Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Oct 16th
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Examples of Bodhisattvas

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Examples of Bodhisattvas
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[Master's Teachings]
Time seems to fly quickly for those of us who live in safety and peace. But for disaster survivors, time must seem to drag on, each second unbearably long.

Haiti, devastated by an earthquake in January, entered its rainy season in April. People left homeless by the quake were forced to move into makeshift tents. I saw in a news report that the vast tent area within the national soccer stadium had been flooded after a downpour. The water was thigh deep. People could only stand in the water, because there was not even a dry place to sit down. How were they able to rest at night? When one has to live such a life, each second must be hard to bear. How my heart goes out to them!

Tzu Chi volunteers, emulating the bodhisattvas’ compassion, cannot bear to see people suffer. Regardless of how far away the suffering ones are, our volunteers go to them to personally distribute timely aid and to care for them, hoping to lessen the duration and extent of their suffering. That’s the approach our volunteers have taken in regards to helping disaster survivors in Haiti.

Our relief work to Haiti actually began over a decade ago. In 1998, Hurricanes Georges and Mitch swept across the Caribbean, ravaging many countries in Central and South America. The foundation rendered help to six nations, including Haiti. The seeds of love sown at that time were just waiting for the right conditions to sprout and bloom.

Ten years later, in 2008, Haiti was ravaged again by several hurricanes in a row. After surveying the disaster areas, Tzu Chi volunteers decided to distribute aid in early 2009. They invited local Haitians to help them sort and pack the relief supplies. Working alongside our volunteers, the Haitians felt loved and respected. Receiving love, the seeds of kindness planted a decade earlier began to take root.

Exactly one year later, in January 2010, Haiti was devastated by a powerful earthquake. Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, was almost destroyed. How could an impoverished nation like Haiti recover from such a strong blow? Our volunteers in over 30 nations immediately put their love into action. They helped raise money and pooled all the donations to help Haiti.

In Buddhism, the term “bodhisattvas” doesn’t just refer to statues placed in temples to be worshipped by devotees. The term also refers to compassionate people who make altruistic vows, act out their love, and reach out to help the suffering. Thus, the volunteers who give of themselves to help Haiti are truly living bodhisattvas.

But to actually offer help in a place suffering from extreme poverty and the ravages of a major disaster is not easy. It takes sincere love, courage, compassion, and wisdom. My thanks go out to the teams of volunteers from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Jordan, and the Dominican Republic. They went to Haiti and helped the locals by distributing aid materials, conducting free clinics, and implementing work relief programs. Their efforts brought the hearts of people closer together.

Gradually, Haitians who had never heard of the Buddha’s teachings learned from the examples of the Tzu Chi volunteers that bodhisattvas are in fact people who sincerely vow to take voluntary action to help others. Anyone whose innate love is inspired and who acts out their love can be a bodhisattva. In early April, as our large-scale emergency relief work in Haiti was coming to a close, several local Haitians pledged in a videoconference to emulate our volunteers and become “living bodhisattvas” to extend and spread Great Love in their country.