Stay Strong in Your Faith
Photo by Chen You-peng

Typhoon Nepartak was the first typhoon to hit Taiwan this summer. On July 8, it landed in Taimali, Taitung County, southeast Taiwan. It was the strongest storm to ravage Taitung in 60 years. Strong winds and rain lashed the area for hours, blowing away roofs and toppling houses. People were terrified.

In the aftermath of the storm, Tzu Chi volunteers rushed from across Taiwan to offer aid. For nine days they visited affected families in Taitung to extend care, hand out emergency cash, and assess the need for further assistance.

Lin Jin-hua (林金花) is a Tzu Chi commissioner living in Taitung. She had had a serious traffic accident last year and had not yet completely recovered. Even so, she led volunteers from other areas to assess the damage. Dr. Wing-Him Poon (潘永謙), superintendent of Guanshan Tzu Chi Hospital, took hospital staff members to two schools to help clear the damage and debris. They used chainsaws to cut fallen trees into smaller pieces that would be easier to remove. Drs. Li Sen-jia (李森佳) and Li Jin-san (李晉三), two brothers serving at Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital, also pitched in to help. They joined volunteers in carrying out visits to affected families.

Dr. Li Sen-jia, 80, was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, but he did not let the illness get the better of him. He took very good care of his body and mind, and he continued to offer his patients his warm care. He gave this same love to victims of the typhoon. What a beautiful life he leads! He is truly making the best of his life. He is like the ferryman in the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, who despite being seriously ill is still able to help people cross over to the other shore because he has a solid boat.

Love from many places throughout Taiwan streamed into the disaster area. Taiwan Rail­way provided additional trains for free to people heading to Taitung to help with the relief work, local guesthouses offered free accommodations for visiting volunteers, and governments of areas not affected by the typhoon dispatched workers and heavy machinery to help with the cleanup.

Real-life bodhisattvas poured forth in the aftermath of the disaster to render aid; they fully demonstrated the power of love and kindness. When a disaster strikes, those of us who emerge unscathed ought to be grateful for our safety and provide a helping hand to those who need it. Everyone can give. We all have unlimited potential as long as we have the heart to contribute. When one person helps another, when a neighborhood helps another neighborhood, a county another county, and a city another city, recovery will speed up.

Extreme weather

After leaving Taiwan, Typhoon Nepartak made landfall in China. Minqing and Yongtai Counties in Fujian Province were among the hardest hit. Many mud-brick buildings collapsed after days of flooding, forcing people into temporary shelters set up in schools. Desks served as their beds; some people even had to sleep on hard floors.

Tzu Chi volunteers provided folding beds and blankets to help out. They also cooked hot meals for victims, who had been eating dry food every day since the disaster. Such thoughtful gestures moved Mr. Liu, a local resident, to donate 90 bags of rice to Tzu Chi to help out.

This is how love can be inspired. When people give sincerely out of love, they often move those around them to do the same, thus setting into motion ever-widening ripples of love.

The power unleashed by nature can be truly astounding. On June 23, just a couple of weeks before Typhoon Nepartak hit Fujian Province, a tornado and hailstorm struck Yancheng in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. Many factories and houses were leveled. Ninety-nine people were killed and more than 800 injured; families were tragically torn asunder in an instant.

The local government quickly provided shelter for those rendered homeless. Tzu Chi volunteers also rushed in to help. They visited hospitalized victims and delivered over 800 folding beds and blankets to shelter residents to make their stay more comfortable. Volunteers even rolled up their sleeves and cleaned up shelter restrooms, while local people delivered water to the restrooms to make the cleanup easier. The volunteers recognized how hard medical professionals were working to treat the injured, so they also brought fruit to a hospital to thank the doctors and nurses.

Following the storm, an elderly man and his grandson were rescued from under the rubble. However, the grandfather was not a bit happy to be alive. He told volunteers through tears that he was the sole breadwinner in the family, but that he was getting too old to shoulder the responsibility. He felt utterly powerless. Volun­teers hugged the man and told him not to worry. They spent days with the man and his grandson, providing care and support. In the end, the old man finally came around and smiled with hope.

