Being Self-Sufficient and Not Accepting Offerings

SHARE

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Context for the Teaching: Master Cheng Yen left her family and the lay life to become a monastic, setting goals for her spiritual practice and establishing the Jing Si Family Tradition.

Mr. Zhou Tianwei came to the Jing Si Abode and posed a question to me. “Your principle is to use all donated funds toward the work of Tzu Chi, and you insist that the Jing Si Abode should always be self-sufficient. Was this your decision from the time you first became a monastic? What was the reason for it?”
I replied, “Even before I became a monastic, I have always upheld a lifestyle that was self-sufficient and independent. When I decided to become a monastic, I decided to maintain these same principles, which I have upheld to this day.” Self-sufficiency is one goal that I have pursued in life, and serving those in need is another.

Mr. Zhou Tianwei came to the Jing Si Abode and posed a question to me. “Your principle is to use all donated funds toward the work of Tzu Chi, and you insist that the Jing Si Abode should always be self-sufficient. Was this your decision from the time you first became a monastic? What was the reason for it?”
I replied, “Even before I became a monastic, I have always upheld a lifestyle that was self-sufficient and independent. When I decided to become a monastic, I decided to maintain these same principles, which I have upheld to this day.” Self-sufficiency is one goal that I have pursued in life, and serving those in need is another.

In its early days, Tzu Chi Merit Association’s name had the added phrase “overcoming hardships” in Chinese. At that time, my disciples and I needed to be self-sufficient, no matter how difficult it was. I often describe that time as “eating rice with pickled rocks”; it was a very difficult time. While living like that, I also encountered the Catholic nuns who came to discuss religion and many other causes and conditions. All of them made me realize that as Buddhist practitioners, we can also hold our heads up high and work to truly benefit others in society. It was then that I began organizing Tzu Chi.

Back then, we did not even have enough for ourselves to eat. We often borrowed rice and cooking oil from others. So, how were we going to help other people? Every day, each of us made an extra pair of shoes to earn an extra four dollars. For six people, that was six pairs of shoes. Along with the thirty commissioners’ donations of fifty cents a day, we put all of this together and started providing aid to those in need.

Under these harsh conditions, I also worked in the fields. At that time, my mother said, “Since you have determined to engage in spiritual practice and have such strong aspirations to be self-sufficient, you should only have to worry about farming the land itself; you should not have to worry about dealing with a landlord.”
So, my mother bought 1.5 hectares of land for me to farm. Gradually, as our living space became unable to accommodate so many people, we used the land to take out a loan for constructing the prayer hall. From then on, buildings were gradually constructed, one piece after another. Now, construction continues thanks to the dozens of practitioners who follow me, working from dawn to dusk, laboring diligently and living frugally. Besides receiving the many people who would regularly come to visit the Abode, we also focused on gradually saving money to continue the construction whenever we were able. This meant that the buildings were put together on piece at a time. So, the unique thing about our buildings is that there are always leaks where they connect.

Our buildings at the Abode and the work of the foundation are entirely unrelated, yet a very close connection remains because I am living here, and my heart is inseparable from the foundation. Our construction was always done according to what we could afford. Perhaps people will find the structures small and dilapidated. However, we do not feel that way because we are already content that it keeps out the wind and rain. With love in our hearts, the ground of our minds is pure, and this pure land is the Buddha land. With the pure land in our heart, wherever we go, as long as we feel joyful and at ease, there is no place better.

A professor asked me, “With so many people donating to Tzu Chi, why don’t you use this money for the Sangha and build a monastery?”
I replied, “My disciples who became monastics to follow me must be firm in two vows: the first is to endure poverty, and the second is to endure hard work. We must be awakened enough to endure poverty and hard work, and we must be self-sufficient in the way we live.”

