Master Cheng Yen is the first ethnically Chinese recipient of the award which, was given in honor of her continuous humanitarian efforts and advocacy for world peace. The accolade reflects the Tzu Chi Foundation’s efforts as a whole: volunteers providing “compassionate relief.” Previous recipients include Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Pranab Mukherjee, and Queen Elizabeth II.
Inspired by the motivation to serve in the domains of “charity, medicine, education, and humanistic culture,” Tzu Chi has touched people and organizations in 87 countries and regions all over the world. Clad in blue and white, the volunteers are often referred to as “blue angels.” The non-profit organization, with over 5 million members, has been involved in numerous charitable and humanitarian works in dozens of countries. For example, the Tzu Chi team was present during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and sent relief volunteers to the devastating Jiji earthquake in Central Taiwan in September 1999. Tzu Chi has also supported numerous social services, such as helping to build schools in Taiwan and providing food and clothing for the homeless in Hong Kong.
Often hailed as the “Mother Teresa of Asia”, Cheng Yen is widely revered as a Buddhist nun and philanthropist. Born in 1937, her youth was spent in Qingshui, a small town in Taichung County, Taiwan. At the age of 25 she decided to take ordination, and became a disciple of Master Yin Shun. Although her time with her mentor was short, his advice—to “remember always to work for Buddhism and for all living beings”—has remained with her to this day.
The activities of the Tzu Chi Foundation have had a profound effect on many an individual, and there is no doubt that its altruistic work will continue for many years to come. Under the guidance of Cheng Yen and dedicated volunteers, the foundation’s global activities range from providing support to the families of Flight MH370 to celebrating Buddha Day in Italy. Its medical mission (started in 1972) includes Tzu Chi hospitals across Taiwan, a nursing college, a medical foundation, and even a stem cells center. In January 1998, Tzu Chi launched Dai Ai Satellite Television, a 24-hour channel that is commercial- and “toxin”-free, featuring non-political news aimed towards people who would like to change their lives for the better, and the positive development of viewers generally.
Such work to aid humanity is impacting the lives of hundreds of people in need. When it comes to compassionate giving, the Tzu Chi Foundation and Master Cheng Yen are role models for us all.
theo Buddhistdoor International