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A Year End Blessing Ceremony in a time of Great Reflections

Although it is now more cumbersome to hold offline events due to the mandatory requirement to abide strictly by the preventive measures to prevent new wave of infections in Singapore, volunteers were willing to take on more roles and duties to have the annual Year End Blessing Ceremony held at Jing Si Hall.

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Participants are seated in the Dharma hall one metre apart from each other and with their masks on. (Photo by Chua Teong Seng)

The year 2020, a year plagued by the Covid 19 pandemic that has reshaped the world.  A virus invisible to human eyes has defeated the most intelligent beings on earth, resulting in lockdowns in most countries, an almost standstill economy and millions of people infected.  Life has changed to a new normal of wearing masks and keeping to safe distancing, resulting in less person to person interactions.

As Singapore moved into Phase 3 of re-opening, Tzu Chi has obtained approval to hold its Year End Blessing Ceremony at its Jing Si Hall located at Elias Road.  Adhering strictly to the safe management measures, Tzu Chi volunteers put in great effort and see to all details to ensure safety of all its volunteers and participants attending the ceremony.

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Scanning of Safe Entry or NRIC and temperature taking before attendees enter the hall to attend the ceremony. (Photo by Chua Teong Seng)

This year’s Year End Blessing Ceremony was held over a span of four days over two weekends on January 16, 17, 23 & 24.  The venue was divided into three zones, accommodating a maximum of 50 people in each zone per session.  On each day, there were 5 sessions being carried out with intervals for cleaning and disinfection to be properly carried out.  A total number of 1,865 participants were recorded over the 20 sessions in four days.

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A small number of volunteers carry out cleaning and disinfection after each session. (Photo by Chai Yu Leong)

Tzu Chi’s Year End Blessing Ceremony is an important annual event, traditionally carried out before the Lunar New Year, in appreciation to the generous support of donors and volunteers.   With a video on Tzu Chi’s year in review, featuring footprints of Tzu Chi’s work around the world in 2020, it also aims to inspire Great Love and kind thoughts in everyone.  Besides the video on global footprints of Tzu Chi’s relief effort, a video showing the work of Tzu Chi Singapore, including its work during the pandemic was also screened.

At the end of the ceremony, each participant received a “Red Packet of Blessings and Wisdom” as a token of gratitude and blessing from Dharma Master Cheng Yen and all other Dharma Masters at the Jing-Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan.  The NT$5 which is included in an exquisitely designed red packet comes from the royalty of Master Cheng Yen’s publication as well as the profit from the sale of Jing-si products made by the monastic community at the abode.

SG20210123 GNA CYL 016"Red Packet of Blessings and Wisdom" for this year's Year End Blessing ceremony. (Photo by Chai Yu Leong) 

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Participants receiving the exquisitely designed red packet as a token of blessing from Master Cheng Yen. (Photo by Mulias)

Year 2020 was a pandemic year, but it was also a year of extraordinary resolve, courage and love.  “Learn the Great Lessons of Our Time and Benefit all Beings, Be Kind and Do Good to Bring Harmony to the World” is the theme for this year’s Year End Blessing Ceremony.  

The pandemic has taught us a great lesson which we ought to heed.  In Master Cheng Yen’s speech to all volunteers and supporters of Tzu Chi worldwide, she encouraged everyone to be kind and do good to bring harmony to the world.  With the pandemic raging with no sign of weakening, she urges everyone to adopt a vegetarian diet and cultivate compassion to keep the virus away. 

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Volunteers donate the money in their coin banks for a good cause during the event. (Photo by Michelle Pong) 

Statistic by Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations has shown that in every second, 2,443 (latest figure has increased to 2,556) animals were being slaughtered to satisfy human consumption. It translates to 210 million lives being sacrificed in one day, or 77 billion in a year.  Livestock farming is the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions, greater than all emission from transportation combined.  It also uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is one of the leading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

With deep compassion, Dharma Master Cheng Yen appeals to all to adopt vegetarianism for the sake of our environment, our Mother Earth as well as our own well-being.  This is the only way we can reduce the chances of getting infected by mutated viruses from animals, avert extreme natural disasters caused by climate change and bring harmony and peace to our world.

CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Mr Low Swee Seh shared that although the pandemic has resulted in less volunteering activities for Tzu Chi volunteers, everyone has been diligently participating in a series of online events such as sharing sessions, book clubs and even online festive celebrations with care recipients.  Volunteers have been actively offering care and assistance for the needy during this period.  Previously, they had also extended care for migrant workers at the quarantine facilities and supported the “Stay Home Quilt” community art project initiated by artist Jimmy Ong.

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Mr. Low Swee Seh, CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore giving his speech during the ceremony. (Photo by Goa Yee Boon) 

During the event, volunteers also went on stage to share about their personal experience after joining Tzu Chi.  Among them, Brother Beh Hak Chang shared how he started his volunteer journey in year 2018 and through the process, he managed to turn his deluded life to a meaningful one.  The change in him is so transformative that he even quit his smoking and drinking habits along the way. He is continuing his journey and sees improvement in himself every day.

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Volunteer Beh Hak Chang sharing his own personal experience and how he is seeing changes in himself each day. (Photo by Phua Poo Tong)

Each session of the ceremony ended with a prayer to wish for purification of minds, a harmonized society and a world free of disasters. 

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