In 1976, for the first time, Tzu Chi was recognized by the government among temples that engage in public service and charity, receiving first place for excellence in performance.
Receiving First Place for “Temples for Public Service and Charity”
December 24, 1976
The government of Taiwan awarded Tzu Chi Merit Association first place for excellence in performance among all temples that engage in public service and charity.
The recognition ceremony was held at Taiwan Provincial Administration Information Hall in Zhongxing New Village, Nantou County. Master Cheng Yen was there to accept the award in person.
March 3, 1978
The Tzu Chi Merit Association was honored with the 1977 Temples for Public Service and Charity Excellence in Performance Award from the government. The award was accepted by two Tzu Chi representatives, Taichung commissioner Dharma Master Da Hong and Bodhi Tree Magazine Publisher Zhu Pei, at the recognition ceremony at Taiwan Provincial Administration Information Hall.
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 119
Temples Engaging in Public Service and Charity
For temples, engaging in public services and charity work should unquestionably be considered a social responsibility. Unfortunately, those who truly fulfill this responsibility are few.
Nine years ago, we decided that conducting public services and charity work was not only a necessity, but a reasonable expectation for a Buddhist temple. Yet, looking around us, no such work was being done. This is why we stepped forward to form the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association, in an attempt to both promote and undertake the responsibility of public service and charity work. With the Buddhist spirit of great loving kindness and great compassion, and a sincere mindset of helping others out of suffering and difficulty, we began to engage in practical charity work.
Over the past nine years, more and more people from all over have joined our cause, and our operations are expanding each year. Now, everyone has witnessed and understands our contribution to society. We no longer need to explain ourselves, as people in society already know that our work is entirely for the sake of public service and charity, whenever we provide financial support, food, medical care, and medicine.
Unlike traditional temples, we do not accept monetary offerings. We only have the support of many kind-hearted people who have each emitted light with their enthusiasm. Now, the illumination from this light is expanding every day.
Because of this, we have even more faith that public services and charity work organized by temples are not only feasible, but should be enthusiastically implemented.
We hope that all flourishing temples can participate with the spirit of great loving kindness, great compassion, and the mindset of helping those who are suffering from hardships. We must wholeheartedly advance together on the great path of providing public services and charity.
If we can do this, then not only are we never alone on the path, but communities everywhere can also quickly flourish and develop. When warmth and love is spread to every corner of the world, the poor and ill can widely attain happiness and peace, and they be liberated from all worries and suffering.
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 123
Tzu Chi Recognized by Government for First Place in Charity Work
Governor Hsieh Tung-min Presents a Plaque and Certificate
Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association placed first for “Temples for Public Service and Charity” according to the government’s evaluation. In addition to being praised by the Ministry of the Interior, Tzu Chi received a plaque and a certificate of appreciation presented by Governor Hsieh at the recognition ceremony on December 24, at the Taiwan Provincial Administration Information Hall.
The recognition ceremony was held at 9 a.m. on December 24, and the association chair, Master Cheng Yen, attended in person. There were forty-four other organizations from around the province who received awards at that time.
At the ceremony hosted by Provincial Secretary-General Qu Shaohua, Governor Hsieh presented Tzu Chi with a plaque displaying the four characters for, “warm-hearted community service,” and two certificates—one for the association chair and one for the association—that read, “In recognition of contributing funds and conducting public service and charity work with excellent results, we present you with this award,” signed, “Governor Hsieh Tung-min.”
Tzu Chi received first place, and Master Cheng Yen expressed that this was all possible due to the efforts of the commissioners going everywhere, urging people to do good, and collecting donations, as well as the enthusiasm and support from all donors. We hope that all commissioners and donors will retain the passion and sincerity as they have had in the past, supporting Tzu Chi by donating funds and strength to help the poor, disabled, ill, and lonely. In doing this, Tzu Chi’s work can expand, more people can benefit, and the results will be even greater.
“From China Daily News December 18, 1976: Feature Article by Hualien Reporter Hou Weiping”
Among temples conducting public service and charity work in Taiwan, Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association in Hualien was awarded first place. Dharma Master Cheng Yen, head of the association, will receive an award from Governor Hsieh at the recognition ceremony held at Taiwan Provincial Administration Information Hall on the 24th of this month at 9 a.m. The provincial government and the Ministry of the Interior who reported this case will offer praise to the foundation.
