Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
Fireflies thrive in clean and quiet environments and provide a faint, twinkling light that is a beautiful night-time sight. Recently, I have frequently mentioned these tiny creatures. Although their light is delicate, if we are mindful, we can feel the vitality behind the beauty they create.
Fireflies in the dark symbolize the vitality and hope of nature. Where is the hope in life? Sometimes when I think of fireflies, they point me in the direction of the potential that life holds. Many people may not understand exactly what I am talking about, and it is indeed indescribable! As the Chinese saying goes, “Only the person who drinks the water knows if it is hot or cold.” Even a little firefly can point me in the direction of life’s potential.
I keep calling on everyone to diligently take an inventory of their lives, but it is not very effective. In this case, it only led everyone to sing a nursery rhyme that most people in Taiwan over the age of fifty should be familiar with. After one person began to sing “Fireflies lead the way…” the audience joined in. It became clear that everyone knew this song, which has been passed down for more than half a century. With all the voices in unison, the singing was very loud! There was a clear resonance, just as many fireflies together can generate more light.
It is amazing that as long as people have the will and take the initiative to accomplish something, other people will quickly follow. The same is true for objects. As soon as I mentioned it in the morning, by afternoon everyone had a “firefly” in their hands — mechanical fireflies made to scale that could emit a flashing light at exactly the same frequency as that of a firefly. It takes a lot of time to make something that small! However, when there is a will, there is a way. When we give people some time, and if they have the will, they will find the strength to do anything.
I am truly worried about the current state of the environment, but recently, when talking about fireflies, I feel a little more confident. Little by little, we continuously appeal to the public. It is not enough when one person makes an appeal. We need two, three, five, thirty thousand, fifty thousand, or even as much as three million or four million people, as long as they have aspiration and willingness to work in cooperation. All hope lies in the people!
As long as everyone is mindful and continues to advocate through kind words, do good deeds, encourage each other, and act together, how can there be no hope? Recently I have been saying that we should not say, “I am old.” We should take some years off and deposit them [in the lifespan treasury]. We should remind ourselves that we still have the strength of young people.
We should “take an inventory of our lives.” Have we fulfilled our responsibilities? We should not say, “I am old. Who knows how much longer I can live? I shouldn’t care!” Rather, we must remain involved, carry out our work and share the message regarding our vision. Although our individual strength may be weak, we can still contribute our part, like a firefly emitting its sparkling light. This is our responsibility.
We should strive to be like the fireflies, radiating light without feeling self-important or arrogant. A swarm of fireflies is made up of individual fireflies, and individual fireflies are inseparable from the swarm. In the same way, the value of life is found in individuals working in a group.
If we are unwilling to be a good person and do good deeds, there will be no more goodness in the world. If we avoid speaking kind words, we cannot even begin to speak of principles in this world. We dare not claim that we are doing something big. The value of our lives as “fireflies” is the greatest freedom, which allows us to say good words and do good deeds. Everyone can expound the Dharma, and everyone can become a teacher to teach Dharma. We should not belittle ourselves.
I have always hoped that everyone will become a bodhisattva, and that everyone can understand the Dharma. Once we understand the Dharma, we need to expound it. If we want strength, we need to put it into action. We all share responsibility for the world. As the weight that each of us can shoulder varies, the responsibilities we can bear are defined by what we can accomplish by doing our best. By always being mindful, we will have the strength, and in this way, we are fulfilling our responsibilities. So, I hope everyone can be more mindful!
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings at the Morning Volunteer Assembly on December 13, 2021, and at Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital on December 14, 2021