Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Oct 22nd
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Home Our Founder Master's Teachings Miscellaneous Serving Others as a Way of Cultivation

Serving Others as a Way of Cultivation

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[Master's Teachings]
When people think about practicing Buddhism, some would associate it with chanting the Buddha’s name. Buddhists feel that there is a lot of suffering in the six realms. To be liberated from suffering, some would chant Amitabha Buddha’s name because they believe he would take them to the Pure Land. This is also a method for them to reach a peaceful state of mind.

In Tzu Chi, we say that “when our heart is pure, we are in the pure land” and that “in chanting the Buddha’s name, we hope to emulate the Buddha’s heart”. If we can do this, we will practice the Dharma in everything we do. By understanding this, we will know to share the Dharma with people and help make practicing it easier for everyone.

A Tzu Chi volunteer in Yuanlin, Mr. Zhang Jintan, had a realization about this. For a long time, he was a very pious Buddhist who practiced his faith by chanting the Buddha’s name. His neighbor, Mrs. Yao-Huang Yuzhu, is a Tzu Chi commissioner. Knowing that he was a devoted Buddhist, she thought it would be great if he could join Tzu Chi. She was determined to inspire and recruit him to become a volunteer.

With this in mind, she started to talk to him about Tzu Chi every time they met. Mr. Zhang would respond by telling her about how one benefits from chanting the Buddha’s name. He added, “When I chant, I feel my heart is pure. So, I want to devote my time to chanting the Buddha’s name. I’m not interested in joining any organization nor in forming attachments with anyone.” Though she was very determined to recruit him, Mr. Zhang was not convinced. This went on for a few years. He was firmly set on his path of cultivation.

One day, Mrs. Yao-Huang asked him, “Mr. Zhang, you don’t want to join Tzu Chi, and you believe there are many benefits in chanting the Buddha’s name; why don’t you try to persuade me to do the same?” Upon hearing this, he reflected on her words and wondered what he could really do to show her that his method of cultivation is the best. Mrs. Yao-Huang’s words made him rethink the Buddha’s teachings. Soon after, the 921 Earthquake hit Nantou, which was close to where he lived. He saw many people killed or injured by the quake as well as many collapsed buildings. Suddenly, he had an epiphany, “Can I really help anyone by merely chanting the Buddha’s name?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Zhang saw Tzu Chi volunteers actively serving in the disaster area. Seeing Tzu Chi volunteers in their blue and white uniforms involved alongside firefighters and policemen, Mr. Zhang asked himself, “Everyone is helping out in disaster relief, but how can I help? I chant the Buddha’s name so piously, but what does that do? Although when I chant, my heart feels pure, people around me are in suffering.” At that moment he realized that he needed to practice the Dharma by taking action to help people. He quickly signed up to be a volunteer and began serving with Tzu Chi to help the quake affectees.

After that, Mr. Zhang got more involved with Tzu Chi’s activities and felt very happy serving his community. He felt that helping others is what a living bodhisattva does. Later on, he began to devote himself to Tzu Chi’s recycling. For more than 10 years now, he has been driving a recycling truck every day with a joyful heart. He also encourages people to reduce their carbon footprints by conserving energy. He lives in a community with many residents, tells them about Tzu Chi, and inspires them to volunteer and serve.


From Mr. Zhang’s story, we can see that both chanting the Buddha’s name and doing Tzu Chi’s work are methods to practice Buddhism. But, when we are doing Tzu Chi's work, we are walking the Bodhisattva Path. As we do that, the Dharma becomes a part of our life.