Do Good With Compassion, Live Life With Wisdom
 Courtesy of Tzu Chi Archive

We have ushered in a new year. Let’s be grateful for every peaceful day we’ve lived throughout the year gone by, and let us welcome each new day with a heart of pious sincerity. As I usher in the New Year, I make the same wishes for the future I always make: “May people’s minds be purified, may society be harmonious, and may there be no calamities in the world.” Only when peace reigns in the world is it possible for everyone to enjoy happiness.

Tzu Chi came into existence half a century ago. Our humble beginning is known as our Bamboo Bank Era—a time when we saved small change in bamboo coin banks every day to help the needy. We have come a long way since that time, working hard all along the way to overcome all kinds of challenges to carry out our charity work. From a handful of members in Taiwan, we now have large numbers of volunteers in many countries. Our philanthropic footprints can now be found in over 90 nations. Though we have come a long way in that half-century, our guiding principles and spirit remain unchanged. All Tzu Chi volunteers must abide by the principles of sincerity, integrity, good faith, and honesty. They must strive to live out the spirit of the Four Immeas­urables: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. With loving-kindness, we experience no regrets and discover that our love is boundless; with great compassion, we have no complaints and our resolution is firm; with a joyful mind, we have no troubles and our happiness knows no limits; with equanimity, we give without expecting anything in return and we can do great good.

When we have made the pledge to give of ourselves and walk the Bodhisattva Path, we must not let difficulties stand in our way and deter us from our initial commitment to serve. Instead, we should do our best to help others, eliminate afflictions, learn the Dharma [the Buddha’s teachings], and demonstrate a firm resolution to attain Buddhahood. With faith and sincerity, we will be able to truly internalize the Dharma and head in the right direction. We’ll also take solid steps on this path and work without any grudges. When we can give without asking for anything in return, our hearts will be at peace.

We must not underestimate even the smallest act of kindness or forgo even the smallest chance to do a good deed. Remember that even small grains of rice can fill up a basket and little drops of water can form a river. When every little act of kindness comes together, the power of love created will be so immense that it will be able to help not just one person or a family, but a society or even the whole world. Let us remind ourselves every day to be loving and helpful towards others and form good affinities with all living creatures. By doing so, we will sow and accumulate blessings.

There are many elderly volunteers at our recycling stations who do their best to sow blessings by doing good. These silver-haired bodhi­sattvas actively participate in our recycling work by collecting and sorting recyclables. They know that instead of leaving material wealth to their posterity, it’s better to leave behind a healthier planet for them. They are truly wise by making such good use of their golden years.

We should all strive to live our days fully. Every day is an important day that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I hope that everyone makes the best of their time to improve themselves and nurture compassion and wisdom in their hearts. Charitable deeds of loving-kindness can bring bountiful blessings, and conducting yourself with wisdom allows you to pass down virtues in your family. When we can head through life in the right direction, doing good and sowing blessings, we will bring happiness to our families, give peace to society, and help relieve the world of disasters.

End afflictions and nurture wisdom

At our year-end blessing ceremonies this year, Tzu Chi volunteers and employees put on musical presentations based on the twelve great vows of the Medicine Buddha. Our world is riddled with all kinds of suffering rooted in the ignorance of human beings. To rid the world of afflictions, the Medicine Buddha made twelve great vows to awaken the minds of living beings dwelling in darkness and to relieve all suffering, whether physical or mental.

After presiding over our blessing ceremonies held at different places in Taiwan, I visited several Tzu Chi offices before I returned to the Jing Si Abode. Though the weather was cold, these offices bustled with people and activity and were permeated with a joyous atmosphere. Volunteers at these offices were busily erecting canopies and putting up Chinese New Year decorations in preparation for our winter distributions and traditional year-end meals for Tzu Chi’s long-term care recipients. The aroma of vegetarian food wafted from kitchens where more volunteers were getting the meals ready.

This year, Tzu Chi offices around Taiwan invited 25,000 families to our winter distributions and year-end meals. In addition to giving  the families Chinese New Year gift packages, we provided them with free clinics and free haircuts. There were also performances to entertain them. All of these efforts were to bring warmth to our care recipients’ hearts as they awaited the arrival of Chinese New Year.

