Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Master Cheng Yen

TR had told us a while back to watch a programme on Discovery Channel on Dharma Master, Cheng Yen. I had tried to catch it a few times but never seemed to be able to. I woke up late today and remembered it was on at 10a.m. so I quickly snapped on the TV.

I was enthralled.

Master Cheng Yen is a Buddhist nun based in Taiwan. She started the Tzu Chi movement in 1966, together with a core team of 30, consisting of mainly housewives, who supported the movement by saving NT0.50 (USD0.13) of their grocery money per day. From such humble beginings, Master Cheng Yen has built hospitals in remote areas of Taiwan and whole communities around them. Tzu Chi literally means "compassion relief" - it's a multi million dollar organisation today which is purely dedicated to give practical aid to the poor and provide spiritual encouragement to the rich. I was particularly moved by how she is so hands on in her approach - everyday, she only sleeps five hours and takes her meals in five minutes. The rest of the time is spent walking through her hospitals and talking to patients and doctors to see how to improve things.

I had often heard that Buddhists, unlike Christians, never go and provide relief in disaster stricken areas. I didn't know anything about it so just kept quiet. This TV documentary highlighted that Tzu Chi actually has 10 million members, of which 1 million members are trained volunteers all over the world. Training takes two years and is not to be taken lightly. At any time, these volunteers can be called into action.

Throughout the years, Tzu Chi has consistently helped the communities in disaster struck areas. First in Taiwan and then also overseas. In the Tsunami stricken Sri Lanka, Tzu Chi was one of the first teams to arrive. Six months later, when most of the relief organisations had gone, Tzu Chi was still there and was involved in the building of 675 houses. Even when the hurricane hit US, Tzu Chi sent its teams there to provide financial aid when it was sorely needed.

Tzu Chi is really Buddhist compassion in action, with the help of western medicine.

If a humble nun and 30 housewives can achieve so much, how can we say "I can't"?

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