On the 5th and 6th of January 2019, Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) Ltd held a two-day Year End Blessing Ceremony which featured the global footprints of Tzu Chi in 2018. The event aimed to give appreciation to the volunteers and donors of the NGO and thank them for their continued support and participation.
Interactive exhibition zones were also added to the annual event this year, to allow visitors to explore the various Missions of Tzu Chi, including Charity, Medicine, Education and Environmental Protection, with the hope of inspiring more people to join the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers.
At the charity exhibition zone, visitor Tan Seok Chin dropped a “coin” into a giant Bamboo Coin Bank and took a bag of diapers, formula milk, cash, etc. from a volunteer before walking into a scaled down, narrow one-bedroom flat to visit an “aid beneficiary”.
After experiencing how it was like to be in the “home” of the underprivileged, she shared, "The simulation is very real. I can feel how those living under the poverty line and those suffering from illness are living their lives. We are the lucky ones, so it is our duty to help the less fortunate in our society.”
Sharing the Missions in an interactive way
Event coordinator, Lew Loon Keong said that the objective of organising the Year End Blessing ceremony was not only to express gratitude and appreciation to those who have been supporting Tzu Chi, but also to spread the Bodhisattva spirit to all. Therefore, the event’s programme was designed to allow more time for the attendees to visit the exhibition zones to gain some interactive experiences after watching “Tzu Chi Year in Review”, a video depicting the global footprints of Tzu Chi over the past year.
“The exhibition zone is very spacious this year. There are a variety of displays and demos, such as surgical knives and a demonstration on how medical equipment and supplies are packed for an overseas medical outreach,” commented Jasline Tan, who has known Tzu Chi for 13 years.
The interactive exhibition zones gave her a deeper understanding of the ongoing efforts of Tzu Chi volunteer and the display that impacted her the most was a two-sided model of Planet Earth. One side of it was lush with greenery while the other side portrayed a grim, barren environment resulting from damage brought about by pollution due to human activities.
Jasline, a regular donor of Tzu Chi, saw Tzu Chi volunteers collecting and sorting recyclables near her house every month, and she was inspired to volunteer with them.
At the “Jing Si Culture” exhibition zone, the items displayed, such as small hoes, bamboo hats and cotton baby shoes depicted the austere and frugal lifestyle of the Dharma masters at Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan, in the early days. Volunteers at the zone shared with visitors about the spirit of frugality, resilience, and self-sufficiency practised in the Abode.
Another group of volunteers clad in colourful costumes sang and danced at the education exhibition zone, attracting many parents and their kids to take photos with them. The volunteers there shared a 5-step teaching methodology based on Jing Si Aphorisms (wise sayings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen), which is implemented in Tzu Chi Parent-Child Bonding Class and Great Love Mothers’ activities. The methodology aims at developing children’s ability to think and contemplate and to practise good habits in life.
Inspired to take action
In the performance hall, 22 volunteers gently walked onto the stage and to present a sign language performance of the song, “Embracing all Sentient Beings”, which depicts the compassion, great wisdom and great courage of living bodhisattvas who work to relieve the suffering in the world. The screen in the background showed images of Tzu Chi volunteers serving in international disaster relief operations.
After the sign language performance, a video showing excerpts from Master Cheng Yen’s speech was screened. The Master encouraged everyone to “love all living beings with gratitude and respect, and to work together in harmony to sow blessings”. She reminded everyone not to hurt others with their words, and to speak kind words to one another and share about Tzu Chi with the masses to spread the Bodhisattvas Path. She also highlighted the importance of going vegetarian to help mitigate pollution and the destruction of nature.
"I am already here, how can I miss the show?" said Tew Yu Rui, an attendee.
She was most touched by a real life story shared by Master Cheng Yen, and it was about a beef store with good business that turned into a vegetarian food store. The store owner lost most of his regular customers, and yet he did not give up and kept creating new and tasty vegetarian dishes to attract more customers.
Tew Yu Rui’s sister, Tew Bee Leng, was a first-time participant of Tzu Chi’s Year End Blessing Ceremony. She was attracted and impressed by the fresh looking sushi, “rainbow millet vegetable rolls” and Jing Si delicacies displayed at the breakfast truck “parked” at the environmental protection exhibition zone.
At first she thought that the dishes were mere props. She was surprised when a volunteer said that all the food displayed was made of real fruits and vegetables. She also took photos of the vegetarian food recipes with her mobile phone so that she could try them out at home.
Jean-Louis Charrier, who hails from France, came to the event with his colleagues. He complimented on the exhibition area, especially the environmental protection exhibition zone, which displayed the impact of rising sea levels in Singapore. John said that he could definitely feel the gradual rising of global temperatures, as winter in his homeland did not feel as cold as before. He was supportive of Tzu Chi’s idea that environmental protection must start from oneself and every little effort counts. He also hoped to go vegetarian a few days a week.
“You will be malnourished if you don’t eat meat?”
“Can you be smart if you don’t eat fish?”
These are some of the questions people have in mind when it comes to deciding whether or not to adopt a vegetarian diet. At the medical talk titled “Plant Based Diet for Sustainable Living", nutritionist Xu Pei Yin helped clear common doubts and confusions about vegetarianism. She stressed that a vegetarian diet is more than a healthy diet as the practice is also an attitude towards life, and added that many celebrities are vegetarians.
During the ceremony in the hall, two veteran Tzu Chi volunteers shared their moving experiences on the stage. They were husband and wife Chee Meng Yan and Loke Soon Heng, who have joined Tzu Chi for 27 years. Loke, who suffered from cancer twice, said that it was really a blessing for her to have survived the disease. Therefore, she made it a point to listen to Master Cheng Yen’s teachings and practise them in life.
"I always heard Master Cheng Yen asking us to constantly accumulate a store of blessings, but I was not able to truly understand that in the past. I only realised what it really means to ‘just do what is right’ when I was faced with ‘impermanence in life’,” shared Chee, who almost lost his life in 2013 due to a ruptured blood vessel in his brain.
Chee said that he was grateful to be able to survive the stroke, and that he would seize the time to persevere in his spiritual aspirations and to follow the footsteps of Master Cheng Yen.
During his speech, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Low Swee Seh, called on everyone to welcome the new year with gratitude and look forward to the upcoming launching of four new Tzu Chi establishments in 2019. These establishments are two senior activity centres, which will be situated in the western district, and a free clinic and youth activity centre in the north district. He also expressed his hopes for more people to gain a deeper understanding of the efforts and contributions of Tzu Chi volunteers and be inspired to sign up as volunteers themselves.