We Take the Buddha’s Heart as Our Own and Take Our Teacher’s Mission as Our Own


Context for the Teaching: Master told the first group of disciples who took refuge with her to take the Buddha’s heart and her mission as their own.

We could say that the work of Tzu Chi is to actualize the Buddha Dharma in this world. Spreading Humanistic Buddhism in this world is everyone’s responsibility, and since we have taken on this responsibility, we must take action to fulfill it. Those of you who want to be my disciples must meet two requirements; you must “take the Buddha’s heart as your own and take your teacher’s mission as your own.” To take the Buddha’s heart as one’s own is to serve others for the sake of the Buddha’s teachings. By wholeheartedly spreading the Buddha’s teachings and taking the Buddha’s heart as our own, we will draw near to the Buddha.

When it comes to taking their Master’s mission as their own, my mission lies in Tzu Chi. Tzu Chi works to help all sentient beings. Our aspirations to help sentient beings and form affinities with them makes us bodhisattvas. Since we are bodhisattvas, the bodhisattva path is wherever we establish it. As long as everyone has right understanding and right views, then with our shared aspiration, how can we not bring a world of Tzu Chi to fruition?

As for the Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission, the Buddha’s heart is a heart of great compassion and great love that is pure and undefiled. When each of us takes the Buddha’s heart as our own, with the Buddha’s compassion always deep in our minds, we will naturally be unable to bear to see sentient beings suffer, and we will go to relieve them and bring them joy. At the same time, we are able to look at people with the Buddha’s heart and see everyone as a buddha. Naturally, we will then have love in our hearts every day and will respect everyone. Furthermore, we can then apply the Buddha’s mindset in our daily living and be able to “comprehend the great path.”

I hope that the resident monastics and the assembly will firmly plant roots of goodness with the spirit of “taking the Buddha’s heart as your own and taking your teacher’s mission as your own” to truly build from the foundation. The method of Tzu Chi’s spiritual practice is not based on lofty theories, but in practical action. The work of Tzu Chi is to lead everyone to spread the seeds of love. As long as we walk with our feet firmly planted, put our practice into action, and have love in the ground of our minds, even before we talk about “principles,” the “matters” will have already been accomplished.

Every certified commissioner wears a brooch that says, “The Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission.” This means that every certified commissioner must take the Buddha’s teachings and their master’s mission as their own. Everyone must share the same vow and aspiration. We must not be indecisive or wavering. We do not have a lot of time in this world. On this path in life, we must gather our mind and spirit in one place to truly succeed in our mission.

Brother Liu Guoyi from Argentina sought the Dharma from Master Cheng Yen, asking, “What are the requirements for someone to be a leader of a Tzu Chi service center?” Master replied, “They must meet three requirements: the first is to take the Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission as their own, the second is to have right faith, and the third is to have a firm grasp of the Tzu Chi spirit. The Buddha’s heart is a heart of compassion that serves people without expectations. in recognizing that Tzu Chi’s path is the correct one, we must then understand what my mission is. What is Tzu Chi’s Dharma door? When we are able to enter this Dharma door that resonates with our own mission, we will be able to wholeheartedly act in accord with it.” All 84,000 Dharma doors speak of compassion. The words of the sutras often tell how the Buddha dedicated his life for all sentient beings over three great asankya kalpas. So, how are we to comprehend this? Tzu Chi clearly points to the path and leads people in practical acts of compassion; this is Tzu Chi’s Dharma door.

Yet, full of faith, I vowed to enable everyone to keep watch over sentient beings with the compassionate eyes of Guanyin Bodhisattva. I further vowed to help everyone reach out their hands like Guanyin Bodhisattva to help sentient beings. These are the principles that Tzu Chi was founded on. I started to call upon everyone, “Be someone who helps others in a way that does not disrupt your life.” I advised everyone that exercising frugality with their grocery money would not disrupt their lives at all, and that they would be doing good deeds at the same time. This is when the spirit of the bamboo banks was born.

The most important factor in learning the Buddha Dharma is our heart! After many lay people join Tzu Chi, they take on the work of the missions, working hard without complaint. As they handle people and matters, they think of others, thoroughly eliminate decades of habitual tendencies with perseverance, and courageously and diligently advance on the bodhisattva path. These actions are how we “attain fruit.” The mission of the monastics is to perpetuate the Buddha’s wisdom life, cultivate virtue and wisdom, spread great love, and take on the Tathagata’s mission of working “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” Everyone must uphold the spirit of taking the Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission as their own and be single-minded in their resolve to walk the bodhisattva path. They must also cherish the affinities to learn the Buddha Dharma under the same teacher and mutually encourage and care for one another.