The warm stream of love can relieve life’s bitterest cold. Taiwan’s most precious treasure is our abundance of love and kindness. I hope that people in Taiwan never lose their passion to give love and do good.

Thoughts of kindness arise in everyone’s mind. We must take good care of these good thoughts and act upon them. The Dharma is like water that can help us nurture the seeds of kindness in our hearts. Let’s diligently tend to these seeds of kindness with that Dharma-water so that they won’t wither. If we can do that and give of ourselves lovingly, we’ll reap infinite blessings life after life.

Those who aspire to be real-life bodhisattvas must make the Four Great Vows and strive to fulfill them: “I vow to save all living beings however countless they are, to get rid of all worries however innumerable they are, to study the methods of the Dharma however endless they are, and to attain the Buddha Way however transcendent it is.” To help relieve the suffering in the world, we must go out and serve people. When we have witnessed the suffering of birth, old age, disease, and death among people, we will come to realize the origin of all misery. Then we can better learn to cherish what we have and give of ourselves diligently.

It is important that we take the Buddha’s teachings to heart, have faith in them, and live them out so that they can help us remove suffering. We must also go one step further and pass on the Dharma to others. If we can do that, we help our own wisdom-life to grow [as opposed to our physical life] and form good Dharma-affinities with others. This will in turn help protect and safeguard their minds.

When we can absorb and spread the Dharma, allowing it to put down firm roots in our minds, our faith will be steadfast and not easily shaken by winds of ignorance. None of us knows how long we will live, but we can control the breadth and depth of our lives. What do we want to take with us into our next lives: our afflictions or the wisdom of the Buddha? It all depends on whether we have worked hard on sowing seeds of goodness and nurturing our wisdom-life with the Dharma in this life.

At a year-end blessing ceremony, volunteers in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, put on a musical presentation based on the twelve great vows of the Medicine Buddha at the local Jing Si Hall.  Chen Wen-long


Live a valuable life

The Medicine Buddha Sutra tells us that there are many kinds of suffering and various forms of illness in the world, and that not everyone is born with sound body and mind. Those of us who are blessed with well-formed bodies and good health should be very grateful and make good use of our healthy bodies by working for the benefit and well-being of mankind. When we can do that, we are leading valuable lives.

Some of our volunteers, even though afflicted with illness, still give the best they can. Lin Yong-quan (林永全) is one example. He was one of the participants who put on musical presentations of the Medicine Buddha’s twelve great vows at this year’s blessing ceremonies held at the local Jing Si Hall in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer a couple of years ago. He said that he was depressed when he first learned of the diagnosis, but he quickly pulled himself together. He and his wife encouraged each other and decided that they would be sad for only one day. After that, he actively received treatment and made plans to make the most of his time to give.

A true Buddhist, Lin knows that birth, old age, disease, and death are in the natural course of life. Though we may not be able to change the circumstances of our lives, we can change our mindsets. When things go well for us, we must remember that everything is impermanent; when adversity hits, we should keep in mind the karmic law of cause and effect. He realized during treatment how willpower could create miracles, so he continued to volunteer when he could and even used his experiences to encourage other cancer patients. Lin truly sets a good example for us to follow.

Xie Jia-cheng (謝佳成), also a volunteer from Taoyuan, was struck with acute abdominal aortic dissection. This condition caused him to lose so much blood that the medical workers who treated him could not find his pulse or blood pressure. He was brought back to life after the medical team transfused more than 10,000 cc of blood into him. The whole time he was hospitalized, whether in the ICU or the regular ward, other Tzu Chi volunteers kept him company. Seeing that, the other patients in the same ward thought that he was some kind of a big shot. He told them he was just an ordinary person, but his fellow volunteers cherished him as though he were an indispensable big shot.

Xie did his best to give when he was well. When he fell ill, he received blood donated by many kind-hearted people, and his fellow volunteers gave him genuine care and support. He was truly reaping the blessings he had sown. We shouldn’t pamper ourselves so much in life that we never exert ourselves for the benefit of others. On the contrary, we should do our best to contribute to the welfare of society and make positive differences in others’ lives. Both Lin and Xie have demonstrated this to us. Life is transient, and illness can strike us in a second. We mustn’t delay to do good.

