Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
From afar, I heard the sound of chanting during the bowing pilgrimage. People are diligent and reverent every step of the way. As Buddhist practitioners, we start out as ordinary beings and diligently practice the Bodhisattva Path; our ultimate goal is to attain Buddhahood. As a bodhisattva practitioner, we must first comprehend the state we are currently in.
Ordinary beings live in the mundane world filled with dust. This “dust” can cover our true nature and keep us in a state of ignorance. If we do not clean the ground of our minds regularly, when “gusts of ignorance” blow over, dust will fly high. Then, we will not be able to see things in front of us clearly. This is the mind of ordinary beings.
In the minds of ordinary beings, how do we stop these “gusts of ignorance” from kicking up the dust? When we earnestly engage in spiritual practice, we can reach the point that when the wind blows, it will feel like a gentle spring breeze to us. So, we must diligently clean our minds regularly so that there is no dust in them. In this way, even when the wind blows, we will feel cool, happy, and at ease.
By the same principle, as we reverently and single-mindedly participate in the bowing pilgrimage, we keep the Buddha in our minds. We chant the Buddha’s name and bow every few steps of the way. Although the path is long, we are still diligent, and we are filled with joy. This is Dharma joy.
This is what the Bodhisattva Path is like; we must mindfully give of ourselves. The people in need and the people serving all receive something. People in need receive things they lack. We help the poor so that they no longer feel hungry and have clothing on their body to keep them warm. These are what we give them. What about the people who give? When we put things in the hands of those in need, we feel peace in our hearts. Knowing that they are no longer hungry or cold, we feel free and at ease. This feeling of being free and at ease is the same as being full of Dharma joy. This is the Bodhisattva Path.
When we give, we must give from our hearts. In giving, we create blessings and our hearts feel at ease. On the Bodhisattva Path, only when we expect nothing in return can we receive “true blessings.” Some people join the bowing pilgrimage seeking blessings; but without giving of ourselves, how can we attain blessings? We must give of ourselves; when we do so, we obtain blessings naturally. Diligent advancement is one goal of learning the Buddha’s teachings. As we engage in spiritual cultivation, we attain wisdom. In the process, we are also creating blessings. In this way, we are cultivating both blessings and wisdom.
Our goal is to be Living Bodhisattvas. As Buddhist practitioners, we must give. Just like the bowing pilgrimage, we pay respect from our first step until we enter the Bodhisattva training ground. The spiritual practice center of Jing Si is our home. When everyone takes care of the spiritual practice center of Jing Si, the Tzu Chi School of Buddhism will open widely. With Jing Si, we attain wisdom, and with Tzu Chi, we cultivate blessings.
In learning the Buddha’s teachings, we must understand the concept of impermanence. Those who understand the concept of impermanence will practice diligently every day. Every day, when I open my eyes, my first thought is, “I am grateful!” I am grateful that after the night has passed, I can still move my hands and feet when I open my eyes, and that I am fully conscious and still full of strength. My second thought is that I want to benefit sentient beings in this world. Our value of living in this world comes from benefiting sentient beings. First, I express my gratitude, then I make a vow to live a life full of value, to seize the causes and conditions to serve this world. This is what I work on everyday. When I open my eyes, I give rise to reverence and gratitude, and I make a vow; I vow to constantly take care of my mind.
In our lives, it is as if we are adrift in a vast sea. However, Tzu Chi volunteers are extremely blessed, as they are able to travel on the same Dharma ship of compassion. The ship of compassion not only carries us safely across the vast and turbulent sea, but we must also help and deliver others in this vast sea. Our heart is one of great compassion, and our vow is to walk on the Bodhisattva Path. Bodhisattvas travel on the ship of compassion together. With great compassion, we walk on the Bodhisattva Path, and we share the same aspiration to widely deliver sentient beings. I sincerely give my blessings and hope everyone can cultivate both blessings and wisdom.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings at the volunteer bowing pilgrimage on March 27 to 30, 2022