You may, or may not, have heard of the Tzu Chi organization?
What you will come to discover in this well-written book about its history, philosophy and extensive global charity work will surely fill you with awe!
Tzu Chi is a low-key Buddhist organization founded in Taiwan in a simple and modest manner by a Buddhist nun named Cheng Yen with 30 volunteer followers in 1966. Today, the Tzu Chi organization has grown and developed into what has become the world’s largest Chinese non-government organization with operations in over 40 countries and 10 million volunteers! That is a remarkable achievement in expansion over 45 years of service dedicated to helping others around the world. Tzu Chi has built seven hospitals, 100 schools, a university; and it currently runs the largest bone marrow bank in Asia. It was one of the first NGOs to aid the victims of the Katrina Hurricane damage in the US (2005), and quickly mobilized teams and supplies after the tsunamis in Asia (2004/2011) and the Sichuan earthquake in China (2008). All these great works have sprung from Master Cheng Yen’s pioneered vision of “humanist Buddhism”, a mission to transform traditional monastery Buddhist practices into Bodhisattvas’ acts to benefit people all over the world.
In “TZU CHI, Serving with Compassion”, Mark O’Neill the author provides an exquisite account of the organization by delving into its history, philosophy and worldwide projects. He gives a comprehensive narrative of the background and development of Tzu Chi, starting from the early life of Master Cheng Yen and her founding of this movement based upon the mission of humanist Buddhism, to Tzu Chi’s initial services and then its step-by-step expansion into its current global scope of charity work. There are numerous inspiring personal stories that reflect not only the exceptional determination and dedication of Master Cheng Yen, but her followers and subsequent foundation members who joined throughout the years. The vivid examples of humanist Buddhism serve to illustrate how Buddhist teachings can be applied into daily life practice to benefit all sentient beings.
Tzu Chi is an exceptional NGO not only because of its size and scope of services all over the world, but also because of its efficient management style and philosophy to evoke the compassion in every human being. According to O’Neill, Tzu Chi is run like a multi-national company to ensure effective use of money and thus has earned the trust from donors and patrons all over the world with annual donations of $300 million and an endowment of over $780 million. Moreover, the aid materials are delivered person-to-person by Tzu Chi members as Master Cheng Yen believes that this will bring as much blessing to the donors and to the recipients, and more importantly, will spread the seeds of love to the suffering people. It is therefore no surprise to find the Tzu Chi members in white and blue uniforms helping out in natural disasters or battle zones in various corners of the globe. Master Cheng Yen believes that we are all capable to take the Bodhisattva vows and practice the Buddhist teachings by working to ease the suffering of others.
Tzu Chi demonstrates the Bodhisattva’s ideals in its actions and illuminates universal love for all sentient beings in our daily life. As O’Neill says, “it (Tzu Chi) gives aids to everyone, regardless of race or color, and welcomes people of every belief. It sees the world as one family and everyone who is suffering as worthy of help”, and that “this is Buddhism is action, not a religion confined to temples and monasteries.”
The Tzu Chi organization is a life-teaching example of Buddhism in action.
This book not only tells the inspiring faith of a modest and dedicated nun, but really emphasizes the collective strength and commitment of the people around the world in all different countries and communities who make Tzu Chi an unprecedented success. This is surely a must-read for any person who wants to be inspired on how to put into practice the Buddhist teachings in one’s daily life. May we all learn to share the Bodhisattva ideals in helping others.