In walking the Bodhisattva Path, we are to help all living beings. To do that, we must have compassion, which is to emulate the Buddha’s heart. If we want to nurture our heart to be like the Buddha’s, we must always harbor good thoughts. By taking care of our heart, we’ll always harbor good thoughts and prevent the five spiritual toxins of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt from poisoning our heart. Therefore, taking good care of our heart is an essential element of walking the Bodhisattva Path. There is a sutra story that illustrates this.
Many people are blessed with material wealth and live comfortably. However, not all of them are happy because they are constantly worrying about how to protect their fortune and multiply their wealth; they don’t enjoy what they have. Their worries and afflictions stem from not knowing correct life principles. The Buddha teaches us that to have blessings, we must create blessings. This is the law of karma. If people have this concept, they’ll be able to better make use of their wealth. Lacking this concept may bring much misery. There is a sutra story that illustrates this.
Each and every one of us has the great potential to attain enlightenment. Yet, people are easily influenced by their surroundings. At times, they aspire to help others, but when they encounter obstacles, they lose faith in themselves and give up on their goal. Hence, they don’t make progress in their spiritual cultivation. If we always have faith in ourselves, utilize our potential, and persist in walking the Bodhisattva Path, we can take care of our heart and remain firmly on track. Our potential comes from having faith in ourselves. And with this faith comes strength for cultivation.
Last year was Tzu Chi’s 50th year. In April, we will celebrate our 51st anniversary. This will mark the beginning of a new era for us. During the past half-century, Tzu Chi has overcome many obstacles to become the foundation it is today, with volunteers giving of themselves just as they did when we first began to help those in need in Hualien. Over the course of time, our work has gradually extended to the whole of Taiwan and around the world. Tzu Chi has now provided aid to nearly half the countries in the world. Although we began our affinity with many countries due to disaster relief, we always hope to set foot in more countries in order to spread seeds of love rather than to provide aid after disasters.
The journey to Buddhahood is very long. On this journey one must walk the Bodhisattva Path and practice the six paramitas: giving, precepts, forbearance, diligence, samadhi, and wisdom. However, cultivators often become tired along the way. To help us overcome this challenge, we need to develop the spirit of the Four Bodhisattva Practices.
Many Chinese people believe it is important to burn paper money for their ancestors. Especially in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, also known as the Ghost Month, people ritually burn a large amount of incense and paper money. This practice generates a lot of carbon dioxide, which exacerbates global warming. Despite the harm to the environment, people practice this custom because they think that doing so will bring them safety and blessings. Actually, burning paper money is a superstition which originates in a folk tale.
In the seventh month of the lunar calendar, many people make offerings of food and burn paper money for their ancestors, hoping that it will help them in their afterlife. This practice, however, does not help the deceased because it is the karma they have created which determines their fate after they have passed away. There is a story in the sutra that illustrates this.
Editor’s note: In observing the Chinese tradition of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, also known as the Ghost Month, Dharma Master Cheng Yen hopes people would practice these customs associated with this month using wisdom and correct belief rather than superstition. This article is the first of a series on the lunar seventh month, the month of auspiciousness, compiled from Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s talks on this topic.
"Some greedily seek indulgence and idleness, while others are obsessed with the pursuit of fame and fortune without content; even practitioners who aspire to become a Bodhisattva will have thoughts of greed – which will extinguish their aspirations and determination.” When the heart deviates, it brings suffering to yourself and others. The Master reminded us to be constantly mindful of the movements of our mind, to keep cautiously to the right direction and practice diligently.
Throughout my life, I have always had three daily prayers. First, I pray not for a healthy body, but for a clear mind. As the years pass, our bodies undergo aging and finally death, but our wisdom-life is everlasting. If we do not quickly develop our wisdom-life and strengthen our aspirations, then our wisdom will not grow. Thus, I do not ask for good health, but for a mind of clarity and wisdom, without discursive thoughts. This is my first prayer.