May 19, 2023
Volunteers apply Master Cheng Yen’s teachings in 3-in-1 celebration
By Joy Rojas
It’s often been said that although Dharma Master Cheng Yen has never left her home country of Taiwan, her teachings have reached countless people all across the globe.
In the Philippines, the Tzu Chi founder’s values and beliefs were what guided volunteers in the planning, organizing, and execution of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Day, the annual 3-in-1 event held on May 14 this year at Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila.
Whether they were working round the clock in a hot kitchen to provide meals for staff and guests or exposed to the unforgiving heat and humidity of the outdoors, volunteers quietly and diligently attended to their specific assignments, inspired no doubt by Master Cheng Yen’s simple reminder. “When you perform a task, do it wholeheartedly,” she said.
Aga Qu, Wilson Hung, and Betty Wu were among the busiest volunteers, working from dawn to dusk—and just before the late-afternoon Buddha Bathing ceremony—to ensure a smooth and successful event. Inspired by Master Cheng Yen’s constant reminder to conserve resources, they created props by recycling materials from the previous year.
Purchased in the market before sunrise, the fresh potted orchids that adorned long tables lined with crystal Buddhas didn’t go to waste either. After the event, volunteers sold the flowers and turned over the proceeds to fund the ongoing construction of Unity Hall.
Materials sourced from Tzu Chi’s recycling center were also utilized for the mountain prop found at the base of a screen showing a hologram of Buddha. Placed at the entrance of Jing Si Hall, the mountain prop symbolizes the setting where Buddha gave talks to people, while the ants (craftwork provided by Tzu Chi Taiwan) recall Master Cheng Yen’s admiration for these “tiny living things…insignificant and small, yet they are full of the spirit of cooperation.”
“We wanted it to signify the importance of working together,” says Nathania Brigette So Tan, one of the volunteers behind the project. “No matter how small the artwork is, it will create a big impact.”
Before she and other volunteers came upon the perfect combination of Styrofoam and recycled cardboard for the mountain, they were stumped for months. “We experimented with a lot of materials and every time we made adjustments we always failed,” says the graphic artist from the Office of the CEO. “Though my teammates and I were very discouraged, our perseverance and the encouragement of Tzu Chi volunteers helped us push through despite our struggles.”
“I truly felt it was all about trusting the process,” she adds. “Like Master says, we have to have faith in what we do so we can achieve what we want.”
Tasked to teach Tzu Chi’s high school scholars the walking and bowing sequences of the Buddha Bathing ceremony, Mine Heart Tantoy, a social welfare officer under the educational assistance program of Tzu Chi’s Charity Department, looked like he had his work cut out for him.
“It’s not easy teaching kids,” he acknowledges. “You need to extend your patience and understanding.”
Still, he sees great potential in the youth, much like Master Cheng Yen. “All the children in the world can be taught,” she said. “What they need are mindful parents and mindful teachers to guide and teach them."
“Based on my experience, I haven’t encountered [an unruly] Tzu Chi scholar,” he says. “They’re very obedient and respectful to the staff and volunteers. Those are distinct qualities of a Tzu Chi scholar. In the Tzu Chi community, they are givens. They are our way of life.”
“I’m amazed at how Master Cheng Yen has led her organization,” he says. “And to think, she doesn’t even travel! The younger generation can learn so much from and about her through the works of the foundation.”