Walking the Bodhisattva Path


Forming bodhisattva aspirations and walking the Bodhisattva Path are not difficult. The challenge is to maintain a persistent, unwavering resolve and enduring patience.

When we learn the Bodhisattva Path, we must always be willing to take on challenges. Whenever we encounter difficult situations, we must maintain a fearless heart and an unfaltering will. We must emulate the Buddha’s great fearlessness and his spirit of great courage and diligence. These are what we must maintain as we advance. We cannot allow ourselves to ever turn back.

The requirements for walking the Bodhisattva Path are practicing giving, precepts, patience, diligence, Samadhi, and wisdom. If everyone can practice these six requirements, then everyone will become newly-inspired Living Bodhisattvas. The Bodhisattva Path begins with charitable giving. The Tzu Chi Merit Association walks the path of charitable giving, which is the first step to walking the Bodhisattva Path.

The second step is maintaining sincerity, faith, and upholding the precepts. Since we have formed aspirations to walk the Bodhisattva Path, we must never turn back. This is just like when we are walking: we must think only of moving forward; we must never move backwards. We should advance forward step by step along this great, bright path. The Bodhisattva Path is a great, evenly-paved path. It is the great path of creating blessings and attaining virtues. Since we are already walking upon this path, we should take strides to advance. This is how we follow the Bodhisattva Path that has been established within the world.

The aim of Tzu Chi is for everyone to have the spirit of a bodhisattva and to be free of any attachments to fame or wealth. Instead, everyone should work hard to save and transform sentient beings. We do not take issue with each other, saying, “I have done so much and created so many merits. Why don’t I see my name?” Instead, we have the team spirit of unity. This is also the fundamental spirit that Buddhist practitioners must have to truly walk the Bodhisattva Path.

When we learn the Buddha’s teachings, we must have the spirit of a bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas are the bridge between the Buddha and sentient beings, and they also represent the journey between the two.

When unenlightened beings seek to reach the state of buddhahood, they must first study the actions of bodhisattvas and do the things that bodhisattvas do. They must first walk the path that bodhisattvas walk before they can reach the state of buddhahood.

If all we do is emptily declare, “I have a gentle heart, and I really wish to do good deeds,” but never act on this, is this the way of the bodhisattvas?

No, all we can say is that we have the aspiration. If we do not truly take action to walk the Bodhisattva Path, then we are not truly bodhisattvas.

To become true bodhisattvas, we must form aspirations and put them into action. We must complete the Bodhisattva Path before we can complete the path to buddhahood; we cannot just talk about it emptily.

When walking the Bodhisattva Path, we must uphold what is true. When we practice kindness, it must be true kindness. True kindness means that we are free of deviant thoughts and deception; we discipline ourselves to benefit others, and our actions are consistent with our aspirations. When our aspirations and our path of spiritual practice are in harmony, then our path will be the broadest, most profound, and most far-reaching path.

When we walk the Bodhisattva Path, our aspirations must be steadfast. We must seek to benefit ourselves and others, form great aspirations, and make great vows. We must be just like Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, who made the great vow to keep traveling between this world and hell in order to save and transform sentient beings.

We must strive to emulate the Buddha’s character. Lay practitioners should also seek to become Great Vehicle practitioners by learning the Bodhisattva Way and seeking awakening while transforming sentient beings. Walking the Bodhisattva Path is the journey ordinary beings must take to become noble beings. Tzu Chi’s mission to help the poor and educate the rich is also part of walking the Bodhisattva Path. We put in the effort to do the work of Tzu Chi, and when we reach the ultimate destination of the great Tzu Chi path, we will have acquired the character of a buddha.

In life, we reap what we sow. Since we have been born into this world, we must learn to feel at ease. The only thing we should worry about is whether or not we have created karma in this life. Have we lived this life in ignorance? Have we created a lot of evil karma?

If we aspire to seek the Dharma, then we must truly walk the Bodhisattva Path. Even if we only do this for a moment, it will still bring merits and virtues!

When we recite and prostrate to the sutra, we are harkening back to the methods the Buddha taught his disciples so that they might attain Buddhahood.