Natural disasters have hit other places in the world. India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka have all experienced severe flooding recently. Due to El Niño and La Niña, some places around the world have received so much rainfall this year that there has been severe flooding. Other places have not had a drop of rain. Such extreme weather has led to crop failures. The United Nations estimates that resulting food shortages will affect over one hundred million people.

A Tzu Chi volunteer expresses her care for a shelter resident displaced by a tornado in Yancheng, Jiangsu, eastern China. Photo by Lin Xuan

It begins with you and me

Such extreme climatic conditions are closely intertwined with the lifestyles of human beings. Humans consume a lot of natural resources to satisfy their endless desires. Inordi­nate consumption of resources to sustain wasteful lifestyles is wreaking havoc on the Earth. To protect the environment, to reduce global warming, people must change their attitudes and behavior. They must curb their desires and cherish what they have to help conserve resources.

One thing everyone can do is to save water and electricity. Nowadays, most buildings are fitted with air-conditioners. Accustomed to the cool air indoors, many people cannot stand the high temperatures outside. However, a heart at ease cools a person down. Don’t become a burden on the environment by turning on the air conditioner full force as soon as you feel hot. In addition to conserving electricity, we must not waste food. A saying goes, “A grain of rice, 24 drops of sweat.” Farming is hard work. We should cherish every grain of rice and not be wasteful. When we learn to appreciate other people’s hard work, we will naturally treasure all things.

No matter how rich we are, we cannot own everything in the world, but a contented person will never feel in need. I hope everyone can learn to be content, live simply, love the Earth, and contribute to the well-being of mankind. When everyone can live with sincere piety and give without asking for anything in return, nature will fall into balance, and disasters will decrease.

Be grounded in faith

A natural disaster can bring damage that breaks people’s hearts, but man-made disasters, such as war, are often even more horrifying. Human beings constantly create strife and discord, which disturb the world’s peace. We cannot bring peace to the world without first transforming people’s minds. I hope everyone can respect and love one another, be sincere in all dealings, and never act willfully. Further­more, let’s all reach out to the needy. The power of our combined love will be great when we all nurture kindness and create good karma together. This is how we will help peace to reign in the world.

With torrents of spiritual turbidity roiling in the world today, with the forces of goodness in a tough tug-of-war with the forces of evil, we must adhere all the more closely to an upright religion and stay strong in our faith.

There is a story in a Buddhist scripture:

The Buddha accepted King Prasenajit’s invitation and led a thousand of his disciples to the king’s palace. Pious people lined the way from the Jetavana monastery to the palace. The sight made the eight classes of Dharma-protectors, including heavenly beings and dragons, joyful. Just when the procession was about to reach the palace, a bhikkhuni named Cinca suddenly appeared. Her belly noticeably round, she tugged at the Buddha’s robe and declared that she was pregnant with his child.

Her statement astonished everyone and created quite a stir. Just then, a mouse materialized out of nowhere. It crawled under Cinca’s robe and chewed through a cord holding a round water scoop, which landed hard on the ground. The king was outraged when he saw all this, and he ordered that Cinca be buried alive.

The Buddha asked the king to put off the execution, and he told everyone a story: A long time ago in a marketplace, a woman was getting ready to buy a bowl of pearls when a man offered to pay double for them. He got them in the end. The woman was furious, and resentment took hold of her heart. Lifetime after lifetime she slandered the man.

The Buddha said that he was that man and Cinca the woman. Such was the karmic law of cause and effect. He said he was willing to accept the retribution.

Dr. Wing-Him Poon, superintendent of Guanshan Tzu Chi Hospital, helps clear away damage at a school ravaged by Typhoon Nepartak. Photo by Guo Ming-juan

The Buddha vowed to deliver all people, good or bad, from suffering. Because of that, he encountered a lot of adversity. Even in his assembly of disciples there were people who harbored evil intentions against him. They badmouthed him and spread lies about him. They tried everything they could to blacken the reputation of the Enlightened One, the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), and the sangha (the assembly of monks and nuns). But their actions were like kicking sand into the wind. In the end, the sand was blown backward in their direction and never touched the Buddha. Their unwholesome deeds did not detract from the Buddha’s merits one little bit. On the contrary, the slanderers suffered the backlash of their own actions. By vilifying the One who spoke about the Truth and by hindering him from spreading the Dharma and bringing good to people, the slanderers brought great damage onto themselves.

