Bangkok , 29 November 2013 – Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Asia Pacific recently received a ‘Tara Award’ from Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta, a popular Buddhist nun in Thailand, founder of the Sathira Dhammasathan Centre. This Year, the Tara Award was given to 999 individuals and organizations that make a positive impact on society.
The recipients of the award were nominated by their communities, people they work with or people who know them well and had to meet the following qualifications:
1. Using sufficient economy in the way of life
2. Having 8 virtues of Bodhisattva: working without pride, avoiding foolishness and ignorance, complete lack of malice, freedom from jealousy, being uncritical, freedom from greed, detachment and not being suspicious
3. Helping other people by doing good for society at different levels (from family, communities to global society)
JRS Asia Pacific is honored to be among the 999 people, organisations and communities who received the award this year. Ahead of its 33rd anniversary on 14 November, this award really acknowledges the work of the JRS over the years in the Asia Pacific and also across the globe, especially the inclusive, inter-faith approach taken by the organisation.
JRS is a Catholic NGO who bases all the values of its work in the Catholic teachings which according to the bestowment of this award also resonates with the ideals in Buddhism of reaching the Heart of the Bodhisattva, according to the teachings at the Sathira-Dhammasathan Centre this includes: “giving that is boundless; giving that is endless; giving that is inestimable; giving to all with no regard for class, caste, sex, nationality or religion; giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return. It is giving in every way possible to help all other beings achieve enlightenment and be freed from suffering.”
Mae Chee Sansanee is well known for her work supporting women and children in Thailand. She is based at the Sathira Dhammasathan Centre, where it is taught that Dhamma is holy when it can be applied in normal, everyday living. Starting last year Mae Chee Sansanee began presenting theTara Award to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sathira Dhammasathan Centre and to celebrate 2600 years since the Buddha’s enlightenment.
The award is named after Tara – a female Bodhisattva or ‘enlightened being’ in the Buddhist tradition. She is known as the Mother of Mercy and Compassion. With this image in mind, the Tara award is presented to those whose work to has the potential for spiritual transformation and can embark right now on the journey to achieve the Heart of Women, the Heart of a Mother, and ultimately the Heart of a Bodhisattva. It is said that achieving the Heart of the Mother will affect those around you so that they will be peaceful and content. And if more and more people become involved in this, the earth will be a better and more peaceful place for all.
Interestingly, the Tara Award’s focus on what is traditionally thought of as a female path to enlightenment suggests that JRS- a work of the Society of Jesus, an all male religious order- takes an accepting and responsive approach in its commitment to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees and asylum seekers by looking primarily to their needs rather than remaining fixed in character.
Therefore, the award is not just a reminder of the good work JRS does in dealing with refugees. It also provides recognition of the journey of JRS as an organisation, which in the eyes of a respected Buddhist nun, Mae Chee Sansanee, reflects the female spiritual journey being compassionate, merciful and sharing with others.
By Sermsiri Ingavanija