Love and Compassion Overflow at Tzu Chi USA’s Interfaith Buddha Bathing Ceremony

National Headquarters  |  June 19, 2023
Interreligious leaders and
Religious leaders and community partners join together on stage to lead the audience in prayer, praying for the purification of hearts and minds, social harmony, and a world free of disasters. Photo/James Huang

Written by Nai Hua Chen, Cheng Yuan Yang, Gina Shih, Jennifer Chien
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

Every May, Buddhists around the world honor the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha on an occasion called Vesak — or Buddha Day. And, on this auspicious weekend when Buddha Day ceremonies occur across the globe, a triple celebration of Mother’s Day, Buddha Day, and Tzu Chi Day is also observed. On May 14, 2023, the Tzu Chi USA Headquarters campus in San Dimas, California, additionally connected virtually with Tzu Chi’s Buddha Bathing Ceremony in Taiwan. Participants in the United States joined the event through a live stream of the “Interfaith Buddha Bathing Ceremony” conducted in English.

Buddha Bathing Ceremony Synchronized Globally

Interreligious leaders initiate prayer
Religious leaders guide the guests in prayer. Photo/Victor Rocha
Tzu Chi USA working partners
Long-time community partners of Tzu Chi USA attend the ceremony. Photo/James Huang

The ceremony welcomed distinguished guests, including religious leaders from the Southern California region and representatives from Tzu Chi USA’s community partners. This meaningful event united compassion and kindness across diverse ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. By nourishing the universal value of “Great Love,” the event aimed to spread positive energy in the community and uphold the humanistic spirit of Tzu Chi.

In preparation for this year’s interfaith Buddha Bathing Ceremony, volunteers held multiple meetings and dedicated a week in advance to cleaning, setting up, and rehearsing. These efforts ensured a flawless expression of respect for the Buddha and all honored guests.

The guests arrived at the San Dimas, California, campus of Tzu Chi USA’s headquarters in the morning. Upon reaching the parking lot adjacent to the Appreciation Hall, the guests proceeded to the check-in area, where volunteers warmly greeted them and provided assigned seat numbers. Booths were set up on the lawn in front of the Appreciation Hall, introducing Tzu Chi’s missions in the United States across its four primary missions: charity, healthcare, education, and humanities.

Guests in the entrance
Members of Tzu Chi greet honored guests. Photo/Jennifer Chien
Event attendees visit the four major mission booths set up outside the Appreciation Hall. Photo/Shuli Lo

Tzu Chi volunteers serving as hosts guided the guests through the booths, where volunteers shared their global relief efforts. As they enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and exchanged warm greetings, attendees immersed themselves in the pleasant ambiance of the early summer afternoon under a clear blue sky and gentle breeze.

Buddha Bathing Ceremony Synchronized Globally

The audio control room in the Headquarters’ Appreciation Hall has been set up to synchronize the ceremony with Buddha Bathing Ceremonies occurring in Taiwan and other locations in the United States, from California to Arizona and beyond.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the host explained the significance of the triple celebration and the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. Attendees were led in a meditation session, followed by a presentation introducing Tzu Chi USA and its four major missions, providing a deeper understanding of Tzu Chi’s philosophy. Through virtual connection, nearly 300 guests had the opportunity to watch the ceremony in Hualien before proceeding to the Buddha Bathing Ceremony in the Appreciation Hall. The ceremony began with an offering by dedicated individuals, followed by volunteers guiding the guests in a slow walk to the Buddha Bathing Platform, where they performed the tradition of bowing before the Buddha’s feet, receiving flower incense, and sending forth blessings

Debra Boudreaux
Tzu Chi USA CEO Debra Boudreaux leads the dedicated volunteers into the venue. Photo/Victor Rocha

Religious leaders recited prayers on stage, sharing the unique traditions of diverse faiths, including Dharma Master Chao Chu, President of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, Father Alexei Smith, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Officer of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Naser Noor, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Swami Mahayogananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California. Then, the leaders and community partners led the audience in prayer once more, praying for the purification of hearts and minds, social harmony, and a world free of disasters.