The Buddha’s teachings are an antidote to the many ills we see in the world today, but it is not an easy feat to promulgate the Dharma in this treacherous, difficult world. People’s minds go through ups and downs. When they feel happy and positive, they aspire to diligently practice the Dharma. Yet when the wind of ignorance blows, it very easily stirs up doubt and distrust in their minds and causes them to slacken in their way and forget their aspirations.

Knowing this, the Buddha tirelessly reminded us in the Lotus Sutra that once we pledge to walk the Bodhisattva Path, we must build a strong faith and hold firm to our aspirations so that we can withstand whatever challenges life throws at us and not be easily carried away by the currents of ignorance.

The Dharma isn’t a set of abstract principles—it is totally applicable to our everyday life. Practicing Buddhism means to break our bad habits and transform the bad in us into good. If you used to speak harshly to others, be soft-spoken, kind and helpful now. In addition, do more than just tap into the good in yourself—inspire others to do the same and help safeguard their kindness. By eliminating all that is bad and encouraging all that is good, we will help bring about a good world.

Dr. Antonio Say talks with a patient at a free eye clinic held by Tzu Chi on Bohol Island. Photo by Li Jia-mei

The world needs living bodhisattvas

The world may be full of all kinds of disturbances, but there is hope as long as there are living bodhisattvas among us.

On October 15, 2013, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked Bohol Island in the Philippines, killing more than 200 people and damaging many schools. After extending emergency aid to victims, Tzu Chi volunteers helped erect 150 prefabricated classrooms.

In June 2016, volunteers from Manila traveled to the island again to hold a free eye clinic. When they arrived at the venue to set it up, they saw people sleeping on the ground nearby. It turned out that those people, who lived 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, were afraid of missing the free clinic, so they pooled their money and hired a vehicle to take them to the site one day early. Hearing their story, our volunteers felt for them. Most of them suffered from cataracts, which can be treated with an easy operation. But in Bohol there is a shortage of ophthalmologists, and most people are too poor to afford the treatment anyway, so a free eye clinic is their only chance.

One man, Jose, used to be the breadwinner of his family, but a year ago cataracts had blinded him and rendered him unable to work. He thought he was doomed to spend the rest of his life in darkness. Dr. Antonio Say screened his eyes before the free clinic and assured him that there was a fair chance he would regain his vision. The doctor was right. After surgery on one of his eyes at the free clinic, Jose walked out of the operating room on his own. His future is no longer swathed in darkness.

Four children in one family were all afflicted with congenital cataracts. Dr. Say arranged to have four surgeons operate on them at the same time. Afterwards, when the four siblings were able to see each other, they were overjoyed. Their joy spread to other patients at the clinic.

The free clinic restored the vision of nearly 200 people.

Tzu Chi volunteers have always given unwaveringly to the less fortunate; neither praise nor criticism can shake their determination to serve. They forge ahead, undaunted by the distances they have to travel to reach the needy, undaunted by the large number of people out there who need help. They stay true to their commitment and work hard with one another to disseminate seeds of love.

Oftentimes when people face adversities, they pray to the bodhisattvas for help and blessings. But can those bodhisattvas truly help them? Real-life bodhisattvas can. We have seen our volunteers willingly clear all obstacles to get to places where people are suffering. They treat the less fortunate as they would their own family members, give them warm hugs, soothe them with gentle words, and offer them a shoulder to lean on. They visit places of suffering to find out how they can be of help, and then they deliver whatever aid is needed. They are bodhi­sattvas in real life!

It is my wish that all Buddhists will embark on the Bodhisattva Path and give to the suffering and needy. Please be ever more mindful.

A doctor operates on a patient at the free eye clinic. Photo by Li Jia-mei


Fall 2016