Translated by Teresa Chang
Master Cheng Yen encourages us to reach out when we see others suffer. If we can’t do it alone, we can call on others to help. Hsiao Yiu-hwa
No one can avoid suffering living in this world. Even unbelievably wealthy people have their share of suffering. A perfect, worry-free life does not exist. Even so, we all have the ability to alleviate suffering. We can’t possibly help all living beings in this world, but we can all do our part. When we see others suffer or hear about someone’s plight, if the circumstances allow, we should give them a hand. If we can’t do it alone, we can call on others to help. Working this way, with combined strength, we will be able to reach people in need wherever they are.
We live in a world of great disparity. People in wealthy countries can afford to pursue all sorts of enjoyments, whereas those in poor ones lack even the basics. This is a situation that can be remedied, though. If people who are better off can reduce their desires and be content with less, we could free up many resources to help the poor. For example, there is no need to eat until we are one hundred percent full. We could eat until just 80 percent full and use the money we save from the remaining 20 percent to help the disadvantaged. Simply by eating slightly less, we can reduce the number of hungry people in the world.
In addition to hunger, some people are gravely ill because they cannot afford medical treatment. Tzu Chi is working with the International Buddhist Society (IBS) to build medical facilities in Lumbini, Nepal, to help local poor people meet their medical needs. In July, our volunteers from Malaysia and Singapore traveled to Nepal to check on the construction of some facilities we were helping to build for IBS’s free clinic. They also checked on the operation of a dialysis center we helped build for the free clinic. Our volunteers visited the countryside to check on local people’s living conditions during their trip, too.
A couple of months earlier, during a similar visit to the country, Dr. Tang Kiat Beng (陳吉民), a volunteer from Malaysia, happened to pass a household in Lumbini and see a little boy, lying on his stomach, squirming on the ground trying to reach a nursing bottle with only his mouth so he could feed himself. Sadly, he wasn’t having much success. Feeling deeply for the boy, Dr. Tang cradled the child’s head with one of his hands, held the bottle in the other, and patiently fed him the milk. The physician and other volunteers later discovered that the boy’s parents both suffered from disabilities. The mother was blind, and the father had mental issues. The latter made a living by doing odd jobs on nearby farms. The boy’s sister was old enough to go to school but didn’t because the family was too poor to afford it.
This is often how a vicious cycle of poverty is perpetuated. Deprived of an education due to poverty, children grow up to be illiterate. As a result, they can only find low-paying jobs and struggle to get by. Such a situation is not uncommon in this area.
Our volunteers reached out to the family after seeing their plight. They provided food for them and arranged for the girl to attend a nearby school. It’s thanks to karmic affinities that our volunteers and the family were brought together. If, due to our volunteers’ help, the family’s lot improves, then they are truly blessed. I’m happy that their paths crossed, and I wish the family the best.
The Buddha was born into this world for one great purpose—to inspire people to relieve suffering in the world. More than 2,500 years later, we must seize our karmic affinities with Buddhism and try our best to emulate the Buddha’s heart. We are all capable of the same love and wisdom as the Enlightened One. Let’s take it upon ourselves to work for Buddhism and all living beings. Let’s see it as our responsibility to improve the welfare of mankind.
Without action, nothing will happen. If, after learning the Buddha’s teachings, we do not live them out, then we are getting nowhere. I have never stopped calling on everyone to bring forth the love in their hearts and put it into concrete actions, but I need your help to spread the message to make a bigger difference. I hope everyone practices gratitude and contentment, allows their love to grow, and opens their arms to embrace all living beings. May we have the karmic affinities and strength to create innumerable blessings for the world and deliver all needy people from suffering.