Tzu Chi Foundation was established in 1966. Back then, Master Cheng Yen and a few disciples worked hard doing various handwork to support their livelihood. Despite such challenging condition, the Master carried out charitable work persistently and distributed rice to the care recipients on a regular basis. On the distribution day, the salty congee, which was cooked with ingredients borrowed from the nearby Puming Temple, was served to everyone present. As they kept adding water so that it was enough to serve everyone, the congee was so diluted that it could give a clear reflection of the blue sky and landscape around.
That was the tough beginning of Tzu Chi’s charitable mission 50 years ago, and Tzu Chi community has been working hard humbly step by step to arrive at its scale today. The 2016 Year-end Blessing Ceremony was themed, “Create blessings: every grain of rice delivers eternal love; nurture wisdom: each tiny particle holds life’s truth.”
Master Cheng Yen explained that we should not underestimate the power of little kindness, for a great vow is carried out through accumulation of many little kindness; and with mindfulness, one will see the subtle and wondrous Dharma in little things, and thus grow in wisdom. The Master encouraged all volunteers to work among the crowd to cultivate blessings and nurture wisdom while serving others.
Welcoming a New Year
The Year-end Blessing Ceremony marks the end of one year and the beginning of a brand new year. Time flies and Tzu Chi is now in its 51st year. Tzu Chi KL & Selangor held six sessions of Year-end Blessing Ceremony for volunteers and public members from December 31, 2016 to January 2, 2017. The volunteers’ session on the first day was attended by more than 3,000 people, seated at four different halls. The whole six sessions saw a turnout of more than 10,000 participants.
Eighty-seven-year-old Tan Ow Yee, who needed the support of a walking stick said, “How could I miss this significant yearly event?” She vowed to return to receive the Master’s red packet of blessings every year. Wheelchair-bound Chee Yoke Mei, who suffered a stroke four years ago, also attended the event in her Tzu Chi cheongsam (formal attire for Tzu Chi Commissioners). She was accompanied by her husband, Chow On, who is also a Tzu Chi volunteer. She sighed, “My heart is willing, but physically I am handicapped to contribute my effort in any Tzu Chi activity.” She has never missed any Year-end Blessing Ceremony since she became a volunteer and remarked, “I always returned home feeling blissful after attending the ceremony.”
For this grand annual event, volunteers had mindfully arranged, set up and decorated the venue, their spiritual home, so that it was filled with traces of Dharma and the atmosphere of a New Year celebration.
The venue was divided into various sections, such as, bamboo bank area – to appeal for contributions towards Tzu Chi School KL; and humanities area – to promote products of Jing Si Culture Publications. TIMA, Tzu Chi Entrepreneurs’ Group and Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth members also co-organized a vegetarian section, which was sub-divided into Health and Environment Zones respectively, to promote vegetarianism, universal compassion and carbon reduction.
The Health Zone used fresh fruits and vegetables as display, and an interactive touch screen provided professional information on healthy diet. At the Environment Zone was a mini farm created by the Great Love Mothers’ Team, with animal sculptures made from recyclables. The scene of wild geese flapping their wings widely, colourful birds roaming at the field, an eagle looking into the distance, a cow and its calf, a hen hatching eggs under the cock’s protection, a goat feeding its lamb, rabbits munching carrots happily, flying butterflies, hopping grasshoppers and swimming fish in the water, portrayed a peaceful and harmonious living environment, manifesting equality of all beings.
Sutra adaptation performance spread profound Dharma
“Sound the bells and drums!” The ceremony kicked off with a performance of drums and bells. On stage, a group of performers accompanied by the song, “A Path of Diligent Practice”, conveyed the spirit of the Jing Si Dharma lineage through their performance. The song’s lyrics were based on the Master’s Dharma lecture, and it was composed in conjunction with Tzu Chi’s 50th Anniversary.
Following that was a recollection of Tzu Chi’s events in 2016 which showed volunteers around the world overcoming all challenges, as well as climbing mountains and crossing rivers to carry out relief work, provide medical care and education assistance, and so on.
Then, there was the sutra adaptation performance of the “Overture” of the “Twelve Great Vows of the Medicine Buddha”, which conveyed how the Medicine Buddha compassionately made great vows to relieve the suffering of all beings. Through their body movements, the performers manifested the various suffering caused by a tainted mind, and the Medicine Buddha compassionately cared for them, thus bringing about the 12 great vows.
Through the performance, the audience realized the impermanent nature of life. It struck a chord with volunteer Chee Kam Pang, who sang along piously with both palms together at the audience seat, and reminded him to be diligent on his spiritual cultivation path. Tan Neoh Chin felt that the performance reflected the unrest in current society, and that has inspired him to live in the present, cherish everything around him, contribute more to help the needy and participate in international disaster relief missions within his means.
Continue to evoke kindness
In June 2013, Malaysian Tzu Chi volunteers made a vow to recruit a million donors, and this goal was achieved in 2014. The Master then further encouraged the volunteers: “After recruiting one million donors, there shouldn’t be any problems working for another million.”
