“Mummy, can this be eaten? "" No, it can’t. " " Why not? " Curious four-year-old Cai Wei Jie was examining the mockup of various foods used as prayer offerings such as roast pig, duck, fish etc., and peppering his mother with questions.
Wei Jie was with his mother at the auspicious seventh lunar month prayer and blessing ceremony on 3 Aug 2014. After the ceremony, they visited the exhibition booths. A kind volunteer Xie Jia Jun bent down to talk to Wei Jie and patiently explained how the cute animals in the posters are just like any of us, they can walk, run, or jump. However, after they have been cooked they will no longer be able to move, and this is very saddening indeed.
On the table was a weighing scale with four big bags of rice on one side and some mock chickens on the other side. Next to the scale was a big stack of empty bowls. It showed the amount of water needed to produce one kilogram of meat, which is equivalent to the same amount of water required to produce 400 bowls of rice. While pointing to the pictures of starving children in Africa, Xie told Wei Jie "If we eat less meat and hamburgers, more people will have food and they will not starve."
"Little boy, do you like the polar bears?" asked Xie. The little boy nodded while gently stroking the toy polar bear and penguin. Xie further explained that large-scale live stock breeding brings pollution, intensifies the greenhouse effect thus causing the melting of polar ice caps. As a result, the polar bears need to swim for long distances to find food, resulting in vulnerable young bears drowning and catching colds. Xie also explained what happens to the sharks which are harmed so that shark’s fin soup can be served. The sharks are left to die after their fins are cut off, leaving them unable to swim anymore.
"In folktales, people believe the seventh lunar month is the ghost month and hence unlucky for all endeavours. However, the really scary thing is not the ghost but…” A question was asked when Wei Jie came to the last booth and was challenged by a quiz question. He thought for a while and pointed with his little finger at answer “C- Human Beings.” This shows that Weijie was paying attention to all the stories being told by the volunteer. Even at this tender age, we can plant a seed that one day will protect our Mother Earth and all living beings.
Having the Courage to Give Voice to What is Right
Outside the Jing Si Hall where the seventh lunar month auspicious prayer and blessing ceremony was held from 1-3 August 2014, three unlighted large joss sticks, the kind one usually sees during the mid-autumn festival, were standing tall on the slope. They certainly attracted much attention from the onlookers who came forward to find out more. Volunteers made good the opportunity to guide the visitors to the exhibition booths and explain environmental protection issues as well as introduced them to publications from Tzu Chi.
At one of the booths, a transparent “chimney" with a lovely "bird" inside it, illustrated the pollution caused to the environment from burning incense papers.
"The global temperature has risen by two degrees celsius and the polar ice caps are melting, this has a significant impact on the marine ecosystem and will cause destruction of the coral reefs. Once the temperature has risen by six degrees celsius, natural disasters will become frequent; desert areas will spread across the continent, and the world may revert back to the state it was one hundred million years ago, similar to that of the dinosaur age,” was the urgent message given by Ran Shao Wen from the Tzu Chi College of Technology in Hualien, Taiwan.
Ran, together with ten other teachers and students, was on a cultural exchange trip to Southeast Asia. Due to a last minute change of schedule, they arrived in Singapore on Aug 2 and made good use of the opportunity to educate the public on environmental protection and encouraged others not to burn incense paper.
Though Ran has not yet been able to convince his own family to discontrinue the burning of incense paper, he hopes everyone can contribute in his own small way and thus exert a big impact on society as a whole. Thus he insists on advocating the right message and helping others to do away with superstitions.
Spreading Good by Adopting a Bamboo Coin Bank
Vegetarian stall owners, Chen Qi Yi and Pan Yu Ying, had deep feelings though it was their first time attending the event. Pan considers herself very fortunate that she chanced upon a Buddhist book 20 years ago and learned that burning incense papers to worship ancestors is a superstitious practice. From then on, she no longer burned incense papers.
"By not burning incense papers, we can reduce the pollution." She went on to say that one should be filial while their parents are around, spend time with them and care for them and not to wait till they pass away and then do unnecessary things like burning incense papers for the deceased. Pan lamented that nowadays, young people always use work as an excuse, and do not set aside time to visit their parents; in some cases some rant at them and treat them with disrespect. These young people will have regrets in the future when their parents are no longer around.
A few years back, Chen, dressed up in shirt and tie while preparing vegetarian meals in a small and stuffy kitchen, attracted attention from the media. Unfortunately the business did not do well and the stall has since been closed down. Chen is now helping his brother run a coffee shop stall and currently is planning to set up another vegetarian stall with Pan.
Chen hopes to promote vegetarianism with his set of skills and plans to run a 24-hour stall. He feels that vegetarian food is still not very easily available in Singapore so he hopes that his stall can provide a rest stop for night shift workers, especially the taxi drivers, while he dishes up hot meals for them.
Before they left, both Pan and Chen adopted a bamboo coin bank each. Not only do they wish to promote vegetarianism for health, they also wish to protect Mother Earth by not burning incense paper, and in adopting a bamboo bank to help the needy, they hope to return with it next year and continue to do good.
Love the Earth and Cherish Body and Mind
From books on health to daily products that are sold at the Jing Si Book Cafe, Du Mei Hua has almost bought them all. That day, she was busy shopping for noodles and biscuits while her four children were waiting patiently. She said: "Although the price here is slightly higher than in the market, the things here are of good quality and go through stringent tests so we feel at ease when consuming them. Moreover, buying these products is also a way to support our Master.”After understanding how the soap and essence were produced, Du Mei Hua did not hesitate to buy them immediately.
Speaking of the bamboo bank, Du’s eldest son happily shares his experience: "Every day after school, I will put my excess allowance into the bamboo bank, and the money collected will be used to help people." As the big brother, he sets a good example to his younger siblings who occasionally drop coins into the bamboo bank too.
A total of five sessions of the prayer ceremony was organized over the three days, and through the interactive educational booths, many more people understood the adverse effect of burning incense papers on the environment and that using the Jing Si products is a way to live harmoniously with the earth. Finally, the bamboo coin banks remind everyone to do a daily good deed so to create a better world for all.