“I would never miss any Tzu Chi event, especially the annual Year End Blessing ceremony,” said Hu Shu Jun, who had been a Tzu Chi member for more than twenty years. “I will listen to Master Cheng Yen's teachings on how we can help make the world a better place. I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for being in the frontline of global disaster relief, and to Master Cheng Yen and all the volunteers for helping those who are in need."
On 10 January 2015, Tzu Chi Singapore held its 2014 Year End Blessing Ceremony at The Star Performing Arts Centre. The event was held to express gratitude and appreciation to all volunteers, donating members and members of the public for their ongoing support for and participation in Tzu Chi.
The Sutra Opening Verse and drum team kick-started the Year End Blessing Ceremony. It was a one-day event, with two sessions, attended by over 8,000 people, including nearly a thousand Tzu Chi volunteers. There were 805 volunteers participating in the stage adaptation of the first chapter, “Virtues”, from the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, and 37 volunteers participating in "Jing Si, Jing Si", to illustrate the spirit of the Six Paramitas of Bodhisattvas to the audiences. Most of them were so moved that they donated generously thereafter to help the flood victims in Malaysia.
Mindful Attention Given to Venue Decoration and Guests
The Star Performing Arts Centre won the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark Gold Award in recognition of the environmentally friendly features in its design as well as construction. Due to the unique structure and multiple exits at each level, it was undoubtedly a challenge for our volunteers when receiving and welcoming guests.
Reception volunteer leader Lisa Chang said, “Year End Blessing Ceremony is a solemn Dharma event and it is of utmost importance to give our guests a good first impression.” Lisa had mobilized 98 volunteers for this event who were all standing at their respective locations 90 minutes before each show started, either at the MRT exits or the venue’s various entrances, guiding guests patiently. It was not until two hours later that they had a chance to rest their tired legs.
The theme for this year’s Year End Blessing Ceremony is “Fostering sincerity among people to bring auspiciousness and harmony to the world, and inspiring earnest integrity in people to create blessings in life”. At the grand foyer, the theme of the Six Paramitas was being exhibited. At the Jing Si booth and the Tzu Chi continuing education booth, guests were able to understand more about Tzu Chi’s Dharma Path with the explanation of volunteers.
All Tzu Chi volunteers strive to cultivate the values of sincerity, integrity, faith and steadfastness internally and practice the Four Immeasurables , “loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity”, outwardly. Master Cheng Yen hopes for all volunteers to always be diligent and courageous, and she also encourages everyone to do good so as to create more blessings for the world. To cultivate ourselves spiritually among people, we must practise the Six Paramitas, namely, Giving, Precepts, Endurance, Diligence, Samadhi (Meditative Concentration) and Wisdom; and this was also the main exhibition theme at the Grand Foyer. At the Jing Si booth, items that were for sale included Master Cheng Yen's books, vegetarian instant rice, Jing Si tea, notepads, and more. There were six different packages which represented each theme of the Six Paramitas. "By purchasing these items, we should remind ourselves to uphold Master's teachings of sincerity, integrity, faith and steadfastness," said Tzu Chi volunteer Liew Jie Ying.
For instance, in the "Giving" package, there is a packet of vegetarian instant rice and a mini rice barrel. Tzu Chi volunteers could use this opportunity to share the story of the generous Burmese. Since the Myanmar cyclone in 2008, many Burmese farmers had received rice seeds from Tzu Chi, and the seeds have produced bountiful harvests. Now before they cook their rice, many of them will grab a handful and save it in a "rice piggybank" to give to the needy.
"Even if we are not financially well off, we can still give our time," said Jing Si booth coordinator Huang Jian Nv, who volunteers at Tzu Chi four days a week. Last year she went to Hualien, Taiwan, for a three-day camp and personally experienced the Jing Si Abode’s Dharma masters' exemplary teaching of "No food without work". She was also touched by the Burmese farmers’ selflessness and began diligently reading all Jing Si books and researching Jing Si products, in the hope of sharing her knowledge with more people.
