The Universe Has a Limit, but Our Vows Are Limitless


We still have a long way to go on the path of Tzu Chi. Our work in Tzu Chi is never-ending. This generation of volunteers must continue to work relentlessly.

During the evening recitation, we recited, “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.”
Buddhas and bodhisattvas spread compassion and great love throughout the world so that they may fill the universe. While the universe has an end, the Buddha’s great love is inexhaustible, and his great vows are boundless. As Tzu Chi volunteers, we must form greater aspirations, and we must be sincere in carrying them out in our actions.

For example, whenever we have the opportunity to help bathe someone who is otherwise unable, we should give rise to joy. We must realize that those with physical challenges suffer greatly when they cannot do certain things, such as clean themselves. If we put forth a little bit of effort, we can help them to wash themselves clean.

As we help others clean themselves physically, we can also clean ourselves mentally. Sometimes, we need to rely on our circumstances to train our minds. Let us be grateful and diligent and never retreat from our spiritual aspirations.

Our time is limited. We must make the most of the present moment, for we might never get another chance. So, I hope that everyone will form great aspirations.

You all know that I work “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” It was “for Buddha’s teachings” that I created the path of Tzu Chi.

Having embarked on this path, I can never turn back; I am simply devoting myself to Tzu Chi. I must keep opening up this path ever further and wider, and I will continue doing this until my very last breath. At that moment, I will entrust this work to you all and say, “I will return quickly.”

Once I embarked on this path, I was determined to never look back and never give up. I vowed to walk the Bodhisattva Path in order to spread the Buddha’s teachings.

Spreading the Buddha’s teachings requires space and time. Hualien was Tzu Chi’s starting point, but where will we end up? We must “encompass the universe and pervade all Dharma realms,” meaning we must spread this movement without limits. This is the meaning of the phrase, “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.” We must share the resolve of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, who said, “Until all have been transformed, I will forego enlightenment.” When will all sentient beings be transformed? We are still very far away from that day.

We must constantly expand the bounds of Tzu Chi, for our goal is to encompass the universe and pervade all Dharma realms.

Our vows may be limitless, but time is limited, so we must make use of every bit of this limited time to achieve our goal of encompassing the universe and pervading all Dharma-realms. This is why I say that there is no turning back for me – I will always keep walking forward.

Over the past thirty years, I have wholeheartedly upheld my fundamental duties without ever neglecting them.

I made these vows thirty years ago, and now, thirty years later, my vows are still the same.

“The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.” My vows are no less expansive and immense than the universe.

Modern technology is very advanced; there are instruments which can measure distances on the scale of many lightyears. However, our vows are immeasurable and boundless. We need to exercise limitless love. Thirty years ago, we started with only thirty people. Over these thirty years, the number of volunteers has accumulated day after day, month after month, year after year, growing exponentially.

I often say, “Forming aspirations is easy, but persevering in them is difficult.” Maintaining the same mindset year after year is truly not easy. Tzu Chi’s success lies in doing what is not easy, and we owe this success to Tzu Chi’s commissioners and Faith Corps members who never give up. How do we encourage people to make vows of great love without ever giving up? We must take faith as our foundation.

“Faith is the source of the path, mother of merits. It nurtures all roots of goodness.” Faith is the foundation for learning the Buddha’s teachings and making great vows. When we have faith in our hearts, this faith will naturally become an everlasting force. However, without faith, our strength will quickly dissipate. Thus, Tzu Chi volunteers are able to persevere due to their faith.

Tzu Chi’s medical network is being developed throughout Taiwan, including locations in Dalin, Tanzi District in Taichung, Xindian and Neihu in Taipei, and so on.

Our vows must be great. As the Chant for Dedicating Merits states, “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.”

Let us vow to do everything within our power to quickly establish medical care wherever in the world there is a need for it.

We must not fear taking on too much work; rather, we should only fear not having enough strength to do it. Even then, a lack of strength is not something we should fear; rather, we should only fear that our hearts are not in harmony. When our hearts are in harmony, we will have great strength. With great strength comes the ability to accomplish anything in the world that needs to be done.

In Taiwan, villages without medical care still exist. Therefore, it is necessary that we form more aspirations and make more great vows.

In addition to the four hospitals currently planned, we also need a comprehensive education system.

Education is very important. The stories I see about troubled youth every day deeply worry me. On the news, I saw twelve high school-aged teenagers handcuffed together in a row. When they were being filmed, they used their jackets to hide their faces in a show of remorse. From this, we can see that they are not evil by nature; they just made a mistake on a momentary impulse. This is why we need education.