Practicing Compassion Around the World

“The gathering of different religious leaders today represents the diversity of our society, where the public can choose to accept and respect different religions and each other’s philosophies,” said Dharma Master Chao Chu.

Just like today's interfaith event, people can learn from each other and understand the differences of different cultures through participating in different religious rituals, thus resolving misunderstandings and barriers.

Jimmy Wu, a community representative from the Los Angeles County Board of County Commissioners’ Office for District 5, presented a certificate of appreciation to Tzu Chi, which Tzu Chi USA Headquarters CEO Debra Boudreaux accepted on behalf of the Foundation. 

Jimmy Wu stated, “Tzu Chi has made tremendous contributions to the community in many ways, including medical assistance, providing shelter and food to our neighbors who are unhoused, disaster relief, and education. Los Angeles County is proud to have such a great partner as Tzu Chi USA. We will continue to work closely with Tzu Chi and look forward to Tzu Chi’s continued success.” 

Debra Boudreaux (left) and
A community representative from the Los Angeles County Board of County Commissioners’ Office for District 5, Jimmy Wu (right), presents a certificate of appreciation to Tzu Chi. Photo/James Huang
Emmett Badar
San Dimas Mayor Emmett Badar addresses the event. Photo/James Huang

“It’s a beautiful day in San Dimas and a beautiful day all over the world,” said Emmett Badar, Mayor of San Dimas, California. “I was told that there are 67 countries online today, and we are very fortunate because this is a center for promoting good energy. Every time I come to Tzu Chi for an event, I learn a lot every time. Thank you, Master Cheng Yen, for all you have done for the world.”

The Healey Foundation started collaborating with Tzu Chi during the Ebola outbreak in 2015. At that time, Tzu Chi and the Healey Foundation provided supplies such as blankets and hospital beds for the Ebola patients. Since then, the Healey Foundation’s partnership with Tzu Chi has continued to grow, including the provision of food, medical and disaster relief supplies, and equipment to assist refugees from mudslides and fires in the Republic of Sierra Leone, West Africa, and now focuses on emergency relief and medical assistance programs. 

“This is the first time I’ve attended the Buddha Bathing Ceremony,” shared Healey Foundation CEO Benjamin Parra. “I came here to celebrate and express my gratitude to Tzu Chi for following the teachings of the Buddha — giving relief to those who are suffering in a compassionate way.”

Tzu Chi Youths Participate to Express Love

Tzu Ching praying together
Tzu Chi Youth volunteers participate in the Buddha Bathing Ceremony together. Photo/Victor Rocha

Since kindergarten, Jia Xuan Wu, a Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (TCCA) member, or Tzu Ching, from the University of California, Riverside, has participated in Tzu Chi activities. She shared, “I think Tzu Chi is special because Tzu Chi is a group with a footprint around the world, and our values come from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, such as the Jing Si Aphorism and the bamboo bank, which give everything depth and meaning. What I enjoy most is seeing the smiles on people’s faces while helping them.”

Tzu Chi USA Headquarters CEO Debra Boudreaux said, “In this era, the world and humanity are still facing many challenges — inflation, war, and man-made calamity.” Debra Boudreaux continued, “On this day celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi Day, Tzu Chi hopes to drive the community with positive energy and embrace each other with love, comfort, and gratitude. Today, not only the religious community participates in this interfaith Buddha bathing event, but representatives from L.A. County elected officials, school district representatives, and partners of Tzu Chi all joined in this event that is full of love. More importantly, many of Tzu Chi’s new generation of Tzu Ching and Tzu Shao came together for the ceremony, learned to pass on, and spread their love.”

We are grateful to everyone present for helping us write this moment in history; the positive and peaceful energy truly has created a society for each of us. We are doing the right thing together, with the Buddhist sutras, the Bible, and the Koran.

Participants from a rich tapestry of cultures and religions united in harmony and mutual respect, culminating in a truly meaningful day together. With seeds of love firmly planted in their hearts, attendees nourished their shared aspiration to spread the essence of compassion far and wide. 

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