There is a saying that goes, “The Surangama Sutra reveals wisdom, and the Lotus Sutra teaches us how to attain buddhahood.” This is because the Lotus Sutra teaches people how to walk the Bodhisattva Path. The purpose of reciting the sutras is not to gain merits and virtues, but rather to understand the Buddha’s teachings and put them into practice. We must actualize the principles to truly walk the Bodhisattva Path; this alone brings true merits and virtues! Thinking that reciting the sutra alone can eliminate misfortune is merely superstition.

It is often said that we must first perfect our character before we can attain buddhahood. The principles of the Buddha Dharma, the motivating force behind Tzu Chi, is the hope that everyone can achieve perfection.

When we go among people, we must be upright and our conscience must be clear. We must be willing to serve society and its people without taking issue over things. This is the Bodhisattva Path.

The Buddha Dharma is like a large furnace. Sentient beings are like worn-out, rusty scrap metal. Metal must be thrown into the furnace and melted down, then struck with a large hammer while burning red-hot. Once it has been tempered, it can finally be made into a tool with a useful function. The Buddha Dharma is like a furnace that can tame stubborn sentient beings.

We understand the Buddha Dharma, but we still need to take action to accomplish Tzu Chi’s missions and constantly cultivate ourselves by putting the principles into action. In this way, everyone can attain buddhahood.

We cannot practice the Bodhisattva Path in isolation. Instead, we must move forward together. By going among people, we will definitely have opportunities to engage in self-cultivation. Since everyone has different habitual tendencies, being able to bring them into a state of harmony is like firing them in a furnace so that they may be tempered and refined.

The Lotus Sutra teaches us to walk the Bodhisattva Path. The spirit of Tzu Chi is grounded in the Lotus Sutra, where the Buddha said that we must realize his original intent.
I would also add another phrase, which is that we must “draw near the Buddha’s heart.” If we do not draw near the Buddha’s heart, how will we be able to comprehend his original intent?
The Buddha teaches us to practice the Great Vehicle Buddha Dharma, which is to walk the Bodhisattva Path.

The mission of Tzu Chi commissioners is to educate the rich to help the poor.

When we are able to awaken the love of the rich, they will become the rich among the rich. So, we must all exercise great love for all impoverished sentient beings. We should mindfully seek to observe and understand the situation; as long as there is a path that we can walk, as long as our eyes can see and our hands reach a place, we absolutely must go there to help people. This is how we help the poor.

Helping the poor requires us to exercise great bodhicitta so that we will be able to steadily walk the Bodhisattva Path.

Let us reflect back on the charity work from thirty-two years ago, in 1966. At that time, doing charity work was very, very difficult.
Some people were concerned about me and did not approve of what I was doing. They said that it is hard to start doing charity work due to how many suffering people there are. How would I be able to help them all?

Further, after I started, how many people would continue to support me? With so many people to help, how could we make sure to treat everyone equally? People had various concerns on my behalf and discouraged me from starting this charity work.

As I am a Buddhist disciple, I must learn from the Buddha, and the first condition for learning from the Buddha is to walk the Bodhisattva Path. The Bodhisattva Path means listening for the cries of sentient beings and relieving them of their suffering. Didn’t the Buddha return to this world on the ship of compassion to save people from suffering?

If we fear hardship, we will not be able to accomplish anything in this world. We do not become monastics in order to escape from hardship, and as Buddhist practitioners, we must not be passive in the face of hardship. As I can neither escape nor remain passive, I must step up. I must proactively devote myself to helping people and working for the good of sentient beings. Thus, in a time of extreme hardship, we paved a path with the spirit of the bamboo banks.

Many people have taken Tzu Chi’s mission as their life’s mission and have integrated it into their lives. Since you are all following me and are taking my mission as your own, you must not fear the conflicts and tensions that may arise in your relationships with others.

You all share the same love, which is a love for me and a love for Tzu Chi. The only things that are different are our habits, tendencies, and perspectives. Our goal is to walk the Bodhisattva Path, so we must serve others without expectations. We must not let challenges in our relationships become sources of conflict, but instead treat conflicts as something to learn from.

If we are not mindful of our thoughts, we may lose our direction in life.

In our relationships, we must be understanding of others. Then, our hearts will be spacious and at ease.

In spiritual cultivation, we must be understanding. This is especially true when we practice the Bodhisattva Path. If we do not exercise understanding as part of our spiritual practice, we will constantly give rise to afflictions.

