Let's cherish time

Excerpts from a lecture delivered by Master Cheng Yen
on September 21, 1997
Translated by Norman Yuan

Ladies and gentlemen, Amitabha!
I am very pleased to see so many Tzu Chi members coming from every part of Taiwan. Although Taiwan is not a big place and transportation is very convenient, it is not easy for all of you to get together at one place, especially when all of us are making concerted efforts to carry out the Tzu Chi missions.

Tzu Chi has entered its thirty-second year. Beginning with the mission of charity, we have developed other missions such as medicine, education and culture, etc. By accumulating the strength of loving people bit by bit, Tzu Chi has achieved what it is today.

Just when I came in, many little bodhisattvas presented their piggy banks to me. Some said they wanted to donate the money for the construction of the new hospital. Others said they wanted to help the needy. Their purity and loveliness make me feel so wonderful. Whether their money is for the construction of a hospital or for helping people, it comes from their innocent loving hearts. Their merits are really immeasurable.

"Like a school kid out on a hike."

A few minutes ago, we gave awards to outstanding Tzu Chi Hospital volunteers. When the master of ceremonies called the name Su Ching-lien, I felt an ache in my heart. She was a volunteer in the Tzu Chi Hospital for more than five years. She would have come to the meeting today to accept the award personally, but...

A week ago, on the eve of the Moon Festival, Ms. Su and other volunteers
performed an aboriginal dance to entertain patients at the hospital. At a party in the Abode of Still Thoughts the next evening, they performed for guests and Tzu Chi members from all over Taiwan. The participants all formed a circle in the square in front of the main sanctuary of the Abode. It was really very delightful, even though we couldn't see the full moon that evening.

The next morning at a volunteers meeting, I praised those who had danced at the party. Although they were grandmothers, when they danced in their aboriginal costumes, they really showed the simple, happy nature of the aborigines. They were delighted to hear what I said about them. After the gathering, they all went to the hospital to do their volunteer work. When they returned to the Abode of Still Thoughts that evening, they shared their experiences with excitement.

Before they went to bed, someone asked Ms. Su how she danced so well. She said that in order to bring happiness to the patients, she had especially gone to a dancing school to learn. The others asked her to teach them. She was delighted and immediately stood up to demonstrate.

When she had danced the last step, she said to them, "Follow me." As she was bending forward, she fell down. At first people thought it was a part of the dance, but then they realized that something was wrong. She was unconscious. They immediately called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Dr. Lin Chin-lon, a cardiologist and the deputy director of the hospital, went with some other physicians to see her. At that time, she opened her eyes and said she was all right. The volunteers replied, "It's good that you are all right - you scared us." She said, "No swear, but please don't tell my husband!" After that, she closed her eyes. But she never opened them again.

I rushed to the ICU to see her early next morning. The chief of the neurosurgery department told me that an artery in her head had broken. I asked him how she was. He shook his head and said he feared the worst. When her husband arrived at the hospital, the chief asked him whether his wife had ever complained about headaches. He said she had. The chief said this usually happened in people between forty and sixty. At that age, if the blood vessels in the head were not strong, they would become thin and fragile.

There is a saying in Buddhism: "At the terminal stage of one's life, there is no infatuation and the mind is very clear." The purpose of our spiritual formation is to reach that state. One second before Ms. Su fell down, she was very happy. When she was sent to the hospital, she opened her eyes and said she was all right. She didn't have the slightest fear. How tranquil she was! To her it was a very blessed relief.

Her husband said to me that he understood she had no pain and no struggle, but things had happened too quickly and he needed time to adjust. I told him that my heart also ached, but all we could do was to bless her.

Then he said to me: "Master, do you know? My wife's happy life started only after she joined Tzu Chi. Each time she came to Tzu Chi to do volunteer work, she was as excited as a school kid out on a hike. She was really happy doing Tzu Chi work."

He said that the day before, she had phoned him saying she would go back home on Saturday, but she would return to Hualian to accept the Master's award on Sunday.

Just a few minutes ago, I heard the master of ceremonies call her name. She will never show up to accept the award. The sad pain will be in my heart forever. On the other hand, though, I also envy her because she closed her eyes in a pleasant atmosphere and with peace of mind. How blessed she was!

Ladies and gentlemen! Right now I am standing here without any problem. But what will happen to me in a few seconds, I don't know. It is the same with everyone. Life is really impermanent. That is why I have to hurry to do good for all people.

In their companies, they are presidents and chauffeurs; in Tzu Chi, they call each other brothers.

Tzu Chi's primary mission is to purify people's minds. I always say Taiwan is a Treasure Island: the climate is good and the soil is rich. If we have harmony in society, Taiwan will be a really nice place.