Master remarked that the Faith Corps have always made people feel safe. In everything they do, they always take their master’s mission as their own. “They truly are disciples close to my heart, and they fully exhibit the spirit of, ‘doing what should be done.’”

When I became a monastic in 1966, I had three principles. First, I would not hold Dharma assemblies, chant the sutra, or recite a sutra of repentance for others. Second, I did not want to become an abbot of a temple. Third, I would not take any disciples. However, despite having made these vows, the vow of not taking disciples was broken as I took Jing Hong in as my disciple.

After seeing the pool of blood on the ground, my heart was filled with sadness. After talking to the Catholic nuns, I decided to form a Buddhist charity organization. Since it was a charity organization, I needed people, and it was around this time that people began to seek refuge with me.

One day, Jing Hong came to Puming Temple and asked to take refuge with me. I told her, “I had originally made a vow not to take any disciples, but for the sake of saving lives, I must. So, I will receive disciples only under these conditions. First, one must have the Buddha’s heart of compassion. To be a Buddhist disciple, one must be full of compassion; one must have a loving heart and an aspiration to help the less fortunate. Second, they must share their master’s mission. I will take you as a disciple because I have made a vow to do the work of saving people; so, my vows are your vows. You must form aspirations to follow me in the work of saving lives and recruit donating members for me. Only under these conditions will I take you in as a disciple.”

There is no special ceremony for taking refuge; the most important thing is that one’s heart is aligned with my own. By taking refuge with the Buddha, we must understand the great path; the Buddha’s great principle is nothing but compassion, and we must take the Buddha’s heart as our own. What the Buddha asked of people was that they truly comprehend his heart. When we comprehend and are aligned with the Buddha’s heart, we will create blessings among people, for we cannot bear for sentient beings to suffer. This is the Buddha’s heart. By taking refuge in the Sangha, we must lead people by example. To sum it up, spiritual practice begins in our minds; you must all remember to take the Buddha’s heart and my mission as your own. My mission lies in the bodhisattva path. When one eye sees, 1,000 eyes can see, and so everyone will serve as my eyes. When one hand moves, 1,000 hands move, and so everyone must act on my behalf. This is how we join our hearts together.

The Buddha’s heart is one of great loving-kindness and compassion. With unconditional loving-kindness, we see all sentient beings on Earth as our own family. With universal compassion, we feel the suffering of sentient beings as if we are experiencing it in our own bodies. My mission is to work for the Buddha’s teachings and for sentient beings. My hope is that everyone will take the Buddha’s heart and my mission as their own by going among people to relieve their suffering and bring them joy. From the moment we put on the badge with the words, “the Buddha’s heart and Master’s mission,” we must encourage ourselves to carry on our right shoulder, the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings, and on our left shoulder, Tzu Chi’s responsibilities. On our chest, we should exhibit our own character as we serve as role models for this world. Tzu Chi volunteers share the same principles and appearance, which is expressed in the saying, “Great compassion is the room, and gentleness and patience are the clothing.” This means that our hearts are full of compassion, and we treat people with gentleness and patience. When people treat each other with gentleness and mutual accommodation and always keep gratitude, respect, and love in their hearts, their whole world opens up.

Master Yin Shun gave me six words, “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” As for me, I tell everyone to, “take the Buddha’s heart as your own and take your teacher’s mission as your own.” When it comes to the Buddha’s teachings and sentient beings, I want everyone to take the Buddha’s heart as their own heart. This is what the saying, “the Jing Si Dharma Lineage is a path of diligent practice” means; it is about a state of mind that is “tranquil and clear with vows as vast as the universe.” The heart of the Buddha is tranquil, clear, and free of defilements. Therefore, everyone must take the Buddha’s heart as their own, so that they will all have a state of mind that is able to be this tranquil, pure, and undefiled. By the same principle, as we work “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings,” we must have a pure heart to be able to return to what the Buddha has taught us.

“Infinite Dharma doors will readily appear before them.” When we are among people, each person is a sutra. Where is the true Dharma, the wondrous Dharma, in this world? It is in every person, and in every person’s family. Every family has its own difficulties, and being able to understand the situation of a family means attaining a portion of wisdom. In this way, Tzu Chi volunteers are able to cultivate both blessings and wisdom. The Buddha has an awakened heart, and by taking the Buddha’s heart as our own, our hearts will constantly be awakened as well. “For sentient beings” means to seek the Dharma of the sutras, for as we create blessings, we are also seeking the teachings and using them to awaken ourselves.