When walking the Bodhisattva Path, facing the multitudes of sentient beings, we must learn to take care of our hearts and constantly cultivate understanding. Only then can we all come together with harmony and unity.

The Bodhisattva Path is a broad, direct path, a road that is long and straight.
In the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, the Buddha said, “Because the great path is direct, the Bodhisattva Path is the great, direct path.” When the path that we walk is broad and direct, not winding, this symbolizes our sincerity and integrity.

If we have sincerity and integrity, other people will trust us. Once we have perfected our character, we will be fully emulating the Buddha’s character. If our character is not trustworthy and we are unable to gain approval from others when we speak, then we are not living up to our potential as human beings.

Today, I am certifying you all as commissioners. You all must remember to have faith, steadfastness, sincerity, and integrity, for these comprise our inward spiritual cultivation. Outwardly, you must practice loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity; this is Tzu Chi’s spiritual training ground.

From today onward, you all must earnestly cultivate love within yourselves and take my mission as your own.

My mission is to diligently walk the Bodhisattva Path. Those of us who cultivate the Bodhisattva Path must have joy and equanimity. We must be courageous, form aspirations, and make vows in the hope that sentient beings can be freed from suffering.

Buddhist practitioners must have the same mindset as the Buddha. We must constantly make the vow to walk the Bodhisattva Path without ever abandoning sentient beings. After attaining purity, we must return to the Saha World, forever traversing the universe and all Dharma realms. As Buddhist practitioners, we must practice the Dharma that the Buddha taught and have faith in his teachings.

The mind, the Buddha, and sentient beings are no different in nature. As everyone has a mind of a Buddha, we must return to the state of the Buddha. Sentient beings are full of afflictions and ignorance, so we must earnestly engage in spiritual cultivation. Spiritual cultivation begins with walking the Bodhisattva Path.

The Bodhisattva Path is an easy path to walk. Although some say that the Bodhisattva Path is very difficult, as long as we give rise to the Buddha’s compassion and love, our actions will naturally accord with the Bodhisattva Path.

Following the Bodhisattva Path means giving rise to a heart of love and compassion and refusing to let sentient beings suffer in ignorance, create negative karma, and fall into the lower realms. We must have this love that makes us cherish all sentient beings and refuse to ever abandon them.

When the Buddha is in our hearts, our hearts will be pure and we will make vows to go among people.

We wanted to walk the Bodhisattva Path; therefore, we have founded the Tzu Chi School of Buddhism. The Tzu Chi School has Four Missions and Eight Footprints. Through every mission, we seek to help people and bring purity to their hearts and minds.
Tzu Chi’s hospitals save lives; the charity mission provides comfort and safeguards sentient beings; the education mission develops people’s wisdom life, and the mission of humanistic culture helps to bring purity to their minds. The Tzu Chi School of Buddhism was established to help people.

“The Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission” is a badge to be worn proudly. This means that we take the Buddha’s heart as our own heart; this is a heart of great compassion. Master’s mission is to form aspirations and make vows to become Living Bodhisattvas, meaning that we vow to walk the Bodhisattva Path.

The Lotus Sutra teaches everyone to walk the Bodhisattva Path. This is the teaching that enables us to return to our nature of True Suchness.

The Bodhisattva Path is the True Dharma. The ways Tzu Chi volunteers from so many countries around the world relieve people of suffering all come from a sincere mindset that resonates with the Buddha’s mindset as they walk the Bodhisattva Path. They are able to adapt to different countries in order to save and transform people and relieve them of their suffering. They do this entirely through this Dharma, the Bodhisattva Path. Learning the Buddha’s teachings and engaging in spiritual cultivation is the One Vehicle Dharma, which teaches us how to return to our nature of True Suchness.

Context for the teaching: This conversation occurred after Master listened as doctors from Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital shared their experiences of disaster relief in Tacloban, Philippines
Everyone humbled themselves and served others with the compassion of bodhisattvas, whose affinities are with suffering sentient beings.

Everyone came back and said, “Master, we are very grateful. We often heard about people suffering in the world, but we could never understand what that suffering was really like. After going there, we finally understood. The suffering that the Buddha taught about is indeed limitless.”

