The Courage of a Lion, the Endurance of a Camel, and the Pure Heart of a Child


I often mention that in our spiritual practice, we need to have the pure heart of a child, the endurance of a camel, and the courage of a lion. This is the kind of courage our Tzu Chi commissioners have.

Having the pure heart of a child is like being an innocent newborn who cries when sad and laughs when happy, without a single scheming thought. When children make a mistake, they admit it to everyone. This is just like how we must take medicine to lower our temperature when we are sick. When we are sick, sweating is an indication that our body is on the road to recovery. When we make a mistake, we should courageously admit it. What our commissioners shared was how they transformed their lives and gained happiness. They give people an impression of being healthy and lively; we all ought to look up to them.

Spiritual cultivation is the work of a great person. In addition to the pure heart of a child, one must also have endurance. Our commissioners’ transformation did not take place in an instant; it required a long time. This is the endurance of a camel.

Furthermore, to change a person’s outlook on life requires the courage of a lion. These three qualities combined are the spirit of a bodhisattva.

For those who walk the bodhisattva path, it is as though they are forever young. This is because those who give rise to bodhicitta and walk the bodhisattva path have these three qualities in common. First is the pure heart of a child, second is the endurance of a camel, and third is the courage of a lion.

The pure heart of a child refers to our pure intrinsic nature, which has been defiled by the external states of the world. Some believe the expression that goes, “People’s minds differ as much as their faces.” This is not true. As each person comes into the world, their pure intrinsic nature is defiled by their external states. Therefore, the expression should go, “People’s habitual tendencies differ as much as their faces.”

The pure heart of a child does not hold grudges. The younger children are, the more innocent their minds.

What we need to do now is to return to a mindset that is without grudges or hatred.
As Buddhist practitioners, we need to have the endurance of a camel.

Shouldering the responsibility of transforming all sentient beings is the mission the Buddha has given us.

However, there are countless sentient beings and this responsibility is difficult. Sentient beings need guidance to awaken their minds. In this world, we must go among people and guide them to awaken their instinctive understanding, love, and pure intrinsic nature.

We should take our teacher’s mission as our own. We must spread the spirit of Tzu Chi all over the world. This is how we can make use of our abilities. However, being a pioneer is hard work. Doing the hard work without being upset by criticism is what it means to have the endurance of a camel. Relief work requires the courage of a lion. We should not fear obstacles or hardships. We should march on this path wholeheartedly.

We must truly be bodhisattvas playing effortlessly in this world, treating hardships as play. When we do the work of Tzu Chi, although it is tiring to devote so much effort, our hearts feels joyful nonetheless. This is how we demonstrate courage. When we are not afraid to dedicate ourselves to the work, we can use it to develop our love and deepen our interest in it. It is with this courageous spirit that we become progressively happier the more we give. When we treat worldly hardships as effortless play, we will not feel exhausted.

Every year I make three vows.
First, I do not ask for good health, only for clarity of mind.
Second, I do not ask for everything to go my way, only for perseverance and courage.
Third, I do not ask for fewer responsibilities, only for the strength to shoulder more.
My principle for our work is that we must have the endurance of a camel, the courage of a lion, and the pure heart of a child.
With this mindset, I aim to become even more diligent in my own work.
People experience difficulties living in this world, and thus the Buddha said that this world is one we must endure. Life is filled with difficulties and obstacles. If we lack endurance, how can we safely go through life?

Therefore, I encourage myself to have the endurance of a camel. In the hot desert where sand blows in the air, even without water and food, the camel perseveres with endurance.

Life is impermanent; time passes us by continuously. Therefore, we must seize the present moment and move forward diligently. We need to learn to be courageous like a lion. We should not flinch at going among people. This is the mindset of a spiritual practitioner.

In addition, we must clear our minds of afflictions and interpersonal conflicts; let us not take issue with other people.

What kind of person does not take issue with others? It is only those with a pure intrinsic nature and a pure heart.

Regardless of the kind of external state that manifests before them, people like this will handle it with a pure heart, just as a pure lotus that floats on water. Even though the bottom of the pond is full of mud, the lotus flower itself is pure and clean. This is our pure and undefiled intrinsic nature, which can only be sustained by those with the pure heart of a child.

I hope that all spiritual practitioners are able to return to their purity of heart. We should constantly maintain our pure intrinsic nature when we face people. By doing so, we can eliminate interpersonal conflicts and afflictions in our lives.

Tzu Chi volunteers need to have the pure heart of a child, the endurance of a camel, and the courage of a lion; these are necessary qualities as we walk on the bodhisattva path. The pure heart of a child is pure and simple, and it does not discriminate. The younger the child, the less of a grudge they hold. Although their mothers discipline them, they still stay by their mothers’ side. This is the pure heart of a child.

As Buddhist practitioners, we need to have the endurance of a camel. Although it is difficult to change our habitual tendencies as unenlightened beings, we still must change them patiently, no matter the difficulties, just as how camels tread through the desert without complaint. Despite experiencing harsh conditions, lacking food and water, and carrying a heavy load, the camel still carries on.

Are we humans not the same in this world? If we do not have the perseverance to carry heavy responsibilities through thick and thin, we cannot walk the bodhisattva path. Therefore, we must have the endurance of a camel.

Practicing endurance means enabling ourselves to take opportunities to engage in cultivation. We need to take on responsibilities with courage. If we cannot courageously shoulder responsibilities, then we are wasting our lives and time in this world. It is rare to be born human, and it is even rarer to encounter the Buddha Dharma. Not only must we listen to the Buddha Dharma, we must put it into practice.

