Illuminating Ourselves, Illuminating the World
Master Cheng Yen’s Teachings
Translated by the Dharma as Water Team
On December 10, six states in the Midwest of the United States were devastated by more than thirty tornadoes. One of them even traveled for more than 300 kilometers, equivalent to the length of Taiwan from North to South. The tornadoes tore up sturdy houses as if they were made of paper. Following the disasters, Tzu Chi volunteers were mobilized to provide disaster relief.
Beyond the United States, there were typhoons in the Philippines and floods in Malaysia. These disasters worldwide cause us to lament and worry. The powerful forces of climate change have led to irregularities in nature and imbalances in the four elements. We can no longer say, “Those things are far from us.” Actually, they are not. The universe is vast, but there is only one planet Earth where humans can live. Tornadoes and major earthquakes are hard to predict; wildfires that destroy vast lands have become commonplace; there is also severe air pollution that clouds visibility. The world seems to be covered in clouds, fog, and darkness.
Can humans really overpower nature? Humans are so small in size, but they are also arrogant and unable to control their greed and desires. Although we may know the principles, we still do things that we know we should not. Although we may regret impulsive actions that created evil karma, when similar conditions arise, we cannot help but carelessly repeat those actions. Unconsciously, we accumulate powerful karmic forces. The mindsets and actions of humans led to this abnormal way of life.
The Buddha came to this world to teach the Dharma, explaining the principles of suffering, emptiness, and impermanence. However, people have difficulty comprehending and awakening; instead, they delight in suffering. When we lose our direction in life, we go against the principles.
All people have Buddha-nature, and as we engage in spiritual practice, we seek to eliminate habitual tendencies. We must raise our vigilance every second and every minute so that we do not act carelessly. When we stop pursuing desires, we become free and at ease. We must reflect on our nature, listen to our hearts, and awaken our conscience and enlightened nature so that we do not remain lost.
We have referred often recently to the analogy of fireflies. On dark nights, their glimmers of light shine. Though they cannot illuminate the dark land completely, they give a sense of liveliness, creating a truly beautiful scene. When we see the liveliness in nature, we feel a sense of hopefulness, and we begin to contemplate where the hope for the world lies.
We must also have faith. We should begin by taking action ourselves, and then urge and influence even more people. We must continuously promote kind words, continuously do good deeds, and mutually encourage and praise each other. In this way, the world will certainly be filled with hope. Everyone is responsible for what happens in the world. We should ask if we have done our part; even though our strength is weak, we can provide light, like the tiny fireflies. We must not underestimate ourselves. When we have faith that we can contribute, everyone’s lives can be filled with light.
I hope I can be a firefly as well. Then, my light can join with everyone’s light. With collaborative efforts, we will radiate light together and illuminate the dark corners of the world, guiding everyone in the right direction. Further, we must fly forward to recruit more people.
We should also “take inventory of our life” and reflect. In this life, have we created blessings and benefited others every day, or did we let time and days pass in vain? If we have not done enough, we must work harder to advance. If we have done a lot, knowing the direction is right and how many people still need us, we should not miss the opportunity to do good. Thus, we will continue to improve ourselves and see value in ourselves.
As long as we are willing to give, it does not matter how little strength we have. For our family, we should dedicate our efforts, and for our career, we should work to benefit society and furthermore give back to society. We must not just make profits for ourselves; we must benefit society. If it is the right thing, then once we have found the right direction, we should “just do it.” With wholehearted resolve, we advance courageously, seize the opportunities, and bring merits and virtues to fruition, creating blessed affinities. If we are indecisive and wavering, then time and opportunities will pass, and our aspirations will be lost as well.
If we do not do good deeds or speak kind words, then there is no principle in the world that we will be able to share. I hope that everyone can become a bodhisattva and that everyone can teach the Dharma. This is the time that we are needed, so we must put the teachings into action and carry them out with peace and a clear conscience. Everyone, please always be mindful!
(Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings on December 1 to 20, 2021)