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Jetsetter: Master Cheng Yen

By Abby Yao

Jetsetter: Master Cheng Yen

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Through her words and exemplary deeds, the founder of the non-profit humanitarian organisation Tzu Chi Foundation has inspired volunteers in over 50 countries to provide aid and assistance to those in need. Tzu Chi Foundation graciously shares Master Cheng Yen’s wisdom with travel360.

What is Tzu Chi, and what are its primary aims?

In Mandarin, ‘tzu’ means ‘compassion’ and ‘chi’ means ‘relief’. Together, ‘tzu chi‘ means ‘to relieve suffering with compassion’. The Foundation aims to provide material aid and emotional support to help those in need, and to offer love and wisdom to elevate their spiritual growth, so that they can enjoy a happy life, free of undue worries.

What are some examples of Tzu Chi Foundation’s projects?

To date, Tzu Chi has helped build 223 schools, set up 10,752 recycling centres, provided free medical services to over 2.82 million people in 50 countries, and provided humanitarian relief in 94 countries.

What is the Bamboo Bank and how does it work?

When Tzu Chi Foundation was first established and its resources were scarce, a group of 30 housewives began saving a portion of their grocery money (approx. USD0.02 each daily) in a bamboo coin bank. These women then pooled their savings to help the less fortunate. Tzu Chi Foundation members and supporters still continue this daily practice of saving their spare change in a coin bank to help others.

Rich or poor, everyone can help another person in need. It is not the amount that counts, but the willingness and intention of giving. By embracing the principle of doing good with our kind thoughts and deeds, we can make the world a better place.

In December 2014, Tzu Chi Foundation chapters in Malaysia provided aid to victims of flooding in the country’s East Coast, and launched a cash-for-work programme to clean up the flood-stricken areas.

Why is there a need for compassion and love?

With so much happening in the world today, there is a crucial need for compassion and love. Only with a pure mind can people respond to emergencies with compassion and support victims through tough times.

Tzu Chi Foundation works closely with organisations such as the United Nations, and AirAsia. What kind of relief and support does Tzu Chi provide?

Tzu Chi Foundation’s relief work includes providing material and emotional support to victims of natural disasters. In carrying out relief work, Tzu Chi Foundation adheres to five principles: Directness, priority, respect, timeliness and practicality. In the event of an emergency, volunteers provide necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies to victims. We also offer financial aid to those in need. And we are on the ground for the long haul – rebuilding and setting up clean water supplies, and more.

Why is caring for the environment a major part of Tzu Chi Foundation’s mission?

Tzu Chi Foundation’s Great Love philosophy extends to the environment. The Earth is like a mother, nurturing all living things. Humans, animals, and plants all rely on Mother Nature’s abundance for nourishment and sustenance. We only have one Earth, so it is everyone’s mission to cherish and care for it.

Not only do Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers practise recycling themselves, they also strive to raise public awareness on recycling and the environment.

How does one reconcile spiritual and material needs?

Although some people may choose to pursue material gratification, happiness derived from material possessions seldom lasts a lifetime. In the past, life was simple and peaceful, and people were easily fulfilled. Nowadays, many people sit in air-conditioned rooms, but they are still not necessarily calm and cool. Instead they are hot-headed and anxious. To eliminate internal worries and feel truly refreshed, we need to work on our ‘spiritual enjoyment’. When I see someone else beaming with joy, I am joyful. It makes me very happy to see people who are contented, grateful, understanding and accommodating – these people understand spiritual enjoyment.

How can one find peace and stillness in today’s fast-paced world?

It is inevitable that every one of us is troubled by worldly affairs. We should be mindful in all our actions – even if it is just walking, standing, sitting or lying down. If we can remain calm and composed in the face of challenges, we will be able to observe and learn from the wisdom of others. For instance, we can learn so much by listening to the life experience of a senior, or observing the naivety of a child. Learn to be understanding and give up self-centredness to lead a carefree and joyful life. In this way, we can experience true joy and inner peace.

Established in 1966 by Buddhist monk Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi Foundation was born in Hualien, when Master Cheng Yen asked her followers to contribute whatever little they could to help the poor. Starting with spare change deposited in bamboo coin banks, the contributions grew day after day, and year after year, enabling Master Cheng Yen and her followers to reach out to more people in need. Soon, word of Tzu Chi Foundation’s efforts to the underprivileged spread worldwide. Today, Tzu Chi Foundation carries out various missions, including medical, education, environmental protection and international relief work, via its network of global volunteers. These missions provide the platform through which the foundation aims to inspire love and humanity in both givers and receivers of aid. To learn more about Tzu Chi Foundation, visit tzuchi.org

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About the Author

Abby Yao

Abby is a Filipina full-time writer, part-time traveller, occasional lindy hopper and painter on sabbatical who subsists on a diet of museums, podcasts and musicals.

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