The guests also remarked, “Master, you are still healthy now, so you are able to bring together the strength of so many people. What will happen when you are no longer here? How will this work be passed down? Also, Tzu Chi is such a huge organization, so it is sure to encounter many difficulties. How do you resolve the difficulties that it will encounter?” I replied, “While I am still alive, many people follow my spirit in the work they do. When I am no longer here, I am confident that everyone will continue to follow the Tzu Chi spirit; they must rely on the Dharma rather than their teacher! For example, I have never left Taiwan, yet the Tzu Chi volunteers who are spread throughout many different countries promote Tzu Chi’s spirit very well. These volunteers are in countries such as Argentina, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Africa, and others. Wherever Tzu Chi volunteers are in the world, the spirit of Tzu Chi is exercised well. We can see that they do very well without me! As long as the direction is correct and everyone wholeheartedly dedicates themselves, I believe that everyone can surely follow the Bodhisattva Path very well.”

For over forty years, for all this time, and over so many days and months, I have not had the slightest bit of selfishness. When it comes to this point, I am really sure of myself. Of course, I am also extremely grateful for the many people who also have this stream of purity in their hearts, making aspirations and vows at the Abode and choosing it as their training ground and where they become monastics. They are self-sufficient and live independently. We draw a very distinct line with the foundation so that no one can say we are living off of others’ donations.

We do not need monetary offerings from anyone. Instead, what I really need is for people to make offerings of harmonious conduct. I do not need financial or material offerings; what I need is harmony. I am very grateful for the residents at the Abode who share the same aspiration and mission to build this physical place of spiritual practice so that I can hold my head high and tell everyone that we are self-sufficient and that our daily living is completely separated from the foundation.

When Jing Yang and Sandy Wei returned to the Abode, I told them that Tzu Chi volunteers love me. Since they love me, they should also support my wisdom life. We uphold the principle, “A day without work is a day without meals.” The living expenses of the residents at the Abode and any Tzu Chi volunteer worldwide who comes to stay at the Abode are all supported by the daily labor of the Abode’s residents. Even the construction costs for the main hall at the Abode are supported by the residents themselves, not by the donations of lay people.

Although I have made a vow to be a monastic, I cannot accept a life of merely chanting repentance rites. I feel that to be a monastic is the work of a person with great aspirations, and a monastic’s spiritual practice is to be transcendent. Moreover, we cannot deliver someone just by chanting the sutras for the dead. Sentient beings will all follow the force of their karma, remaining in cyclic existence and receiving their karmic consequences.

Since becoming a monastic, I have had the ability to live on my own labor. I do not need to rely on the offerings of lay people, as I resolved to be self-sufficient. In the early days, I worked the fields and did various handicrafts. Life was difficult, but I still held firmly to this resolve. It was amidst hardship that Tzu Chi’s missions were established, and the finances of the Abode and the foundation have always been clearly separated. Also, on relief distribution days, the residents at the Abode prepare hot meals to provide for the public and care recipients. Back then, when the residents at the Abode had financial difficulties, they borrowed cooking oil and rice from Puming Temple.

If we compare the lives of the Abode’s resident monastics today to the early days, although they are still very busy every day, we now experience great abundance. Not only do we have enough to maintain our daily operations, we are also able to give away red envelopes every year during the Lunar New Year. It was not until Tzu Chi’s forty-second anniversary that I felt the residents could take on the financial responsibility for the construction of the main hall at the Abode. So, it was then that we decided to begin construction. We absolutely do not need to fundraise for things like this. This is not what I want.

I insist on not taking donations, and also on maintaining the spirit of self-sufficiency. I do not want to accept any lay practitioner’s help, not even a single brick. The Jing Si Abode is everyone’s home. I can accept Tzu Chi volunteers treating it as if they were building their own homes and working at the construction site for the Abode. But the funding for the Abode’s construction must come from the funds generated by the Abode. I do not want your money, only the strength you have to offer. Everyone can take turns to come back and brew tea, cook, move bricks, or clean, just as they would contribute to their own homes. I will joyfully accept this kind of help.

You must help safeguard my wisdom life and that of the resident monastics. The Jing Si Abode is here to support Tzu Chi, and it should never use a single penny of the foundation’s money or even a bit of its resources.

