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Sharing Soul-Enriching Experiences Over a Healthy Vegetarian Meal

Tan Soon Hock, a volunteer from the Tzu Chi KL & Selangor Entrepreneurs’ Group, shared his personal journey towards a happy life. [Photo by Amita Lim Ching Ying]

On June 10, 2023, Tzu Chi Miri organised a vegetarian dinner coupled with a talk on living a happy life at their premises, to raise funds for the construction of the Miri Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. The event brought together 143 entrepreneurs and public members from Miri and Brunei, who joined Tzu Chi volunteers for a soul-enriching experience.

A total of 14 tables were set for the vegetarian dinner, with renowned chef Yong Wan Khiong, known as “Asia’s Culinary Master”, and his team taking charge of the food. The venue was bursting with the delightful aroma of delectable dishes, complemented by desserts and decorations prepared by Tzu Chi volunteers.

Following the dinner, the attendees were treated to a talk by Tan Soon Hock, an entrepreneur from West Malaysia, who shared his 15-year journey with Tzu Chi. As a successful entrepreneur, he had let go of his status to serve the underprivileged in society. Through his involvement with Tzu Chi and the guidance of Master Cheng Yen, he underwent transformations in his personal values and familial relationships.

A total of 91 entrepreneurs from Miri and Brunei attended the vegetarian dinner. [Photo by Amita Lim Ching Ying]

◎ A deep regret

Soon Hock’s humorous sharing filled the venue with laughter. He humbly admitted that before joining Tzu Chi, he was an inept Buddhist who did not even know how to address a Dharma Master or perform proper salutations. It was through Tzu Chi that he truly witnessed the beauty of Buddhism.

He used to work hard and prioritise the accumulation of wealth. His sole aim in life was to indulge in good food, drinks, and enjoyment. However, he carried a deep regret that he was unable to repay the kindness of his father, who passed away during his final year of university. He later found comfort in Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si aphorisms: “The greatest punishment in life is regret” and “Being filial is to use the healthy bodies our parents have given us to do good deeds.”

Soon Hock also shared the challenges he faced in his personal life. He did not have a house, car, or savings when he got married. He only bought two things for his wedding—a bed and a decoration sticker symbolising double happiness. They borrowed his elder brother’s room as their wedding. After marriage, they faced numerous misunderstandings and unhappy moments, causing resentments to his wife.

During one incident when Soon Hock was working abroad, his wife went into labour in the wee hours of the morning. He could only tell her to call the emergency hotline herself for an ambulance, and this caused his wife to hold onto her anger for a long time. It was not until she came across this Jing Si aphorism in Tzu Chi: “Happiness is not about how much we possess but how little we bicker over trivial things,” that she found solace and let go of her grievances.

◎ Discovered the way through Dharma

Master Cheng Yen always says, “As long as our hearts are open, happiness will naturally find its way to us; on the contrary, if our hearts are closed, we will never find joy.”

Before retiring, Soon Hock was engaged in the pharmaceutical and trade businesses, with factories in China and Indonesia. He used to travel overseas frequently, and often claimed that he was extremely ‘busy’—busy acquiring profits. However, when he earned substantial amounts of money, he became blinded and ‘dizzy’, and when he was not making money, he felt lost and ‘hazy’. Realising that his busy business pursuits had resulting in him losing out on many things, he often pondered on how to live a life for himself without being solely driven by money.

In the business world, Soon Hock encountered various internal and external challenges, including fierce competitions, which left him feeling uneasy. However, through Tzu Chi, he gained insights into Master Cheng Yen’s expectations for her disciples, that is, to cultivate sincerity, integrity, faith, and honesty internally, and to practise loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity externally. He shared, “Cultivating these qualities internally will help us become wholesome individuals, and when combined with the external practices, a radiant aura will emanate from our faces.”

Soon Hock is deeply grateful to have encountered Tzu Chi, where he learned to be a good person, to do things with a willing heart and take whatever comes his way with a joyful heart. Furthermore, Tzu Chi provided him with opportunities to learn through practical experiences and be enlightened through continuous learning.
Relating about the two beloved women in his life—his mother and his wife—Soon Hock maintained his sense of humour.

The two ladies initially got along well when they lived separately. However, in order to make it more convenient for him to take care of both of them, Soon Hock proposed that they live together under one roof, with one on the lower floor and the other on the upper floor. Unfortunately, this arrangement eventually led to constant conflicts and tensions between the two ladies, resulting in a relationship that resembled oil and vinegar.

