The BBC has named the influential philanthropist and leading light in the socially engaged Buddhism movement Dharma Master Cheng Yen as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2022. The BBC’s list, published annually, highlights the struggles, achievements, and accomplishments of prominent and notable women from across the globe.
As the founder of the international charity and humanitarian organization Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Master Cheng Yen has become a global icon of socially engaged Buddhism. As a revered Buddhist nun and Dharma teacher, she has has been a key figure in the development of modern Taiwanese Buddhism, expressing the deeply held belief that all people are capable of manifesting the same great compassion as the Buddha—and noting that true compassion is not simply feeling sympathy for the suffering of others, but is found in reaching out to relieve suffering with concrete action.
“The BBC’s 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world for this year, looking at progress made over the decade,” a Tzu Chi representative shared with BDG. “Each laureate overcomes remarkable personal, social, and international challenges offering hope for many and showing us what’s possible. We are extremely grateful to be able to share the recognition given to our founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, as one of the 100.”
Master Cheng Yen is popularly known in Taiwan as one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Buddhism, the others being Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain; Master Hsing Yun, founder of Fo Guang Shan; and Master Wei Chueh, founder of Chung Tai Shan. These four global Buddhist orders, correspondingly known as the “Four Great Mountains,” have grown to become among the most influential Chinese Buddhist organizations in the world.
Master Cheng Yen founded the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Republic of China, more widely known as the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in Taiwan in 1966. With a focus on “putting compassion into action,” the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is a UN-accredited NGO with some 10 million supporters and 432 offices worldwide across 51 countries, undertaking regular and widespread activities in the fields of humanitarian aid, medical care, education, and environmental sustainability.
Previous nominees from the Buddhist world have included: in 2021, the socially engaged Buddhist activist Manjula Pradeep, a prominent lawyer and campaigner championing the rights of some of India’s most deprived communities; in 2019, Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s first female monk; and in 2018, Bhutanese Buddhist activist Dr. Tashi Zangmo, executive director of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation.
This year marks the 10th year for the BBC’s initiative, which has to date recognized 1,000 women whose lives have influenced others and transformed communities and even nations. The 100 women are drawn from a pool of candidates who made news headlines, as well as those with significant achievements or influence in their societies but with less public attention or fanfare.
“This is the 10th season of 100 Women, so we are taking the opportunity to explore what progress has been made over the last decade, the BBC explained. “While there have been huge steps forward for women’s rights—from the number of female leaders to the MeToo movement—for women in many corners of the world it still feels like there is a long way to go. The list also reflects the role of women at the heart of conflict around the world in 2022—from the protesters bravely demanding change in Iran, to the female faces of conflict and resistance in Ukraine and Russia.” (BBC News)
Some of the other 100 influential women nominated by the BBC in 2022 include: Aye Nyein Thu, a medical doctor in Myanmar who has been a frontline volunteer in crisis areas with a focus on the country’s remote and poor Chin State; Sanjida Islam Choya, a student in Bangladesh who is working to change her country’s high rate of child marriage; Sandya Eknaligoda, a Sri Lankan human rights activist who has been helping thousands of mothers and wives who lost loved ones during Sri Lanka’s civil war; and Zhou Xiaoxuan, known as the face of China’s MeToo movement, who has been supporting women in China who have faced sexual harassment.
Related news reports from BDG
BBC Names Engaged Buddhist Manjula Pradeep among 100 Influential Women of 2021
BBC Names Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Thailand’s First Female Monk, among 100 Influential Women of 2019
BBC Names Dr. Tashi Zangmo of the Bhutan Nuns Foundation among 100 Most Influential Women of 2018