When Singapore volunteers celebrated the three combined occasions of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and International Tzu Chi Day in May 2014, they did not forget to bring the joy and blessings into the homes of Tzu Chi care recipients.
On 4 May 2014, 11 volunteers packed into three cars transported a Crystal Buddha, flowers, a stand, a box full of glass bowls and also brought along a laptop with them when they visited the homes of care recipients. This was the first time that volunteers were organizing a mobile Buddha Bathing ceremony for care recipients that could not leave their homes.
A Warm Welcome by the Door
“Why is your main door left open?” surprised volunteers asked care recipient Lingam, as they stood at his doorway. They soon found out that he had decided to leave his door open in anticipation of the day’s event. Knowing that volunteers were bringing the Buddha’s blessings to his house, he waited at the door to welcome them and announced: “I am observing vegetarianism today. The house has also been cleaned up.”
A sufferer of Parkinson’s Disease, 51-year-old Lingam lives alone as his wife and child are in Malaysia. About a year ago, he started receiving care from Tzu Chi. Though his movements showed the difficulty he faced, he persisted with keeping his trembling hands clasped together in sincerity, and finally completed the Buddha Bathing ritual.
“May there be no disasters under the sun,
that all may live in peace and happiness
With kinds thoughts for all and sundry,
the world is filled with love and warmth...”
As the melody of the song sounded up in the Chen family’s house, Mr Chen would occasionally glance over at his younger sister, a depression patient, as she sang along with the volunteers. Her hands clasped in prayer, tears rolled uncontrollably down her face.
When volunteers were preparing for the Buddha Bathing Ceremony, Mr Chen’s sister remained preoccupied with her own activities and even returned to her room a few times. With the encouragement of volunteers she was finally moved to participate in the ceremony. Volunteers happily commented that they could see a smile on her face when she took the flower in her hands.
The siblings’father is bedridden due to stroke and their mother has her hands full caring for both him and her daughter who suffers from depression. When volunteers urged Mr Chen to present a carnation flower to his parents, he did not hesitate. Getting down on both knees, he presented the flower to his parents immediately. Not only were his own parents moved to tears, volunteers who witnessed the scene were similarly touched.
A Hug Speaks Volumes
Struggling to get the words out, Maran calls for his mother. Seeing how she was about to start bathing the Buddha, he anxiously expresses a desire to do the same.
Maran was once a strong and healthy youth with a promising future. Though his father had passed away and his elder brother had left the family home, Maran and his mother continued living what could be described as ordinary lives. However, an automobile accident changed everything; Maran became paralysed and from then on, had to depend on his mother and maid to assist him in his day-to-day living. “I am useless. I am a burden.” Maran says to the volunteers he is familiar with.
When Maran found out that volunteers were going to set up a Buddha Bathing ceremony in his house, he made preparations an hour ahead of their arrival. His house, normally so quiet, was bustling with activity that day. When Maran saw the Crystal Buddha which volunteers had carried up to his unit, he eagerly asked to be able to touch it.
Volunteers also handed carnation flowers to Maran, so that he could present them to his mother and maid. Exerting much effort, he repeated the words “Thank you”a few times to express the gratitude in his heart. His mother, greatly moved, gave him an emotional hug.
As volunteers were preparing to leave at the conclusion of the ceremony, Maran was heard making sounds that showed his unwillingness to see them go. They comforted him and promised to visit again, not forgetting to remind him to keep up with his rehabilitative therapy sessions. Though the activity did not last long, yet both care recipients and volunteers deeply experienced the blessings of the Dharma that day.
Observing the Buddha’s Holy Image
On 18 May 2014, North Zone volunteers visited several kidney and chronic illness patients, one of which was Grandma Huang. Her family members consisting of an adopted daughter, her son-in-law and grandchildren, are of the Buddhist faith. Before the Buddha Bathing Ceremony started, volunteer Zhang Ai Ping invited Grandma Huang to take a closer look at the crystal image of the “Great Awakened One,”also known as Buddha, and explained to her thus: “In observing the holy appearance of Buddha, we similarly observe our inner thoughts and cleanse our hearts of afflictions.”
After paying respects to the Buddha, Zhang asked Grandma Huang what she would like to pray for, to which Grandma Huang replied that she only desired for everyone to be safe and at peace. When volunteers noticed that Madam Huang’s two maids were intently observing the goings-on from a corner of the house, they invited them to participate in bathing the Buddha too. Though of a different religious faith, both maids agreed without hesitation.
Madam Huang’s adopted daughter Ms Shen, had hired two maids to look after her mother after Madam Huang was diagnosed with a kidney ailment. She had also arranged for Madam Huang, who used to live alone, to move in with her. Ms Shen told volunteers that the peaceful ceremony brought their hearts closer to Buddha and they now knew the way forward. After having been in contact with Tzu Chi volunteers for some time, Ms Shen hopes to one day become a volunteer herself too.
In the home of another care recipient, Zhang patiently explains why the Buddha is also known as the “Great Awakened One.”She describes the love that Buddha has for the world and his wish to protect us from disasters.
Mr Xie, another care recipient, suffers from diabetes and kidney ailments. He lives together with three aged siblings under the same roof in an old unit that has clearly seen better days. Since October 2013, Mr Xie has been partially paralysed after a stroke. Under the continued encouragement of volunteer Li Fu Cheng, he has gradually regained his self-confidence. Even his doctor was amazed to see that Mr Xie had regained some function in his right leg; he could lift and stretch it out by himself.
After the ceremony is over, Mr Xie finally breaks into a smile while seated in his wheelchair. Lifting his right hand, he tells volunteers that he is very happy at being able to regain its mobility. Li also taught Mr Xie how to calm himself down through a breathing technique, hoping that he can learn how to focus his energies properly. Mr Xie’s elder sister, deeply moved by the efforts of volunteers in planning the event, insisted on donating some money for charitable causes. As for Mr Xie, he also told volunteers that he wished to participate in the June recycling activity, that he may do his bit for the earth and also create blessings for himself.