Each year, Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide celebrate the triple occasion of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day on the second Sunday in the month of May. On this day this year, Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) held the Tzu Chi 52nd Anniversary cum Buddha Day Celebration at the Bedok Stadium, to mark the joyous occasion.
Just after 6am on Sunday, 13th May 2018, before dawn broke, Bedok Stadium was already crowded with Tzu Chi volunteers who were getting ready for the annual event. The large Chinese characters of “Mother’s Day”, “Buddha Day” and “Tzu Chi Day” were clearly displayed in the centre beside the outer edge of the oval shaped running track. A round Buddha Bathing altar and two long Buddha Bathing altars were set up in the field, with 180 lucite Buddha statues neatly arranged and placed on them.
A day before the celebration, Tzu Chi volunteers had already started crowding the Bedok Stadium at noon, to set up the venue for the event the following day. The volunteers were visible at almost every corner of the stadium, each busy with a different task. Their work included decorating the altars, nailing markings to the ground, setting up the sound system, etc.
In the evening, when the volunteers were halfway through their final rehearsal, it began to drizzle. Unperturbed by the rain, everyone carried on with the rehearsal after putting on their plastic ponchos. As the bright stadium lights reflected on the clear plastic ponchos, the volunteers appeared like glittering stars in the sky.
A “multi-religious and multi-racial” Buddha Day celebration
The Buddha Day group formations this year comprised 2,237 volunteers, and they depicted the number “52” and two flying heavenly beings, signifying the 52nd anniversary of Tzu Chi Taiwan and the hope that everyone could practise the spirit of compassion and joyful giving in their daily lives.
Nearly 5,000 people were present at the Tzu Chi 52nd Anniversary cum Buddha Day Celebration. The event was also graced by representatives from nine major religions in Singapore, namely Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Baha'I faith. They led all present to pray for world peace by observing a one-minute silence.
The Law and Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam was invited as the Guest-of-Honor for the event. In his speech, Mr Shanmugam said, “Buddha sent his message (to the world) 2,500 years ago, a message of peace, compassion, love, tolerance, respect, detachment, and being true to oneself… The message has never been more relevant than now. I’m glad that so many people have come together (today) in Singapore, to assert the message of peace. We are fortunate and lucky — we live together, eat together, work together and celebrate each other’s festivals. (All this) is very precious.”
Two Dharma Masters from BW Monastery unanimously said that Buddha Bathing is a very special and solemn ritual. Every segment of it helps us to collect our minds and calm our thoughts. The sanctified ceremony inspires respect for the Buddha and plants a seed of kindness in everyone’s heart, while allowing every participant to feel Dharma joy and peace of mind.
The Buddha Bathing ceremony was led by 34 Dharma masters from the Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Everyone sang the ceremony song, “Praise to the Buddha”, followed by offering lotus lamps, fragrant water, and flowers, before paying respects to all Buddhas and Boddhisatvas with sincere piety.
Devoted Hearts undaunted by the rain
The weather was cool and soothing at the start of the event. Everyone was filled with Dharma joy and prayed that such pleasant weather would persist. However, halfway through the ceremony, the sky became overcast with dark clouds, and it started to drizzle not long after. The rain started right at the moment when the group formation volunteers were about to start the Buddha Bathing ritual. Everyone quickly pulled out their plastic ponchos and wore them.
The sudden rain did not dampen the devotees’ spirit and devotion, and some even saw the rain drops as Dharma dew. Participant Zhang Qi Xia described the rain drops as Dharma water, which purifies one’s negative traits. With pure minds and sincere hearts, everyone helped make the Dharma assembly a success by remaining calm and peaceful throughout the event.
“The rain drops are like the Buddha’s tears. They are a blessing for all of us,” said Santhi, who had participated in the Tzu Chi Buddha Bathing ceremony last year.
Santhi’s husband suffered from a minor stroke and was thus unable to take part in the group formation, but that did not stop the couple from attending the Buddha Bathing ceremony. As she felt the deep peace of the Buddha Bathing ceremony last year, she specially invited her sister-in-law and nieces to join the group formations at this year’s ceremony, to receive blessings from the Buddha.
She further added, “I felt very happy when I touched the fragrant water. It was as though I had been detached from all the worries from the past, and it also cleansed my soul and strengthened my resolve to avoid wrongdoings.”
Tzu Chi commissioner Lee Mee Hong was in charge of keeping the group formations in order. With rain water all over her face, she said with a smile, “I feel that this year’s ceremony is different from last year’s. It’s something new. Everyone looks like a lucite Buddha statue with the clear, transparent ponchos over them!”
Lee commented that the volunteers were like Buddhas and Boddhisatvas in her eyes. She did not mind standing in the rain at all, as she saw many elderly participants patiently standing in the group formations and piously carrying out the Buddha Bathing ritual, despite the inclement weather.
“Today happens to be Mother’s Day. I had never attended any Tzu Chi Buddha Day Celebration before and so I thought of coming here with my mother,” shared Regina Pek, a filial daughter of one of Tzu Chi’s aid recipients, Toh Kum.
With the help of her mother’s caretaker, she managed to travel with her wheelchair bound mother to Bedok Stadium all the way from the north district. Toh suffered from a stroke, and requires acupuncture and physiotherapy five times a week. Grateful for Tzu Chi’s help, her husband, Pek Yee Cheng, took part in the group formation.
This year, Tzu Chi Singapore used various digital media platforms, such as email (e-newsletter), Facebook, etc. to invite the public to the Buddha Day Celebration. Lim Choo Yan, who became a Tzu Chi donating member a few years ago, decided to attend the event after receiving Tzu Chi’s first e-newsletter, which had a section on the event. She even brought along her family, including her 78-year-old mother.
A volunteer sheltered Lim Choo Yan and her son from the rain with an umbrella as they performed the Buddha Bathing ritual. She happily remarked that the rain drops symbolised Dharma dew, which nourished her heart. The sight of Tzu Chi volunteers patiently guiding the devotees despite the rain moved her deeply.
“The volunteers even made transportation arrangements for us. This is truly very thoughtful. There must be a lot of people working behind the scene to make this event a success,” she added.
As everyone sang the Chinese song of prayers, they raised their lotus lamps in the rain, their prayerful voices echoing the stadium. Drenched in rain and sweat, everyone piously prayed for the suffering in the world, bringing the soleum event to a heartwarming conclusion.