Following the Bodhisattva Path, they went among the people there, and after more than two months, they suddenly came to a great realization about the Buddha Dharma. They completely understood it and were filled with gratitude. They had heard so much of the Buddha Dharma, but they had never gone into a place of such great suffering. Because of this, their experiential understanding had not been very deep. It was only after going into that place and coming back out that they finally realized how truly blessed they were.

The journey of the Bodhisattva Path is very grounded. Step by step, we can realize the truth and the principles of suffering, experiencing and comprehending the truth of causation of suffering. Everyone has different karmic causes which underlie their suffering, but we are all blessed to be walking the Bodhisattva Path. Along this path, we can see and understand the truth regarding all kinds of causes of suffering, and how they result from the accumulation of many afflictions.
When we encounter unbearable suffering and come to understand it, we will know how to eliminate the causes of suffering and attain the fruit of joy. This can only be achieved through wisdom.

Where does wisdom come from? It comes from the Dharma.

Where is the Bodhisattva Path? It lies within our minds, at the Vulture Peak Assembly that exists within each of us.

Every time you come back here, your only wish is to seek out my teachings. But actually, as long as you have the aspiration, you can find my teachings in your study groups and through your interactions with others. All we need is the aspiration.

When you hear me say, “To love me is to love everyone that I love and do the things I wish to do,” it is truly that simple. It is necessary to listen to the Dharma regularly, as every day, I speak of worldly matters to inspire the hearts of people throughout the world. So, we should all know how to cultivate the fields of our hearts.

The Jing Si Dharma Lineage is a path of diligent practice. The spiritual training ground of the Jing Si Abode is quite unique. Those who engage in spiritual cultivation here all dedicate themselves to do things to benefit the world. They treat all people in the world as members of this one family.

The worldly truths of the universe that the Buddha realized are applicable to our daily living. We do not place great emphasis on chanting the sutras or conducting repentance rituals. The sutras are truly a path for us to walk on. “The sutras are a path; this path is a road to walk on.” We must earnestly pave this spiritual path, and once we have paved it evenly, we will be able to diligently put the Bodhisattva Path into action.

The Lotus Sutra speaks of the Bodhisattva Path in this world; I hope that everyone in this world can become bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are not just beings for us to worship and pay respect to. They are a symbol to inspire reverence within us, but this reverence must transcend the worship of such images. True reverence is the respect we feel in our interactions with others. When we are respectful of every person, we will see everyone as a Bodhisattva, and everyone will serve as a source of inspiration for us.

Our daily living is inseparable from the Buddha Dharma. All worldly people, matters, and things are encompassed by the Buddha Dharma. If our minds are upright and if we can eliminate our afflictions, we will realize that everything and everyone exists in order to teach us something. This realization is part of walking the Bodhisattva Path.

When we talk about walking the great Bodhi Path, we are talking about the Bodhisattva Path. We must constantly nurture our true nature, which is the compassionate nature intrinsic to us all.
When interacting with others, we should form good affinities and always be grateful. Towards sentient beings, we should always be respectful and open-hearted.

The word “love” is very simple, but are we actualizing it in the course of everyday life?
We must concentrate on making vows and forming aspirations. We know the Four Great Vows by heart, but to transform sentient beings, we must also apply the Four Infinite Minds. When going among people, we should not only make vows, but also put them into practice.

The Buddha taught us that once we have heard the Dharma, we must awaken the love in our hearts and spread this love to embrace all sentient beings in this world.

“The affinities of bodhisattvas are with suffering sentient beings.” Wherever people are suffering, that is where bodhisattvas need to go. The bodhisattva spirit comes from the abode of the Buddha’s heart, which is also the intrinsic buddha nature within us. Since we have buddha nature, we all possess a heart of great compassion.

The path that we must walk is called the Bodhi Path. When we reach the end of the Bodhi Path, we have become Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas love and protect sentient beings. These are the principles of the Buddha Dharma and the direction of the Buddha’s teachings.

We must earnestly make the most of every moment to become a spiritual benefactor for others in this world, exercising the majestic power of love in this life. People who are able to help others are Great Vehicle bodhisattvas. As Buddhist practitioners, we must learn the Great Vehicle practice, the path to realizing Bodhi. We must make the most of every moment to pave every inch of the path. We must sow every seed in the field of our minds and cultivate them constantly.
We must take the Dharma to heart. Like a seed we planted, through our actions in cultivating the ground of our hearts, we can bear the fruits of realizing right understanding and right views while dedicating ourselves to benefiting sentient beings. This is what it means to truly walk the Bodhisattva Path.

