Forty years after Tzu Chi was established, Dharma Master Cheng Yen officially announced the formation of Tzu Chi’s dharma path. All disciples who have taken refuge are Jing Si Disciples and everyone is a Tzu Chi volunteer. The Jing Si Dharma-Lineage and the Tzu Chi’ dharma path, are all based on the essences of the Lotus Sutra and practices of the Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings.
When Master Cheng Yen took her refuge, her teacher, Master Ying Shun, instructed her to dedicate herself to Buddhism and to all sentient beings. This simple dedication made a tremendous impression on Master Cheng Yen and she vowed to live up to them.
During the first six months after Master took her refuge, she studied the Lotus Sutra with all her heart. The teachings in the Lotus Sutra may be profound, but Master thought these teachings are very appropriate in guiding the bodhisattvas to reach out to all sentient beings. The Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings sums up the essence in the Lotus Sutra. It clearly explains how Buddhists should conduct themselves when dealing with people and it is with this same attitude that Master practices in her life.
For the past forty years and continuing today, from Taiwan to rest of the world, Tzu Chi disciples follow the teachings of this Sutra as they learn while working and work while learning. The saying “Our mind is clear and translucent, and our vows are as vast as the endless void. Our conviction is unwavering for countless eons.” is the foundation of the Tzu Chi dharma teachings. The saying “Innumerable dharma paths become clear to us. Great wisdom shall be ours, and we will penetrate the true reality of all things” validates Tzu Chi’s dharma path.
The Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings is the best spiritual cultivation essence for Tzu Chi disciples. Everyone has the same sincere pure heart as the Buddha. When there is disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers will appear in a timely manner, uninvited, to cultivate the field of blessings. They will give comfort and care unconditionally. It is just like what is described in the Chapter Virtues in the Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings.
In the Sutra’s section that expounds the dharma, it explained the rotations of the four seasons, the passing of time, the changes of the natural environment, and the birth and death of sentient beings. Nature and the universe are always opening the dharma doors. Different combinations of karma produce different phenomenon, such as the man-made destruction of the earth that affects the climate and results in natural disasters.
In the Sutra’s section that expounds the Chapter Virtues, it inspired people to vow to unlock their intelligence, to attain purity in the chaotic life and to bring benefits to all sentient beings. The Sutra can enable bodhisattvas, using this immeasurable power, to unleash others’ good conscience and altruistic selves.
On May 12, 2007, 132 volunteers and commissioners performed the Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings in sign language, at the Jing Si Hall in Hwalian. In a short 50-minute performance, they expressed the many changes of the universe. Their hand gestures, facial expressions and movements merged into the most beautiful interpretation of the Sutra. Everyone was awestruck and speechless.
At the end of the performance, Master Cheng Yen listened to the vows sung by this group of disciples: “Our hearts are connected to pass the Tzu Chi dharma teachings; our commitment to expand Tzu Chi’s dharma path is unwavering; we’ll treasure the Tzu Chi karma; Jing Si dharma teaching has immeasurable meanings.” Master was deeply moved and relieved as well. She was appreciative beyond words and encouraged everyone to continue maintaining this vow and to make the most of every second for the rest of their lives.