Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Dev. Dept, Tzu Chi USA
When volunteers gather and share, they usually have many things on their minds that they want to say. I believe that most of the time, they conclude that they experience great joy. Before we can experience that kind of joy, we must work hard to give of ourselves, and once we overcome the hardships, it will lead us to joyful rewards. Those who take action will gain something in return. After giving, people feel very grounded.
The beauty of Tzu Chi lies in the perfect harmony of things. As I sat in the audience of Changhua Stadium and watched from above during the performance of the musical adaptation of the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, although the stage was far away, the performing volunteers were very orderly. Whether it was the female volunteers or male volunteers, they demonstrated the beauty of patience and perseverance of Tzu Chi volunteers. Furthermore, their movements were also very synchronized. This was not just an event; rather, it was a dignified Dharma assembly where everyone came together, observing the discipline of a vegetarian diet with a heart of reverence. In doing so, collectively, they create good karma.
The climate change and the chaos in people’s minds we see nowadays are the result of the collective negative karma of sentient beings. So, how can we gather virtuous karma instead? It is done through our body, speech, and mind. Bodhisattvas who entered the sutra treasury and participated in the performance went through many practices and rehearsals. They have engraved the lyrics adapted from sutra passages deep into their minds and could sing them from memory. In addition, although not everyone was performing on stage, some were sitting in their seats, watching intently with their eyes, and all together, people listened with their ears, moved their bodies, and sang with their mouths. As thousands of people gather together with utmost reverence, with their Six Roots pure and their flawless sincerity, they eliminate all their ignorance; this is reverence through body, speech, and mind.
I have given all volunteers a copy of the Sutra of Infinite Meanings. You can open it anywhere and recite any chapter or passage every day. Just as the Lotus Sutra states, if recited reverently, even a single verse or sentence can bring infinite merits.
What “merits” refers to is being able to see the profound meaning of a sentence in the sutra and suddenly being able to understand what happened before, or gaining insights into what we may want to do now. It means that whether in the past, present, or future, we have a clear understanding of the Dharma, the principles behind things. I often say, “By grasping one principle, we can understand ten thousand principles.” The most important aspect of listening to the sutra is to take the principles to heart. Once we do that, we will naturally become vigilant and know to refrain from all evil and do all that is good.
We must encourage each other and praise others for the good things they have done, as taking joy in others’ merits is also virtuous. When we speak kind words to lead other people to do good deeds, we bring peace and security to society in this world. When human hearts are purified, families are harmonious, and society is at peace, our hearts will be free from worries. By entering deep into the sutra treasury, we can awaken our wisdom, discern the truth, and practice among people in the world.
The Buddha came to this world for one great cause, which is to teach the Bodhisattva Way. The Bodhisattva Way is taught in the Lotus Sutra, and the essence of the Lotus Sutra is in the Sutra of Infinite Meanings. About fifty or sixty years ago, I was wholeheartedly focused on entering the sutra treasury, and I had not started the Tzu Chi Merit Association yet. At that time, in the Japanese version of Lectures on the Lotus Sutra, I came across the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, and I was delighted! Previously, I had not seen that sutra in the Buddhist community, so I sorted through it and copied the sentences one by one from the Japanese text.
When I started teaching the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, people had to have access to the sutra text. Thus, I placed wax paper on the steel plate of a mimeograph tool, and used an iron stylus to etch each character onto the stencil, stroke by stroke. After that, I placed a piece of white paper on top, and rolled ink over the wax paper to make copies, one by one. There were so many characters, and my hand ached from the etching. To this day, I still have to apply a warm compress on my hand often, since it still hurts. However, my heart is full of joy. When the pain comes, I just rub my hands together and endure the pain.
I hear how everyone is entering the sutra treasury, experiencing joy, gaining insights, and applying the teachings in their lives. Everyone is diving into the sutra text, taking the Dharma to heart, accepting it, and understanding the meaning of the Buddha Dharma. This brings great joy to my heart.
With my heart full of Dharma joy, even if my hand hurts, as long as everyone takes the Dharma to heart, my pain will be well worth it.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings during conversations with Chiayi volunteers on August 1, Changhua volunteers on August 2, and Taiwan central region volunteers on August 6, 2023.