Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
Every year at this time, I always feel that life comes and goes quickly. In the past, we may have been busy with family and work. Now that we are older, we need to reflect on ourselves and take care of our physical and mental wellbeing.
Each of us needs to take an inventory of our life and seize the causes and conditions to advance our mission of spreading the Dharma and benefitting sentient beings. With good teachings, we interact more with others; we guide others to correct themselves and lead them to the right path. When we have the strength, we should give more. In addition to improving our own lives, we can help others.
Doing good deeds is not the privilege of the wealthy. Some people have been frugal their whole lives, saving money to try to buy a house. But when they hear what I am trying to do for the suffering sentient beings in the world, they say, “I want to donate this money to Master. It is important that she can accomplish what she wants to do first.” This is the utmost sincere love of a Bodhisattva! In receiving a donation like this, I can really feel the weight of such a responsibility.
For example, one couple had been working tirelessly as street vendors, making pan-fried buns one by one for more than twenty years. Just when they were about to buy a house, they gave me all the money they had saved. They said, “So long as we continue to work hard to earn more, we will have our house. We want Master to help others who are suffering first.”
There were also other people who worked miscellaneous jobs, slowly saving money to buy small pieces of gold. Once they had accumulated enough, they had a goldsmith melt the gold into a bar, storing their wealth that way. Upon hearing my call, they reached under their beds and pulled out the gold bars one by one.
There were even people who collected stones by the sea and carefully sorted them. They sold the stones in small batches, earning a few Taiwanese dollars, accumulating their savings in small amounts and turning them into donations. These stories of beauty and goodness are true stories.
Life is very valuable. As Tzu Chi volunteers, you have been giving of yourselves, through the work of Tzu Chi, to benefit others in this world. Not only are we committed to spreading the Dharma and benefitting sentient beings, we also relieve suffering and bring joy to sentient beings through our actions. Many Tzu Chi activities are happening in different countries around the world at this very moment, and we never stop.
As our CEO, Yen Po-wen, said, “Tzu Chi volunteers give of themselves in this society. If we were to pay them a salary with even the minimum wage, how much would we have to pay each day in order to take care of so many poor and suffering people!” This really shows everyone’s passion; Living Bodhisattvas give without asking for anything in return.
I truly owe everyone a lot. Therefore, I must work even harder; I must practice more diligently on the Bodhisattva Path lifetime after lifetime so that none of you will drop out of the path in any one of the lifetimes. It takes countless lifetimes for us to attain Buddhahood. The Bodhisattva Path cannot be achieved in just one lifetime, so I hope everyone will follow me.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Parable of the Conjured City tells of a group of merchants who were in a trading business. They walked a long distance to trade. When they became tired and could walk no farther, they considered turning back. A wise teacher was there to guide them and said, “Do not go back. There is an abundance of treasures ahead.” Everyone looked ahead and said, “Oh! The treasure is close by.” So, they took a break, replenished their energy, and started walking forward again.
As we go through one lifetime after another, we also take breaks. When do we take breaks? Many volunteers, in their sharing, always say, “I want to keep doing Tzu Chi’s work until I draw my last breath.”
As we depart this life, we can rest briefly, then enter another. In our new lifetime, we hope to go to a family with good causes and conditions so we can quickly return to the Bodhisattva Path, and continue to do Tzu Chi’s work lifetime after lifetime.
“Tzu” refers to loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. “Chi” refers to providing relief to sentient beings. Together, these words encompass the spirit of “spreading the Dharma and benefiting sentient beings,” and working “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” We have attained realizations and are born human. If we walk forward on this path inch by inch, we will eventually arrive at our destination after walking for a long time. The journey of a thousand miles begins at the first step. We must aim toward the right direction from the start.
There are two foot-shaped sculptures on my desk. These two feet are pointed toward a large world map. They represent how we started from Taiwan and are going into the world to spread the seeds of love everywhere. As I have constantly reminded all of you, this is the right path, the path to Buddhahood.
The path to Buddhahood starts from the Bodhisattva Path. We must walk the Bodhisattva Path with utmost steadfastness and sincerity in our hearts, giving our loving energy bit by bit, and truly exercising our power of love.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings from a conversation with Yilan volunteers on December 5, 2022