With soft, light music playing in the background, Tzu Chi volunteer Chen Chun Rong walked slowly onto the stage using an umbrella as a support to receive her certificate of appointment as a Tzu Chi honorary board member. At the advanced age of eighty, she toiled for 11 hours every day in a garden and saved her meagre monthly income of one thousand dollars to realize a wish she made five years ago—to become an honorary board member of Tzu Chi.
“There are always people who are worse off than us and need our assistance, let's help in whatever small ways we can. Life is full of uncertainties, let us support Master Cheng Yen in helping the needy,” said Chen. At the get-together session, Chen shared her story with more than a hundred entrepreneurs, as well as their family members and friends.
A short and simple slideshow that captured the vicissitudes Chen went through in life was shown at the gathering---Her husband died early, and she singlehandedly brought up her four children through much hardship. When her life was starting to improve, her eldest daughter was diagnosed with mental illness at the age of 16, plunging the mother into misery and helplessness again. It wasn't until 1997 when she got to know Tzu Chi that the loving-kindness within her was inspired, setting her off on the Bodhisattva Path, where she has given of herself to benefit the society for more than ten years. Feeling for the hardship she had gone through and touched by her spirit of great love, many entrepreneurs were moved to tears.
Despite suffering from arthritis, which makes it difficult for her to move about, Chen Chun Rong doesn't slow down in her pace in doing good. She said that if she could still make it, she wished to earn another Tzu Chi honorary board member certificate, as she firmly believed in the Buddhist principle--“All our physical belongings are ephemeral, only the karma of our actions will follow us always”. She is very happy to be able to help the needy through making donations to become an honorary board member of Tzu Chi.
Saving Every Bit to Help Those in Need
A 62 year old volunteer in the audience, Raymond Chew shared, “I have many tips to save money. For example, I only drive when the need arises, or else I’ll cycle or take public transport, this helps to reduce carbon emissions, too. I also park my car in free parking slots, which are normally farther away, and walk a distance to get to work. And, a simple vegetarian meal for lunch only costs me two dollars and fifty cents...”
Like Chen, Raymond is “stingy” to himself but generous towards others. He refuses to retire from work so that he can afford to make donations to help the needy. “I made donations to Tzu Chi to earn an honorary board membership for my mother first before doing so for myself. Now, I’m making a donation for the third honorary board membership in remembrance of the late Teresa Hsu,” said Raymond, who had followed “the Mother Teresa of Singapore”, Teresa Hsu, in doing charity work. He admired her for her spirit of giving without expecting anything in return, just like Master Cheng Yen. He also often invites his colleagues and friends to carry out relief missions in faraway places. Hoping to share inspiring stories with others, he had brought a few friends with him to attend the event.
Returning to Spiritual Home, Touched by Great Love
Though having gotten to know Tzu Chi more than 10 years ago, Wu Hui Yun had been bogged down with work, and it was only this year that she brought her two daughters with her to participate in the global entrepreneurs retreat held in Tzu Chi Taiwan in March. In particular, the design and décor of the Jing Si Abode (spiritual home of Tzu Chi members and home of Master Cheng Yen), which is imbued with humanitarianism and environmentalism, deeply impressed her. Through the pictures she had taken at the retreat, Wu shared with all present her joy in returning to her spiritual home, “It was really heartwarming at the Jing Si Abode, and I felt very at ease and secured, too, as if I had found a home for my wandering heart to settle down, I was full of gratitude and joy...”
Though having fulfilled her wish of meeting Master Cheng Yen in person, Wu still couldn’t help being moved to tears when the name of the Master was mentioned. She is full of admiration for the Master for setting a clear direction for everyone and practicing what she preaches with courage, as well as the detailed observations she makes about people and things, which in turn enables her to influence and inspire people around the world. Wu deeply identifies herself with the philosophy of Tzu Chi that only through great love can we touch the hearts of all.
