he bumped his knee on it. The resulting bruise developed into a sore in the shape of a human face and caused Master Wu Da tremendous pain and suffering. No doctors were able to treat the sore.

Remembering the words of Venerable Kanaka, Master Wu Da went to seek his help. Upon seeing Master Wu Da, Venerable Kanaka told him to wash his sore in the spring at the foot of the mountain.

Just as Master Wu Da was about to rinse the sore, he heard a voice. The voice spoke of the story of Yuan Yang and Chao Cuo from the Western Han Dynasty. Yuan Yang and Chao Cuo were senior officials serving in the government. Out of political motives, Yuan Yang had the emperor execute Chao Cuo. To take revenge for this, the soul of Chao Cuo followed Yuan Yang life after life. But, because for ten lifetimes, Yuan Yang had cultivated purity of conduct, there was no chance for Chao Cuo to take revenge. In this lifetime, Yuan Yang had become Master Wu Da. Because Master Wu Da gave rise to arrogance, Chao Cuo was able to take his revenge as a sore with a human face inflicting pain and suffering on Master Wu Da.

The voice then told Master Wu Da that after Venerable Kanaka taught him the Dharma, he was willing to let go of his enmity. After the voice faded away, Master Wu Da rinsed the sore with the water, and the sore healed. Realizing that his suffering was the result of the negative karma he had created, Master Wu Da did not return to serve the emperor but instead built a cabin at the foot of the mountain to repent for his wrongs. There, he composed the Water Repentance text.

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Scene 3: Introducing the practice of repentance

This scene starts with Master Wu Da in his cabin, beginning to compose the Water Repentance text so that people can learn the law of karma and be aware of their own unwholesome behavior. With the understanding of the law of karma and the Buddha's teachings, people can transform themselves and end their vices which create negative karma.

Through song and sign language, those onstage express the message that living beings exist as if drifting in a sea of suffering. By turning back toward the shore, they can return to the correct path in life and be liberated from suffering. Hence, all Buddhas earnestly call on living beings to awaken and return to the correct path.

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