The Path of Tzu Chi

Adapted from the subtitles of Da Ai TV's Life Wisdom program

A speech given to commissioners-in-training

In the time when Tzu Chi was just beginning, I was deeply saddened when I saw a pool of blood on the floor of a clinic. (I was told that the blood was from an aboriginal woman suffering complications in labor, who could not receive medical care because she did not have enough money.) I felt that if people could join together with a common purpose, then together we could become a real-life Kuan Yin Bodhisattva with A Thousand Eyes and Hands to help people in need.

In practicing Buddhism, I felt that cultivating only in isolation for my own enlightenment would be a great pity. Instead, I believed the way for me to practice should be to reach out and let everyone understand the teachings of the Buddha, so that everyone could join hands and work together with compassion. It was then that I vowed to inspire people to realize this love within their hearts and bring it forth to relieve those in suffering.

 As all of you have entered the door of Tzu Chi (as commissioners in training), it is very important that you be mindful. Some may feel, "I joined Tzu Chi to do good deeds, so why do I have to go through all these different training classes? Why must doing good be so difficult?"

 What we do in Tzu Chi is different from ordinary charity work. Tzu Chi is a place for spiritual cultivation. It is a training ground for bodhisattvas. To become like a bodhisattva, we must undergo this training and be very mindful in learning how to emulate and carry ourselves like bodhisattvas. In this place of cultivation, you can learn much from those who have already walked this path before you. If you observe their example mindfully, you will discover the truths of life.

 After recognizing these truths, we must practice them and live them out. Only through first-hand experience and the realizations gained through our practice will we truly grasp the truth. The Lotus Sutra tells us that having been guided to the truth, one needs to practice the teachings to realize it for oneself. I have already opened the door for you to enter this path. Having observed what this path is about, you need to personally walk this Bodhisattva Path. Only then can you realize the truth for yourself.

 Since Tzu Chi is a spiritual training ground, everyone in the organization is a bodhisattva.Your speech and behavior holds great impact on how people perceive Tzu Chi. Even if you are by yourself, people will still say, "This is a Tzu Chi person." If one is good and kind, then people will say, "Tzu Chi is wonderful!" However, if you as a Tzu Chi person behave improperly, speak coarsely, falsely or gossip about others, then people will say, "The character of Tzu Chi people is quite unbecoming. They like to gossip about others. That is how Tzu Chi people are. They are ignorant." With the unmindfulness of a single person, the organization could be criticized as a whole, and its image tarnished. Each person must be mindful to not cause the image of Tzu Chi to be dragged down. The mission of Tzu Chi - to relieve all suffering in the world - depends on the support of many people. Therefore we must be careful to not hinder our ability to inspire the collective love people have to offer.

 We must practice "Great Joy". Since we have vowed to walk the path of bodhisattvas, we must regard everyone as a Buddha and feel joy toward all people alike. We must uphold this temperament and make it our culture. If we can see everyone as Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, then joy and respect will naturally rise from our hearts, and there will be harmony and mutual love. Herein lies our spiritual practice.

 Great Joy is a kind of culture. Where can culture be seen? It can be seen in our facial expressions, our conduct and behavior, as well as our temperament. For this reason, commissioners must first be a trainee and undergo training programs before getting certified. This is a way to mold one’s character. In the same respect, the Bodhisattva figure that people bow to was carved from an ordinary piece of wood. There are many pieces of wood outside yet no one bows to them. Instead, people bow to this piece of wood because it has been carved into the figure of a Bodhisattva. This ordinary piece of wood became the figure of a Bodhisattva only through the gradual chipping of axes, blades and other tools. When walking the Bodhisattva Path, we will have to endure obstacles, which will be like the axes and blades gradually refining our character and disposition.

 I wish that all of you will be mindful always when walking on this Bodhisattva Path. When we interact with people, not only should we maintain an upright and proper appearance, we should also be gentle in our conduct and treat others with love. If we can be of one heart and mind, maintain an interaction of love and harmony, then we can join efforts. With collaborative effort, what difficulties can we not overcome? As long as we work together, great strength will come.

 For more than thirty years, I have continuously guided everyone on this path. Everyone has been very dedicated. In reality, what brings me happiness is not the donations, but your inspiring other people to become donating members. I am happy because these people who bring forth their kindness to give to charity represent the number of people whose hearts are becoming more and more pure.

 We should hurry to spread love and goodwill in our local communities, so the local people can feel that love and bring forth their own love. If everyone can come together with this same good heart, we can generate a positive force - a stream of purity. This is how our world can become purified. When people's hearts become pure, the forces of corruption in this world are weakened. Just as the garbage-ridden Angke river in Indonesia could be cleaned out, so can we transform defilement and corruption into purity as long as we have the will and determination.