On the 51st Anniversary of Tzu Chi, pious and thankful Tzu Chi Singapore volunteers expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Master Cheng Yen in leading the global family of Tzu Chi for slightly over half a century. From 6th to 20th April, for a period of 15 consecutive days, they participated in the early morning Lotus Sutra Dharma service broadcasted live from the Jing Si Abode. On top of that, in the wee hours of 16th April, at 6.30am, close to 400 Tzu Chi members gathered around Jing Si Hall to participate in the solemn bowing pilgrimage.
On 20th April, the actual anniversary day, volunteers joined the global Tzu Chi family in an online Dharma service, and listened to a speech specially delivered by Master Cheng Yen for the occasion. Then everyone joyfully sent birthday wishes to the Master, offering hand-made “birthday peaches” (red bean buns) as blessings to their beloved mentor.
Even though it was a work day, more than a hundred volunteers had arrived in Jing Si Hall as early as 4am to participate in the pre-dawn Lotus Sutra Dharma service, to kick-off the joyous anniversary celebrations.
Later in the morning, before the volunteers continued with the Medicine Buddha Sutra Dharma service, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Low Swee Seh, took the lead in bearing two baskets of peaches on the stage, symbolic of shouldering Tzu Chi’s Missions. Then, Low led everyone to face Master Cheng Yen’s portrait and send birthday well-wishes to the Master, while making sincere vows: “to work in unity and in harmony, be united in one heart, diligently practise the Six Paramitas, and continually work to extend and spread Tzu Chi’s Dharma Path in Singapore.”
Unwavering in Our Vows to Bring Forth Benefits to Sentient Beings
At 9am sharp, Singapore’s Tzu Chi volunteers gathered quietly at the Buddha Hall. Through the aid of live video feed and under the guidance of Dharma masters in the Jing Si Abode, they piously participated in the Medicine Buddha Sutra Dharma service, to pray for peace in Singapore and around the world. The Medicine Buddha Sutra speaks of the Buddha of the Eastern Pure Land of Lapis Lazuli, who enters the world to save sentient beings from suffering. Be it those in suffering, in poverty or in sickness, or those with illnesses of the mind, the Medicine Buddha guides everyone according to their capacities and dispositions, to help them break free from the cycle of suffering.
Through the recitation of the Medicine Buddha Sutra, Master Cheng Yen hoped that Tzu Chi volunteers could learn from the noble vows of the Buddha and help relieve sentient beings from their suffering and troubles. The Medicine Buddha Sutra is a guide to lead devotees onto the Bodhisattva Path, a path that allows devotees to cultivate wisdom and blessings in life. In harnessing the power of everybody’s love, we can bring about blessings in society. When we give of ourselves selflessly, we will be able to develop wisdom.
After completion of the Medicine Buddha Sutra Dharma service, Master Cheng Yen revealed these solemn words to her followers assembled around the world: “There are many disasters around the world. Therefore we must be more diligent and focused in our efforts to purify people’s hearts and minds, and to inspire love and practical actions in people. The power of love must grow wider and bigger, in order to reach out to the multitudes who are suffering around the world.”
Her earnest and sincere teachings deeply touched the heart of every volunteer present.
The Jing Si Dharma Lineage remains unchanged since its humble roots in Hualien, embodying the spirit of purifying one’s heart and bringing benefits to others through hard work. To enable the attendees a brief taste of the hardships in the founding days of Tzu Chi, culinary volunteers thoughtfully prepared a sparse lunch of porridge with pieces of salted bean curd, so that the attendees could have a taste of the hardships that their predecessors endured while bearing broad hearts of compassion for sentient beings.
Volunteer Chan Mee Ling said, “This is my first participation in the anniversary celebrations. Just now during the Dharma service, I felt remorseful that although I’ve known Tzu Chi a long time, I had only joined as a volunteer 6 years ago.” She had to choke back her tears as she recalled the hardships of Master Cheng Yen.
After consuming the porridge, Chan was more vigilant of herself, as it has been an arduous path for Tzu Chi over the years. Especially during the hardships of the early days, without Master Cheng Yen’s profound compassion and resolute willpower, it would have been an impossible journey for most people. Chan hoped that she would be more diligent in her spiritual practice, and to show care and love to everyone.
Volunteer Florence Chew, who has been faithfully taking part in the annual anniversary celebrations, felt a deep connection with Master Cheng Yen while partaking the porridge. Chew hoped to be an ambassador of the Master’s spirit of Great Love, to encourage more people to give of themselves and serve the masses, and even wished to pass on this giving spirit to the younger members of her family.
Chew thought of bringing back two “birthday peaches” and share them with other volunteers who were unable to take part in the celebrations. Even if it was only a little mouthful, she hoped that they might be able to taste the warmth and thoughtfulness of the hand-made buns.
Blessing the Master with Thoughtfully-Made “Birthday Peaches”
Different from previous anniversary celebrations, Tzu Chi Singapore’s volunteers opted to make 500 “birthday peaches”, to be distributed among volunteers on the day of the anniversary, so that each volunteer could share in the joy.
Three days prior to the anniversary day, a team of volunteers adorned with head scarfs and face masks took charge of the different tasks in the process of making the peach-shaped buns, such as kneading, rolling, cutting and weighing the dough, before shaping the little dough pieces into the shape of a peach and placing the finished dough into piping hot steamers.
Leading the team of “peach-making” volunteers was Kang Sool Peng, who after receiving the task, spent close to two months with over 10 attempts to get the right shape. Kang said, “I’ve only succeeded once in making the ‘birthday peaches’, and it was really stressful. So over the past few months, I kept searching online, to find recipes that could improve the taste and appearance of the ‘peaches’. I hope to thank the volunteers with the offering of ‘peaches’, because everyone worked very hard over the past one year.”
The volunteer in charge of coordinating the 51st Anniversary’s activities, Chong Kam Ngo shared that in the previous year, when she went back to Jing Si Abode in Hualien, she was elated to receive the “birthday peaches” from the Abode, and this sparked her idea for making the “peaches” together with the volunteers in Singapore. Chong further added, “Each filling weighs 30 grams, and is made from a mixture of Jing Si multi-grain instant mix and red bean powder. The outer skin has 70 grams of dough, and each completed peach weighs 100 grams. The red beans are symbolic of the disciples’ thoughts of their Master, and the 30 grams of fillings represents the Master’s Three Wishes. As each peach weighs 100 grams, it represents the disciples’ 100% wholehearted devotion to the Master and Tzu Chi’s missions.”
As Tzu Chi progresses towards its 52nd year, may each volunteer carry a steadfast heart and spirit as they progress one step at a time towards the right path in life, and may everyone strive together to bring purity to people’s hearts and to bring about a harmonious society.