Our Shared Affinity and Promise to Each Other

National Headquarters  |  November 4, 2021

Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA

Time flies as each second passes, but my heart is joyful as I see Living Bodhisattvas from all over the world joining Tzu Chi to diligently engage in spiritual practice. In this way, they focus on the same mission and walk together on the Bodhisattva Path. We do not know the amount of kalpas it took for us to accumulate these karmic affinities in order to have such close connections in this lifetime.

With the help of technology, through each of the video frames on the screen, I see bodhisattvas. They are from all over the world, yet we are still so close together. It is currently dusk in Taiwan, but for some countries, it is already midnight, while for others, it is either dawn or morning. Bodhisattvas from the ten directions can gather together in one place, and it is as if we are in a world where the sun never sets. The karmic affinities are truly inconceivable! I also seized these extraordinary causes and conditions to meet with everyone.

For the past two years, I have repeatedly mentioned that this pandemic is “a great lesson for our times” and that the situation is difficult to describe in words. I am concerned about many things in the world and have continually felt anxious and worried until now. What is difficult to describe is not only the accumulation of emotions, but also my current physical condition; everything is truly strenuous for me. I tell myself, “I am willing to fully dedicate my body, and I just hope that sentient beings will walk on the Bodhisattva Path together.” Now I see that the aspirations that bodhisattvas around the world have accumulated over time have come together from different, faraway places and are moving in the same direction.

Thanks to advanced technology, through video conferencing, we can know which area will receive heavy rainfall or strong winds, and which area will be flooded or experience disaster. Tzu Chi is based in Taiwan, yet information has gradually become more and more readily available to us so that we can quickly learn about disasters around the world. Bodhisattvas cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer, and we all form aspirations and make vows to walk on the Bodhisattva Path together. Many people become tearful after meeting me. When I ask them, “Why are you crying?” they say, “I don’t know.” Our connections from countless kalpas ago have brought us to this lifetime, and we have finally had the chance to meet in this era.

In the fifty-five years since Tzu Chi was first established, we have shared extraordinary causes and conditions. In this century, we have had the karmic affinities to meet each other. Initially, we were not connected in any way as we were neither family nor friends. However, our connection as teacher and disciples has formed. Teacher and disciples share awakened love. When volunteers see me, it is as if a dear relative who has left for a long time to a faraway place has finally returned from a distant country. At first glance, it is difficult to hold back our tears and emotions. Long ago in the past, we must have formed relationships as Dharma relatives and shared the same vow for countless kalpas and lifetimes. Now in this moment and this lifetime, we bodhisattvas continue to pave the Bodhisattva Path even longer and wider.

We each have our own physical life, but we also have a common wisdom life that we all share. When people talk about “Tzu Chi,” this refers to our shared wisdom life as well as our “unconditional loving-kindness and universal compassion.” “Universal compassion” means we cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer. Our compassion resonates, and we all give of ourselves with love. “Unconditional loving-kindness” refers to how, having encountered the Buddha Dharma and awakened our loving-kindness, we all now share the same vow. We feel pain when others are hurt, and we feel sad when others are suffering. As Living Bodhisattvas, we cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer, nor do we seek peace and happiness for ourselves. These are the shared aspirations that we formed countless kalpas ago. Having formed connections on the Bodhisattva Path, our love has spread globally for countless kalpas. In this lifetime, our affinities have come together, and we have made the same vows.

More than fifty years ago, Tzu Chi started from nothing. We started by each saving fifty cents in bamboo banks. I am grateful that a group of senior bodhisattvas walked by my side all that time. However, in accordance with the law of nature and the passing of time, this group of senior bodhisattvas has gradually dwindled. Recently, I have continually said to senior volunteers, “After you are gone, do not forget to start paving the path and wait for me.” We must start to form connections with Tzu Chi from our childhood. By sharing the same aspirations, we continue to pave the path.

To all the young bodhisattvas I can see on the screen, perhaps you were also Tzu Chi volunteers in a past lifetime, and now you are willing to help me extend our compassion and spread great love in this lifetime. Each one of us here has made a promise that we will journey back on our vows. That is why when you see me, you become tearful. I will wait for all of you to come back to form aspirations, make vows, and continually pass down our Dharma Lineage.

Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings during the closing ceremony of the Tzu Chi Staff Retreat on October 2, 2021

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