In Hualien, we already have a comprehensive education system, which goes from kindergarten all the way to university, and we hope to expand it throughout Taiwan. We must not fear taking on too much work, rather, we should only fear not having enough strength to do it. “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.” So long as we work to bring purity to everyone’s hearts and awaken their love, then our strength will be immense.

“Bodhisattvas make great vows because they cannot bear to witness sentient beings’ deluded actions. They transform their delusion into clarity and act in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. They transform those sentient beings with whom they have affinities using Right Dharma. Their only wish is for sentient beings to walk the great Bodhi Path.”

Jing Si is a path of diligent practice. On this path, everyone forms aspirations to diligently engage in spiritual practice.

Where are we diligently advancing towards? In what direction should we go? We are seeking to actualize our great vows.

Our great vows give us a broad and long path to follow, which is the Bodhisattva Path. How long is the path formed by our great vows? The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless. There are infinite multitudes of sentient beings, so our vows must also be infinite.

In assessing whether the universe is finite or infinite, modern science has concluded that it has a limit. However, there are infinite sentient beings; their number grows endlessly, becoming even greater than the universe.

There are so many sentient beings. Since we have given rise to Bodhicitta, our hearts must encompass the universe and embrace the boundless worlds within it. Once we make this vow, we must never abandon sentient beings.

Context for this teaching: After the deaths and severe destruction caused by the earthquake in Haiti, Tzu Chi launched an international relief effort.

I live every day with the mindset that time is running out. However, while there is an end to life, the power of goodness is endless. Even though my life must come to an end, the Bodhi root of goodness is everlasting. I hope everyone can remember the words, “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless,” and exercise our infinite, boundless goodness and love. Human life is finite, but goodness and great love are infinite. In short, I hope that Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide will make every effort to help.

Tzu Chi volunteers in the USA have already begun mobilizing. In Taiwan, we have prepared blankets and clothing to be shipped. The abode has received a request for instant rice. We are working quickly to get it ready; the relief work in Haiti has already begun!
This is an opportunity to create blessings; let us do so with a heart of gratitude and sincerity.
“The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.” Though human life is finite, goodness is infinite. Though life is impermanent, love is everlasting.

What I wish to build is not a physical training ground, but a place for spiritual cultivation, a spiritual training ground.

Once we have this spiritual training ground, our hearts will become very broad. As I often say, “The universe has a limit, but our vows are limitless.”

Using modern technology, we know that the universe is extremely immense. Therefore, we always use words like “inconceivable” and “immeasurable” to describe its vastness.
As the saying goes, “The universe has a limit.” Perhaps future technology will be able to measure exactly how big the universe is. However, our infinite vows are immeasurable; they are boundless and never-ending.

I trust the Buddha when he said that the universe has a limit, and I also trust when he said that our vows are limitless. Whether we are talking about the present or the future, the capacity of the human mind is immeasurable.

We must spread Tzu Chi’s spiritual training ground to every country and every place, until there are Tzu Chi volunteers all around the world. “Tzu Chi’s Year in Review 2012” documents the different places where Tzu Chi volunteers work and how they have embraced all those suffering people. This is where our spiritual training ground is. We all share the same goal as we mindfully enter this bodhisattva training ground. In my life, what moves me the most is that we all share the Buddha’s aspiration and the same goal of walking the Bodhisattva Path for the sake of sentient beings.

I have said before, “The Buddha did not come to this world for his own benefit. Rather, he engaged in spiritual cultivation and attained Buddhahood for the sake of sentient beings. More importantly, he came to the world for one great cause.” This one great cause is to teach all sentient beings that Buddha-nature is intrinsic to us all.

In order to teach this and verify it to everyone, he returns to the human world lifetime after lifetime. In doing so, he always serves as a role model for sentient beings to help us understand that spiritual cultivation cannot be accomplished in a single lifetime, but that it takes countless lifetimes to achieve.

February 29, 1992
Morning Volunteer Assembly
April 9, 1992
Lecture to Tzu Chi Commissioners in Taipei
September 8, 1996
Tainan and Jiayi Commissioner and Faith Corps Training
November 1, 1997
Meeting with Taiwan Central Region Certified Volunteers
November 1, 2008
Wisdom at Dawn
January 14, 2010
Taiwan Northern Region Certification Ceremony and Year-End Blessing
November 25, 2012
Certification Ceremony and Year-End Blessing for Overseas Volunteers