No Work, No Meal: Each Doing Our Part

Should we focus on what we can get out of life, or what we can give? At Tzu Chi, the focus is always on giving.

From the very beginning of her path as a Buddhist nun, Dharma Master Cheng Yen made a vow not to accept alms to support herself or her disciples. Although her disciples were monastics, Master Cheng Yen also expected them to be involved in the community by helping those in need rather than solely pursuing their personal spiritual cultivation. Once the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was established, this philosophy made it possible for all donations collected in its Bamboo Banks to be used to benefit others.

Until today, the nuns that reside alongside Master Cheng Yen at the Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan, work daily, following the rule of No Work, No Meal, which was passed down from the Zen Master Bai Chang of the ancient Chinese Tang Dynasty. Apart from farming, housekeeping, and the preparation of meals, they make Jing Si Products for sale to cover the living expenses of residents at the Abode. The products they make also carry an inherent spiritual and environmental message, leading one towards an increasingly mindful and earth-friendly lifestyle.

Since the Jing Si Abode is the spiritual home for all Tzu Chi members and supporters from around the world, many visit annually, seeking to advance their spiritual cultivation in proximity to Master Cheng Yen and other members of this global community. The Buddhist nuns who reside at the Abode also work to provide for the accommodations, meeting and office necessities, and other needs of visitors who can stay free of charge.

Master Cheng Yen’s vision that we can all do our part – reflecting on how we can give and maximize our benefit to others –  extends beyond the monastic community. Since Tzu Chi volunteers typically have work and family obligations, the time they offer in service to others comprises evenings, weekends, and even entire vacation periods. When joining disaster relief missions, Tzu Chi volunteers also pay their own way.

Tzu Chi’s root mission of continual and selfless giving runs deep and finds a wellspring of inspiration in the teachings and guidance of Master Cheng Yen, which transform one’s view of what happiness truly means.

We should use our time and our abilities to help all living beings. When we give unselfishly to others, we will feel that our lives are real and meaningful. We will not feel that our lives have been wasted. We will thus lead a happy life.