Words From Dharma Master Cheng Yen—It All Starts With Love

Translated by Teresa Chang

Seeing Tzu Chi volunteers from around the world coming to Taiwan for our year-end blessing ceremonies or to receive their volunteer certifications fills me with gratitude and joy. Even though we are usually far apart, as long as there is a heartfelt connection, no mountains or oceans can break our enduring bond—a bond forged by shared love and compassion. This love and compassion extends from our past lives, through our present existence, and into our future lives. We are united by our collective aspiration to walk the Bodhisattva Path throughout the journey of our lives.

I’ve become aware of the toll that age has had on me in recent years; even speaking has become a challenge. What I most eagerly desire now is for everyone to lend me strength, to help convey the teachings of Tzu Chi, and to ensure that people in need worldwide can receive assistance. I’m reassured whenever young people come to me and express their willingness to shoulder the responsibility of serving humanity. Their sincere commitments put my heart at ease.

Tzu Chi wouldn’t be what it is today without our Bamboo Bank Era. Our foundation started with 30 housewives each saving 50 NT cents (about 1 US cent) each day from their grocery money in a bamboo bank to assist the needy. As word spread, more people joined in. In India’s Bodhi Gaya, volunteers and local residents are following the same spirit, using bamboo to create containers and setting aside whatever money they can to help the underprivileged. Despite limited means, they tap into love, cultivating a rich inner life.

The essence of fundraising is not about the amount of money donated; it’s about inspiring hearts and cultivating love. Everyone has an equal capacity for love and compassion. Just as a drop of water in a river or a stream contributes to the vastness of the ocean, our individual compassion, when combined, forms the boundless energy of love. The collective merits thus created are immeasurable. The Bamboo Bank Era marks our beginning of nurturing loving hearts, and I hope this compassionate intention will continue to thrive and be passed on through generations.

For over 50 years, Tzu Chi has been broadening hearts and inspiring altruistic actions with Buddhist teachings. That’s why I often say that Tzu Chi has truly made significant contributions to humanity. The greatest value of Tzu Chi lies in bringing together the Great Love of many people—an unselfish love embracing all of humanity—uniting Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide in a spirit of cooperation and harmony. It’s like holding hands and encircling the entire globe, weaving together our threads of love.

Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organization. We are all fortunate to have the karmic affinities to learn Buddhism. Reverence for the Buddha, respect for his teachings, and veneration of the sangha (the Buddhist monastic order) are crucial. Most importantly, it is essential to practice the Four Immeasurables: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Loving-kindness is about bringing joy and peace to those who encounter us. Some individuals naturally attract others, their words are readily accepted, and their good deeds inspire more good deeds. This is because they have nurtured positive connections with others. We should learn from their example.

According to the Buddha’s teachings, we can encapsulate the principles of all things within a framework of three dimensions, each with four phases. In the physical dimension, everything in the universe undergoes the stages of formation, continuation, decay, and extinction. In the mental dimension, thoughts and feelings arise, remain, change, and disappear. In the bodily dimension, life cycles through birth, aging, illness, and death. All things are subject to change and impermanence, including the human mind. Making a pledge isn’t easy, and following through with it is even more challenging given the myriad afflictions, ignorance, and obstacles in the human realm. Without unwavering faith, a moment of compassion can swiftly dissipate, and accumulating merits becomes difficult.

Receiving blessings starts with creating them, just as taking the first step is crucial for making anything possible. Progress comes from continuous effort, and each step contributes to a long journey. Time is precious and irreversible. I often say that time is running out. With this awareness in my thoughts, I consistently remind myself to diligently seize each moment, ensuring that every word I speak aligns with the Buddha’s teachings and every action I take follows the right path. Let’s seize every moment to diligently cultivate merits. Blessed are those who can help others. Let’s be ever more mindful.

Photo by Huang Xiao-zhe

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