The Buddha bathing ceremony is always a key feature of Vesak Day. Apart from showing their respect and gratitude to Buddha, it is also an auspicious occasion for the Buddhists to purify their mind and to be inspired to emulate the Buddha by exercising their wisdom and bringing benefit to others through their actions.
In 2014, besides organizing the large scale outdoor Buddha bathing ceremony, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) was also invited to conduct the ceremony at hospitals for the benefit of patients who could not take part in the outdoor event.
On 27 April 2014 and 6 May 2014 respectively, Tzu Chi volunteers conducted the Buddha bathing ceremony at the Institute of Mental Health and Bright Vision hospital. Through a simple ritual of paying homage at the Buddha’s feet and receiving blessings, the patients were able to express their sincere reverence for the Buddha and their respect for his great cultivation.
Spreading the Seed of Dharma to Mental Patients
At the hall of the Institute of Mental Health, the emcee called out instructions repeatedly: “Pay homage to Buddha’s feet, take the flower in your hands…” with one Tzu Chi volunteer accompanying every patient, the patients walked up to the Buddha bathing platform and were guided in offering their respects to Buddha. Not being familiar with the ritual, they completed the ritual unsteadily. Some of them chanted the Buddha’s name, following the volunteers in circumambulating the Buddha statue in an orderly manner. It was a scene of great peacefulness and serenity.
A family member of a patient at the hospital, Cai Mei Zhen, upon learning about the ceremony, brought her sister, who had been hospitalized for 30 years, in a wheelchair to participate in the event. The simple yet solemn ceremony deeply touched Cai. Choking with emotions, she said with tears in her eyes, “My sister has been hospitalized for a long time with no opportunity to learn the Dharma…”She was grateful that Tzu Chi took the Dharma to the Institute of Mental Health and hoped that the seed of Dharma would take root in her sister’s heart.
As they came to the part and had to sing“Dear Buddha…” in the song“Three Sincere Wishes”, the patients would hold their lotus candles high up in the air. At the sight of how the patients put their palms together and observed silence in doing so, and how they had made big improvement from last year by being able to sing along with the volunteers this time, volunteer Wang Su Jing was very moved. Not being in good health herself, she was grateful to the patients for helping her to understand the law of impermanence through their suffering.
After conducting the ceremony at the Institute of Mental Health in the previous year, Tzu Chi has learnt from the institute that such an event helps the patients to calm down and experience peace of mind, as if they were under the effect of a tranquilizer. This year a total of 16 patients participated in the ceremony, and 35 Tzu Chi volunteers took pains to pay attention to every detail during the preparation and rehearsal prior to the event, aspiring to make the ceremony a solemn and dignified one.
Though the steps involved in bathing the Buddha look simple, they are not so to the patients. The volunteers were very patient in teaching the patients and accompanied them in repeated practice. The leader in charge of volunteers, Yan Wen Yun, was very pleased to note every small improvement made by the patients. She shared that a patient confided in her that ever since he had been hospitalized, he had no opportunity to participate in the Buddha bathing ceremony. His words made a deep impression on her and she hopes to organize the ceremony again next year, and looks forward to having even more patients joining her.
Offering Well Wishes to the Bedridden
The beaming faces of patients is a most beautiful sight. It was the second time that Tzu Chi volunteers took the Buddha bathing ceremony to Bright Vision hospital, making it possible for the patients to experience blissfulness and peacefulness despite their sufferings due to illnesses. “May you be free from misfortunes, may you be with Buddha, may you feel at ease, light hearted and be free of worries…”by the bed sides, Tzu Chi volunteers offered the patients their well wishes and a decorative accessory that conveyed blessings.
There were more participants this year than the previous year, and the assistant manager of community engagement of Bright Vision Hospital, Guo You Yi, was truly gratified that Tzu Chi had come forward to organize the Buddha bathing ceremony for the patients. Due to the good response last year and with the encouragement of the therapists, more patients took part in the ceremony this year. Some stood up, some sat in wheelchairs and some lay in their beds; a total of 24 patients took part with hospital staffers and Tzu Chi volunteers accompanying. Some therapists, though not Buddhists themselves, spontaneously participated in the ceremony too, most likely inspired by the solemn and dignified feel of the ceremony. Some patients looked troubled and Tzu Chi volunteers were quick to offer them timely comfort. Most of the patients prayed for a smooth and safe life ahead, to them, this was the biggest blessing in their life.
Madam Low’s husband has a tumor in his brain and had been hospitalized for more than a month. Under the invitation of the medical staffers, madam Liu accompanied her husband to participate in the ceremony. As her husband has difficulties moving, he could only perform the Buddha bathing ritual from his bed. Bathing the Buddha for the first time in her life, madam Liu felt her peace of mind and she prayed for all in her family to have a smooth and blessed life ahead.
Seventy-one year old Madam Lee had been hospitalized for more than a week and she originally thought that she had to give Buddha bathing a miss this year. Little did she expect that there would be a ceremony at the hospital and she took part in the ceremony happily. Though suffering from physical pain due to her illness, she was peaceful and serene after the ceremony.
With great compassion, Tzu Chi volunteers took the Buddha bathing ceremony to hospitals for the benefit of the patients. It is their hope that all would experience the beauty of Buddhism’s humanitarianism spirit and have their mind purified.