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.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings in the Three Ways to the Pure Land: The Three Essential Principles for Cultivating Pure Causes are based on the “three blessings from pure actions” described in the Amitayurdhyana Sutra (Sutra of Contemplation of the Buddha of Infinite Life).
In the traditional interpretation, cultivating “pure causes” will allow us to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amita Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Life and Infinite Light. However, the way that Master Cheng Yen teaches about pure causes is different – her focus is on how we can work to establish a pure land right here and now, in this world, in this life.
The teachings presented in this book can be interpreted as a graduated course of action, allowing us to first perfect our human nature and cultivate blessings through good deeds, then, to attain liberation from the suffering of birth and death, and finally, to reach the state of Buddhahood through walking the Bodhisattva-path. Still, Master Cheng Yen emphasizes that every stage in this practice is a step on the Bodhisattva-path, creating the positive affinities that will allow us to save and transform others and at the same time eliminate our afflictions and negative habitual tendencies. In this way, we can cultivate pure causes, perfect our character, and manifest our full potential as human beings.
In this new edition of the book, the cover and inner design, the translation, contents and organization have been updated to make it more accessible for an audience unfamiliar with Buddhist teachings. Therefore, we have avoided the use of specialized Buddhist terms as much as possible, and have added footnotes to explain specific terms that might be unknown to the reader.