The weekend of March 29th to April 1st marked our third annual Humanistic Culture and Continuing Education Training Camp in San Jose, California! More than 100 participants from across the US embarked on a one of a kind journey, immersing themselves in over 40 courses that encourage a humanistic and courteous approach to daily life, while receiving intensive courses on tea ceremonies and flower arrangements from professionals.
The flowers and plants used for decorations were grown in the backyards of our generous volunteers. Because we value each resource, even dried plants are used to create beautiful flower arrangements, and natural cleansers are created from fruit peels, which is more efficient than regular dish wash. Our tea ceremony curriculum focuses on the connection of water as the beginning source of all things and using tea as a medium to pass the teachings. This all connects to the belief of our founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, that nothing should go to waste and the importance of being eco-friendly to take care of our planet.
With flower arrangement and tea ceremony classes underway, participants learned that grasses are just as important as the blooms in an arrangement, along with the artistry of tea. And through the rest of the weekend’s programs, learned the lessons of the Chinese idiom that says “growing from beneath the mud, the lotus flower blooms pure and untainted.”
No matter what, we hope everyone – especially our educators and volunteers in the Tzu Chi Education Foundation, and the hardworking volunteers who’ve helped make this Camp happen – may find what helps them shine no matter in which setting they are meant to blossom.
The essence of our flower arrangement techniques is embodied by “Jing Si Hua Dao,” which is characterized by elegance, freedom, harmony, meditation, and joy. The simple yet beautiful materials used express truthfulness and compassion.
The spirit of Great Love and compassion for all things on this lovely earth are indeed values each of our volunteers strive to embody, and through these flowers, we embrace the concept of giving to help others flourish!
With a clear and tranquil mind, attendees were also called to reflect upon and develop an appreciation for the hard work that goes into the tea-making process.
During the exercises, we envisioned the mountainous forests, misty valleys, muddy soil, and sweat on a tea farmer’s face as they cultivate the land with the utmost respect. The class additionally embraced the Jing Si tea ceremony practice of “Jing Si Cha Dao,” the concept that all things must go through a gradual and orderly process. Through gaining this understanding, the values of courtesy and etiquette are nourished, and thus, one can apply them in daily life. Keeping these experiences close to heart will also serve as a poignant reminder that as long as one keeps their goal firmly in mind, and takes steps to get there – no matter how small – they will eventually reach the destination. This truly encompasses the Jing Si aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen that “What is to be feared is not the long distance to our goals but rather, not moving forward even one step.”
One attendee at the camp, Sunny Lin, created beautiful cards to share blessings with those she meets, each one including a flower and a Jing Si aphorism from Master Cheng Yen.
After the passing of her beloved son, Sunny was able to heal through the practice of “Jing Si Hua Dao” flower arrangement. This art form encourages one to learn the functions and features of each plant, and inspire ‘conversations’ with the flowers just as we strive to discover the inner purity of the Buddha’s nature, cultivating strength and wisdom. “I am grateful for every person I’ve met in life, and especially thankful to my son. My heart is full of gratitude,” Sunny reflected, truly embodying the compassion that we all endeavor to attain.
We also learned the meaningful journey of Annie Chen. Years ago, her husband was in a horrific car accident that left him in a vegetative state, and ever since, she has devoted herself to taking care of him along with their four children. Due to an illness, she also does not have full mobility of her hand. The combined hardship and psychological pressure had shaped her into a stronger, more resilient individual.
Through the tea ceremony practice, and immersing herself in the tea ceremony teachings at our Tzu Chi Academy in Vancouver, Canada for over ten years, Annie has rediscovered a more gentle side of life, full of beauty, as well as a deeper appreciation for all things on earth. Annie now derives the power of love from her family’s perseverance, and further expands that spirit of Great Love and compassion through the tea ceremony courses she teaches.
Few symbols are as universally thoughtful as flowers. Sustainability has been key throughout the 2018 Humanistic Culture and Continuing Education Training Camp: all flowers from previous flower arranging classes were trimmed for reuse in following classes, and were finally presented to camp staff as a thank you for their contributions. The camp also came to an end with plenty of sharing. Participants had the chance to tell their stories, truly connect, and make lasting friendships. While this is goodbye for now, we can’t wait to reunite with our Tzu Chi Family next year!