Audience Moved by the Bodhisattva Spirit
In the Lotus Sutra, there is the parable of the Three Carts. Master Cheng Yen used this parable to inspire Tzu Chi volunteers to work like the “Great White-Ox Cart”, which represents the Great Vehicle Dharma. In the Lotus Sutra, all beings can ride on the Great White-Ox Cart to reach the shore of Nirvana. With the Lotus Sutra spirit in mind, Master founded Tzu Chi's four main missions and lead disciples on the Bodhisattva Path. During the ceremony, Tzu Chi volunteers performed the stage adaptation of the first chapter, “Virtues”, from the Sutra of Innumerable Meaning, as well as "Jing Si, Jing Si" for the first time. Their effort truly manifested their strong aspiration to work in unity to shoulder the missions of Tzu Chi on the Bodhisattva Path.
There were also 21 Dharma Masters from various Buddhist organizations who attended the event. Master Guang Wei from Jue Ying Buddhist Association said, "What Tzu Chi did, is putting the Dharma and the Six Paramitas into action.” Master Guang Wei also said that he was moved by the performance of "Jing Si, Jing Si" as it represented how living beings are struggling and only the Dharma can enable them to be free of suffering and attain enlightenment. "Without Tzu Chi, there could be more beings who are still suffering," said Master Guang Wei, as he affirmed Tzu Chi's work and hoped that everyone could learn the Bodhisattva spirit of helping oneself and others.
Marcel Sevilla was from the Philippines, but she had been a domestic helper in Singapore for more than 10 years. Through her employer's family, she knew that Tzu Chi has been helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November 2013. Ever since then, she will often see Tzu Chi doing disaster relief work from the Philippines’ TV channels. She truly felt the spirit of Great Love, which extends beyond race and religion, and this inspired her to join as a donating member. It was the first time Marcel attended the Year End Blessing Ceremony with her friends, and she considered herself fortunate to know Tzu Chi and felt honoured to be a donating member as she could help the needy with her donations. She also hoped that more fellow Filipinos could join her on the path of Great Love.
Traditional Chinese Medicine shop owner Xue Gui Man, was recruited as a donating member by senior Tzu Chi volunteer Kenny Khoo; but in addition, she had also placed member application forms in her shop and will always talk to her customers about Tzu Chi. At one point, she even recruited 90 members in a month. She said humbly, "Every Tzu Chi volunteer has done so much, why can't I play my part?"
Xue Gui Man is also a volunteer and every Friday she will end her business earlier to volunteer at Tzu Chi Redhill Free Clinic. She said, "When I see the sick gradually recovering, I feel very happy and contented." Every year when she joins the Year End Blessing Ceremony, she will be touched by what Tzu Chi volunteers have done and feel that Tzu Chi is like one big family. Hence, she looks forward to inviting more people to join and do good deeds.
Helping People in Need and Cultivating More Blessings
This year's Tzu Chi “bamboo coin bank” is also specially designed with the Six Paramitas theme in mind and was made from recycled paper rolls from a textile plant in Taiwan. Every “bamboo coin bank”, including the base and cover, is handmade by volunteers. The “bamboo coin bank” serves to remind us to think positive thoughts, do good deeds and create more blessings. At every Year End Blessing Ceremony, donating members can return their old “bamboo coin banks” with savings, in exchange for a new one.
Master Cheng Yen had said,“As we learn the Dharma, we should seek to understand the sufferings in life. At the same time, bodhisattvas should help suffering beings.” Recently, Malaysia suffered a devastating flood which left eight of its states in ruins and affected more than 200,000 people. Tzu Chi Malaysia began disaster relief work locally and Tzu Chi Singapore also started holding street fundraisers to appeal for the public to send their love to and pray for Malaysia.
At the giant “bamboo coin bank” near the entrance of the venue, Tzu Chi volunteers bowed sincerely to each and every donor as a gesture of gratitude to their warm response. Some people pulled out stacks of cash from their wallets, some donated their coin savings and some gave cheques. Everyone had the same intention – they all hoped that the flood victims could rebuild their homeland soon.
Every Buddhist practitioner walking the Bodhisattva Path should practise the Six Paramitas. As Tzu Chi enters into its 49th year in 2015, Master Cheng Yen looks forward to welcoming the 50th year. After almost half a century, Tzu Chi now has branches and offices in 90 countries and regions worldwide. Moving forward, Tzu Chi volunteers should be more diligent in helping themselves and others, and be more active in encouraging people to join them on the path of Great Love. Only when all hearts are purified, can we have an auspicious and peaceful world.
Reception team leader Lisa Chang said to fellow volunteers: “The Year End Blessing Ceremony is a solemn Dharma event, and it is of utmost importance to give our guests a good first impression.”