In preparation for the historical origins and documentation project of Tzu Chi Singapore, the Singapore branch invited Madam Hung Su-chen, an editor with the Tzu Chi Dharma Lineage Historical Archival and Research Centre, together with Sister Huang Li Jun and Sister Yan Wan Ting, to conduct the 2013 Tzu Chi Singapore historical and archival training workshop.
Tzu Chi Singapore took the opportunity to invite Madam Hung, who had formerly undertaken the responsibility as an editor working on the book compilation of the “Jing Si Aphorisms”, to share her experiences in compiling both the book as well as the Tzu Chi Anthem.
From Reporter to Editor of the “Jing Si Aphorisms”
The story of how the“Jing Si Aphorisms”came to be published was recounted by Madam Hung to the audience of close to 400 attendees. In 1987, Taiwan’s decades-old martial law was repealed by President Chiang Ching-kuo, and Taiwanese society underwent a decadent and turbulent period of liberalization; the stock and property markets saw meteoric rises, and the foundations of the people’s moral values and beliefs was shaken. Back then, the Taiwanese literati had an urgent need for reading materials that could help steer society in the right direction and settle the restless hearts of the people.
In the April of 1989, Madam Hung, who was then working in the press, headed to Hua-lien to meet Dharma Master Cheng Yen, where she was to conduct an interview on a colleague’s behalf. It was her very first meeting with the Master. During the session, Madam Hung was intensely moved; from the words and actions of the Master, genuine compassion could be observed.
At the close of the interview, Master Cheng Yen stood at the doorway of the prayer hall and invited Madam Hung to come back to Hua-lien and visit often. Without a moment’s hesitation, Madam Hung agreed. At that moment, she silently made a vow that she would contribute towards Tzu Chi’s future endeavours if the opportunity arose. This promise that Madam Hung made, not only laid the foundation of the master and disciple relationship between Master Cheng Yen and herself, it also changed her life.
Touched by the compassion of Master Cheng Yen, Madam Hung later penned three articles on the topics of Tzu Chi volunteers, Tzu chi’s works, and its Four Missions of culture, education, medicine and charity. However, during the publication period, the Chief Editor of the news agency she was working for decided that in order to be able to feature news about a political figure, the original plan of devoting newspaper space over three days to her articles would have to be decreased to just two. Madam Hung had no choice but to agree.
On 19 April of the same year, Madam Hung sent the manuscript of the articles she had already written to Master Cheng Yen. Two days later, she unexpectedly received a handwritten reply from the Master. The penmanship was elegant and vigorous. While reading the letter, Madam Hung was moved to the core; it seemed to as if every sentence was calling out to her.
Not long after, Madam Hung received an invitation to compile the teachings of Master Cheng Yen for publication from Mr Gao Xin Jiang, a figure much respected for his experience in the media industry. Madam Hung had already left the industry by then, but remembering her vow, she started to work on the compilation. With her strong grounding in Literature studies, Madam Hung compiled the teachings of the Master in a literary style reminiscent of the Analects of Confucius. The completed work, known as the “Jing Si Aphorisms,” was distributed by Chiu Ko Publishing Co., Ltd.
Madam Hung feels that the “Jing Si Aphorisms” embodies the teachings of Confucius on benevolence, and the teachings impart a practical application of the spirit of humaneness in its highest form. Initially, Mr Gao had intended the release of the book to inject some measure of sobriety and clarity of thought back to society, and was not too concerned with its sales. However, the book was well-received by the general public; it was very saleable and copies flew off the shelves.
From “Jing Si Aphorisms” to the Tzu Chi Anthem
Twenty-four years have since passed, and the spirit of the teachings of the Jing Si Aphorisms has evolved and manifested in various forms such as the “Jing Si flower arrangement class,”“Jing Si tea art class，”“Jing Si Aphorisms educational syllabus，”“Jing Si calligraphy and painting” and even in a selection of Tzu Chi songs. Through these various avenues, the spirit of Tzu Chi’s Great Love and humanistic culture is widely propagated, purifying the hearts and minds of humanity and spreading goodness in our world.
Incorporating the Jing Si Aphorisms into songs serves to educate the populace and bring comfort to the suffering. Hence they are invariably fall into a different category from the popular songs of today and are rich with literary flavour. The objective of composing the Tzu Chi songs is to touch the hearts of people and inspire kindness in others, so that they may find it in their hearts to give in the name of Great Love. Indeed, the beauty of our lives is reflected in the value of selfless giving.
Madam Hung concluded her talk by exhorting her audience to always remember the words of wisdom as they guide us in times of need just like a wise teacher and true friend would. She encouraged her audience to make full use of the present opportunities to perform good deeds, and in so doing, actively direct the path one takes in life as opposed to playing a passive role in life.
Wang Kai Li, a member of the audience shared that she reads the “Jing Si Aphorisms” every single day. “I gain different realizations every time I do so, and they always clear any doubts I have in my mind.”
Bai Jin Mei, another member of the audience had just picked a Jing Si Aphorisms that goes, “Doing nothing and idling away consumes our life. Only in giving our best can we be the creator of our own lives.”She felt that this aphorism was especially applicable to her as she was currently unemployed。 Not wanting to merely be a “consumer”of her own life, she expressed her willingness to search for and engage herself in worthwhile endeavours.
Madam Hung’s presentation was humorous and well-paced, and laughter and applause was frequently heard in the audience. Hopefully, we can be motivated to live our lives with purpose, drawing inspiration from being touched by what we have heard today to add value to our lives.