For the convenience of the public, Tzu Chi volunteers in the North Zone organised two sessions of the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Prayer Ceremony on 21st July 2018 in the neighbourhood. The event, which was attended by a total of 405 people, was held at Bangkit Court, which is situation just 100m away from a crowded market.
“Dharma Master Cheng Yen said that Tzu Chi volunteers should go among the people to serve. Thus, Bangkit Court is selected as the venue as it is frequented by throngs of people. Besides, our volunteers have forged a good rapport with the residents over time,” said Tzu Chi volunteer Teo Geok Yong.
She added that Tzu Chi volunteers were often spotted sharing the concept of recycling with residents at the market, with the hope that they would not only recycle to protect the earth, but also practise “spiritual recycling”. She hoped that the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month event would be able to advocate the right faith to the residents.
Volunteer Song Mei Hwa’s old neighbour, Wang Yao Kun, has been a regular donor of Tzu Chi for many years, but he never had the opportunity to participate in Tzu Chi activities due to time constraint.
“I couldn’t make it to all Tzu Chi activities in the past because the activities were all held in Pasir Ris. Hence, I purposely made time to attend this event as it is quite rare to see a Tzu Chi activity held in Bangkit Court,” shared Wang.
When asked to share his views on the advocacy of environmental protection and vegetarianism during the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month by Tzu Chi, Wang expressed his support for the effort. He opined that the purpose of commemorating the seventh lunar month is to relieve all living beings from suffering, but what people are doing instead is harming more animals, as they offer meat dishes, such as roast pigs and roast ducks, to their ancestors.
He himself has cut down on the consumption of meat, and also tried encouraging people to go vegetarian to protect life. In addition to that, he didn’t burn any joss paper after his mother passed away and also tried his best to practise environmental protection in daily life.
Turning thoughts into action to protect our environment
Before the prayer session began, visitors who had already arrived were ushered to the meticulously decorated environmental exhibition zone. Volunteers on duty explained to them the 5R’s of Sustainability, namely Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle, emphasizing the importance of “purity at the source” and how to protect the environment more effectively. They also introduced the "five treasures" of Tzu Chi to the public, and they are bowls, chopsticks, cups, shopping bags and handkerchiefs, which are all reusable. People can reduce the amount of trash they produce by using these items instead of disposables.
“There’s a straw stuck in its nose, and it is bleeding,” said Lum You Jun, a kind-hearted young boy, while looking at the photo of a turtle. It spurred him to cut down on the use of plastic straws.
You Jun’s father, Lum Fung Keat, who attended the event for the first time, said, “I will pay more attention to whether the items I buy have the environmentally friendly label in the future and try to use reusable items to cut down on plastic waste.”
At the exhibition, there was also a model of the earth with two sides to it: one side was lush with greenery while the other side portrayed a grim, desolate environment. The exhibit, which depicted the sharp contrast of how the planet would appear before and after it was destroyed by pollution, sent many from the public into deep thought. Next to the earth model was a booth, where volunteers called on the public to take positive action in response to the Climate Action Pledge.
Expressing gratitude to parents during the tea ceremony
Visitors were then ushered by the volunteers to the venue to take part in the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Prayer Ceremony and tea ceremony. The session kicked off with a lively skit that told the story of Venerable Maudgalyayana, the Buddha’s disciple who was foremost in supernatural powers.
Maudgalyayana couldn't bear to see his own mother suffering unspeakably in the realm of Hell, so the Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the monastic community on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. And he managed to save his mother from Hell through his sincere piety and the merits attained. However, after Buddhism was spread from ancient India to China, Chinese folk culture regards the seventh lunar month as the "Hungry Ghost Month", which omits the fact that it is actually a month about filial piety. Tzu Chi hopes that everyone will not only pray for their parents in their past lives, but also practise filial piety in daily life during this month.
Xu Han Wen, a Tzu Chi dialysis aid recipient, contracted hereditary diabetes while serving the army. Xu further neglected his health as he worked very hard to pursue his career and became afflicted with kidney disease as a result. His mother, Zhang Li Fang, had no choice but to go out to earn a living while looking after Xu, who was no longer able to work due to his health conditions.
At that time, Xu Han Wen told himself that if he was able to overcome all the challenges that life brought him, he would try his best to take care of his mother in the future and to repay her. Xu, who participates in the Tzu Chi Recycling Day activities every month, felt that life is impermanent, and he also opined that he should do more good deeds and accumulate good karma in his lifetime.
“I can still give back to this society, which has helped me in times of need—it is totally worth the effort,” he said.
The tea ceremony, which came last in the programme, allowed the event attendees to express their filial piety and gratitude to their parents in action.
“I told my daughters to practise serving tea now so that they will do that for me when I grow old,” said Li Yan, who had brought along her two daughters, aged 8 and 6, to take part in the tea ceremony for the first time.
She broke down in tears when the thought of not being able to serve tea to her own father hit her. Her daughters quickly gave her a warm hug to comfort her, and they also thanked her for the love and care she showered them with every day.
Li Yan and her daughters, who do recycling every day at home, gained a deeper understanding of environmental protection after visiting Tzu Chi’s environmental booth this day. Li Yan shared that she used to have superstitious scruples about the seventh lunar month. For example, she dared not go out at night or go swimming during this period of the year. After learning that the seventh lunar month is actually an auspicious month, she felt relieved and realised the importance of doing good and being filial to her parents.
Note: Singapore has designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action to raise awareness of climate change among residents, thereby encouraging people to take action and work with the government to fight the climate crisis.