Dharma Master Cheng Yen was born in 1937 in a small town in Taichung County, Taiwan. When she was twenty-three years old, she left home to become a Buddhist nun, and was instructed by her mentor, Venerable Master Yin Shun, to work “for Buddha’s teachings, for sentient beings.” In 1966, she founded a charity, which later turned into the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, to “help the poor and educate the rich”—to give material aid to the needy and inspire love and humanity in both givers and recipients.
In recent years, Master Cheng Yen’s contributions have been increasingly recognized by the global community. In 2011, she was recognized with the Roosevelt Institute’s FDR Distinguished Public Service Award and was named to the 2011 TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people. In 2014, she was presented with Rotary International’s Award of Honor in recognition of her humanitarian efforts and contributions to world peace.
Even if a person lives a hundred years, he will die eventually. This is the natural cycle of life and death, which was determined before we were born. Nonetheless, when we face this final parting from life, how many of us can do so without sorrow? How many of us are able to thoroughly penetrate the truth of life and death and let go?
In this book, Master Cheng Yen teaches us when faced with the lessons of living and dying, we must learn how to let go. Moreover, we must strive to truly make good use of each moment as we live. The most important thing we can do is to make full use of this life to train our minds; then we will not be easily influenced by external conditions. We can create good karma for the future and eliminate the afflictions and karmic obstacles we have now. We must not waste time, but make good use of our lives. Only then will we truly understand and be at peace with our own living and dying.
The book begins with “Warriors of Life” and “Stories of Life and Death,” which include true stories from modern times and classic Buddhist tales from more than 2000 years ago. These two chapters complement each other, for the Buddha-Dharma can be used to help us establish a spiritual foundation, while these real-life stories teach us how to calmly face death. Through other people’s experiences, we can find answers for ourselves. In doing so, we will be able to leave this life freely and peacefully and move toward our future path.
The third chapter, “Lectures on Living and Dying,” is a collection includes discussions on organ donation, and it also recounts several catastrophic events that occurred in Taiwan and abroad and the lessons we learned from these situations. The next two chapters, titled “Conversations on Living and Dying” and “Questions and Answers on Issues of Life and Death,” address questions regarding life and death. We hope you will be able to use these accounts to find answers to your own questions about life and death.