There was an air of festivity at the Tzu Chi Cultural Center in Taipei yesterday as the center celebrated Buddha Day with a "Bathing of the Buddha" ceremony.
The smell of jasmine wafted through the center, as a result of the thousands of fresh jasmine flower buds strewn around the main hall and its staircases, as chanting Tzu Chi workers and members slowly wind up the stairs.
Buddha Day is an annual holiday for Buddhists celebrating the birth of Buddha and is the holiest day on the Buddhist calendar.
In Taiwan, the government has set the second Sunday of May each year, the same day as Mother's Day, as Buddha day. On the holiday, a "Bathing of the Buddha" ceremony is often performed.
During the ceremony, said center representatives, water is typically poured three times over a Buddha icon while participants chant.
The ceremony symbolizes the washing away of troubles and purification of one's heart and mind, they said.
In addition to the ceremony, which carries on today, the center held a vegetarian cooking workshop and invited medical volunteers to set up stalls.
Families milled around, stopping to consult with doctors about their health problems, with the scent of jasmine mingling with the homely smell of cooking food.
"The vegetarian cooking workshop is part of a movement in Tzu Chi to encourage people to eat vegetarian meals. In the light of recent health scares like SARS and avian bird flu, we want to promote healthy eating and lifestyles," said Cecilia Wang (
The health workshops were also part of Tzu Chi's effort to encourage healthier living, she said.
The center had doctors and nurses available to perform services from checking blood pressure to giving gynecological advice.