“It’s really great! I had never expected anyone to promote the practice of not burning joss paper and donating the money (used to purchase joss paper) to those in need instead,” said Kavita, an Indian resident, with a smile on her face. She was invited by a student from the Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class to participate in a Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Prayer Ceremony.
In July 2019, Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) held four sessions of the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Prayer Ceremony at a few different locations in the community on three days (13th, 20th, and 27th July). The programme of the event included items, such as a skit, a talk about a healthy vegetarian diet, an environmental exhibition to promote Right Faith and environmental protection, a tea ceremony where children showed their appreciation and love to their parents by serving them tea, etc.
“One in every three 65-year-olds in Singapore suffers from diabetes. For those with a plant-based diet, their risk of contracting diabetes decreases by 40-60%,” said Tan Chew Sia, a dietitian from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
Tan was giving a talk on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet at the prayer ceremony in Central Zone. She highlighted that a healthy meal should consist of 50% fruits and vegetables, 25% whole grains and 25% protein.
An event attendee, Feng Xin Ling, was deeply touched when she saw a video footage showing Tzu Chi volunteers visiting a needy household. She supported the idea of practising Right Faith during the seventh lunar month.
“In the past, I would burn paper money to pray for peace and safety. Now, I’ve learned that this practice will pollute the environment. So I will save the money for buying paper money into Tzu Chi’s Bamboo Coin Bank to sow blessings (by donating the money to charity). I will also consider going vegetarian to pray for blessings for my family,” shared Feng.
Going vegetarian to protect Earth and expressing filial piety through serving tea
Apart from enjoying an interesting programme at the prayer ceremony, the attendees were drawn to the colourful displays of fruits and vegetables. Many of them were seen taking photos of the beautiful displays with their mobile photos.
“Vegetarian food is actually very easy to prepare. Pickle some nutritious pumpkin slices with salt and then add some passion fruit juice to them to make an appetiser,” shared Tzu Chi volunteer Hsueh Su Ju (pictured below, first from the left).
Hsueh patiently explained how to make various tasty yet delicious vegetarian dishes to the event attendees, and also shared knowledge about the nutrition of various ingredients with them. A number of people used their mobile phones to take photos of the recipes she had shared, with the hope of trying them out at home.
Volunteers from the North Zone held a session of the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Prayer Ceremony at Bangkit Court Community Hall, and another at the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre. The multimedia exhibition in the Eco-Awareness Centre helped attendees to understand the imperative of environmental protection. There was also a breakfast cart, which allowed people to choose the food they wanted for breakfast, such as vegetarian burger, meat burger, coffee, etc. They could then scan the QR code below their food selection and find out the amount of resources used to produce the food.
From a Buddhist perspective, the seventh lunar month is an auspicious and joyous month, where people are encouraged to practise filial piety. At one of the prayer ceremonies, Tzu Chi volunteers included a tea ceremony where children served hot tea to their parents to show their gratitude and appreciation.
When Wu Chen En, a Primary 6 student was serving tea to his parents, his father recalled that the only time he had ever served tea to his parents was on his wedding day.
“This cup of tea (has warmed my heart). When I’m at home, I’ll serve tea to my parents more often,” said Chen En’s father.
When the young boy was massaging his father’s shoulders, he thought of how the latter was suffering from stiff shoulders as a result of working hard at the computer.
“What I can do is to study hard and not let my parents worry about me,” said the thoughtful boy.
Another parent Hong Zi Xiang shared, “As I recall how my child grew up from a baby over time, I am reminded of my own parents. I thought of how I had treated my parents when I was a child. So it is not just about educating our children, but also a lesson for us.”
Although Hong often has to work on weekends and admitted that he did not have much time for his children, he understood that they need to be guided with care.
“It is really meaningful to let children take part in such an activity, as it will teach them correct values that they can practise in daily life, for example, the need to care for Mother Nature. This is really good,” shared Hong.
Hong’s son is a student of Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool (which serves only vegetarian meals), and the little boy would ask his father not to eat meat at home. Hong’s wife does not enjoy eating meat either.
“I’m the only one who loves to eat meat,” said the father, embarrassingly.
After listening to a talk on the health benefits of vegetarian food given by a TCM physician at the ceremony, he still could not make himself go vegetarian. After the event, he finally braced himself to sign a pledge to support environmental vegetarianism.
“Okay, I will cut down on eating meat! If it’s just to reduce my meat consumption, I can still do it,” said Hong.
Each session of the dignified ceremony also included a video screening of an excerpt from a talk by Dharma Master Cheng Yen (founder of Tzu Chi) explaining the origins of the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month from the Buddha’s time.