Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 03rd
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Home Global Activities America Tzu Chi Academy Seeds of Goodness

Tzu Chi Academy Seeds of Goodness

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Each weekend, in twenty-two cities across the country, thousands of students attend classes at their local Tzu Chi Academy. The humanistic education that Tzu Chi offers at these academies is focused not simply on knowledge learning, which most traditional Chinese schools provide, but also on nurturing children’s character through activities such as storytelling with Jing Si Aphorisms, tea ceremony, environmental protection exercises, and so on. Many parents choose to send their children to Tzu Chi Academy each weekend because of this humanistic education.

These classes are based on the Jing Si Aphorism Teaching model developed by the Tzu Chi Teachers Association. Through this model, teachers adapt Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms into curriculum that stresses manners, character, and life education. Teachers first choose Jing Si Aphorisms that are age-appropriate, simple, and easy to remember, then they bring the concepts to life through storytelling and inspire their students to live their lives with such values and character. The purpose of providing humanistic education is to foster children with vision and character to guide them through their lives.

Teachers Lead by Example

In order to successfully deliver Jing Si Aphorism lessons, teachers first study Jing Si Aphorisms themselves. Through their own experience, they provide a model of high moral standards in their classrooms. They create a loving atmosphere with bright smiles and caring attitudes and give students a feeling of home at school. Thus, students become more active and sharing in this warm environment.

“Dharma Master Cheng Yen taught us that in order to start a cycle of love, we should treat children with sincerity so children will respond with sincerity,” said Xiufang Shen, a Tzu Chi Academy teacher in Cupertino, California. In such a learning environment, both teachers and students have the support to review what they learn from their own mistakes and purify their minds.

Zhimei Wang, an eighth-grade teacher at San Jose Tzu Chi Academy, shared that older children do not like to simply follow teachers’ directions. In order to inspire them, she looks for learning opportunities in real life that students can learn from. Ms. Wang has confessed to her eighth grade students that she used to punish her own children when they made mistakes but always felt very sorry afterwards. She also for them to interact with their parents and tells them about touching moments in her own life. “I hope they will remember that only if we keep a peaceful, clean Earth can we enjoy our own lives. Children in the United States have more resources, so they should take more responsibility in society.”

Teachers are often the ones who gain the most by delivering Jing Si Aphorism lessons. Xiaorong Zhu, a teacher from Irvine Tzu Chi Academy who also holds a doctorate in Chemical Engineering, said with a smile that she used to be tough and aggressive in business. When she shouted in her office on the third floor, people on the ground floor could hear her clearly. But she has changed dramatically after seven years of teaching at Tzu Chi Academy, since she has seen that what follows us in life is not our success, but rather our morals and conduct.

One reason Jing Si Aphorisms make an effective curriculum is that they offer an opportunity for people to consider values and actions in a calm, cool setting. During this process, it is easy to uncover and eliminate our anger, greed, and ignorance. Through self-reflection, we have the opportunity to clear away our confusion and unrealistic expectations.

Parents Provide the Model

It is extremely important for parents to be good role models. Master Cheng Yen said that it is difficult to solve children’s behavioral issues if they receive negative influence from their family. And if such issues are not addressed, they may create problems for society in the future. Therefore, Master Cheng Yen encourages teachers in elementary and middle school to help children build positive character. She said, “From early childhood education to elementary school, teachers need to educate children to be polite, respectful to teachers, able to take care of themselves, and willing to share chores, in addition to passing on basic knowledge. Moving up to middle school and high school, teachers’ responsibilities are to teach students to be responsible for themselves without overly relying on their parents.”

Paulina Luan, CEO of Tzu Chi Education Foundation, added, “In order to be children’s role models, adults should vow to correct their own negative behaviors.” Jinyan Yang, a parent at San Jose Tzu Chi Academy in Northern California, and Mengjie Lin, a parent at San Dimas Tzu Chi Academy in Southern California, have demonstrated this by taking action in their own lives.

Jinyan Yang has been a Tzu Chi volunteer for more than a decade. She first enrolled her daughter in Tzu Chi Academy when she turned four, and then sent her to learn Chinese and receive character education every Saturday for six years. She and her husband left the engineering field to open a pizzeria several years ago. Following the Jing Si Aphorism, “When we

are capable, we should do good deeds,” they developed three delicious vegetarian pizzas and vowed to donate one-third of the amount earned on Tzu Chi volunteers’ orders to Tzu Chi Foundation.

On December 8, 2012, fourth and sixth grade students of San Jose Tzu Chi Academy donated their bamboo banks to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Six days later, there was a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Hearing the sad news, Ms. Yang immediately contacted parents of her daughter’s classmates. She held a pizza sale on the last day of school before winter break and donated all the proceeds to Tzu Chi to help Hurricane Sandy victims.

