Dr. Rey-Sheng Her paid a short visit to Vancouver from Nov 5th to Nov 7th. He was invited by the University of British Columbia (UBC) to deliver a lecture on Buddhism at the Asian Center. The topic of the lecture was "Through Altruism to Enlightenment".Dr. Rey-Sheng Her has served as the spokesman and the Director of the Humanistic Culture of Tzu Chi Foundation since 2002. He is also currently a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and an adjunct Associate Professor at National Chengchi University.
Tzu Chi Canada took this great opportunity and invited Dr. Her to make a keynote speech at our Jing Si Hall. The event was open to the public and was attended by 73 people. During the valuable 2-hour time, Dr. Her shared the philosophy and practices of altruism that is advocated by Dharma Master Cheng Yen. He focused on how Master Cheng Yen's teaching became influential in Western society.
The Trip of Dr. Her with Tzu Chi Canada
On Nov 5th, volunteers of Tzu Chi Canada anticipated the arrival of Dr. Her at the YVR airport. It has been over 10 years since Dr. Her's last visit toward Tzu Chi Canada. The reunion bought overwhelmingly joy to both sides.
Tom, staff working at the Tzu Chi Canada's national head office, introduced Tzu Chi Canada’s five offices operating in the Greater Vancouver area and the relevant services that each office provides. As a veteran media professional, Dr. Her gave his insight on how to attract the audience's attention with a powerful photo.
When Dr. Her toured the Richmond office, he highly praised volunteers' craft jobs. The design and organization he said, created a calm atmosphere.
Alice Kuo, who is in charge of the Richmond office, talked about the activities happening in the Richmond community, including classes like yoga, ocarina, cooking, and scripture studying. There are also annual summer camps for children. The planned Jing Si tea ceremony, floral and baking classes, and sign language groups are adored by the children and their parents.
While communicating with Tzu Chi Canada's volunteers, Dr. Her asked why there is Winter Relief Distribution in a city well-established as Richmond. One of the volunteers replied that there are still many families in need of aids because they work at minimum wages. She then added that people earning at minimum wages cannot fully support their families so the Breakfast program and Food Banks are important sources of food for them. She also explained that the Winter Relief packages are composed of consumer goods like toothpaste, toothbrush, and shampoo; they represent how much Tzu Chi cares about the community.
"Through Altruism to Enlightenment”
73 people arrived at Tzu Chi Foundation on a brisk winter morning for Dr. Her's public speech. Dr. Her focused on the fundamentals of Tzu Chi's philosophy and practices. He said people of Tzu Chi exercise their spiritual capacities to the limit, or without limit, in helping others. Although there is no meditation, no chanting, or practice of Tantra, they are able to reach enlightenment through altruism.
Altruism is the core idea of Tzu Chi. Dharma Master Cheng Yen said that the Bodhisattva saves others first before he saves himself. Until all beings accomplish the Buddha Nature, he then accomplishes his supreme enlightenment. The impurity and toughness of sentient beings provide positive elements for the Bodhisattva to accomplish the Buddha spirit. Dr. Her said that Tzu Chi volunteers who devote their lives to help others and treat everyone equally with great love are purifying their spirit in the process. Through the earthly purification, they will acquire infinite wisdom and reach ultimate calmness.
The president of the National Taiwan University Alumni Association of Vancouver (NTUAAVAN), Dr. Lyren Chu, shared her thoughts after the speech. She said "[I’m] very happy to attend this event. It is the first time that I fully understood Tzu Chi's Dharma path. Tzu Chi has taken on the right path. Today's speech is very helpful to me, thank you".
Seize the Moment with Documentation
As a veteran media professional, Dr. Her has worked as a senior news anchor and TV program producer. The documentary he produced "The Great Love as a Running Water: Testimony to the Development of Bone Marrow Transplantation", was awarded by the 32nd Emmy Award International as the best documentary in the regions of Asia and Africa.
In his workshop with the Tzu Chi's Documentation Team, he shared his tips on how to capture the moments with writing and how to attract audiences. He said each piece of writing should follow the plot structure of a straight-forward intro, a detailed body, a tense climax, and a resolution that is closed to the main theme.
Dr. Her also advised on interview skills. He said: "It is important to show interviewee that you're empathetic so they know you have good intentions. If you are arrogant and disrespectful, it is hard for the interviewee to trust you and answer your questions". He shared his standard of a good reporter "[are the ones] that have good listening and interpreting skills. They are able to produce good reports which capture the most powerful emotions and moments". "These skills", he elaborated "an only be improved through intensive reading". Dr. Her encouraged volunteers from Tzu Chi Documentation Team to focus on self-development: to listen more, observe more, and read more.
At the end of the workshop, Dr. Her said to the team members that they should find happiness while documenting the religious history of Tzu Chi. He called them the blessed ones who are given the opportunities to record other people’s life stories. He asked them to cherish their work and "begin with the end!"
Dr. Her at UBC
Dr. Her delivered a lecture at UBC on Nov 7th. The topic of the lesson was "Through Altruism to Ultimate Enlightenment". He discussed how Dharma Master Cheng Yen initiated Tzu Chi's Dharma path from altruism and explored how Humanistic Buddhism (Buddhism in Action) is preserved and practiced. He analyzed the core idea of Tzu Chi's Dharma path and how it leads to enlightenment. He also talked about the impact of Tzu Chi on modern humanistic Buddhism and culture.
He provided examples of Tzu Chi's humanistic works around the world, including disaster reliefs in Nepal, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, and China, on catastrophes like earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis. Dr. Her also talked about how religion has played a significant part in Tzu Chi's rescue work. In addition to rescue and rebuild, Tzu Chi spends time in environmental recovery and mental recovery.
In the question and answer period, a student asked how people who practice Tzu Chi’s Dharma path can reach Samadhi without meditation. Dr. Her took examples from his experience in disaster relief and said that the volunteers who go beyond to help victims to recover coupled with their unshakeable belief are able to reach Samadhi through their actions.
A Bicuni asked Dr. Her on how education is incorporated into Tzu Chi School of Buddhism and how it is used to transmit the Jing Si Dharma Lineage. To answer, Dr. Her proudly shared the stories of his son. The boy has attended Tzu Chi's elementary and secondary school. In Tzu Chi’s schools, washroom cleaning is an honourable duty and only the best students can do. He explained that children who have grown up under the influence of humanistic education are thoughtful and humble.
To end the lecture, Dr. Her emphasized that helping others is neither a duty nor a responsibility to people of Tzu Chi. It is their life-long insistence. Through altruism, spirits of people are purified and they are the biggest benefactors of their doings. Tzu Chi's Dharma path practices humanistic altruism that demonstrates great love for people.
There is no end to human suffering but one must live to fulfill his/her self-worth. To archive "enlightenment to self, the enlightenment of others, and the perfection of enlightened practice", Dr. Her encouraged everyone to learn from doing, enlighten from learning, and exercise to gain the wisdom of Bodhisattva, "keep following Tzu Chi's Dharma path".