You have all taken refuge in the Three Treasures and become certified commissioners. This is the beginning of the Bodhisattva Path. The Bodhisattva Path lies in actualizing the Six Paramitas, giving, precepts, patience, diligence, Samadhi, and wisdom, in all actions.

Lately, I have repeatedly said in my Wisdom at Dawn Dharma talks that if someone has yet to hear the Dharma, those who know it must share it with them.

The stupa of treasures lies within everyone’s heart. Inside the stupa of treasures is Many Treasures Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha has come to this world to inspire us and help us recognize the Buddha within us.

In each person there is a stupa on Vulture Peak. We must practice at the foot of this stupa, which is intrinsic to us all.

Cultivating the Bodhisattva Way is a journey, but the ultimate destination is enlightenment, the attainment of Buddhahood.

This world is full of suffering and impermanence. To be able to attain everlasting liberation, we must walk the Bodhisattva Path until we reach enlightenment.

Every person is equal to the Buddha and is able to attain wisdom and liberation. This is the direction and purpose of cultivating the Bodhisattva Path.

To attain buddhahood, we still need to pass through the state of unenlightened beings. This path is like a pilgrimage up a mountain. Although the road is long and winding, we have only one destination and one direction, which is the path to buddhahood. The journey to buddhahood is the practice of the Bodhisattva Path. Bodhisattvas are not the physical statues we make offerings to in temples. They exist in every person’s heart, within every thought in our minds. Thus, the Buddha lies within our hearts.

To achieve awakening like the Buddha did, we must walk the Bodhisattva Path by going among people to understand their suffering in this world. In this way, we will be able to act in accordance with the principles that the Buddha taught.

Dear bodhisattvas, you must take the Buddha’s heart as your own and take my mission as your own. The Buddha’s heart is one of great compassion. From this moment on, everyone must have the same compassionate heart as the Buddha.

With the Buddha’s heart, you must also embrace my mission. My mission is the Bodhisattva Path, and so, we must share the same aspirations as all bodhisattvas.

We learn the Buddha Dharma in order to attain buddhahood. What is the path to buddhahood? It is the Bodhisattva Path. Walking the Bodhisattva Path takes more than just this one lifetime; we must do this for lifetime after lifetime.

As ordinary beings, we must always cherish this life, and we must also protect the lives of others, helping them to live healthy, peaceful lives. We must also help everyone open up their hearts. This is what we must learn to do as we walk the Bodhisattva Path.

February 3, 1975
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering and the Medicine Buddha Dharma Assembly
April 23, 1976
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering and the Medicine Buddha Dharma Assembly
March 22, 1981
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering
December 18, 1983
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering
February 10, 1986
Wisdom at Dawn Dharma Talk
July 25, 1989
Wisdom at Dawn
February 24, 1991
Wisdom at Dawn
August 27, 1992
Wisdom at Dawn
February 4, 1994
Texas Tzu Chi Volunteers Take Refuge
March 18, 1996
Canada Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Certification Ceremony
April 12, 1998
Morning Volunteer Assembly
June 11, 2000
Spiritual Retreat for Taiwan Eastern Region Commissioners and Faith Corps
February 12, 2002
Morning Volunteer Assembly
December 17, 2005
Yunlin Certification Ceremony and Year-End Blessing
March 12, 2008
Wisdom at Dawn
February 22, 2009
Conversation at Taiwan Central Region Volunteer Leadership Camp
December 15, 2010
Kaohsiung Certification Ceremony and Year-End Blessing
June 13, 2013
Wisdom at Dawn
January 13, 2014
Conversation with Hsinchu Tzu Chi Volunteers
May 3, 2014
Meeting with Volunteers in Training from China
August 5, 2014
Wisdom at Dawn
August 19, 2014
The Medicine Buddha Dharma Assembly
January 2, 2015
Morning Volunteer Assembly
November 4, 2016
Tzu Chi Overseas Commissioners’ Training, Certification Ceremony, and Year-End Blessing Ceremony
April 20, 2017
Morning Volunteer Assembly
February 10, 2018
Hualien Faith Corps and Commissioners Certification Ceremony and Year-End Blessing
February 26, 2019
Morning Volunteer Assembly