Great virtue is accumulated from doing small good deeds
The people of Taiwan in 1966 were generally poor. The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was founded by Master Cheng Yen with five monastic disciples and thirty house wives. In order to raise money to help the poor, the dharma masters at the Jing Si Adobe made baby shoes to sell four dollars each. With an additional twenty-four dollars each day, they were able to save seven hundred and twenty dollars more per month. The medical expense of first care recipient cost more than six hundred dollars.
Later on, the number of care recipients increased but the charity fund did not increase. With the wish to save even more lives, Master Cheng Yen asked the thirty housewives to save fifty cents (NTD) a day from their daily grocery money. This money was saved as emergency fund.
Fifty cents seemed small but the principle behind the gesture was very significant. Master Cheng Yen used the bamboo in the space behind the Jing Si Abode and cut them into thirty tubes to use as piggy banks. She gave every follower one bamboo bank and asked them to deposit fifty cents a day. Someone asked Master Cheng Yen, "Why don't we just donate fifteen dollars a month?” The Master replied with, "I hope when you pick up the grocery shopping basket everyday, you will deposit fifty cents to the bamboo saving bank. Before leaving the house, you have already made a commitment to help other people. Saving fifty cents each day raises a thrifty and loving heart. When these feelings are put in the bamboo bank, the effect is tremendous.” The thirty housewives went grocery shopping everyday and saved fifty cents. They also told other people that they were saving fifty cents every day to save lives.
"Can fifty cents save people?” This news began to spread in the market rapidly. Many people responded to this campaign. Although life was difficult 40 years ago, everyone was joyful because they could help the poor. The humble beginnings of the ‘bamboo bank’ era inspired people to change good thoughts into good actions. Slowly raising $1,170 monthly in the early years eventually accumulated eight hundred million dollars to build the Hualien Tzu Chi General Hospital. Now, Tzu Chi has taken these small steps of kindness to travel across the entire world.
Creating a peaceful society with good thoughts
As Tzu Chi entered its 41st year of operations, its four missions had been fully developed and established. Even so, with a string of natural disasters such as the South Asia tsunami, the Chinese Sichuan Earthquake, the Central American hurricanes and the European forest fires, the power of compassion and kindness is still not strong enough. As such, with the renewal of the spirit of the ‘bamboo bank’, everybody can nurture a loving heart each day. This daily accumulation of well wishes has the power to prevent natural disasters.
Tzu Chi volunteers all over the world are spreading the message. The “New Bamboo Bank Era” takes small amounts of money and turns it into great love. It is not just one action but is an ongoing campaign. “It takes many drops of water to make a river; it takes many grains of rice to make a bushel.” With good thoughts all the time, one would make good wishes constantly and do good deeds daily.
In life, we cannot ignore a single act of kindness and not to do them, because every small act counts and contributes to the force of compassion, which ultimately will nurture peace in the world. More importantly, the happiness that we feel in doing good deeds is immeasurable.
(Source: Master Cheng Yen’s talks at volunteer’s morning assembly, 2006)