Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
During a video call, I saw Tzu Chi USA volunteers standing in front of a building in New York1. A Climate Clock on this building is constantly ticking, counting down by the second, warning the world of the time remaining before we reach the impending climate crisis and great disasters on Earth. Right now, we have about six years and 220 days left. We must be prepared. We must reflect upon ourselves and be awakened to the situation.
With each passing day, we draw closer to death. This Buddhist teaching reminds us that our life fades away with each passing second. The days pass by, not just for me, but for all of us. Therefore, in our interactions with others, we should influence others positively and bring peace to everyone’s heart. In this world, with everything that is happening, our sky and Earth are being polluted, which also brings harm to people’s hearts.
Intrinsically, we all have an undefiled and pure Buddha nature in our hearts. This Buddha nature is beginningless and endless; it has existed from countless lifetimes in the past, and it will extend for countless lifetimes into the future. However, it is covered by our ignorance. As a result, when we do things, we are often self-important and self centered. We lack the skill to humble ourselves. Only when we can humble ourselves can we bring peace and clarity to our lives, and thus, bring peace to the world.
But nowadays, peace and purity seem to be out of reach for people, and there is a lack of harmonious order in our society. However, seeing the actions of Tzu Chi volunteers touches me deeply. They are humble, understanding and accommodating, and they appreciate each other. Moreover, we can see that with affinities, we can invite more people to join. Where do the affinities come from? They come from the altruistic aspirations we give rise to, and they also inspire us to transform the hearts of others.
The Buddha came to this world for “one great cause.” We all have “one great cause” in our lives, but we have not awakened ourselves. Very often, we allow ourselves to fall into a mindset of being in contention with others. We tend to focus on ourselves and feel self important, and we do not know how to humble ourselves. Thus, our ego is too big, and we cannot enter people’s hearts. Only when we humble ourselves can we enter people’s hearts; in doing so, countless numbers of us can fit into others’ hearts. This can only happen when many of us share the same great cause and mutually interact with love.
With the climate clock ticking, it is a blessing that we are at peace. Blessed causes and blessed conditions can mitigate disasters. The time for major climate change is counting down. We must form aspirations and mitigate the disasters in this world with utmost sincerity and with love.
What does it mean to have utmost sincerity? We must exercise our love and cherish the lives of all sentient beings. Sentient beings encompass not only humans, but all forms of life. All animals and humans are collectively referred to as “sentient beings.” When humans kill and eat animals, they create negative karma, which can bring great disasters.
Just imagine that to fulfill our craving for taste, we need to take countless lives! Raising various forms of livestock creates pollution in our air, land, and water. Humans cut down forests and destroy the land. People become greedy and are never satisfied. When they have one thing, they think about nine other things they lack. The more we have, the more we feel that we are lacking, and the more “impoverished” we become. This is truly suffering.
The Climate Clock is counting down day by day, second by second, and our own time on Earth continues to decrease. We do not know what the Earth will become in our next lifetime. We must quickly seize the time, and put in our effort to recruit more people. I often talk about the “great lesson of our times,” and people have to educate each other. It does not matter what religion we believe in; we must come together to guide those who are lost and bring purity to people’s hearts.
1 Scientists used the current carbon emissions produced by humans to calculate how long it will be before the global temperature average rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average before the Industrial Revolution. They set up a digital “Climate Clock” at Union Square in Manhattan, New York, to display the time remaining. When the time runs out, wildfires, ice melts, floods, and other natural disasters will become more frequent. To view the Climate Clock, visit https://climateclock.world/
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings during the Northern Region Year-End Blessing Ceremonies and conversation with volunteers, December 12 to 14, 2022