It was no coincidence that Hualien Tzu Chi Merit Association received this honor.
In recent years, the government has issued clear guidelines for all temples in the province to undertake public service and charity work. However, ten years ago, Hualien Tzu Chi Merit Association had already quietly but proactively begun carrying out such work.
The Jing Si Abode at 11-2 Kangle Village, Xincheng Township, Hualien County is where Master Cheng Yen leads a group of female monastice in practicing, upholding, and spreading the Dharma. They plow and farm the fields, and sell knitted gloves, completely earning their own living
Through the diligence and hard work of the government, people in society have an abundance of food and materials. However, there are still some elderly and disabled people, those living alone without family, or those who fall into difficult situations due to illness who still need society’s understanding and help. For this reason, Master Cheng Yen established the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association in March 1966 to gather together the strength of society and give to people in difficult situations.
Tzu Chi’s mission is “to relieve people from poverty and suffering.” As the association head, Master Cheng Yen urged her compassionate and warm-hearted commissioners to raise funds from all parts of society. Every month, these virtuous donations add up and become the funds for helping people.
Aid is provided according to the three categories of poverty:
- Category 1: people who have no one to rely on and cannot work receive support through long-term care.
- Category 2: people who can work but do not have a steady income receive monetary aid equal to thirty percent of living expenses for the long-term.
- Category 3: people who are temporarily in a difficult situation and need help during this time receive help based on the circumstances.
There is an additional category for “emergency relief,” to lend a helping hand to people who are in urgent need of relief from natural disasters or manmade calamities.
Working Together to Collect Donations
Ninety percent of commissioners are housewives, and they work tirelessly to raise charity funds.
For the past ten years, Tzu Chi has been supported by commissioners and donors with “perseverance, determination, loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, and a non-retreating aspiration to do good.” With each passing day, their sincere and enthusiastic support has expanded Tzu Chi’s missions and put them into practical application. When Tzu Chi was founded in 1966, the monthly donation total was only a few hundred dollars, or NT$2,000 to 3,000 at most. As of right now, last year’s incoming donations totaled NT$3,488,008. The average monthly incoming donations are close to NT$200,000 dollars, but the expenses sometimes exceed NT$200,000. Other times, the expenses are close to NT$200,000, so there is not a big difference between incoming donations and expenses.
In the beginning, there were only ten commissioners and around two hundred donors. Now, there are sixty-five commissioners and almost eight thousand donors. People who formed the aspiration to support us are not only spread throughout Taiwan, but donating members from places as far away as Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, the United States, Japan, and other places also regularly mail in donations. Originally, relief was provided within Hualien and Taitung, but it is now provided all over Taiwan.
Benefiting More Than Seven Hundred People
Whether providing long-term care or temporary emergency relief, commissioners will go in person to understand the situation, then report to the association head, and discuss the case at the commissioners meeting to determine the method for providing relief.
According to this month’s statistics, 240 households receive long-term care, benefiting over 700 people. Rice and monetary aid are distributed on a monthly basis. Every month, around 7,000 pounds of rice and NT$80,000 is distributed. On distribution day, which is every 24th of the lunar month, these impoverished families come to the Jing Si Abode to receive aid. On that day, Tzu Chi treats them to a vegetarian lunch at noontime, so that they can have a full meal. Those who live far away receive aid through their local commissioners. Every year, Tzu Chi distributes clothes, daily necessities, and red envelopes before the Chinese New Year.
Besides providing long-term care and temporary relief, Tzu Chi also helps survivors of hurricanes, fires, and other emergencies. The majority of these emergency relief aid recipients are mostly poor people who have suffered from car accidents or severe illnesses. The medical expenses of those who need to be treated in the hospital are several thousand dollars every month.
