Friday, April 29, 2011

Buddhist Personality- Master Cheng Yen

Master Cheng Yen, the head of the private, non-profit Tzu Chi Foundation, headquartered in Hualien, eastern Taiwan has been name by Time magazine as one of World's 100 Most Influential People for this year.

Tzu Chi Foundation has 50 chapters across the world to extend assistance to victims of natural disasters as well as people in needs regardless of race or religion. Master Cheng Yen is compared to Mother Teresa of India who received a Nobel Peace Prize. I

Master Cheng Yen was born as Wang Jinyun on May 11, 1937 in a village, Chingshui in Taichung, Taiwan. She was given by her parents to her childless uncle and aunt to be raised. She had first hand experience growing up in sufferings during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. When she was 8, she had to look after her sick brother in hospital for 8 months. At age 23, her father died and while searching for a burial for her father, she came in contact with the Dhamma. After her father's death, she took over her father theaters business and became financially responsible for the family.

When she decided to become a nun, she attempted to run away from home to a temple, in anticipation of her mother's disapproval but was eventually discovered and brought home by her elder. It was in 1961, her second attempt of running away that changed her life. She met a friendly nun Master Xiudao and traveled with the master, shaved her own head but was not ordained as a nun. After travelling with Master Xiudao, she decided to become an ordained nun in order to continue her lifestyle.

She went to Lin Chi Temple and asked to be ordained but was rejected as she did not have a master. Fortunately, Cheng Yen encountered Master Yin-shun whom agreed to be her master. In February 1963, she officially became a disciple of Master Yin Shun and was given a buddhist name, Cheng Yen.

In May 1963, shortly after receiving her initiation as a nun, she went to Pu Ming Temple in Hualien county to continue her spiritual formation. As a part of that formation, she recited the Lotus Sutra which she revered every day and copied it every month. It was during her six months there that she vowed to commit herself to the Lotus Sutra and the "Path Of the Bodhisattvas "

Master Cheng Yen founded Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation on April 14, 1966 to meet the needs of the poor in eastern Taiwan. She encouraged her 30 followers to save fifty cents from the grocery every day and put them into little saving banks made from bamboo. In the first year, the foundation 15 families were helped by the 30 followers. ,

Today, the foundation has grown to be a big and established organisation with chapters across the world and has it's own hospital, a nursing college and even a TV station and is quick to act in the event of any natural disasters in any parts of the world.

In honoring her, Time said " In this life, Cheng Yen is already a saint but she isn't a saint who has been declared by the Catholic Church to have won through her good deeds, a place in heaven and veneration on earth. She has performed no miracles. She hasn't been canonised for Buddhism isn't an organized religion like Catholicism. She isn't even a Bodhisattva, a person withholding her nirvana in order to help sentient beings"

Last year, a vegetable seller from Taiwan, Chen Su-Chu ( my earlier post on her here ) was also named in the Time's list However unlike Chen, Master Cheng has no plan to go to New York to receive the honor.

For more info on her foundation, visit its official website here

Read the brief article on her on Time's offical website here

An introductory video on Master Cheng Yen

Some of the many videos on the foundation helping the poors and victims of natural disasters in different parts of the world.

In Dominican Republic

In aid of victims of earthquake in Haiti

In South Africa

In Pakistan