The Economics of Happiness

National Headquarters  |  April 28, 2023

Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Dev. Dept, Tzu Chi USA

Every day for the past two years, I have sat here in the reception  room, facing this world map and interacting with Tzu Chi volunteers  around the world. Despite the distance, our hearts are in unity. I feel  my life has value and feel very blessed. 

When Tzu Chi volunteers see each other working hard and covered in  sweat, they do not say, “You must be tired!” Instead, they say, “You  are very blessed!” We should hold a mindset of being blessed because  the ability to do things is a blessing. What we do is not just for our own  sake; we consider others first. We must put benefiting others before  benefiting ourselves. Only then can progress be made in the world.  As people’s businesses develop and flourish with society, everyone  should engage in charitable work. Furthermore, charitable work must  be done for the long-term, and not as a one-time effort. 

During the initial years of the Tzu Chi Merit Association, I asked  everyone to set aside fifty cents1 to help people before going to the  market to buy groceries. Later, a member asked, “Why the hassle? I can just donate fifteen dollars a month.” I said, “I do not want you to  donate fifteen dollars a month.” They thought I could not do the math,  and said, “Master, fifty cents a day is fifteen dollars a month.” I said, “I can do the math, but I do not want you to form aspirations only once  a month. I want you to do good deeds every day.” 

Every day, we must think about doing good deeds and helping people.  By giving rise to such thoughts every day and continuously having this  aspiration to create blessings, a collective blessed energy will form. 

I am very grateful to all the honorary board members. Without  everyone’s aspirations and the accumulation of donations, from one  dollar, five dollars, or ten dollars, how long would it take before we  can help one person? Anyone of any social status can become an  honorary board member, but I hope everyone can become certified  commissioners or Faith Corps members and form aspirations to come  and develop a deeper understanding of Tzu Chi. 

Once you get to know Tzu Chi, if someone says, “Tzu Chi is wealthy,”  you can tell them, “Tzu Chi has wealth because people like myself have  the money to contribute.” Because you care about Tzu Chi, because  you have this love and are willing to give, whether it is ten dollars or  one hundred dollars, when combined, it becomes an immeasurable  amount of wealth. Through the blessings created one person at a time  and passed on, united together, everyone will be blessed. 

Take the recent earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, for example. The affected area is three times larger than Taiwan. Moreover, due  to social unrest, people live in difficult conditions. I hope everyone  can devote more to help. In Taiwan, we had experienced a huge  earthquake as well, the September 21 earthquake of 1999. The force of  that earthquake caused an indescribable disaster. At that time, Tzu Chi  volunteers from the north and south gathered in central Taiwan, and  I also stayed in central Taiwan for over a month. When I mentioned  that we would take on the reconstruction project of this school and  that school, some asked, “Master, where will the money come from?”  I said, “It is in people’s pockets.” I had faith in my own selflessness,  and I had faith in other people’s love. 

For there to be blessings in this world, it is crucial for us to bring purity  to people’s hearts and peace to society, and for everyone to put their  love into action. When we give to help others, we are creating blessings.  When we put aside our ego and invite others to join us, that is an act of  wisdom. Our cultivation of blessings and wisdom is much like carrying  things with a carrying pole to transport heavy weight. To make the  carrying easier, we must have balanced loads on the two ends; in other  words, we must cultivate both blessings and wisdom in parallel. 

Over two thousand years ago, the Buddha saw that there were many  impoverished people outside of the palace, and he could not bear to  see them age, fall ill, and die. However, even though he wanted to  help them, the royal treasury could not possibly have enough money  to help them all. So, he left the palace in search of the true principles. 

He hoped to eliminate the four castes, so that the wealthy would learn  to have compassion for those who are suffering. He also hoped to  enrich the minds of those in suffering and promote equality among  people. 

Similarly, I also hope that Tzu Chi can bring equality between the  wealthy and the poor in society. I hope that those who are rich can  have a loving heart and truly become the rich among the rich, and that  the impoverished will also be willing to give and become spiritually rich. 

Every time when we hold distributions for disaster relief, our volunteers  will set out a container, asking people to donate their spare change to  help others. Once, an elderly woman took out one big coin and one  small coin from her pocket and put them in. People next to her asked  her, “Why are you still helping others when you are so poor yourself?”  She said, “These fifty-five cents are not enough for me to buy anything  to eat. But if I put them in the bucket, they can help many people in  need.” 

I have to praise this elderly woman! Had she used this money for herself  alone, it would have been only enough for one or two bites to eat. But  by putting it in the bucket along with everyone else’s love, thousands  of people can benefit from it. When we create blessings one person at  a time and pass them on, our individual contributions can help other  people to enjoy blessings. The ability to share this blessing with so  many people is also my blessing.  

I hope everyone will have this kind of perspective. Not only do we do  good deeds ourselves, but we can also invite others to join us in doing  the same. Let us inspire love in everyone in the community and inspire  them to be willing to give. In this way, our society can be peaceful and  prosperous. 

1 Fifty cents TWD is about one to two cents USD 

Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings during the Jing Si Lifestyle Camp for  Changhua Honorary Board Members on March 11, 2023

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