Our Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital is ten years old. I remember that when ground was broken for the hospital in 2002, my mentor, Dharma Master Yin Shun (印順導師), attended the ceremony and gave a talk. He was delighted to see how Tzu Chi volunteers had practiced the fundamental spirit of Buddhism by wisely carrying out various works that benefited mankind.

I’m very grateful to my mentor for affirming our volunteers’ mindful, loving giving. Tzu Chi, founded 51 years ago, began with the mission of charity. Six years later, we set up a free medical clinic for the poor, which marked the start of our medical mission. Forty-five years have passed since then, and now we have six hospitals around Taiwan working together to safeguard people’s lives and health.

A patient afflicted with both cardiac tamponade and aortic dissection was rushed to Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital one day. He had no vital signs when he arrived, but the medical team rescued him from the clutches of death. The patient was very grateful to Dr. Yu Jung-min (余榮敏), the head of the cardiac surgery department, who operated on him. But Dr. Yu humbly credited the success of the operation to the united efforts of his colleagues and to the Tzu Chi volunteers who have supported the hospital over the years.

Today, many medical professionals opt not to work in emergency and critical care because the work is very demanding and under-appreciated. This makes me even more thankful to our hospital staff who stick to the job of caring for critically ill patients.

The Buddha taught us to contemplate the impurity of the body as a way to eliminate our attachment to it. The human body is often called a “stinking sack of skin” in Chinese. We can imagine what hard work it is for hospital workers to take care of the ill day in and day out, [including cleaning away their body waste]. Yet, they do it compassionately, resolved to safeguard lives. Their dedication is truly touching and fills me with immense gratitude.

Illness is the greatest suffering in life. Many people who are struck down with illness suffer and struggle in fear. Even their families are dragged into misery along with them. They really need the help of medical workers who can care for them, rid them of suffering, and thus bring them happiness. Boundless are the merits medical workers accumulate for restoring people back to health, helping them regain a good quality of life, and thus giving their families peace and joy.

Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. It is one of six Tzu Chi hospitals in Taiwan.  Liao Jun-de

Cultivate compassion by eating vegetarian

Europe has experienced extremely cold weather this winter, resulting in many deaths. The Balkan Peninsula, which many Syrian refugees travel through during their migration to their final destinations, is freezing cold, which makes the refugees’ lives in tents even more painful.

The unbalanced minds of just a few people have plunged an entire nation into turmoil and forced people from their homes. We really need to work harder to help purify people’s minds so that we can help ward off disasters, both man-made and natural.

Strife and conflict are induced by men, but extreme weather and frequent natural disasters are also closely linked to human behavior, to the impact that our habits and lifestyles have made on the Earth. Tzu Chi volunteers have attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference for several years in a row. Our representatives found that all attending nations agree that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, but there is still a deficiency of concrete action.

Actually, it is not difficult for everyone to do good for the environment—the most effective way is to eat vegetarian.

An average of 1,770 animals are killed every second around the world for human consumption. This means that over 150 million animals are slaughtered every day. It is staggering to think about the astonishing amount of water and grain needed to raise such a huge number of animals and the great quantity of greenhouse gases emitted by their excrement. In order to satisfy people’s cravings for meat, human beings raise animals in cramped quarters, and if an infectious disease breaks out, they kill the livestock on a massive scale. It’s sad to think about such cruelty.

A vegetarian diet can significantly reduce pollution and the consumption of resources, thus bringing great benefit to the Earth. Eating vegetarian also helps us cultivate compassion and kindness.

Weather abnormalities, wars, and plagues all have their origins in unbalanced human minds, minds that are plagued by such mental poisons as greed, anger, delusion, arrogance, and doubt. An effective antidote to these poisons is thoughts of kindness. These thoughts can purify the spiritual turbidity in the world. When people’s minds are purified and they harbor compassionate thoughts and refrain from taking lives, our Earth will be healthy, and all living creatures will be free from fear and live in peace.

Good and evil are in a tug-of-war in this world. We can all do our part to move the world toward goodness. If we can think wholesome thoughts, turn hostility into peace and harmony, and do good together, we will create a lot of blessings and help stave off man-made and natural disasters.

Please be ever more mindful.

Eating vegetarian is good for the Earth and helps us nurture our compassion.  Huang Shi-ze




Spring 2017