The event was jointly supported by 15 volunteers from Singapore, 75 local volunteers and nine volunteers from Vietnam. As many as 500 people had come for the talk, including Dharma Master Heng Bunchea, a dharma master from Siem Reap, North Cambodia who has expressed interest in joining Tzu Chi, and five other dharma masters who resides in Phnom Penh.
Love triumphs all
Last December, after a series of serious floods, Tzu Chi volunteers, both local and Singaporeans, pioneered a distribution aid in Phnom Penh and benefited 888 families in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar commune.
After the successful completion of the distribution exercise, the local team has managed to recruit quite a number of new volunteers. Being a dear friend of the Cambodian volunteers, Brother David Liu had hoped to seize the opportunity to introduce Tzu Chi to more locals, which led to the second Blissful Life Talk this February.
The event was advertised on local newspaper Sing Chew Daily from 2 to 5 February. The Daily also reported on the Foundation’s involvement in a local disaster relief 16 years ago. Jian Hua Daily, The Commercial News Cambodia and Radio Free Asia also did reports on the Foundation’s local and international work.
Thanks to the media exposure, response to the talk was overwhelming with Taiwanese and Malaysian businesspeople bringing their employees to find out more about Tzu Chi.
Among them was Ms Deng Wan Xia, a businesswoman originally from Vietnam. Ms Deng has been living in Cambodia for the last 30 years. A few years back, she chanced upon Tzu Chi conducting free clinics in Vietnam. Touched, she decided to sign up as a regular donor.
Unfortunately, Tzu Chi has yet to establish a branch in Cambodia so Ms Deng has to send her donations back to Vietnam every month. Being so far away, she has had little chance to participate in any volunteering activities.
“When I saw the words ‘Great Love’ on the newspaper and knew it was Tzu Chi, I immediately called the Tzu Chi sisters in Vietnam and informed them about the talk. I know Tzu Chi helps the less fortunate and the more people who can help the merrier.” When she learnt that Tzu Chi is aiding several care recipients in Chroy Changvar and that they live near her carton factory, she happily expressed her wish to work with Tzu Chi to help the residents there.
After nine long hours travelling on a public bus, the nine volunteer sisters from Vietnam finally arrived at the talk venue and soon joined the Singaporean and Cambodian volunteers in receiving the guests. Everyone worked joyously as if basking in a huge family get-together, happily witnessing and contributing to the sprouting of Tzu Chi’s missions in Cambodia.
Calling all Samaritans
The long corridor at the entrance of Cambodia Japan Cooperation Centre (CJCC) was fully utilized and filled with information boards on Tzu Chi. The local volunteers, in their smart attire, lined up and welcomed the guests with the ‘Welcome Song’. Many of the guests were pleasantly surprised with such warm gesture.
Before the talk began, volunteers from Singapore performed a graceful sign language song ‘The World of Thousand Hands’ to the admiration of the audience.
Local volunteer Su Xiao Hong then took to the stage to share her learning and changes during the past year after joining Tzu Chi. “Gaining wisdom through helping others and at the same time getting rid of bad habits, I now find life is meaningful through giving,” said the grey uniformed volunteer.
Su is grateful to Tzu Chi Singapore and especially to Brother Yoshikazu Shaku, who was originally from Cambodia, for introducing her and her husband to Tzu Chi. During the civil war, Yoshikazu was sent to Taiwan for education and later moved to Japan for business and he has since become Japanese.
Through a few Da Ai TV news and footages of local TV station CTN reporting on Tzu Chi’s recent aid efforts in Cambodia, the audience then witnessed the manifestation of Great Compassion advocated by Buddhism.
Through his own wealth of experience in Tzu Chi, Brother David Liu then shared the philosophy of Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi in layman’s language with the audience. He encouraged them to take part in charity activities, count their blessings from seeing suffering and gain wisdom from it. He also encouraged them to pursue the right kind of religious belief focusing on altruistic compassion and love, and to develop goodness in life for the benefit of society.
“It is okay to be busy everyday but we must have a goal, a direction and a focal point. A genius who has lost his direction is worse off than a mediocre person who has the right direction.” Brother David Liu candidly reminded everyone that amid a busy life, one has to find a quiet time everyday to reflect upon himself and his daily doings.
Buddhism is widely practiced in Cambodia. However, folk beliefs, fengshui and fortune-telling are also quite common. Brother Liu advised that in order to break the myth and superstitions, one needs to learn true Buddhism. “One will need to change his mindset before he can change his luck,” he reasoned.