Regarding the Abode’s relationship with Tzu Chi, in Tzu Chi’s early days, the residents at the Abode lived in poverty. They often had difficulty supporting themselves, yet they persisted in doing relief distributions on the twenty-fourth day of every lunar month. So, they often borrowed cooking oil and rice from the caretaker of Puming Temple in order to could cook congee for everyone who came.

The first few years were very tough, but we endured. Later, there were more and more people who joined as my monastic disciples. Gradually, this small family became a large family. To fund the expenses for everyone who came back to visit, the resident monastics, in addition to their spiritual practice, also had to work hard to make a living. Thus, they began by making baby shoes, candles, multigrain powder, and doing all kinds of other work to be self-sufficient. Step by step, they kept moving forward. In the last decade or two, they finally began to generate a stable income.

I insisted on being self-sufficient and have lived through difficult times. Even today, I spend each day diligently seeing to the many things that must be done. Not only will we at the Abode not accept monetary offerings, we must also provide support for Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide. This is the rule of our spiritual training ground at the Jing Si Abode.

From those most difficult early days, this group of disciples followed me in giving and doing good deeds. They are diligent in their practice of patience. Back then, when it came to supporting the Tzu Chi Merit Association, it did not matter how hard life was; even if they had to borrow rice and cooking oil for lunch during distribution days, the resident monastics persistently upheld the principle of self-sufficiency by not holding rituals or accepting offerings.

From the time this rule was established in their spiritual practice, the Abode’s resident monastics have produced all kinds of handicrafts in exchange for their daily provisions. The Abode’s daily provisions enable us to provide people with spiritual nourishment. As Tzu Chi volunteers grew in number, the Abode’s burden also grew heavier. Besides doing handicrafts, we began taping and publishing my teachings on the Earth Treasury Sutra and the Medicine Buddha Sutra. Then we published the book, Jing Si Aphorisms, and others, and we used the profits from them to make year-end blessing gifts. Even today, we not only have funds for the year-end blessing ceremonies, we are also able to support the expenses for those who come to visit and stay at the Abode.

From those difficult early days until today, the resident monastics have upheld the principle of “organizing with precepts and managing with love,” working hard to serve and provide for their daily provisions, which also nourishes the public’s wisdom life. Many people hear or see a Jing Si Aphorism, and their life changes for the better. The Jing Si publications are the spiritual provisions for people’s lives.

For the operation of Tzu Chi’s missions, I have always had faith in my selflessness and in other people’s love. According to society’s needs, we should mindfully carry out what we think it is that we should do. When it comes to the love gathered from every direction in donations, we must put them to the best use, without any waste. So, we use the funds with clear guidelines and maintain the spirit of the Jing Si Dharma Lineage, which is as pure as crystal. This must be upheld through the Buddha Dharma. Since we have formed aspirations for the Buddha’s teachings, we must work hard to spread the Buddha’s teachings. For sentient beings, we not only provide them with tangible material needs, but we must, most importantly, nourish them with the principles, giving them the Dharma.

The first month after Tzu Chi was established, I let those who donated fifty cents a day know that not a penny of the foundation’s money would slip away. After the Medicine Buddha Dharma assembly, we would hold distributions for care recipients, and the Abode’s residents would provide the lunch. This has continued through to the present. During Tzu Chi’s early days, the Abode’s residents monastics lived in harsh poverty. They did not even have enough money to go to downtown Hualien for medical treatment. When my mother came to Hualien, because I did not have money for the taxi, I had to walk to the airport to meet her. Later, because my mother had taken a taxi to Hualien City, I missed picking her up and I had to walk to Hualien City to Mr. Xu Congmin’s house to meet her. In order to provide lunches for everyone on distribution day, we had to borrow cooking oil and rice from Puming Temple to make salty congee. Seeing how many people there were and not having any more rice, we could only add another ladle of water to the pot.

If we are going to do charity work, we must first purify our own minds and let the donors know that their entire donation is used for relief. Not a single grain of rice is used for other purposes. In order to bring purity to people’s minds, we must, from the beginning, maintain a pure mind that is as clear as crystal. We hope the “perfect, translucent sphere of crystal” will remain pure as it develops, and that the whole world will be pure and free of defilements. I often tell the residents of the Abode that no matter how tough it is, we must persist in being self-sufficient and being the support for Tzu Chi.