Soon Hock described his wife as an exceptional person. Being a disciple of Master Cheng Yen, she believed in the importance of repentance. One day, she asked Soon Hock to drive her from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Kneeling before her mother-in-law, she apologised and requested another chance for her mother-in-law to live with them in Kuala Lumpur, which would enable them to fulfil their filial duties.

Soon Hock acknowledged that the conflicts between his wife and mother were actually his own fault, and he took responsibility for them. Whenever he takes his wife and mother to the supermarket, he would first buy a bag of apples and a pineapple to keep both his hands occupied with carrying the fruits. This way, his wife will hold his mother’s hand. He humorously mentioned that if he were to hold the hand of either of the ladies, the other would be unhappy, whilst holding the hands of both ladies would create ‘traffic congestion’. Thanks to the teachings of the Dharma and Tzu Chi, Soon Hock found the wisdom to maintain a harmonious relationship between his wife and mother.

◎ A satisfying meal and soul-nourishing sharing

Entrepreneur Yeo Kian Lee, who participated in the Jing Si retreat camp, was deeply moved by Master Cheng Yen’s selfless love and dedication. Upon learning that Tzu Chi Miri has been actively engaged in charity work for 25 years but does not have a ‘home’, he was motivated to search for a piece of land for the construction of a Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall in Miri. Over the past few years, he actively engaged in the entire preparation, from finding the land to raising funds. To express gratitude to his friends from the business circle, who have been very supportive of Tzu Chi’s missions, he has also invited them to attend this vegetarian dinner.

Entrepreneur Yusoff Chai Bee Hock learned about Tzu Chi three years ago and was moved by the organisation’s spirit of charity and humanistic values. He even participated in Tzu Chi’s volunteer training and vowed to become a certified volunteer and disciple of Master Cheng Yen. Nonetheless, due to the movement control orders during the pandemic in 2020, he had to be away from Miri for a long time for business commitments and could not participate in Tzu Chi activities. This year, upon returning to Miri, he once again joined the Tzu Chi family. 

He shared, “Being at Tzu Chi feels like coming home to me. During this period, my business has been greatly affected by the pandemic, and personally, I have had many worries. Brother Soon Hock’s sharing has shown me a way to let go of my worries. As an entrepreneur, he has also faced many challenges, but with a positive mindset, many things can be resolved.”

He further added, “In the past, I had wondered why Tzu Chi spends so much money to build the Jing Si Hall. Today’s sharing helped me to understand that the Jing Si Hall is a permanent building that embodies the spirit of Tzu Chi and serves as a spiritual home where all Tzu Chi volunteers can gather like a family.” Yusoff looks forward to the completion of the Jing Si Hall, knowing that it will benefit even more people.

Yap Mie Fan, a cadre member of the ‘Blessing Cultivation’ team, often organises charity sales of vegetarian food. In the past two years, the team has been actively organising vegetarian food sales and receptions to raise funds and inspire kindness.

She remarked, “This is the first time that our team has organised such a large-scale vegetarian dinner. We are extremely grateful to Mr. Yong Wan Khiong, a well-known chef in Miri, and his team for their willingness to organise the food for tonight’s dinner and prepare such a special and abundant vegetarian buffet for the guests. The desserts we serve tonight have been meticulously prepared by our volunteers. Everyone has put in a great deal of efforts for tonight’s dinner.”

Event coordinator, Hwong Wun Kwong expressed, “The main purpose of this event is to deepen the understanding of Tzu Chi among entrepreneurs in Miri and Brunei. We also hope that this vegetarian dinner will change their perceptions of a vegetarian diet and endear them to vegetarian food while enjoying the delicious dishes.”

Yusoff Chai (wearing a black top) found the answer to his long-standing worries after listening to Tan Soon Hock’s sharing. [Photo by Amita Lim Ching Ying]
Yong Wan Khiong, a renowned chef in Miri, and volunteers from the ‘Blessing Cultivation’ team carefully curated the vegetarian menu for the dinner, to change the guests’ perception of vegetarian food. [Photo by Soo Choon Kim]

The vegetarian dinner and talk have not only nourished everyone physically but also enriched their hearts. Everyone left the event with a sense of joy and carried with them beautiful memories of this unique and meaningful vegetarian dining experience.


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