The Harmony Team practices aligning their minds with the minds of noble beings. The Buddha and bodhisattvas are noble beings, and so we “converge with the hearts of “saints and noble beings.” By taking the Buddha’s heart and my mission as your own, you are learning to have the hearts of buddhas and bodhisattvas. This is the door of harmony.

The day I took refuge with Master Yin Shun, I received the reminder to work “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” I have faithfully accepted and practiced these words. I also tell Tzu Chi volunteers that you must take the Buddha’s heart as your own and take your teacher’s mission as your own. Leveraging the strength in everyone’s hearts, we achieve the mission of working “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” The Buddha’s heart is one of great compassion, and my mission is to walk the bodhisattva path. Many families make offerings to the Three Saints of the Western Pure Land and chant “Amitabha Buddha.” I strongly hope that everyone will become like Guanyin Bodhisattva, able to see the world’s suffering with the eyes of a bodhisattva and rescue sentient beings from suffering with a bodhisattva’s hands. This is the initial aspiration behind establishing Tzu Chi.

Tzu Chi is a big family for those who share the same mission and the same path. Everyone has different habits and personalities, but we all share the same, firm aspiration of taking on “the Buddha’s heart” and “Master’s mission.” We are seeking to emulate the Buddha’s expansive heart because the realm that he awakened to is the Dharma realm of the universe, which is everywhere. This is the only path; we must train ourselves by going among people and transforming sentient beings.

Tzu Chi has been around for fifty years, for half a century. I hope there will be many more periods of fifty years to come. To sustain a high quality of work, we need the love in everyone’s heart. In the present moment, the reverent heart of the Buddha is always thinking of all living beings in the world. So, in the coming fifty years, we must hold onto this same sense of reverence every day and in each moment. As we chant the Buddha’s name, we must take it to heart and take the Buddha’s heart as our own.

With the same aspiration in our hearts, we internally practice sincerity, integrity, faith, and steadfastness, while externally practicing loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. “We vow to deliver countless sentient beings, to eliminate endless afflictions, to learn infinite Dharma-doors, and to attain unsurpassed buddhahood.” These Four Great Vows are the Jing Si Dharma Lineage. For the Tzu Chi School of Buddhism, there is also the Four Infinite Minds of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. We must have great loving-kindness without regrets, great compassion without resentment, great joy without worries, and great equanimity without expectations. With these Four Great Vows to give our minds direction, we must also use the Four Infinite Minds to go among people.

Everyone who listens to the Dharma must understand how great the Buddha is. Now is the era of evil turbidities in this world. Only the Buddha Dharma can purify and transform people’s hearts, so we must form great aspirations and vows. Everyone is equal to the Buddha, as we all have the Tathagata’s pure, intrinsic nature. Thus, everyone can attain buddhahood. Taking the Buddha’s heart as our own is more than just chanting the Buddha’s name. We all inherently possess buddha nature. When chanting the Buddha’s name, we must do it until it enters the depths of our hearts. You must have the Buddha’s great compassion, as well as make great vows like I did. This is how you take the Buddha’s heart and my mission as your own. This lotus flower, which everyone has pinned on their chest, grows in the mud without being defiled. We must form vows to go among people, and we must not let the winds of ignorance amid people’s disputes blow away our Bodhi tree.

We Take the Buddha's Heart as Our Own and Take Our Teacher's Mission as Our Own
January 20, 1987
Morning Volunteer Assembly
May 28, 1992
Teaching to Commissioners and Dharma Masters at the Abode
January 14, 1993
Tzu Chi Commissioners’ Gathering
May 17, 1996
Conversation with Argentina Commissioners
June 3, 1997
Teaching to Dharma Masters at the Abode
September 7, 1997
Faith Corps Report on Typhoon Winnie Disaster Relief Progress
April 15, 2001
Morning Volunteer Assembly
February 2, 2004
Conversation with Tzu Chi Collegiate Volunteers
December 14, 2009
Tainan Faith Corps and Commissioner Certification and Year-end Blessing
April 19, 2010
Teaching to Tainan Faith Corps and Commissioners
October 23, 2011
Spiritual Homecoming for Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Yilan, Hualien, and Taitung Faith Corps and Commissioners in Training
April 8, 2015
Conversation with Northern Region Tzu Chi Volunteers
November 9, 2015
Tzu Chi Overseas Volunteer Spiritual Retreat
April 29, 2016
Conversation on the Eve of Tzu Chi’s Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, “Tzu Chi’s 50th Anniversary: Infinite Meanings”
November 3, 2016
Tzu Chi Overseas Volunteer Spiritual Retreat