Sio Kee-Hong, Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Selangor, Malaysia (second from the left) led a team of volunteers to invite villagers to Tzu Chi’s first Year-End Blessing Ceremony in Bodh Gaya, India. | Photo by Ding Bi Hui | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/01/04

On January 7, 2024, Tzu Chi’s first ever Year-end Blessing Ceremony in India was held at Bodh Gaya, in Bihar state in eastern India, where the Buddha attained enlightenment. As from mid-December 2023, more than thirty Tzu Chi volunteers from Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, with over ten local volunteers, gathered at the venue to prepare for the event.


Making the Red Packets

The preparations for the event included venue planning, signboard production, performance rehearsals, work coordination, invitation of honored guests and the public, the making of red packets, and preparing small gifts for attendees. Since this was the first time for Tzu Chi volunteers in India to host a year-end blessing ceremony, all the preparations had to be done from scratch, except for the red packets being partially prepared and sent from Taiwan.

LEFT: Local volunteer Vivek Kumar (left) explained how the red packets were a symbol of blessings from Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan.| Photo by Lin Jia Ru| Bodh Gaya, India | 2023/12/29 / RIGHT: Neha Dorbial (left) took the task of assembling the red packets very seriously, seeking guidance from volunteers to ensure it was done correctly. | Photo by Lin Jia Ru| Bodh Gaya, India | 2023/12/29

Each year, to thank volunteers for their efforts and give blessings to all, Master Cheng Yen uses the royalties from her books to make these red packets. As a symbol of blessings and wisdom, the year-end blessings ceremony when volunteers receive these red packets each year is much anticipated by all. Before volunteers began assembling these red packets, local volunteer Vivek Kumar first explained their significance. Volunteers from Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore then demonstrated in detail how to assemble the red packets.

Neha Dorbial, a local volunteer who helps with teaching humanistic values, took on the task of assembling the red packets very seriously; he sought guidance from volunteers to ensure it was done correctly. Neha said she had never seen red packets before. She likes them very much and finds them  exquisite. While assembling them was not difficult, she emphasized: "Because this is a blessing from Master Cheng Yen, I want to spread Master's blessings with utmost respect."

LEFT: The medical team visited villages they often supported and invited villagers to join the event. | Photo by Endrajeet Paswan | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/01/02 / RIGHT: The charity team went to villages they often visited and invited villagers to join the event. | Photo by Ding Bi Hui | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/01/04

The venue for the year-end blessing ceremony was the Mahabodhi Convention Center in Bodh Gaya, which can accommodate five hundred people per session. Three sessions were held consecutively on January 7; over 2,000 local people came. Every team of volunteers put in great effort to make this day possible. The education team invited students, teachers, and parents from schools, while the charity and medical teams visited villages they often supported and invited villagers to take part.

Sincere and Emotional Invitations

As Tzu Chi volunteers frequently visit the local schools and villages, their sincere invitations were warmly received by the local people. For volunteers of the education team, while school was out for the New Year, they used the opportunity to visit the teachers who still had to work. On the day when they visited Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya Ghato School, volunteers first noticed a group of people sitting in the school square. They turned out to be teachers and the principal from nearby schools enjoying the sun and chatting. After greetings and introductions, volunteers began inviting everyone to attend Tzu Chi’s year-end blessing ceremony.

The principal of Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya Ghato School, Sheopujan Kumar Pandey, said that he would definitely be going, since his son was taking part in the performance "From Vow to Action". | Photo by Deepak Kumar | Bodh Gaya, India | 2023/12/31

The teachers from nearby schools expressed strong interest and willingly offered assistance in extending invitations. The principal of Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya Ghato School, Sheopujan Kumar Pandey, said that he would definitely be going, since his son was taking part in the performance "From Vow to Action". He also encouraged students and parents to join.

Shamim Ahmed (second left), a resident of Bakraur village, led volunteers in inviting the villagers. | Photo by Ding Bi Hui | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/01/06

Bakraur village is a village which volunteers of the charity team visit often. Shamim Ahmed, husband of volunteer Rozi Parween and a resident of Bakraur village, helped by holding up the poster and explaining the event to the villagers, who attentively listened. In two days, volunteers successfully invited 170 residents from Bakraur village to participate.

Ahmed said that many organizations had visited the village for relief in the past, but most were more interested in such acts to benefit themselves than the locals. In contrast, Tzu Chi volunteers are there for the long-term, providing not only material assistance but also conducting educational activities, with special emphasis on moral education. He felt that moral education was vital to changing the next generation. So, although he is not wealthy, he is willing to contribute as a volunteer and help promote Tzu Chi’s various activities.

The Cycle of Love and Goodness

For the Tzu Chi volunteers from overseas, holding three sessions of the year-end blessing ceremony in India with limited preparation time posed inevitable challenges. How to overcome barriers with the local language, culture, and lifestyle made the mission all the more complicated. For example, during rehearsal, local volunteers would show up late or did not show up at all, but the intricacies of the performances required continuous repetition and practice. When making poster boards, the frame needed to be painted on all sides, but they would miss one side, and such mistakes would take time to fix. Many small issues came up -- both frustrating and amusing at the same time.

Nevertheless, amid the challenges, there were moments that were very touching. As of January 5, 2024, medical team volunteers had visited the village of Rattibigha 42 times, tending to the wounds and changing dressings of Tetari Kumari, a girl who had to get her leg amputated. Once her wound heels, she will soon be able to experience the freedom of movement with her new prosthetic limb.