Unwilling to Engage in PR Campaigns
What deserves special recognition is that Tzu Chi has set up a free clinic on Ren’ai Street, Hualien. It is open every Tuesday and Saturday to provide free treatment to people who are ill and in poverty. Doctors from Provincial Hualien Hospital volunteer their time in shifts to treat the poor. The nurses who volunteer their time are also from Provincial Hualien Hospital. They look after an average of 200 or more people at each free clinic. In November, the number of patient cases totaled 1,470. The necessary medicine is donated by people in the community, and if there is not enough, Tzu Chi will cover the difference.
In addition to running Tzu Chi Monthly, publishing details of the association’s affairs, and listing donors’ names and donation amounts, Tzu Chi also maintains a strict accounting system where even donations of NT$3 or NT$5 are recorded, to maintain transparency and accountability. When audited by the provincial government, Tzu Chi’s account records were praised for great accuracy and detail.
For a charity organization to have such success is truly rare and precious. Despite having done a lot of relief work, Tzu Chi has never promoted its efforts. In response to this recognition, Master Cheng Yen expressed, “As a monastic, I am not attached to honors. My only hope is that the government can help provide material support. The rice we distribute to the poor every month amounts to about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds. Authorizing the sale of rice at cost would be the same as providing relief to more impoverished people.”
March 5, 1978
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 137
Tzu Chi Receives Praise for Taking First Place in the Entire Province for Doing Charity Work Last Year
Tzu Chi once again received top recognition for the 1977 Temples for Public Service and Charity excellence in performance award, presented by the Minister of the Interior, Chang Feng-hsu, and the Governor of Taiwan, Hsieh Tung-min.
The recognition ceremony was held at Taichung City Dadun Cultural Centre on March 3 at 9 a.m. Association chair Master Cheng Yen could not personally go to receive the award due to prior commitments. Taichung commissioner Master Da Hong and Bodhi Tree Magazine Publisher Zhu Pei attended the ceremony in her place.
Among the temples that did public service and charity work in 1976, Tzu Chi took first place in the entire province. This honor garnered the attention and praise of the public, and many publications published this story.
In 1976, Tzu Chi spent NT$188,056.80 to fund charity work.
Master Cheng Yen said, “All of our donations depend on the support of enthusiastic donors. Therefore, this honor should be shared by all donors. I further hope that everyone can support the goal of helping those in times of difficulty by offering their own strength to create blessings for the poor.”
“Zhongxing New Village News”
The Jing Si Abode, a small temple in a remote village of Hualien, has been donating more than NT$1,500,000 a year for the past twelve years to hold free clinics and provide relief and medical care for the poor. Such compassion sets an example for all temples and will be recognized by the government of Taiwan today in Taichung.
The head of this small temple is forty-two-year-old Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Since 1966, the Jing Si Abode has continuously undertaken disaster relief and charity work
The Jing Si Abode was started when Master Cheng Yen established the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association and began to call on benefactors everywhere to donate and help the poor through various kinds of relief efforts
June 6, 1982
Tzu Chi Monthly Issue 190
Recalling the First Recognition Ceremony
The Tzu Chi Merit Association was founded in 1966. The first time it received government recognition was on December 24, 1976. The following year, the Temple Supervision Council formed by government representatives did an investigative tour to understand the rationale behind religious organizations doing charity work. When ten to twenty committee members came to audit the abode, they asked me, “What is the objective of running Tzu Chi? How do you feel about receiving recognition? What are your thoughts on receiving recognition this time?”
At that time, I expressed that we are not carrying out the work of Tzu Chi for recognition, but to promote the Buddha’s teachings and to actualize the spirit of Buddhism. Another reason was that as a citizen, I feel that I should bring everyone together and cultivate a spirit of unity for the sake of our country and society. Therefore, we should gather everyone’s strength and spirit to help those in poverty and difficulty to attain peace and happiness. For the first ten years, we received no recognition, yet I still encouraged all Buddhist practitioners to wholeheartedly give their support to the work of compassionately helping the world. The government praising religious organizations for their charity work is a sensible move; if the efforts of religious organizations are valued and supported by the government, then we could definitely help the government to resolve many difficulties in people’s lives.
It has now been seventeen years since Tzu Chi’s founding. As we look forward to our future development, I hope that Tzu Chi’s wisdom-life will be everlasting, turning intangible service into tangible institutions. Continuing Tzu Chi’s wisdom-life is also my goal in building a hospital.