Everyone has the Buddha-nature, which is the pure, intrinsic nature. The reason why there are so many problems in society is that people's minds are polluted. This pollution obscures the pure, intrinsic nature. If we want to purify our minds, we have to activate our love and give ourselves for others.

Just as I was coming out from the Abode of Still Thoughts, I met a Tzu Cheng Faith Corps member at the parking lot. He said he was on duty that day. One of my disciples asked him whether Brother Chen was there. He replied that Brother Chen had been there the day before. Do you know who Brother Chen is? He is that Faith Corps member's boss. In the company they are the president and the chauffeur, but in Tzu Chi they call each other brothers. When they are on duty or when they direct traffic, they work together without any discrimination. That is equality, and that is also the purification of minds.

That chauffeur once told me that he was really grateful to me. I asked him why. He said that his boss had become a lot better since he joined Tzu Chi. The chauffeur's days were much easier!

I asked how bad his days had been before. He said that his boss used to drink until midnight every day. When he was drunk, he would vomit in the car. Sometimes, he shouted and screamed. After he joined Tzu Chi, he came to work on time and he quit drinking. The chauffeur could also work on a regular schedule. His days were really much easier. What made him happier was that when they were both on duty at Tzu Chi, they were on the same level, just like brothers.

His boss used to drink a forty-foot container of imported wine each year. You can imagine how many bottles he drank every day! He has really made a big change. That is purification of the mind.

Life is impermanent. Who knows whether I will have another thirty years?
That is why I have to move much faster.

The basement of the Tzu Chi Talin Hospital has already been finished. About five years ago, the director of the Department of Health of the Executive Yuan came to see me. She mentioned that there was a shortage of medical resources in Tainan, Chiayi and Yunlin counties. At that time, I made up my mind to build hospitals in places short of medical resources, and, above all, provide conscientious doctors. The Tzu Chi Hospital in Talin will be larger than the one in Hualien. I expect that this hospital, when finished, will provide the best services to its patients.

Some people may question whether Tzu Chi has such tremendous funds available. Otherwise, how can we engage in such big construction projects? I always say that the money is in the local people's pockets. I am only worried that I cannot do my work well enough. As long as I do my work well, I can win people's trust, and I can then accumulate every drop of love to do something significant for society.

Life is impermanent. Who knows if I will have another thirty years? That is why I have to move much faster to build the Tzu Chi medical network in Taiwan within the shortest time.

As to the mission of education, we will set up a complete education system from kindergarten and grade school right through to graduate school.

I hear about family problems almost every day. For instance, many parents are afraid of the pressure put on their children in their schools, so they send their children abroad. The families are often divided over this question which, of course, causes problems. Actually, we can build a good education system in Taiwan and give our children a complete education with love.

Several days ago, a group of scholars visited the Tzu Chi College of Medicine and the Tzu Chi Junior College of Nursing. They said the environments of those two schools were very good and the students were really blessed to be able to study there. They even asked me whether I had given too much to the students. I said I had never thought about that. I only wanted to accumulate people's love and give it to the students. In other words, I wanted to carry out education with love.

Yesterday, Dr. Su, chief of the neurosurgery department, brought a group of
medical college students and their parents to the Abode of Still Thoughts. They stayed there overnight. This morning, the parents took their children to see me together with Yi Teh Mothers. The parents thanked me for giving their children such a good environment for study. They said that Dr. Su and the Yi Teh Mothers looked after their children very well. Since the students had come to the medical college, they had become much more mature. I said that we give without asking for anything in return. My only hope is that they will study hard and understand the meaning of gratitude and love. When they feel grateful to their parents and teachers, they will study hard. In the future they will treat the patients with love.

I hope I can finish the construction of the medical network and the implementation of the education system within five years. Because life is impermanent, I have to grasp every moment. When one breathes, that means he is alive. Once he no longer breathes, his life is ended.

In addition to time, we have to grasp the opportunity. For thirty-two years, Tzu Chi has won the trust of society and international affirmation. That is an excellent opportunity. Our society needs Tzu Chi to accumulate love for construction. I hope all of you will stay together in the Tzu Chi world. If you do, you will feel stable, happy and at ease. It will be good for your lives, your families and society.

I am very grateful to the Tzu Chi commissioners for their continuous giving. I am also grateful to all of you. Beyond gratitude, I feel even more grateful to all of you.

The Tzu Chi world is a world of great love and gratitude. So many people's love bound together becomes great love, and gratitude to each other is the most beautiful culture of Tzu Chi.

May you cultivate good fortune and wisdom!