The Vow of a Little Ant

National Headquarters  |  April 7, 2022

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

I often mention the analogy of “the little ant and Mt. Sumeru.” Every day, I look at the little ant figure at the corner of the clock that sits on my table. It is made of three seeds that are connected together.

Time continues to pass. Yet, I see the little ant remains still, still sitting at the corner of the clock. When will it be able to climb Mt. Sumeru?

When I think about it, I feel saddened! There are so many disasters in this world and so many things I want to achieve, but life is short, and our manpower is meager. Although space is boundless and time is endless, our lives are truly limited.

I recently learned that many countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines, and the United States, experienced a year’s worth of precipitation within just a few days. The floodwaters that resulted were as high as the roofs, and people were rowing down the roads in boats. A heavy rainfall of this magnitude had not been seen in more than a century.

The CEO of Tzu Chi Australia, Dharma brother Song Yigang, shared that the home of a Tzu Chi volunteer was flooded as well. However, that volunteer still went out to provide emergency care, prepared for disaster relief, and delivered food and drinks for those affected.

For these Tzu Chi volunteers living in Australia, when disaster struck, the first thing that came to mind was to take care of others. They left their own homes and devoted themselves to the “greater family.”

If people only care about their own homes, there will not be enough manpower to clean up each house. Nowadays, society is composed mostly of small families, to say nothing of the elderly, who live by themselves. There may only be two hands or four hands to clean up. So, after a disaster, we must mobilize everyone to care for each other. With combined strength, we help others, and they can then help their family and friends. Then, their family and friends can help more people, and this cycle continues. As help ripples outward, we continue to help one another.

House by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, everyone cleans up in harmony. By doing so, each village and neighborhood can quickly recover. We need people to gather their neighbors in each area, combining their efforts to quickly help people, neighborhoods, and villages.

We must promote the “spirit of an open heart”; we cannot just protect ourselves. In spiritual cultivation, we must remind ourselves to “mindfully cultivate our spirit and practices.” It is not right to only ask others, “Are you engaging in spiritual cultivation?” without doing so ourselves.

As we engage in spiritual practice and cultivate our conduct, we must constantly reflect on ourselves to see if our views are right and whether we have an open mind. When something happens in our neighborhood, we must gather our strength in our neighborhood and devote ourselves to the world. Then, naturally, we will be safe.

This concept is the same as the “little ant” concept. An entire group of ants can lift a big cookie. At the same time, as long as an ant has the will, it can climb Mt. Sumeru. If we do not move and just forever stand at the foot of the mountain lamenting over how tall it is, how can we climb Mt. Sumeru? If our own views are not correct, how can we care for and pass on the Buddha Dharma to others? We become a role model only by engaging in spiritual cultivation and devoting our strength to people.

Each “little ant” must have the power of vows to lead others. The Buddha came to this world to teach and guide sentient beings to form great aspirations and make great vows. After we form aspirations and make vows, we must uphold our own spiritual cultivation. May everyone pool their strength together and do good deeds in this world together. In doing so, the world will be at peace.

Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings at the Morning Volunteer Assembly on March 8, 2022

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