Meeting Tzu Chi

By Zhao Jia-jui
Translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photo by Li Bai-shi

Demanding school work took a toll on my physical well-being during my high school years, leaving me exhausted. It was during this time that a classmate offered me some methamphetamine to help me combat my fatigue. I accepted, but unfortunately that decision led me down a dark path of drug addiction, which eventually resulted in my expulsion from school.

Despite my older brother’s efforts to help me by taking me to rehabilitation, I was unable to break free from the grip of addiction. Desperate for cash to sustain my habit, I resorted to embezzling money from my father and brother. Though I was but 21 that year, I had transitioned from a drug user to a thief. My father pleaded for me to quit taking drugs and my mother cried over me, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

After my mother passed away, I was sentenced to prison. I was almost too ashamed to receive visitors during the first year. However, my father eventually came to see me, bringing a copy of Tzu Chi Monthly. From that moment onward, a deep connection began to form between Tzu Chi and me.

The lingering effects of my drug use resulted in auditory and visual hallucinations. My erratic conduct following my release from prison prompted the neighborhood chief to report me to the police, which led to my admission to the hospital. During that time, I shared a room with a wonderful Tzu Chi volunteer who invited me every day to recite and memorize aphorisms by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, the founder of Tzu Chi. Though I couldn’t remember a single line at the time, I held a profound admiration for the Tzu Chi sister.

After leaving the hospital, I moved into a recovery home located in Changhua, a city in central Taiwan. I took the initiative to contact the Tzu Chi sister I had met during my stay in the hospital and became a donating member of Tzu Chi. It was in Changhua where I experienced many firsts: my first visit to a Tzu Chi Jing Si Hall, participation in a Buddha Day ceremony, volunteering at a Tzu Chi recycling station, and attending a Tzu Chi year-end blessing ceremony.

I have since been diagnosed with schizophrenia and currently reside in a nursing facility. Whenever I can, I serve at a recycling station, reclaiming reusable resources. When I want inner peace, I go to the Jing Si Hall. Master Cheng Yen’s teachings and the compassion she shows for all living beings have left an indelible mark on my heart. In the past, I sought for love and care among the crowds, oblivious to the fact that the Tzu Chi family had always been there. Now, I understand.

Through my volunteer work with Tzu Chi, I have successfully overcome the smoking and alcohol addiction that plagued me for years. My health has improved as a result. I am immensely grateful for the guidance and support from my Tzu Chi Dharma family. I will diligently walk the Bodhisattva Path, in pursuit of the love and happiness that eluded me in the past.

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