Tzu Chi Tijuana Unites Community Across Faiths During the Buddha Bathing Ceremony

National Headquarters  |  May 31, 2023
Tzu Chi Tijuana transforms the lives of many struggling families in Tijuana, Mexico. Although many local residents have limited knowledge of Buddhism, their hearts are sincere. Photo/Shuli Lo

Written by Berlinda Lin, Ah Mui Pse
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Andrea Barkley

In Mexico, where Roman Catholics constitute 78% of the population, holding a Buddha Bathing Ceremony might spark questions about its reception within the local community. Nevertheless, on the afternoon of May 20, 2023, Dr. Joe Wang and Ah Mui Manguy—two committed Tzu Chi USA volunteers who have been fervently working in Tijuana, Mexico, for over ten years—stood at the entrance of Tzu Chi’s Tijuana facility. They warmly welcomed local residents, inviting them to partake in the inaugural Buddha Day Ceremony. This event amalgamated the celebration of Buddha’s Birthday, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi’s Global Day of Service.

Local residents fill the courtyard of the Tijuana facility, and under the leadership of senior volunteer Ah Mui Manguy (team leader), they enter the ceremony holding fresh flowers. Photo/Shuli Lo
The bouquet booth is surrounded by people, and children line up to create beautiful carnation bouquets for their beloved mothers. Photo/Shuli Lo

Everyone Invited Participated Joyfully

When questioned if there were any difficulties in inviting residents to participate in the Buddha Bathing ceremony in a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Judith Gomez Cruz, Deputy Manager of the Tzu Chi Tijuana campus, was asked to provide her interpretation of the ceremony. She resolutely shook her head and responded, “The Buddha Bathing ceremony manifests scenes of compassion, joy, and giving! Everyone was cordially invited, and they willingly participated.” Deputy Manager Gomez Cruz emphasized that nobody was pushed into attending. In fact, many attendees verbalized their gratitude for being able to participate in such a momentous interfaith event.

Local Tzu Chi Tijuana volunteers took charge of the planning and execution of this Buddha Bathing ceremony. The deputy manager expressed her gratitude towards Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, which motivated her to pledge a heartfelt commitment to assist local residents struggling with poverty with a spirit of compassion, joy, and giving.

Children give handmade bouquets to their mothers, wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day. Photo/Shuli Lo
Tzu Chi volunteers start early to prepare the venue decoration for the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. Photo/Shuli Lo

Father Mario Alkuro, from the local Catholic church, expressed immense honor in being a part of the joyous offerings to Buddha in his lifetime. He stated, “It stirs me and warms my heart! I have never witnessed something so exquisite, so precise, and so extraordinary. All these Tzu Chi volunteers are exceptional. Their attire is immaculate, and everything they perform is meticulous, flawless, without a wrinkle.”

Father Alkuro compassionately invited everyone to unite in blessing Tijuana.

Everything is perfect; this has left a deep impression on me. I feel love and blessings!

As the warm sunshine poured down at 1:30 PM, 250 residents filled the courtyard seats within the park, patiently awaiting the inaugural Buddha Bathing ceremony coordinated by Tzu Chi Tijuana volunteers. Certified local Tzu Chi volunteer Maria de Rosario Ruiz Felix and American Tzu Chi volunteer Yingdan Lai co-MC’ed the ceremony, delivering their speeches in Spanish and English as they represented the Tzu Chi Mexico Liaison Office.

Both Mothers and Children Are Moved to Tears

The warm and joyful melody of the song, “One Family,” in Spanish filled the air as 12 Tzu Chi USA volunteers meticulously placed lamps upon the Buddha bathing platform. Then, guided by Ah Mui Manguy, 16 local Tzu Chi Tijuana volunteers slowly entered the venue, each carrying a pot of flowers they had devoutly prepared. Once the incense lamps and flowers were in place, nearly 250 residents, each holding a carnation, approached the platform. Paying the highest respect, they prayed for the well-being of their family and friends, their prayers guided by the faith in their hearts.

Students from the “Classroom of Hope” demonstrated the courtesy of serving tea to their mothers, a testament to the humanistic education they had received in the previous months. Four mothers ascended the stage and took their seats as their children reverently served them tea. A profoundly moving scene unfolded as the children washed their mother’s feet, a gesture that struck and moved all present. As the children washed, some mothers couldn’t hold back their tears, prompting the children to shed their own. Before the children put their mothers’ shoes back on, they shared a heartfelt embrace, deeply touched by the profound moment.

Watching Children Grow Into Wonderful Adults

Local mother, Mayrane C.Z., deeply moved by her daughter’s actions, shared her heartfelt thoughts, “My daughter expressed her gratitude towards me by washing my feet with her own hands. It’s an extraordinary thing, something I never anticipated. As a mother, I simply strive to provide the best for my child. This foundation imparts an education rooted in love, and I believe it’s teaching her to be an incredibly helpful and communicative person. Here, she receives a sound education and guidance along a good path. I am deeply grateful to Tzu Chi.” Mayrane added that she had been unsure of how to get involved with Tzu Chi Tijuana before, but she has now found her path and actively participates.

Overwhelmed by emotion, Mayrane reiterated, “My daughter is here, and I am incredibly grateful to God because our lives have truly been transformed. Words fail to describe the feelings in my heart; I can only say it is incredibly beautiful and special. I am profoundly grateful for the foundation’s support in every respect.” 

The [Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation] is turning my daughter into a very good person, a very noble girl, someone who is very charitable, honorable, and full of love. This is my pride, and the truth is, I never thought I would enter such a good place.

The Bathing Buddha ceremony is a sacred and solemn occasion, but also one of great hope. Tzu Chi USA volunteers organized this event for the locals of Tijuana with the utmost devotion and respect. While the event’s name might be unfamiliar, its essence — a spiritual gathering focused on prayers for the world and family — is recognizable. The poignant scene of “Classroom of Hope” students washing their mothers’ feet also served as a perpetual reminder of the significance of parental nurturing. 

Through the simple nurturing of one another, all sentient beings may feel the rippling effects of such authentic compassion. 

Volunteer doctors take the opportunity to educate the audience on oral hygiene and care on-site. Photo/Shuli Lo
After the celebration, a distribution takes place on the campus. Photo/Shuli Lo

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