We should put the Buddha’s teachings and views into practice and simply do the right thing. We need to have faith, and once we find the right path, we need to march forward. We must have the courage of a lion, because bodhisattvas must be diligent and patient. With patience, courage, and diligence, there is nothing we cannot conquer no matter how difficult it is. We must be of service to people and society. The work of going among people is not easy. If we are not diligent and courageous, our spiritual aspirations will quickly diminish.

A bodhisattva must be replete with these qualities:
First, we must have the courage of a lion, for without a courageous heart, we cannot work diligently in the human world.

Secondly, the human world is full of suffering; besides the suffering caused by disasters, the worst kind of suffering is spiritual suffering.

We must help people and bring purity to people’s hearts. This is an arduous and long path. Therefore, we need the endurance of a camel. Camels in the desert bear heavy loads while enduring heat, hunger, and thirst in order to fulfill their duty. Therefore, as bodhisattvas, we need to have the endurance of a camel.

The third is the pure heart of a child. The heart of a child is very pure and innocent, not yet defiled by people in society. Children do not hold grudges, nor do they have thoughts of greed, anger, or ignorance. Their state of mind is very pure.
If they make a mistake and are scolded by their mother or disciplined by their father, they still love their mom and dad. Sometimes children bicker with each other, but they are still good friends afterward.

I visited Tzu Chi Elementary once and saw a group of children fighting with each other. When I walked closer, they stopped and made way. One child said, “I know what to do; I will forgive him.” See, children are so innocent.

A Jing Si Aphorism teaches that “forgiving others is a virtue.” This boy remembered this. Not only did he not take issue with others, he also forgave the other children. How innocent! This is the pure heart of a child. It is also the heart of a bodhisattva.

Walking the Bodhisattva-path requires the pure heart of a child. A child does not resent nor hate. When an adult is being stern or disciplinary, the child still wants to be with the parent.

However, as the child grows older, afflictions accumulate in their mind. A young child does not have afflictions like these. “Human nature is inherently good.” This is referring to the pure heart of a child.

Coming into Tzu Chi, we must have the endurance of a camel. In the desert, a camel bears heavy loads, without water or food. With perseverance and endurance, camels walk through hot and dry areas. We must have the endurance of a camel. Furthermore, we must have the courage of a lion. As we walk the bodhisattva path, we need unwavering willpower to achieve our goal.

On March 11, 2011, a strong earthquake shook Japan. Miyagi Prefecture and Sendai were the hardest hit areas. The strong earthquake also induced a huge tsunami. After the tsunami, numerous fires broke out. The people in these areas were in great misery due to the fires and floods.

What made the situation worse was the radiation leakage; this was an earth-shattering disaster. We do not have many Tzu Chi volunteers in Japan. However, during this trying time, everyone brought forth the pure heart of a child within themselves; their only goal was to save the lives of others. They did not allow any lingering anti-Japanese sentiments to complicate things, just like children who do not have complex emotions of resentment or hatred.

Bodhisattvas receive the Buddha’s teachings in this way. Whatever the Buddha says, whatever the Buddha’s teachings indicate, we must wholeheartedly carry it out; this is having the pure heart of a child. In addition to having the pure heart of a child, we must also have the endurance of a camel.

We do not walk the bodhisattva path for instant gratification; it is not something we do when we feel like it or stop doing when we are not happy. Since we have formed aspirations, we must faithfully accept and practice, holding firm to our principles. We must form an aspiration and sustain it forever. No matter how hard it is, we must continue with endurance. We also need to have the fearless courage of a lion.

Sentient beings are suffering. We must exercise both compassion and wisdom for suffering sentient beings.

The first of the three mindsets we ought to have is “the courage of a lion.” Being a nurse in a hospital is an extremely demanding job; one cannot do such a job without the heart of a bodhisattva. Therefore, we refer to nurses as “bodhisattvas in white”; they are like Guanyin Bodhisattva. Without sharing the compassion of Guanyin Bodhisattva, it would be difficult to sustain oneself in this job for the long term.

When we are healthy, we keep our bodies very clean. But when we grow ill, our bodies can become filthy and unbearable. For example, oral cancer patients may have big, decaying sores in their mouths. We can imagine how putrid the smell must be! However, our nurses remain unfazed and fearless, demonstrating the courage of a lion.

Even when senior patients are angry at them, our bodhisattva-nurses always maintain their smiles. Sometimes, when someone yells at them, they will certainly feel hurt, but they wipe away their tears and compose themselves so that they can turn around and continue their work with a smile.

The job of a nurse is truly arduous and difficult, requiring them to endure what is difficult to endure. However, they are still willing to shoulder the responsibilities. Truly, they demonstrate the courage of a lion.

The second is the endurance of a camel. Nursing is a long path to walk. Many people of our young generation study nursing, but not many people can do the job. It is even rarer for people to do this job for long. Those who can maintain their initial aspiration truly have the endurance of a camel.

The third is the pure heart of a child. Whether one is a bodhisattva-nurse or -doctor, they all have the most sincere love. When faced with unpleasant affairs or afflictions, they turn around and forget these troubles with the pure heart of a child.

They start anew with a pure and undefiled heart, dedicating themselves to their mission.

The Courage of a Lion, the Endurance of a Camel, and the Pure Heart of a Child
September 18, 1988
Wisdom at Dawn
February 10, 1994
Morning Volunteer Assembly (First day of Chinese Lunar New Year)
February 18, 1996
Wisdom at Dawn
January 11, 1998
Kaohsiung Certification and Year-End Blessing Ceremony
June 18, 2001
Volunteer Assembly
July 2, 2009
Kaohsiung Tzu Chi Certified Volunteers Leadership Camp
March 19, 2011
Morning Volunteer Assembly
November 7, 2016
Visit to Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital