“A bunch of dumplings is secured by several knots and the main knot at one end symbolises the source of our Dharma Lineage, while every string represents Dharma marrow. When every set of three strings are woven together and used to tie (a dumpling) tightly, it will be strong and able to be held up. In everything we do, we must focus on the main principles and teachings, then our efforts can be consolidated. We must communicate in all directions and work in unity and joint effort,” said Hong Jing Yuan, head of the editorial and compilation department at the Tzu Chi headquarters in Taiwan.
She added, “We must walk the Bodhisattva Path using the main principles and teachings of our Dharma Lineage.”
Hong was one of the speakers at the 26th anniversary event of Tzu Chi Singapore, which was held on 20th October 2019. To commemorate the occasion, close to 600 Tzu Chi volunteers gathered at the Jing Si Hall, where they revisited the key milestones and highlights of Tzu Chi’s past journey and commemorated, with gratitude, the unstinting efforts of pioneer volunteers. They also strengthened their aspiration and resolve to pass on Tzu Chi’s spirit in order to deeply root Tzu Chi’s humanistic values in Singapore.
Hong shared that the main knot at one end of the rope represented Tzu Chi’s headquarters in Hualien, Taiwan, while every string symbolised each of the NGO’s Missions. Such a spirit is the foundation of Tzu Chi volunteers’ work on the Bodhisattva Path. She encouraged every volunteer to make good use of their lives to do good for humanity by sharing Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorism, “Use a limited life to achieve unlimited wisdom-life”.
“When we are weaving the strings, we must be very mindful. We cannot pull too tightly and break the strings or weave the strings too loosely as they will scatter. This makes me feel that when I’m doing Tzu Chi’s work or leading a group, it is important that I (act appropriately and precisely),” said Tzu Chi Singapore’s deputy CEO, Susi.
“According to the lunar calendar, Tzu Chi has been established in Singapore for 29 years. Dharma Master Cheng Yen wants the volunteers in Singapore to uphold the Buddha’s heart and her mission and to diligently walk the Bodhisattva Path, so as to spread the spirit and seeds of Tzu Chi across the country, while maintaining the spirit of Right Faith in Buddhism,” said Hong.
She continued, “The story of how Tzu Chi was set up from scratch in the early days as well as the individual life story of each Tzu Chi volunteer are all deeply moving chapters of Tzu Chi’s ‘great sutra treasury’. In walking the Bodhisattva Path, having harmonious relations with others is important. We cannot be proud or arrogant as we carry out Tzu Chi’s Missions, and we must remind ourselves to always respect the views of others. All these are Master Cheng Yen’s hopes for us.”
Hong further said that from the establishment of Tzu Chi Singapore to the NGO carrying out overseas aid missions and setting up its various establishments, there had been many changes along the way. Thus, a lot of patience and perseverance was needed to undertake all the work and responsibilities. She reminded everyone to put Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Dharma Lineage into practice, which is based on the teachings of the Buddha, and to constantly practise contentment, gratitude, understanding and forbearance as well as to work unitedly with love. In this way, everything will be in harmony.
Journeys, experiences, and takeaways
A group of pioneer Tzu Chi volunteers also went onto the stage to share about the early days of the Foundation in Singapore. Loke Soon Heng and Chang Siew Lan spoke of how they lacked money and manpower while carrying out Tzu Chi’s work, and the many challenges and setbacks they faced. Loke shared that when Tzu Chi was going to apply for formal registration from the authorities, she felt especially excited as she stepped into the law firm (that helped with the application process) for the first time.
Another senior volunteer, Hsu Li Chen, recalled that she first aspired to walk the Tzu Chi Path after witnessing the selfless devotion of Tzu Chi volunteers.
“Singapore is very far away from Master Cheng Yen, but the local volunteers have contributed a lot of efforts. As a Taiwanese here, all the more I should bear a sense of mission,” said Hsu.
She further shared that as Tzu Chi was very short of charity funds in the earlier days, the volunteers made and sold vegetarian lunches on the first and fifteenth day of every lunar month to raise funds, and that it had not been an easy journey for everyone.
Long-time logistics volunteer Tan Kok Seng and his fellow team members staged a lively Tzu Chi bullock-cart song, with the hope that the senior volunteers would continue to serve with a firm and tenacious spirit.
“Brother Hui Thin has volunteered with us for 20 years (before he passed on), so we will naturally remember and miss him,” shared Tan.
He was deeply touched as he spoke of how the late Loi Hui Thin actively worked with fellow logistics volunteers, overcoming many challenges together along the way.
Tan, who has been with Tzu Chi for 22 years and participated in over 20 medical aid missions, makes use of all his annual leave to join Tzu Chi’s medical relief work overseas. In his younger days, he had wished to visit the various Buddhist pilgrimage destinations, but he forgot about this wish after he started participating in Tzu Chi’s medical aid missions.
“Tzu Chi’s spirit of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity is about giving of ourselves to help others. It is more tiring to go on medical aid missions, but I feel very happy doing the work,” he said.
Tan revealed that there were only about nine people in the team in charge of setting up the venues of Tzu Chi’s free clinics overseas, and they were often so busy that they could not have their meals until around eight o’clock at night. Now, the number has increased to over 20, so they are able to finish their work in time.
He also shared that since there are more people now, there would inevitably be more differing views and opinions. So he would respect the views and suggestions of others, for it is only when everyone cooperates with one another that they can accomplish their work.
A spiritual cultivator from Tzu Chi’s headquarters, Jing Si Abode, Ling Wan Qi (pictured below), shared with volunteers in Singapore about her experiences and takeaways on the Tzu Chi Path. She is a talented artist and often uses drawings to depict and illustrate the teachings of Master Cheng Yen.
While working and interacting with people, she never forgets to ask herself these two questions: Is it for the good of Buddhism? Is it for the sake of living beings? If her answer is “yes” to both questions, she will let go of her negative emotions (due to a problem that has arisen), because, after all, her personal issues are not as important as Tzu Chi’s work that benefits the world. And once she has “got over it”, she will do all the tasks at hand well and in this way, the problem can be more easily resolved.
Ling further shared that the work that everyone does each day utilises a day of their lives. Hence, if everyone gives of themselves on the Bodhisattva Path every day, just like how the pioneer volunteers fundraised for Tzu Chi Taiwan in the early days by saving a little daily, they will be able to transform what they have learned into wisdom, bit by bit.
Building a society filled with humanistic values
In his closing speech, Tzu Chi Singapore’s CEO Low Swee Seh highlighted that the mission that Master Cheng Yen has given to volunteers in Singapore is to build a society filled with humanistic values. He further shared that the volunteers must take the Dharma to heart, be brave to spread Tzu Chi’s Missions to the masses and to inspire kindness in more people to serve as living bodhisattvas.
“As the pioneers have planted the trees, we must plant even more trees. Let us strive forward hand in hand!” he said resolutely.
Dharma Master De Ge urged all volunteers to courageously take on more roles and responsibilities in Tzu Chi as “doing what should be done is wisdom.” She reminded everyone that in the face of changes and challenges, it is important to keep a clear and pure mind, and to just “do what is right”. Then, they will be able to accomplish difficult tasks together.
She also encouraged everyone in the Dharma family of Tzu Chi to work collaboratively in harmony and unity, and stressed that the “fast-learners” must motivate others on the path. She further said that everyone must encourage and support one another, and that the leaders and their fellow volunteers must open up their hearts and not harbour any selfish intentions. When everyone sincerely cares for one another, they will be able to open up a vast and broad Bodhi Path.