慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
WORDS FROM MASTER CHENG YEN--No Age Limit to Giving

 

An older volunteer sorts used bottles at a Tzu Chi recycling station in New Taipei City. Master Cheng Yen encourages older people who still have the strength to go out and volunteer.   Huang Xiao-zhe

I had little confidence in my physical strength before making my regular trip around Taiwan this time. I wasn’t sure if I could walk steadily by myself or have enough energy to deliver my talks. Thankfully, I was still strong enough to handle the demands of the trip. I am grateful to all those volunteers I met along the way. Seeing and learning how they do their best to give of themselves energized and buoyed me.

I recently developed the “age treasury” into which everyone can deposit 50 years of their age. Doing this myself, I was taken back to my early 30s. It was the time when I’d just founded Tzu Chi. We had few resources back then, but we pooled together what we could to help the needy. My angina often acted up at the time, and I’d sometimes pass out before dawn due to chest pains. When I regained consciousness, I’d stretch my hands and legs to see if I was still doing okay. When I found that I was all right, I was grateful that I had lived to see another day.

Fifty years have flown by since then. My hair is grey and my face wrinkled. My appearance bears the marks of time, and my bodily functions do too. When I was younger, even when I had chest pains, I could speak rather naturally after a few deep breaths. But now it requires some effort just for me to speak.

Despite the signs of age, I tell myself to remain young in spirit. That’s why I insist on making my regular trips around Taiwan. Those trips enable me to meet volunteers around the island and learn how they are doing. I want to know whether their wisdom-life has continued to grow, and whether they are heading in the right direction with the right values and guiding principles. If we want our Jing Si Dharma lineage to live on and help make Buddhism everlasting, we must not slacken in our efforts to pave a smoother, broader Bodhisattva Path and inspire more people to join us.

I often hear our volunteers make this pledge: “I’ll serve until my last breath.” This is the same pledge I made. No matter how hard the work has been, I’ve kept to my chosen path to make the Buddha’s teachings accessible to everyone. I’ve served mankind as the Enlightened One taught. Many have worked with me on this path. Together, we have remained committed to Buddhism and humanity, and we have laid a firm foundation for our missions. Many senior volunteers have followed me every step of the way. Starting out with nothing, we have managed to help many needy people. I’ve seen how these dedicated volunteers give to the world, and I deeply cherish every one of them.

Many of them, like me, are getting on in years. I urge them to stay young at heart. I encourage them to deposit 50 years of their age in my treasury and return to being a 30- or 40-year-old in spirit. At that age, people are generally in the prime of their lives. It’s the best time to give of oneself. I encourage older volunteers not to lose confidence in themselves, but to cheer themselves on every day.

No matter how advanced modern technology is, it will never stop us from aging or allow us to live forever. Even so, even though we can’t determine the length of our life, we can determine its depth and breadth. We can make our life more valuable by expanding our love beyond ourselves and our families to include other people. We can stay informed of what is happening in the world and look for ways we can contribute. Everyone can make a difference in the lives of others if they so choose.

There is no age limit to giving. If you are growing old, don’t let your age confine you. The older we are, the more precious time is to us, and the better use we should make of our days. If you still have the strength to get out, then go and volunteer. Older people are most afraid of becoming physically frail and losing their mental faculties. Staying active and socially connected is a great way to slow the aging process. Take every opportunity to form positive connections with others and give your love to them. Giving whenever we can and doing our best to form good affinities with others will help us live in peace until we breathe our last.

September 2018