On the Path to Awakening, Lifetime After Lifetime
Master Cheng Yen’s Teachings
Translated by the Dharma as Water Team
Published #68 | Spring 2022 Issue
At the end of October 2022, we began the annual year-end blessing ceremonies, and we traveled down eastern Taiwan to southern Taiwan before heading north again on the west side. What I am joyful about on this trip is the certification for new commissioners and Faith Corps members, as we have brought in a new group of Bodhisattvas. Only after volunteers are certified have they truly begun to walk on the Bodhisattva Path, so it is most important to be even more diligent.
Volunteers are people who form aspirations to dedicate themselves to society and walk the Bodhisattva Path. Wherever there is a need, they will immediately take action so that those who are in need of help can receive encouragement and strength. What is most important, however, is providing people with genuine and sincere love so that they can feel that warmth and love from society.
Over more than fifty years, my every thought has been dedicated toward the Buddha’s teachings and sentient beings, and Tzu Chi volunteers have followed me. In every year-end blessing ceremony, volunteers joined the sutra musical adaptation, and I am very grateful and touched seeing how dignified and orderly everyone was. I have such aspirations, and my disciples carry them out; I have such faith, and my disciples have the understanding, faith, aspirations, and actions. They are very close to my heart and are united in harmony, and this makes me feel that my life has truly been worthwhile and valuable.
More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha left the palace, as he saw the suffering in this world. Now, 2,500 years later, we see that in Lumbini, Nepal, which is the Buddha’s birthplace, life there is still very simple, underdeveloped, and people are still impoverished. People there think that life is to be lived like this, day after day, month after month, year after year. They think that if they are poor, they will forever be poor, and that if they are rich, then generation after generation will be wealthy, too. The Buddha saw that people were helpless against poverty, illness, aging, and death. As he deeply contemplated, he realized that the suffering of this world was more than just a lack of material things, but it was also because people are lacking spiritually. It was not something that money could solve. Instead, he knew he had to help people thoroughly realize the true principles in life, let go of the ignorance of attachment, and guide everyone toward a path of enlightenment where no one will be lost, lifetime after lifetime.
When we have afflictions and thoughts of greed within our minds, we will never be satisfied, and we will always fear gains and losses. When we gain, we are joyful and hope that we can possess everything. But no matter how much we try to seek for more, we will always feel that we are still lacking and will never be satisfied. This state of mind is what causes sentient beings to suffer. The Buddha wished to transform the minds of sentient beings and enable us to understand the principles of impermanence, suffering, and emptiness so that we can awaken in time, stop chasing after our desires, eliminate ignorance, and find contentment. Those who are content will know to create blessings, and if we are willing to give of ourselves and create blessings, then we are living a rich life of abundance.
My aspiration is to transform Nepal and to transform suffering. In fact, it is really about transforming this world and people’s lives. I hope to transform people’s thoughts of greed into thoughts of giving. During my travels this time, I have heard Bodhisattvas share about how they have transformed their lives. Their mindsets had deviated in the past, which led them to create karma. However once they corrected themselves, moving toward the right direction, they began following the Buddha Dharma and the Bodhisattva Path. The ultimate state of kindness is having no expectations. Even if we do not ask for anything in return, we will still be filled with Dharma joy. In addition, because we have opened the doors to our hearts, there will be nothing that we cannot let go of, nor will we have trouble getting along with others. In this way, we will have no afflictions that trouble us.
During the year-end blessing ceremonies, I also heard elderly Bodhisattvas share their thoughts. Although deep in their hearts, they wish to continue moving forward, due to old age, their legs have lost strength. I feel this too. The last time I traveled, I was still able to walk with relative ease and climb up and down the stairs without much trouble. Now, even walking on flat roads requires a bit of effort. However, I constantly remind myself to still maintain good posture and stand up straight. Even though old age, illness, and deterioration of the body is suffering, I am still very joyful and grateful. I think back to those times when I was alone and stepped onto this path by myself. Now, when I turn around, tens of thousands of people are following me in an orderly fashion. What a magnificent and dignified team! These volunteers are like fireflies glittering in the dark and lighting up the path for people; they bring purity to people’s hearts and harmony to the society in this world of Five Turbidities, and they embody truth, goodness, and beauty!
Thus, elderly Bodhisattvas must not submit themselves to old age. We may not have power over our age, but we have formed Bodhisattva aspirations, and we have the mission of going amongst people. Although I walk slowly, my strides are wide, for only in this way can I train my legs to be stronger. When we have the will and aspiration, we will find strength. Not only does Taiwan need us, but many countries around the world need us too.
It is not enough to have only my strength and yours; we still need to recruit more Bodhisattvas. You must not forget the experienced commissioners who brought you into Tzu Chi at the beginning. You must be like them too, to proactively look for people and transform others. Our Dharma lineage and school of Buddhism need to be connected like this and be passed on from generation to generation. We must all shoulder the responsibility of transforming sentient beings and purifying this world.
At the Abode, I had put a handmade ant figure on my clock. I feel I am like this diligent ant, always racing against time. Although I am small and insignificant and already at this age, I still do not want to give up. We must always be grateful that we are in Tzu Chi together. We have entered and are walking on this Bodhisattva Path together, but we must continue our work until our last breath. When we reach the end, we must remember to continue this will to practice as we begin our life journey again. I hope that everyone will always be diligent, so that we can pass on the power of love to future generations in this world!
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings from October 30 to November 9, 2022