Taking Action to Walk the Talk
“It is really unthinkable that a (Tzu Chi) hospital that was not established by the government can have such a complete system in place. There are even guzheng performances in the hospital!” Guo Fen Hai, who was led into participating in the retreat said with much sentiment. He first went to Taiwan twenty years ago to set up a branch for his company, and he had been to more than a hundred temples of different sizes to pray for good luck, wealth or good business. At the retreat, upon witnessing the compassion of Master Cheng Yen, and how the nuns at the Jing Si Abode lead a simple, frugal and self sufficient life, he was both amazed and touched.
Guo started to contemplate deeply on what he learned and came to a realization: Ordinary people all have desires and once they fulfil them, they will be fearful of losing what they have acquired. Hence, one should learn to give unconditionally so as to form good affinities with and sow blessings for all. Shortly after returning to Singapore, Guo readily converted an office space in his company into a Buddhist prayer room and provides free vegetarian breakfast to all his employees. He also lets them watch videos of Master Cheng Yen’s speech together so they can start every new day feeling energised and inspired.
The third person to share with the audience at the gathering was Huang Quan Lin, an entrepreneur who joined Tzu Chi ten years ago. He shared his joys in doing Tzu Chi’s work over the years. While participating in the relief mission for the South Asia tsunami in 2005, he deeply realized how blessed he was, and he has since been inviting more entrepreneurs to do voluntary work to create more blessings.
Tzu Chi Singapore started holding the entrepreneurs get-together in 2003. With just eight participants at the beginning, it has now attracted more than fifty entrepreneurs to take part in each of the global entrepreneurs retreat held in Tzu Chi Taiwan every year.
Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Zhang Zheng Chang, urged all not to just donate money after joining Tzu Chi, but also to contribute their effort and time to do voluntary work. Apart from giving our money and time, we should go one step further by letting go of our worries so as to grow in wisdom. Then, we will be able to transform our deluded life into an awakened one, and eventually be able to live a life with foresight.
It’s Better Late Than Never
Having known Tzu Chi for fifteen years and participating in the get-together for the first time, Liang Zhi Long said, “I regret that I’ve invited so few people to come, and some of those I’ve invited did not show up, it is such a pity.”
Liang, a financial consultant, has been tied up with work for years and although he got to know Tzu Chi fifteen years ago through his friends Qiu Jian Yi and Li Guo Xiang and felt that it was a very special organization, he had never participated in any of Tzu Chi's activities. The tremendous work stress he faced prompted him to look for avenues to distress himself, and hence, since a year ago, he has been volunteering as the driver for volunteers doing home visits as well as under the Seed of Hope programme. At the beginning of this year, Liang took the initiative to ask Qiu if there were opportunities for him to take part in Tzu Chi’s overseas relief missions. Qiu informed him that one can only take part in the relief missions after going through volunteer training. He also took the opportunity to invite Liang to join the global entrepreneurs retreat held in Taiwan in March.
“Going to Tzu Chi Taiwan is like returning home, I was moved to tears every day when I was there,” said Liang. At the retreat, he was inspired by Tzu Chi’s spirit of great love, and after returning to Singapore, he accepted the invitation to attend the get-together. At the same time, he enrolled himself in the new volunteer training in order to learn more about the philosophy of Tzu Chi. He wishes to spend more time in helping others without seeking anything in return, as he always believes that one will be happy through helping others.
While enjoying exquisite snacks and aromatic tea, the 111 entrepreneurs present at the event, together with their families and friends, saw for themselves how the underprivileged can help others in need, too. They also learnt that so long as they are determined and willing to put in effort, wealthy people like them can also learn and walk the path of Bodhisattvas. Many of the entrepreneurs also signed up for the inter-faith prayer ceremony to be held by Tzu Chi in May to commemorate Buddha Day, where they will join a two-thousand strong team in forming a magnificent totem to mark the occasion, experiencing Dharma joy.