The over 500 participants to the first 4-in-1 Tzu Chi Philippines Personnel Training Camp joined a Lotus Sutra and Walking Meditation ceremony on August 9. The Buddhist rite gathered Filipino and Chinese volunteers, who came from different religions, in praying for a safer society and disaster-free world.
Dharma Master Teh Mai, a Buddhist nun from the Jing Si Abode in Taiwan, discussed about the importance of listening to the dharma talks during one session of the 4-in-1 Personnel Training Camp. Master Teh Mai’s talk taught the volunteers present that learning the dharma teachings is as equally important as doing charity works.
Chants of the sutra filled the Still Thoughts Hall in Quezon City as dawn breaks on August 9. On this day, over 500 Filipino and Chinese volunteers gathered together for a very special Lotus Sutra and Walking Meditation ceremony.
The Buddhist rite was led by Dharma Masters Teh Mai and Teh Fa, who came all the way from Taiwan to represent Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen in the first Tzu Chi Philippines 4-in-1 Personnel Training Camp. It was intended to bring peace into the minds of the volunteers and to pray for everyone’s safety as disasters happen more frequently across the world.
Solemnity wrapped the hall as the gong was sounded and the ceremony begins. Standing upright, their palms pressed together in a prayer, the Philippine volunteers chanted along with the dharma masters though many of them are not Buddhists nor can they understand the Chinese language.
“Many of the people who joined this ceremony came from different religions and I am one of them,” shared 37-year-old Ivy Dublado, a volunteer from Ormoc. “I am a Catholic; the others here are Buddhists. The rest came from other religions as well. But all of us are here together and it makes me happy to see that we are all united in one prayer despite our differences.”
Arlyn Bajen, a volunteer from Tacloban City, chanted the prayer sincerely. “I could feel the presence of God (while the ceremony was on-going),” said the 40-year-old volunteer, quite emotionally. “I am grateful that Tzu Chi did not neglect any religion. They still let me join even though I am not a Buddhist. It’s really fulfilling for me (to have joined the ceremony).”
Bajen is a Christian.
It was also a fulfilment for 78-year-old volunteer, Josie Pua. She is one, if not the oldest, volunteer who joined the ceremony. Prostrating before the Buddha along with her fellow volunteers who are much younger than her, Pua said she didn’t feel any pain in her knees or in any part of her body after the one and a half hour ceremony. Instead, all she felt was peace.
“I felt blessed,” Pua said. “I feel as though all my troubles in life were cleansed and all that’s left in my heart is love. We pray that there will be no more disasters in this world and for all living beings to be safe.”
After the ceremony, Master Teh Mai discussed about listening to the Dharma teachings of Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen. In her talk entitled, “Awakening to the Rings of Bell and Immersing in the Fragrance of the Dharma,” she explained the importance of studying the teachings of the Buddha in cultivating oneself to become better volunteers. According to her, the teachings are important in guiding the volunteers in the right path.
She cited how Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen works hard to expound the Sutra into simpler words so that people will understand. The Master wakes up very early every day to prepare for her morning dharma talks. Master Teh Mai then encouraged the volunteers to listen and to take to heart Master Cheng Yen’s teachings.
Elvira Chua, a volunteer from Quezon City, will bring home a lot of lessons from Master Teh Mai’s talks. Recently, Chua had only started watching and listening to the morning dharma talks of Master Cheng Yen. Since the camp started, she is also among the first volunteers to arrive at the Still Thoughts Hall for the Sutra Chanting and for the Dharma talk.
“I realized that I still have a lot of things to learn. I learned that it is not enough to do activities, to do recycling, go to dental missions, or medical missions. We have to study and learn about the dharma teachings. It’s only when we combine the two (learning and doing) that we will develop ourselves to be better persons to help Master Cheng Yen (in her missions),” Chua explained.
As the 4-in-1 camp nears its end, Philippine Tzu Chi volunteers are learning that nurturing the right teachings in their hearts is just as important as doing charity works.