慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Words from Master Cheng Yen - Nurturing Wisdom-Life

When I took refuge with my mentor, Dharma Master Yin Shun, more than five decades ago, he instructed me to work for Buddhism and for all living beings. I have faithfully lived out his instruction over the years, never straying from this path, never shaken in my conviction to give.

I’m grateful every day to our volunteers that help me in working to serve Buddhism and the world. Tzu Chi couldn’t have become what it is today without their giving or their love. In the process of giving to others, however, it is inevitable that one will run into interpersonal issues, conflicts, or other problems. At such times, some volunteers begin to waver in their commitment to serve. My heart goes out to them when this happens. I worry that if they cannot untangle the knots in their hearts, they will stop moving forward on the Bodhisattva Path, thus hindering the growth of their wisdom-life [as opposed to physical life]. My heart aches when I think of this.

There are so many needy people in this world. We need the help of many dedicated people who will work hard to relieve suffering. Who can work with me with one heart and mind? Sometimes I feel tired and lonely under the weight of the responsibility on my shoulders.

I set off from the Jing Si Abode in Hualien last November, accompanied by some monastic disciples and Tzu Chi volunteers, to preside over the first round of our year-end blessing ceremonies around Taiwan. It was with a tired heart that I left the Abode. After stopping in Taipei and Taichung, we traveled further south for more blessing ceremonies. In Zhanghua, I saw a performance by more than ten elderly people, all afflicted with dementia. They were members of a memory upkeep class designed to help people with that condition. The illness had caused the performers to lose a lot of their memory. Some were even younger than me. I had never felt old before, but seeing them I suddenly realized that I too was old.

Our next stop was in Yunlin. There I saw some recycling volunteers in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s. Despite their age, they still went all out to volunteer all year round. They pledged to me they would serve until their last breath, saying it was better to wear out than rust out. I was touched to see how determined they were to live a full, meaningful life. They had truly taken in my teachings to do one’s best to give.

These living bodhisattvas lifted my spirits. My heart brightened after I witnessed their commitment. Since then, I have constantly reminded myself to keep my back straight, whether I am standing or sitting. I am determined not to let my age get the better of me.

After leaving Yunlin, we traveled all the way to the southern end of the island, stopping along the way for more blessing ceremonies. We ended our trip back in Hualien, where we had begun. Was I tired after a month on the road? Or course! But I told myself I didn’t have the luxury to feel tired. If we compare life to a river, I’m getting closer and closer to the end of the river. I have to make the best of the time I have left by doing what I should do.

With age comes deterioration. Stage by stage, we feel our bodies weaken and become more frail. However, we must not let our spirits wilt as well. No matter how old we are, we must continue to work for the good of humanity. Let a day slip by in vain and it is gone for good—we have lost a day to help our wisdom-life grow. Our wisdom-life can only keep growing if we do not slack off.

Many people entered Tzu Chi with shiny black hair, but some now have a full head of grey hair. Time has slipped by imperceptibly. No matter what changes time may bring, however, we must hold firm to the aspirations that set us on our path of charitable work and spiritual practice. Choose a right path and persist on it, that is wisdom. Though it is inevitable that we will encounter problems that cause us to experience emotional ups and downs, we mustn’t let that set us back. When you open your arms, how many people can you embrace? Only a few at most. But if every one of us holds the hands of another, we’ll be able to widen that embrace to include countless people. Please be ever more mindful.

A scene at a Tzu Chi recycling station. Many recycling volunteers are advanced in age, but they still do their best to serve. They epitomize Master Cheng Yen’s appeal to live full, meaningful lives. Huang Xiao-zhe

 

March 2018