Discipline, Diligence, Frugality, and Perseverance


Context for the Teaching: Master Cheng Yen was speaking to her first group of monastic disciples, encouraging them to be frugal, hardworking, and diligent as they walk the Bodhisattva-path.

When we were constructing the hospital, not only did we face hardships, we also had to overcome difficulties when beginning our mission of education. At the time, the faculty members often had to transport materials; women did the work of men, and men did the work of superhumans. This is Tzu Chi’s motto and the Tzu Chi spirit. Every Tzu Chi volunteer walks the Bodhisattva Path with the spirit, willpower, and courage of a superhuman.

My study is illuminated as if only by candlelight; whenever I leave, I always turn off the light. When I return and open the door, it is always dark inside. I am very conservative with water, electricity, and so on, and I have been this way for decades. You all are now moving upstairs, where the whole building will consist of offices. You must ensure that the locations of each department are all well-arranged so that the office space is connected, but more importantly, our hearts must also remain connected. As we have entered the Dharma-door of Tzu Chi, we must remember to never allow our spirit of diligence and perseverance to diminish.

The Jing Si Dharma-lineage is founded on discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. In modern society, not just in Taiwan, but throughout the world, we are quickly realizing that people are lost in material desires. Their lives have become extravagant, which has led to excessive consumption. In order to sustain the world’s rising population, humans raise too much livestock, which generates carbon-dioxide and creates severe environmental issues.

Tzu Chi volunteers promote environmental protection through their own practice of discipline, diligence, and frugality. Whenever we travel, we try our best to walk, bike, or take the bus to reach our destinations. These are all examples of diligence.

Environmental protection is very important. If we can be a bit less wasteful, we will not carelessly throw things out. Whenever people throw things away, we must collect it, sort it, and reuse it, thereby reducing waste and putting more of it to use. In this way, we can reduce the consumption of the world’s resources and enrich our supply of material resources for our society.

Through the principles in the sutras, the Buddha warned us that life is impermanent and the earth perilously fragile. So, we must heighten our awareness, maintaining our practice of self-discipline and reverence every day. We must always be disciplined, diligent, frugal, and perseverant.

We all must discipline ourselves and return to propriety. Returning to propriety means abiding by the rules, precepts, and etiquette. As for discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance, these require us to overcome our personal desires. This is the image that the mighty procession of the Tzu Chi School of Buddhism requires.

Everyone here has been certified; you all carry the Buddha’s heart and your master’s mission on your chests. I hope that, beginning today, the Jing Si Dharma Lineage of the Tzu Chi School of Buddhism will be brought to fruition through everyone’s actions. The Jing Si Dharma Lineage emphasizes the spirit of discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. We must be diligent and frugal in our lives, diligently walking the Bodhisattva Path among people.

Just as people need a calm temperament, the weather must also be hospitable. Thus, if we wish the wind and rain to be tame, we must first tame our tempers. The macrocosm has its weather, while the microcosm of the individual has its temper. So, people must adjust their tempers, meaning that we must cultivate discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance in our minds; this is the Jing Si Dharma Lineage.

Returning to propriety requires that we uphold the precepts, rules, and etiquette. The Tzu Chi School of Buddhism is about returning to propriety. Tzu Chi volunteers compose a long and mighty procession in which the beauty of the whole is comprised of the beauty of each individual, a beauty which arises from etiquette. The development of discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance happens when we maintain proper etiquette in our daily living. This is all laid out in our advanced training.

The Jing Si Dharma Lineage is about discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. Discipline requires us to watch ourselves; if we are not vigilant of our thoughts, then our behavior will not be upright. Tzu Chi volunteers uphold Ten Precepts; whether they are men or women, they all strictly uphold these precepts. So, we all must reflect on ourselves. Since we have crossed the threshold into Tzu Chi, we must overcome many hardships and faithfully accept and uphold the Jing Si Dharma Lineage.

The Jing Si Dharma Lineage is about discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. We must cherish ourselves, cherish our families, and cherish our communities. We cannot be wasteful, extravagant, or vain. In order to become hard-working and well-disciplined, we must learn to control our minds.

I once lived in a small wooden cabin. After this, I lived in a small wooden house built behind the Earth Treasury Bodhisattva Puming Temple. After that, I lived in the Jing Si Abode. At the time, the Abode was just a prayer hall, which served as both a dormitory and a Buddha hall. In the front, we prostrated to the Buddha, and we laid our blankets and possessions behind the altar. At night, we would slide the paper door shut, and this would become our dormitory.

These were the difficult conditions that the Dharma masters who sought refuge at the Abode endured during this time. You all are my disciples, so you must uphold and spread this spirit. The spirit of the Jing Si Dharma assembly is about cultivating the self-discipline required to overcome our minds.

If we can always be sincere and self-disciplined each day, ever-vigilant of our thoughts, then we will experience good fortune every day. There is a saying that goes, “a little wealth comes from frugality; great wealth comes from the heavens.” If our hearts are full of selfless love, then we will commit no wrongs. If we can be uphold the precepts in life and be disciplined, diligent, and hardworking, then we will never go hungry. We will gain more blessings each year, cultivating blessings and wisdom in parallel.

Everyone is talking about the financial crisis, but in truth, Taiwan can still be considered quite fortunate. It is just that we all must be disciplined, diligent, and frugal. If we all can create blessings for ourselves, there is no need to speak of economic crises. If, during our everyday lives, we can save up a little, we can combine what we save to perform great deeds and make plans to help people who are suffering in the world. If more people create blessings, our society will be at peace and our lives will be free of hardships.

Following the Myanmar earthquake, Tzu Chi volunteers traveled to the disaster site. As there was no place to settle down for the long term, they lodged temporarily at a hotel. Although the place is called a hotel, it is very small and uncomfortable. This hotel, however, has constantly supported our Tzu Chi volunteers. The volunteers established a dormitory, office, and communications center in that small space.

Since the electricity is very unstable and communication is difficult, they did not go out to look for a new place to rent and remained at the hotel. They truly practice discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. In the morning, they eat biscuits softened by hot water, while for lunch and dinner they eat Jing Si instant rice. Even after one year, no matter which group arrives in Myanmar, they continue to persevere in this way. This is the spirit of the Tzu Chi Dharma Lineage.

In addition to assessing the disaster, comforting survivors, and many other tasks, they have also formed study groups. Every morning in that tiny hotel, they go online and listen to Master’s teachings. This is discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance. By proactively seizing the present moment and keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground, they put the teachings into action and guide the local volunteers. There are already over sixty local volunteers who participate in introductory and advanced training.

In 1964, Master Cheng Yen laid out a mindset for her disciples to emulate: “Becoming a monastic requires us to endure suffering and hard labor. Such a life requires that we rely upon our own two hands for survival. In the future, you will also need somewhere for lodging, but for now, we can only live temporarily at Puming Temple. Lacking food, clothing, daily necessities, and many other things, it is only with discipline, diligence, frugality, and perseverance that will we make it through these days.” It was under these conditions that Master Cheng Yen established the Jing Si family tradition.

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