Tzu Chi volunteers did their part to inspire love through their performances; we introduced our humanitarian aid worldwide and invited people to join the love saves movement by donating to support our disaster relief missions; and now it was time to give the stage over to the renowned China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, who would astonish everyone with their flawless artistry that defies all limitations.
“My Dream”, the first piece presented by these ambassadors of love who travel the globe, inspiring world leaders and the public alike wherever they go, was a ballet performed by hearing impaired dancers. As the audience admired their sublime grace and prowess in an art form that is said to breed perfectionism, everyone completely forgot that these dancers can’t hear the music they move to.
The next piece, “When a Child Is Born”, was a vocal solo, and again, the sensitivity and beauty of the singer’s rendition made us forget the context. If not for the singer’s dark sunglasses on stage, we would have no clue that for this artist, we as audience exist in an invisible realm they are trying to connect with through sound.
If the audience needed more cause to forget limitations, the next piece indisputably exemplified terms such as breath-taking, unforgettable, and beyond belief, as it transported us to a celestial realm of ultimate perfection.
The “Thousand-Hand Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva” dance is the centerpiece of this troupe’s fame around the world, and it was the centerpiece of the “Thousands of Helping Hands” charity concert on October 16.
The dance presents a being with a thousand hands that is revered in Buddhism as the embodiment of compassion, who seeks to deliver all beings from suffering. For Tzu Chi, our volunteers are those thousands of helping hands seeking to save others from pain.
Words do little justice when compared to seeing the dance on stage, and even photos fail to fully capture its sheer magnificence. As we watched the plentitude of arms extend from this divine creation, we could see its direct relevance to the Tzu Chi path which is founded on the belief that infinite benevolence in this world is possible if we awaken our hearts and join together to do good deeds.
Witnessing ‘perfection’ manifesting before our eyes while knowing that the performers have ‘imperfections’ was profoundly meaningful. Perhaps it is only because of imperfection that we can conceive of its opposite, the ideal that exists as a possibility to be uncovered, towards which we strive. In essence, that is the Buddhist path, a journey towards the perfect purity and wisdom of enlightenment through perfecting the self. The program continued with more pieces of transcendent beauty, like the magical “Butterfly Lovers” dance, which called attention to the ephemeral and fragile nature of life, and the need for us to protect each other when we can.
The excellence of each piece was a testament to the performer’s mastery of their art. It was also verification of the importance of collaboration, discipline, and perseverance. The troupe’s tireless dedication to creating such beauty and bringing their message of universal respect and tolerance without bounds was truly a gift of love.
As the evening progressed, the audience knew without a doubt that the performances would be flawless, so a natural curiosity about the logistics that make such a show possible arose. Indeed, there they were, the helpers on the sidelines, using broad gestures to lay out the beat for the dancers, the shadowy figures leading the blind to and from the stage.
This acknowledgment of their presence served to wake us from a dream, bringing us down to earth, and leading us to recognize the beauty of those who help without asking for recognition, those who aspire to enable others to seek and find their happiness. Those who know what Master Cheng Yen means when she says:
“To give is to receive. To make things easier for others is the best way to help ourselves.”
As this remarkable concert drew to its end and the performers were each given a moment in the spotlight so we could show our appreciation, many reached that spot of honor thanks to the assistance of their helpers, and we applauded them both – the helper and the helped. And we made sure our applause arose anew like a wave of love when the blind performers had their moment on stage, so they would know they are not alone, that we are here, and we are many, our love overflowing.
What the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe and Tzu Chi volunteers – who share kindred hearts – showed us on this night illuminated by the largest of full moons in the year, was that our senses and abilities can fail us, but one sense is eternal and true: The sense of love we can feel in our hearts which will never lead us astray.
Thank you, Tzu Chi volunteers and China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, for bringing the meaning of compassion and perseverance to life at the “Thousands of Helping Hands” charity concert.
And Happy 50th Birthday, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. May there be countless more.