Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
I feel that I am very blessed. My blessings come from your support in doing what I want to do, which is to walk on the Bodhisattva Path together.
My teacher, Venerable Master Yin Shun, gave me six words in two phrases, “For Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” Carrying this out is not something I can accomplish by myself. I need all of you, and an infinite number of people to gather in a group and become united with my heart to truly achieve the goal of working “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.”
Among Tzu Chi volunteers, when it comes to religions, there is no separation. However, there are higher religious values that we adhere to. The religion we practice does not matter as long as we are true to its values. Christians believe in the spirit of love of humanity. In Tzu Chi, we practice the Bodhisattva Path, which is great love.
Recently, Tzu Chi volunteers have been to India and Nepal, to the Buddha’s homeland. Through aerial filming, we realize that Rajagrha, in India, is only 10 kilometers wide. In that area, life is very difficult, with little access to clothing, food, shelter, or transportation. The roads are rugged, and people live in thatched or brick houses. How do we help the locals achieve health in both body and mind and strive for better lives? It must be done through education. The locals have superstitious beliefs in shamans. They need medical facilities that would help improve their short life expectancies. We may want to “give back to the Buddha’s homeland,” but how do we transform their lives? There are many things to consider, and this path is very long.
In life, the workings of karma are inconceivable, and so is the obstruction of karmic forces. It deeply saddens me that the place where the Buddha was born is in such a state. Why is it so distant from us in terms of time and space? As I am old, how much time do I have left to make a difference there?
More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha discovered that the human world is full of suffering. Despite being a crown prince, he knew that he could not make any changes through worldly power. Only the true principles can influence people’s thinking and inspire love, enabling us to create blessings in this world with wisdom. Otherwise, those with blessings will simply continue to indulge in their blessings and will not be able to open their wisdom-consciousness.
Many of the cases that volunteers shared involved people who have been suffering greatly and were unable to find help. By the time we encountered these care recipients, they had been suffering for some time. As we accompany them, we must not only provide them with food and keep them warm, but we must also consider how to educate their next generation, while taking care of their self-esteem. In doing this, they will be able to accept our assistance with peace of mind.
Before we are able to create blessings, we must first witness suffering. We must see it with our own eyes, hear about it, encounter it, and gradually take it to heart. Then, we will activate our potential to cultivate blessings and wisdom. In addition, when it comes to providing assistance, if we give things too easily, the recipients may take things for granted, and this will actually breed thoughts of greed and cause people to lose sight of the truth of love.
I often say, “Everyone is self-centered. If we let go of the ‘self’ and work in concert with others, we form a ‘greater self.’” This greater self is actually selfless rather than selfish. However, it is not easy to eliminate the view of self. Ordinary beings are just like the poor son in the Parable of the Poor Son from the Lotus Sutra; they do not recognize their inherently pure nature within. In addition, it is also as if they are dwelling in the burning house of the Three Realms; they do not know to create blessings and only crave benefits for themselves.
Some time ago, I attached a little ant figurine to the corner of the clock on my desk. I feel like I am just like that ant, hoping to climb Mount Sumeru, and like the ant, I am not advancing. Although seconds and minutes pass, that little ant is still at the same place. As I grow older, I feel this life is almost over and I feel anxious.
I often say that we cannot take causes and conditions lightly. Fifty-six years ago, Tzu Chi started with housewives saving up fifty cents each day. If it were not for a letter from Master Yin Shun asking me to leave Hualien, this might not have happened. I told the housewives that it is hard for me to disobey my teacher, and I said, “If you want me to stay in Hualien, I must be of use to Hualien. Only then will I feel motivated to stay in Hualien.”
There were thirty housewives. I only asked them to save fifty cents each day. From this, we had fifteen dollars to help others.
I believe in causes and conditions. If everyone also believes in this, we must gather everyone to come together with the same aspirations, shared affinities, and starting point and not deviate in our direction. Once we have accomplished something, we must sustain these efforts.
During the Buddha’s time, over 2,500 years ago, the causes and conditions to transform sentient beings of the world had not arrived, but today, the causes and conditions are there. The Buddha’s spirit and ideals have been passed down, and now, people must seize the causes and conditions, form the aspirations, and turn intangible faith into tangible action.
I am very blessed to be in Taiwan. Everyone shares the same mission, transforming the spirit and ideals of working “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings” into physical action. Every time I travel around Taiwan, I listen to how Bodhisattvas practice the Dharma and teach the Dharma. How do they go among those who are suffering? How do they recruit more Bodhisattvas in this world? When we influence and transform other people’s lives, this is called the “Bodhisattva Way.”
In this lifetime, I have formed good affinities with all of you that will last lifetime after lifetime. Each of you has a family. I do not have the entanglements of family, but my mission requires many people to come together. We open the path and pave a road. I hope this road can lead back to the homeland of the Buddha so that we can provide aid to the needy with compassion and great love.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s conversation with Eastern Region charity case visit team on July 30, 2022.