Group Five: Buddhism

Erica Gailing, Tamar Herman, Marisa Oppenheim

Buddhist Temple — This is a recording of the prayer service and sermon that we went to.

1. History of foundation (include our foundation and who the people who go/volunteer are) – Erica
2. Values, include Buddhism- Tamar
3. Volunteering- Erica
4. Buddhas Birthday Celebration (include the uniform designation)-Marissa

History of the Tzu Chi Foundation

Upon entering the Tzu Chi Foundation, it was unclear to us just how special and widespread of a place we were entering. Little did we know that this one tiny street corner of Flushing was just one in a string of pearls just like itself throughout the world, devoting their time to helping the needy.
The Tzu Chi Foundation began with one brave woman: now the Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen who grew up in Taichung County in Taiwain. In 1944, as a young child, Cheng Yen moved to Taichung County, where she experienced her first taste of hatred and war: Japan had occupied Taiwan, who was enduring air raids frequently. This would effect her later in life as she became more conscious of efforts to combat this kind of outright hatred with love for others. At 23, Cheng Yen was attracted to Buddhism when her father died suddenly; with just a small family to turn to, she reached the conclusion that “one should expand the love for one’s own family to the entire society and all humanity.” From that point, she gave up her life of comfort to live remotely for some time in order to grow spiritually. Her new home was Hualien, which is a poor town on the East coast of Taiwan. With the shaving of her head, she embarked on the journey to becoming a Buddhist monastic; later, with the official ordination from Master Yin Shun at the Lin Chi Temple, Cheng Yen was seen as such in the eyes of Buddhists.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen acquired monastic disciples and was living a quiet life in the destitute east, supporting herself by sewing shoes for babies, knitting and raising vegetables. Only with the visit to a patient at a local hospital did Cheng Yen realize that she had not been doing all that she could as of yet. While at the hospital, Cheng Yen learned of a woman whose family had traveled for eight hours by foot from deep in the mountains to help this woman with the pain brought on by labor complications. Because she could not afford the fee of the hospital, the family had to turn around and head home with the woman still suffering, untreated. Cheng Yen was so saddened to hear that such a thing was happening and this began to get her thinking about helping. A short time later, Cheng Yen realized that with such values in Buddhism as the “love and compassion for all living beings,” action needed to be organized and taken in such a way that it would affect other people. From this point, she decided that with the help of her thirty followers, who were housewives, putting aside $.50 a day from the earnings of the baby shoes could add up to enough money to save the native woman. By depositing money in a bamboo bank everyday, Dharma Master Cheng Yen was encouraging her followers “to think of helping others every day.” The volunteer population grew and grew from this point on and is still growing today. The woman I interviewed, Jennifer Yin, is a newly instituted volunteer and was describing her knowledge of the beginnings of the Tzu Chi Foundation. “Basically she started with 30 followers who were housewives and they saved 56 Taiwanese dollars a day for charity work…and to help the people around them and slowly it basically just grew and now…we’re in 47 different countries. We do international relief work. We’re looking at Japan right now…we’re not the front line, We’re the second in line because we don’t have the capabilities to go in the first line of help. We were in Haiti, and we’re opening another headquarters down in Chili.”
Thirty volunteers, over 43 years, expanded rapidly into volunteers in 47 countries and 372 offices throughout the world. It is amazing how such a humble looking place in Queens could be the connection to a worldwide organization of goodness.

Our Northeast office (Flushing) was founded 20 years ago. Our US headquarters (in California) was founded 21 years ago. Do you need the exact dates?

Oh yes and Tamar—I’d like to read your section before doing the Volunteering section.

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