Source: by Master Hsing Yun date: 03/24/2003

Putting on a show usually refers to the various kinds of performances in the entertainment business. However, people also consider actions or displays of anyone in public as putting on a show, meaning they are showing off and looking for attention or praise of others.
Naturally some people tend to overly posture and inappropriately show off their talents trying to stand out above others. These are not good shows. Moreover, there are people who like to get airtime in the media with gimmicks and perform "talk shows" with little or no substance. Their purpose is solely to promote themselves. They have certainly spoiled the reputation of such shows.
In reality, putting on a show is not entirely bad, for instance, when it is for people engaging in charity work, the promotion of new products or the government publishing national policies. Celebrities with wholesome images are invited as spokespersons giving positive demonstrations to society. We cannot negate any of these benevolent acts as putting on a show.
In Chinese history, there were many examples of historic acts such as Emperors Yao and Shun abdicating their throne to the best candidate, Confucius conducting "Decorum," and Mencius traveling the country teaching the benefits of benevolent governance. In addition, emperors might grant a general amnesty, issue an edict publishing their own mistakes or hold a universal celebration with all nationals. In Chan Buddhism, there were renowned koans such as the Fifth Patriarch visiting Huineng in the mills at night to make an appointment with him for the third watch to pass him the Dharma, and Chan Master Zhao Chiao resting in his bed when receiving Emperor Zhao. If we take all of the above as putting on a show, we are being vastly inappropriate!
When we are born into the world and go through aging, sickness, and death, we are actually putting on a show our whole lifetime. Children play cute to win the smile and love of their parents; youths love to look good and are full of bravado in making promises; and young adults are passionate, courageous, and righteous in starting their career. As women grow from being young girls into puberty, they may in turn be shy or prudent. Are they all merely putting on a show? Of course, when people are keen about looking pretty, putting on make-up, and pursuing the latest trends, they are putting on a show. However, aren't these shows life itself?
Architects design buildings, sculptors create pieces of art, painters portray paintings of landscapes, and chefs cook a feast of gourmet food are doing what they do best in their special fields. We may consider their actions as putting on a show. However, what are they supposed to do otherwise?
A famed Chinese philosopher once said, "Young people compete in memory, middle-aged people wisdom, and old people states of mind." Life is a stage. When we are onstage, we should be our own director in expressing ourselves and bringing our talents and skills to full play. As for how wonderful the show can be, it all depends on our individual performance.