“Vow is more powerful than anything.” Taiwanese recycling volunteer, Chen Ah Tao, who made a vow to donate one million Taiwanese dollars to help others, has turned her hair salon into a place to inspire others to do good. She would seize every opportunity to promote Tzu Chi, including appealing to her customers to donate for a good cause while giving them a fresh look. With a sincere and pure mind, she managed to fulfil her vow in a short period. Her sharing will boost the spirit of Malaysian volunteers to achieve another million donors.
Volunteer Wong Yih Choy was touched by Ah Tao’s sharing. He admired her ability to use the Master’s teachings skilfully to evoke kindness in many. His initial perception that it is difficult to evoke kindness in others was dismissed after listening to Ah Tao’s sharing. He has learnt that sincerity and love are important factors in good human interactions. With a change of mindset, he is now confident that he could fulfil the requirements to evoke kindness in others, and become a full-fledged volunteer soon.
Volunteer Yong Sheek Wai had no confidence in recruiting donors. Although she has inspired people from 50 households to do good through donations, it was all with the help of other volunteers. Thanks to Ah Tao’s sharing, she is now confident of achieving that independently.
Volunteer How Pei Chen is currently collecting donations from 27 households. Although she hoped to invite more people to support Tzu Chi’s charitable missions, she still lacked the courage. Ah Tao’s sharing has motivated her to take more active initiative in recruiting donors in the coming year.
Another documentary was also shown to highlight what Tzu Chi volunteers in Malaysia had done in 2016. Apart from charitable missions in Malaysia, which included accompanying a dialysis patient from treatments to his last moment, giving out study grants to needy students, conducting free clinics in rural areas, affirming contributions of recycling volunteers, providing material relief and care to disaster victims, Malaysian volunteers had also gone overseas to the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, Syria and other countries to offer their help in relief distributions, free clinics and other missions.
Precious red packets of blessings
The red packet from the Master was the most anticipated gift during the year-end blessing ceremony. This year, the red packet consists of a commemorative coin with an image of the Jing Si Hall, where the rooftop design symbolizes “Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”, the Three Treasures in Buddhism. The inscription, “A mind of translucent purity with vast, profound vows” on the coin represents a blessing for everyone to always have a mind free of worries and full of wisdom.
These red packets that come from the Master’s book royalties are light in weight, but collectively, they posed a heavy burden on the Master. Thus, everyone received the red packets loaded with blessings from the Master piously and reverently. It is hoped that the recipients will cherish it like an heirloom.
Tee Lian Lee, who had been receiving the red packets passed to her by community volunteers in the past 20 years, found it extremely meaningful to receive the red packet on stage herself for the first time. She loves mountain climbing and would only help out at recycling centre occasionally. She was reluctant to commit herself and even declared a “Three no’s principle” – no meeting, no report writing and no sharing. However, things changed when she decided to take charge of the audio-video system for the Master’s daily Dharma lecture at dawn at the Tzu Chi Bukit Jelutong Community Centre. After listening to the Master’s Dharma lectures for some time, she reflected: “Master is advanced in age. Shouldn’t I commit myself to ease Master’s burden?” With that, she embarked on Tzu Chi volunteers’ training and is looking forward to be commissioned by the Master in 2017.
Volunteer Tan See Teck felt sorry for the heavier burden on the Master in preparing the red packets for volunteers, the number of which had multiplied substantially over the years. He was remorseful for not being able to fully grasp the Dharma teachings although he has been listening to the Master’s Dharma lectures. He cherishes his affinity with the Master and acknowledged that the urgency of “time is running out” from the Master is meant to alert him that his time is running out. Hence, he has made a New Year resolution to start from himself and influence people in his community through example.
Echo Chien, CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, thanked the volunteers for their hard work throughout the year, and encouraged them to keep up the good work, walk on the Bodhisattva Path diligently, harness more kindness and spread love to the world.
While a candle can light up its surrounding, wisdom eliminates darkness of ignorance. At the end of the ceremony, everyone held the battery-operated lotus lamps high above, and piously prayed for a purified mind, peaceful society and a disaster-free world.
he drum and bell performance marked the opening of the Year-end Blessing Ceremony. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
Performance of “A Path of Diligent Practice” conveyed the spirit of Jing Si Dharma lineage. [Photograph by Lai Jih Chuan]
The sutra adaption performance of the “Overture” of the “Twelve Great Vows of the Medicine Buddha” interpreted the vows made by the Medicine Buddha to relieve the suffering of all beings. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
About 3,000 volunteers attended the Year-end Blessing Ceremony held at four different venues at the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall on December 31, 2016. [Photograph by Lai Jih Chuan]
Taiwanese volunteer, Chen Ah Tao shared how she inspired others to do good. [Photograph by Ch’ng Kooi Tick]
Tee Lian Lee became committed after assuming the audio-visual task for Dharma sessions at her community. With the Dharma in her heart, she aspires to share the Master’s burden. [Photograph by Tia Yee Ling]
Tan See Teck (left) hopes to seize the time and be a positive influence to people in his community by setting example. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
Everyone prayed piously for a purified mind, peaceful society and a disaster-free world. [Photograph by Lai Jih Chuan]