Ms. Mengjie Lin transformed her daughter’s birthday party into a charity party to support victims of Hurricane Sandy. Ms. Lin and her daughter carefully designed an invitation that asked invitees to bring a donation instead of a gift. More than seventy people attended, bringing a total of $850 in donations. These actions even inspired one of the guests to hold a charity party for her child’s birthday as well.

Through their actions, Ms. Yang and Ms. Lin delivered an important message to their children—one of the most valuable things we can do is to help others.

Giving with Gratitude

Many schools in New York and New Jersey were shut down before Thanksgiving 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy. In Washington, DC, Tzu Chi Academy hosted a special Thanksgiving event on November 17 in which volunteers introduced "The 80/20 Lifestyle" to encourage children to be grateful to others and cherish what they have.

Attendees learned the origin of The 80/20 Lifestyle in Myanmar. Tzu Chi provided disaster relief there after Cyclone Nargis hit in 2008 by distributing rice and other goods to many affected families. Some relief recipients were so thankful that they decided to also help others by grabbing a handful of rice each day to save and donate to those in even greater need. From their example, Master Cheng Yen began teaching the concept of eating only to eighty-percent full and donating the twenty-percent savings to help others.

In September 2012, Dallas Tzu Chi Academy invited twenty students who had been honored with special recognition to serve tea to their teachers: a symbol of great respect to their elders. With the tea, these students expressed sincere gratitude to their teachers. The first sip was to express gratitude to their teachers for the valuable lessons they learned, the second to appreciate the teachers’ patience for always forgiving their mistakes, and the third to tell their teachers that they will never be forgotten.

Ms. Qijiu Chang has been teaching fifth graders in Dallas Tzu Chi Academy for nine years. It is moments like this, when her students serve her tea with sincere appreciation, that touch her heart and encourage her to continue doing what she does. She hopes her students can take the spirit of Jing Si Aphorisms home and put it into action.

Buddhism in Daily Life

Though Buddhist scriptures may seem complex, they are excellent materials for learning that can be integrated into our daily lives. In late 2011, New Jersey Tzu Chi Academy teachers drew inspiration from the Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance to encourage children to have the courage to admit their mistakes. Teachers of younger students used a short play called "The Rock in Our Heart" to illustrate that when we commit a mistake and hide it in our heart, or when we dwell on another person's mistake, we carry a heavy burden, just like a rock in our heart. This

is reflected in the aphorisms, "Getting angry is actually punishing oneself for the mistakes of others" and "Forgiving others is being kind to oneself." The teachers reminded their students

to learn to have an open mind and a kind heart, to have the courage to admit their own mistakes, and to accept the mistakes of others.

In the older classes, students and teachers discussed ideas and then implemented them into a short play that addressed the greed, anger, and ignorance of human nature. Teachers taught the

children the importance of speaking with sincerity and honesty, and encouraged them to employ a "spiritual eraser" by taking responsibility for their mistakes, genuinely repenting, and then erasing the mistakes by ensuring that they never occur again. When faced with another's mistake, they should use the "spiritual eraser" to eradicate the mistake from their mind instead of lingering on it.

In May 2012, Cupertino Tzu Chi Academy held a graduation ceremony featuring 120 teachers and students performing the Sutra of Profound Gratitude toward Parents together. Even though they had only thirty days to practice, everyone was able to find time to rehearse so that they could make the best of the performance, and all participants volunteered to be vegetarian for one month prior. One mother who attended was so touched that she too vowed to become vegetarian for a month.

Volunteers at Tzu Chi Academies throughout the United States use every opportunity to educate children about the importance of compassion and proper values, even encouraging their students to create their own Halloween costumes with recycled products to show their appreciation to Mother Earth.

Love Crosses an Ocean

Since 2008, Tzu Chi Academies nationwide have been collecting books, school supplies, and stuffed animals to donate to children in South Africa. Volunteer teachers also encourage their students to write letters to the children receiving these goods, so that their students can experience the joy of helping others and learn how to share their compassion with those who need help.

Tzu Chi has already built seven elementary schools and three kindergartens in South Africa.

Their once-empty libraries are now filled with more than seventy thousand books, forty thousand school supplies, and even six thousand toys. The children in South Africa are very thankful for these gifts. They make their own thank-you cards to send to the donors, filling them with messages like “Thank you, Tzu Chi friends!” and “I send my love to you!”

Receiving these thank-you cards, children learn that even something that seems insignificant to them can mean the world to someone else, so they begin to understand to appreciate what they have, and learn that by helping others we create great joy for ourselves. Even though Tzu Chi Academy classes are held just once a week, through the collaboration of teachers and parents, seeds of compassion are planted in the next generation for the benefit of all humanity.

No matter how knowledgeable a person is, the most important things are to remember one’s roots and look after one’s character. ~~ Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen ~~

By Tzu Chi Volunteers
Translated by Hua Jung Lee & Cassie Pan

【News】Tzu Chi in The World

" Learn to remain undisturbed in the tumult of people and events. Remain at peace within even when busy and occupied. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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