Presidents Guidance

From Kosei,
March 2022

Sowing Seeds in the Fields of Blessings
—Donation, Part 3

The Story of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

In Taiwan, there is a humanitarian organization called the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Its first incarnation was a small volunteer group established in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, who was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2007. Today, this international Buddhist NGO has more than four million members and continues to develop various types of volunteer programs, such as disaster relief, in every region of the globe.

I am quite impressed by Tzu Chi—which is grounded in the same Lotus Sutra teachings as Rissho Kosei-kai—because as its name implies, its purpose is providing compassionate relief(that is, deploying the Buddha’s compassion to liberate people from suffering)in the spirit of “people who need our help are giving us the opportunity to perform volunteer service.” I think it is wonderful that its members are nurturing the mind of compassion through their volunteer work and monetary donations and that their participation in Tzu Chi brings them a sense of gratitude and joy that advances the organization’s programs. This spirit—equally evident in Rissho Kosei-kai’s Donate-a-Meal Movement—is the origin of Tzu Chi’s formation and its story is still being told today.

For instance, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, handing a bamboo tube to her fellow volunteers, told them, “By slightly reducing what we spend on food, let’s save a half yuan every day and put it in a bamboo tube like this.” When one of them asked her, “Wouldn’t it be all right to simply donate fifteen yuan in a lump sum every month?” She replied as follows.

“Every day, every time you put a half yuan donation into the bamboo tube, I want you to feel that you are liberating people from suffering. Every time you reduce your spending by a half yuan, I also want you to feel that your savings is a donation of the mind of caring for people and bringing them liberation.” I believe that Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s attitude and spirit are teaching us something important as we think about our own practice of donation, in particular the donation of material things.

An Organization That Produces Blessings and Virtues

When you help other people who are having a hard time or going through something difficult, you are definitely helping yourself and making yourself happy. And this is what all people of faith understand well and why they gladly make donations, with heartfelt joy. In addition, their monetary donations are steadily accumulating in the course of daily life. As I mentioned last month in “Donation, Part2,” saving money in order to donate it is both one of life’s goals and a purpose to live. Through donation, benefitting oneself and benefitting others becomes one and the same and therefore, it brings human beings the greatest happiness.

However, making many donations does not necessarily mean receiving greater merits. Indeed, Buddhist scripture clearly states that “Although what you give may be very little, if you practice donation with the mind of faith, you will benefit others and thereby bring yourself peace and comfort.”

Peace and comfort are merits that fill people’s hearts with joy and makes them feel tranquil and at ease. Their hearts, made full by smiling faces, experience a refreshing purity, completely carefree—and that gives them the power to live. Having experienced this, you want to savor that feeling of happiness again and gladly make another donation, don’t you?

From long ago, a Buddhist congregation has been called “a field of blessings” because when the seeds of giving are sown there, they grow into blessings and virtues. Of course, at Rissho Kosei-kai, when we are entrusted with precious seeds of giving—the donations made by all of our members—we have a duty to grow those seeds into blessings and virtues that lead to the liberation of humanity. The question is how to make the best use of these seeds that are your donations, imbued with all of your hopes and wishes and all of your compassion, in light of the true nature of making and sharing donations.

But is there any arrogance or self-righteousness in our actions? Are they truly meaningful? Are we listening to the voices calling out for liberation? Is everyone around us experiencing the joy of the Dharma? Right now, we should once again seriously ask ourselves these questions while we sincerely put our monetary donations to the best use, because doing so ensures the happiness of the people who are together cultivating the Rissho Kosei-kai “field of blessings,” sowing the seeds of giving, and practicing diligence—something that we should freshly call to mind this month as we observe the anniversary of Rissho Kosei-kai’s founding.