Every day for over four months, during Tzu Chi’s fiftieth anniversary celebration, many Tzu Chi volunteers and members came to the Abode to engage in bowing pilgrimages. Having the resident monastics provide the food and accommodations for everyone is the family tradition of our Dharma Lineage. Being self-sufficient and supporting Tzu Chi is the Jing Si family tradition. Unity, harmony, mutual love, and concerted effort are the spirit of Tzu Chi. The Four-in-One System is not a cold organizational structure; it is the spirit and altruistic potential which Tzu Chi volunteers take to heart and put into practice. They feel for the suffering of sentient beings and exercise the gentle power of the four values combined to relieve the suffering of others.

In September of 1964, Master Cheng Yen established the rule for engaging in spiritual practice, which is to be self-sufficient. She encouraged De Tzu and her other four disciples, saying, “Since we are engaging in spiritual practice, we must be practitioners who have determination and who take good care of our responsibilities. Only by truly giving of ourselves in our respective roles can we practice giving for the sake of the Buddha’s teachings. You are the first generation of disciples, so you must sacrifice yourselves fully. Having nothing, you must depend on your own efforts and your own two hands to provide for your own livelihood. You must truly have this determination. We must endure the hardship that others cannot bear. We must patiently endure what others cannot endure.”

In 1964, Master reminded her disciples, “No matter how tough things become, you cannot go to your lay families and ask for money. You may eat three meals a day if you are able, but you may also eat only one meal a day if you are not. You must thoroughly sacrifice yourself, enduring the hardship that others cannot endure. We must be able to do this. We must train ourselves not to fear hardship and depend on our own self-sufficiency to establish an everlasting ‘Jing Si Family Tradition.’”

Master De Tzu said, “Back then, Master Cheng Yen led us to implement Zen Master Bai Zhang’s principle of ‘a day without work is a day without meals.’ In this way, we learned to be resilient and diligent. From 1964 on, we have followed Master in living self-sufficient lives at Puming Temple. By 1991, we had done twenty-one different kinds of work. At the time, we could say that we worked as hard as we could. During the daytime, we went out to farm, and at night, we did handicrafts, sometimes working until midnight.

Master De Tzu said, “Back then, Master Cheng Yen led us to implement Zen Master Bai Zhang’s principle of ‘a day without work is a day without meals.’ In this way, we learned to be resilient and diligent. From 1964 on, we have followed Master in living self-sufficient lives at Puming Temple. By 1991, we had done twenty-one different kinds of work. At the time, we could say that we worked as hard as we could. During the daytime, we went out to farm, and at night, we did handicrafts, sometimes working until midnight.

Teachings
1963
Being Self-Sufficient and Not Accepting Offerings
April 11, 1990
Conversation with Mr. Zhou Tianwei
April 11, 1990
Conversation with Mr. Zhou Tianwei
February 26, 1994
Conversation with Central Region Tzu Chi Commissioners
January 22, 1995
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering
November 10, 2006
Conversation with Tzu Chi Staff at the Jing Si Abode
December 14, 2011
Conversation with Tzu Chi Commissioners
April 10, 2012
Tour of the Abode by Songshan District Commissioners
June 26, 2012
Conversation with Tzu Chi Volunteers
May 1, 2016
Conversation with Tzu Chi Malaysia Leadership
Published 2017. P.41
Master De Tzu’s Stories on Tzu Chi’s Early Days
Published 2017. P.80
Master De Tzu’s Stories on Tzu Chi’s Early Days
Published 2017. P.80, 93, 96
Master De Tzu’s Stories on Tzu Chi’s Early Days
Published 2017. P.205, 206
Master De Tzu’s Stories on Tzu Chi’s Early Days
X
微信裡點"發現"
掃QRCode便可分享此頁
複製網址
前往微信
按"複製網址"後複製連結後,再按"前往微信"即可前往微信App分享此頁