Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
The Tzu Chi Collegiate Association was established thirty years ago today. On the screen, I see a group of Tzu Ching (collegiate volunteers) from back then. Perhaps you were one of them, and today you are sitting in front of me as an alumnus. In the pictures and footage that flash by on screen, I also see myself as I was thirty years ago; do I still look the same? I do not think so, but the person I am today clearly grew out of the person I was all those years ago. I often say that appearance is illusory. Our appearances inevitably change, but the person is clearly the same.
“We should not be attached to either appearance or non-appearance.” This text, based on a teaching from the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, is very profound. When we are unable to let go of our view on things, we become attached and develop “grasping.” Instead, we should practice acceptance. When we become attached, we are seeking what we cannot get. With acceptance, we accept who we really are. The pictures were taken under certain causes and conditions, and we recognize that the real you and me in the pictures have changed in appearance.
Is life constantly changing? Change is reality. Things are no longer the way they were in the past. We changed and became the people we are today. Every second, change is happening. We breathe out defiled air and breathe in fresh air. With the air we breathe out, we are changing. When we breathe in, our body undergoes changes, too.
We all change physically with time. However, we must remain unchanging in the midst of the myriad changes. The one thing that must remain unchanged is that we must remain earnest and have the nature of True Suchness equal to the Buddha’s. A Chinese classic says that “Human nature is inherently good.” The “inherent goodness” is the “intrinsic nature” the Buddha talks about. Our pure nature is undefiled. It is the Buddha nature. It is great compassion.
All of you joined the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association as students. You are all highly educated. However, in this society, is being highly educated equivalent to having true wisdom? Ignorance pervades knowledge and common sense. We also take issue over and fight over things; we fight over who is better. True wisdom arises out of our pure, intrinsic nature. With the heart of a Bodhisattva, we widely love all sentient beings in this world.
The Buddha came to this world for one great cause, to teach the Bodhisattva Way. Bodhisattvas go wherever there is a disaster. They use various methods to approach sentient beings. Weren’t you all the same during your Tzu Ching years, when you tried different ways to approach those who needed you? Take a look at those living in senior homes. Here, many aging seniors have lost their bodily functions. They worked hard all their lives for their families and society, yet now that they are old, their children and grandchildren have gone their separate ways. These seniors need the care of charity groups and people in society.
When our volunteers care for them, their interactions are filled with warmth. We all light a candle in this world. We take unlit torches and light them from this candle. As more torches continue to be lit, one by one, the radiance increases, bit by bit. In this way, society becomes filled with light, and at the same time, the original candle has not lost its function. It remains bright and continues to burn. And with time, the candle shortens as it burns. When it becomes so short that the wax runs out, it naturally extinguishes.
At the center of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association logo, two hands lay on top of each other, holding a candle. The hands and the candle are surrounded by a lotus flower. From this sectional view of the lotus flower, we clearly see its seed pod. The logo on the chest of the Tzu Ching uniform is this logo. The lotus flower is our everlasting symbol. Aside from the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association logo with adjoining hands, the Tzu Chi Dharma ship that can be widely seen in Tzu Chi logos around the globe also sits in the middle of a lotus flower. Lotus flowers emerge from the mud but are not defiled, just as our pure, intrinsic nature will not be defiled by the ignorance or greed in society.
At this time, we still face the pandemic. We cannot see the virus, nor do we have a sure way to block it. We have no choice but to call on everyone to protect themselves. We should follow the rules and maintain distance between each other. However, when it comes to the love of Bodhisattvas, although we are separated by distance, our love is everlasting. We must extend our compassion and let selfless great love spread to the entire world.
Over fifty years ago, Tzu Chi started in Taiwan. In the vast universe, a small asteroid is officially named “Tzu Chi.” I hope everyone can gather together with their light of love, so that this Tzu Chi asteroid will always shine brightly.
I encourage Tzu Chi volunteers to shine like the stars in the universe. We are all “Tzu Chi volunteers.” In the past, you may have been called “Tzu Ching,” or you may have connected with Tzu Chi at a much younger age. From Tzu Chi children to Tzu Ching, and all the way up to Faith Corps members and Tzu Chi commissioners, we are all known as Tzu Chi volunteers, Tzu Chi Bodhisattva practitioners.
We must seize the time to make our lives more valuable. If we see without truly seeing, hear without truly hearing, and do not awaken our intrinsic nature, then we are letting time pass in vain. Let us check our pockets. Do we have a coin? If we do, and we donate this coin, by giving rise to a single good aspiration and taking action, we can increase the brightness of our life by one bit. Even those fleeing from war may check their pockets and say, “Yes, I can help!” and chip in their strength to help others. We saw Syrian children who had good intentions but lacked money. They wrote “five dollars” on a piece of blank paper, and deposited it into the bamboo bank. As long as we have the will and do our best, our strength will be great.
I hope that everyone will form more good aspirations. If we have the aspirations, our wisdom life will be everlasting. If we do not have the aspirations, our wisdom life will diminish with our lives. Every day, I call on everyone to take inventory of his or her life. I also take inventory of my own life. I have already said what I should say. I have done my part for everyone. This candle is lit. Whether you can pass on the light and increase the radiance of your life is up to you; I have done what I needed to do.
We are responsible for increasing the value of our own lives. There is so much to say, but all in all, I hope that everyone, regardless of age, will always create blessings in this world, grow in wisdom, and cultivate both blessings and wisdom.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings at the Morning Volunteer Assembly on May 31, 2022.