He further spoke on Tzu Chi volunteers’ endeavours in gaining wisdom and compassion through concrete actions. “Merit is gained when you can provide food for the hungry and offer clothes to those in the cold.
“Our Master tells us that giving is not the privilege of the rich, it is the privilege of the sincere," stressed Brother Liu as he described Master Cheng Yen's philosophy to the participants. Mentioning the fact that many people in Phnom Penh still live in poverty, Brother Liu encouraged the audience to come forward to be a Tzu Chi donating member, “whether it is only a dollar or ten, the amount is not important but the sincerity of helping your countrymen is.”
The talk ended with the congregation singing Tzu Chi’s ‘Prayer’ song in the Khmer language. The melodious voice of emcee/singer Srey Pov captivated everyone and with their hands folded in front, the audience collectively wished for purity of souls, harmonious society and a world void of disaster.
Love begets Love
Ms Srey Pov had actually volunteered once with Tzu Chi last year during the December Chroy Changvar aid distribution. She also lent her voice to boost the aid recipients' morale then.
Brother David Liu later on invited the singer to record two Tzu Chi songs – ‘Warmth’ and ‘Prayer’ in the Khmer language. The production cost for the songs was first estimated at around US$2000. Brother Su Ying Long, who is the husband of Sister Su Xiao Hong, was tasked to translate the song lyrics while Ms Srey Pov got hold of a production team. In the end, they only had to pay one tenth of the total estimated cost. Ms Srey Pov even donated US$100 to support Tzu Chi’s local work and this time, she has especially taken time off to come and be the emcee for the talk.
“When I listen to the lyrics of ‘Prayer’, I find it very meaningful. I too wish there is more peace in our world.” Though Ms Srey Pov is not from a well-to-do family, she is glad to be able to help. “I hope my life will be more meaningful by reaching out to my people and by bringing happiness to them.”
As the talk ended, many people came forward to fill in the forms to become donating members. There were a total of 57 new members and four dharma masters signing up as Tzu Chi members.
Mr Bun Thoeun had come to the talk with an invitation from a friend. The stout truck driver seemingly came prepared as he was seen filling up the membership form with a passport-sized picture he brought along. “The one thing that attracted me most is that Master Cheng Yen’s teaching is very much in line with Buddhism where she emphasizes everyone to be compassionate and kind. I find it very respectable. When the world is full of love and help to each other, it is very touching and I really support it.”
Hailing from Malaysia, Jenny Ng was invited to the talk by her relative and new Tzu Chi volunteer Huang Gui Zhi who had provided part of her factory space for the storage of Tzu Chi’s aid items last December. Many of Jenny’s family and friends are also Tzu Chi members in Malaysia. She had for a long time wanted to be a donating member and this time, she and her husband made sure they are not letting the chance slip by. “I would really like to volunteer and do something to help others and not just watch by the side.”
Jenny, who used to work as a photography journalist, is also helping out with photography in ‘Operation Smile’, an international charity that provides free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. The Tzu Chi volunteers present thus invited her to be part of the documenting team to help capture images of Tzu Chi’s works in future, to which she readily accepted.
Koepech Metta, a journalist from Radio Free Asia, had watched a documentary on ‘Tzu Chi: Compassion & Relief’ on the Discovery Channel before and was interested to find out more on the people in the documentary, which was why she attended the first Blissful Life Talk held last July. Now attending her second and seizing the opportunity to interview some audience, Ms Metta commented, “Tzu Chi activities are very inspiring and they make us realize how to help others with compassion and how to take the Bodhisattva Path, because the Buddha's love has no boundaries. If everyone is full of love, the world will be in peace.”
Most participants interviewed by Koepech Metta related to her that by joining Tzu Chi one can purify the soul, help themselves while helping others at the same time, and in doing so, find joy.
General Manager of EVA Air Cambodian office, Mr Chai Chia-ming was invited to attend the talk by Cambodia-based Tzu Chi commissioner Wang Mei-ching. “Putting words into actions is very important and seeing so many people living in hardship in Cambodia made me realize how fortunate I am. I must learn to count my blessings.” Mr Chai further said that he will try his best to provide help to Tzu Chi whenever the Foundation needs it.
Years of civil disorder has caused long-time under-development and hardship in Cambodia. With better domestic economic growth in recent years, some Cambodians are leading more comfortable lives and therefore are on the lookout to lend a hand to their countrymen who still live in poverty.
People are generally kind. It is our hope that Tzu Chi’s motto in "inspiring the rich to help the poor and cheering on the poor to strive for spiritual richness" would influence the rich community to put good thoughts into good deeds, and let the love continue.