Tzu Chi

Tzu Chi is a foundation started by a nun, Cheng Yen (1937- ) focusing on charity, medicine, education and culture. It has huge followings since founding in 1966 ‘with over 5 million supporters and over 30,000 certified members who carry out its missions globally.’ I got involved because few of my neighbors. One neighbor who’s a MD (medical doctor) with a manufacture business in New York, moved to California to head its National (US) operation and another one, George – a businessman – became Northeast Region’s head here in New York, purchased a new residence last year on Northern Blvd in Flushing. (Boston chapter just purchased its home last week in Lower Fall area, a 180 years old church for $1.4 mil; they would spend another $600k to renovate.) Obviously this is a very successful grass root organization, able to attract wealthy donors as well as professionals to run each chapter. But there are few things I disagree with.

First, they address the founding nun as 上人 ‘shang ren’ the Person Who’s Above. With her humble origin and intention, why would she allow her constituents bestow her Above? Second, unlike the way charitable foundations run in the US, they kept their fund raising figure private. Couple of years ago, after participated in their year end fund raising production, out of curiosity, I asked how much had been raised, and if they’d met their goal – don’t you read all the time that xx foundation raised $x among last night – but I was refused.

Third, they oversell filial 孝. Don’t you think the love and respect from your children is earned, not forced down their throats?

There is also the Nobel nomination episode. According to,

Each year .. around 200-300 names are submitted .. The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later.

But on Tzu Chi web site, under the Awards, Among the awards and honors received by Dharma Master Cheng Yen were: … Nobel Peace Prize nominee 1993” among eight others. And under Our Founder, it said “She has been nominated in 1996 for the Nobel Peace Prize …” Discrepancy is not my concern, my point is, taking into consideration of her far reaching influence, does she need this coat when she never actually won?

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