A MODERN DAY GODDESS – MASTER CHENG YEN
A modern day Goddess from Taiwan is the powerful force behind TZU CHI, which is now the largest Buddhist charitable organization in the world. Inspired by Kuan Yin who is the compassionate Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, the Buddhist nun Master Cheng Yen and her volunteers bring relief to millions of suffering beings on a global scale.
This image of my drawing shows Master Cheng Yen giving Dharma talk. With her gentle and persuasive way, Master Cheng Yen explains why it is so important to take an action-oriented approach to practicing compassion. This is the mission behind the work that TZU CHI organization does.
“INSTRUCT THE RICH AND SAVE THE POOR” is the motto of the TZU CHI organization.
‘TZU CHI” whose name translates to “Compassionate Relief” was founded by Master Cheng Yen in 1966 in Taiwan. Today, many people know TZU CHI as a Buddhist-based organization involved in education, medicine, charity, disaster relief and technological advancements in environmental initiatives. Master Cheng Yen has put the teachings of Buddha into action, and through her charismatic teachings, she is able to inspire and mobilize a huge network of loyal, willing and capable volunteers from the very poor to the very rich who want to give up their own time and money to help other people.
Master Cheng Yen was born on May 11th, 1937, in Taichung City, Taiwan, and grew up during World War II. She witnessed great cruelty inflicted on her people, and observed a lot of pain and helplessness unfolding around her. She began to recognize the universal truth that everything in this world is impermanent and no one is exempt from suffering. She cultivated the belief that we as a human race must gather our resources together to help one another. Only through working together and for each other can we live harmoniously and flourish.
At the age of 21, the sudden death of her father shook her deeply, and prompted her to search for the meaning of life and death. It was at this time in her life that Master Cheng Yen met the Dharma. She studied the teachings of Buddha, particularly the “Lotus Sutra” which had a profound influence on her. She realized that Buddha’s message was to expand love for one’s own family to the entire society and all humanity.
At the age of 25, Master Cheng Yen shaved her own head, renouncing the lay life. She met her teacher Venerable Master Yin Shun and took ordination vows under him. Master Yin Shun christened her with the Dharma name, Cheng Yen. Master Yin Shun gave her one simple instruction, “Now that you are a Buddhist monastic, remember always to work for Buddhism and for all living beings.”
By 1966, Master Cheng Yen had developed a small following of monastic disciples who survived on home-grown vegetables and modest earnings in return for knitting baby clothes, shoes and sweaters. Then, Master Cheng Yen founded the TZU CHI Foundation. Since that time, the foundation has grown from a tiny hut into a thriving global organization backed by 10 million volunteers and hundreds of chapters in 47 different countries.
Master Cheng Yen advocates that everyone is capable of the same great compassion as the Buddha. She is quick to point out that lay people can be just as successful as monastics in cultivating a compassionate heart. “Buddha’s teaching is impartial.” Lay practitioners can also cultivate themselves even while living with their families.
“True compassion is not just having sympathy for another’s suffering — it is to reach out to relieve that suffering with concrete actions.” TZU CHI’s mission is to give ordinary citizens the opportunity to actualize this compassion, which is the secret to having real and lasting inner happiness. It is a way for everyone to contribute towards peace and harmony in this world.
Master Cheng Yen gives sound and encouraging advice to her followers,”Skillful habits do not come just by hearing a single lecture. The big mistakes are easy to uproot, but not the small ones.” “Practicing Dharma involves working with the bad habits. They can be transformed gradually only through listening, studying, and applying the Dharma. If we want to cultivate ourselves and work together in a group, we must be open-minded and tolerant in order to attract more like-minded people and sustain our effort to help all beings.”
Master Cheng Yen has motivated so many people around the world to take action and develop compassion in their heart. She has poured her wisdom and energies into building what is now the world’s largest Buddhist charitable organization. Master Cheng Yen is truly the manifestation of the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin. She is a Living Goddess. Greatly she inspires us all. We should practice compassion through action whenever we can. (06/14/2016)
(Sources: www.tzuchi.us, “Feng Shui World” magazine, June 2016 issue)
The following images are my paintings of Kuan Yin. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.
(Spring Liao, 06/14/2016)