Reporter/Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會)
Photographer/Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會)

Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation, was awarded the National Chung Cheng University’s (CCU) “Doctor of Letters honoris causa” degree On January 7, 2019, at the Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital. Master Cheng Yen was honored for providing a distinguished example of selfless dedication to serving society.

The recommendation for CCU’s DLitt honoris causa states: based on the concept of practicing Buddhism in daily life, Master Cheng Yen puts into action the Buddha’s spirit of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity, and has devoted her life to charity work at home and abroad.

According to the recommendation, Master Cheng Yen’s actions thoughout her life have produced far-reaching contributions to Taiwan in the aspects of society, medical care, education, culture, news and communication, and international exchanges.

Over the past half century, the Tzu Chi Foundation has quickly responded to give aid whenever there is suffering, including assisting refugees on exile routes, victims in the ruins of earthquakes, or those striken by hurricane disasters. Far from propaganda, these descriptions reveal the mission Tzu Chi volunteers regard as their faith.

The Tzu Chi Foundation covers more than 90 countries and regions. Wherever there is a disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers will always be present to help as far as they can reach. In 2003, the Tzu Chi Foundation officially became a United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO) member; in 2010, Tzu Chi obtained a special advisory status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). After more than 50 years of effort, this Taiwan-based charitable force has forged a strong reputation for kindness in the international arena.

The Tzu Chi story started in 1966 when Master Cheng Yen promoted doing good by contributing a dollar, or fifty cents, by saving small change in a bamboo “piggy bank” every day. Tzu Chi believes that both the rich and the poor have a duty to do good deeds.

Meanwhile, concerned about the anxiety, recklessness and insecurity that permeates society, Master Cheng Yen, as long as she was in Hualien and no matter how tired she was, gave an early morning lecture known as Wisdom at Dawn, which expounded on the meaning of the Dharma in a simple way.

These wisdom Dharma talks were faithfully recorded by mindful disciples, proofread, and eventually compiled into easy-to-read and understand books. Countless people have testified to the benefits of reading Master Cheng Yen’s words, leading to mended souls, healed  broken families and reinvigirated marriages.

Her first book, “Jing Si Aphorisms by Dharma Master Cheng Yen”, was published in 1989. It was compiled from the Master’s daily expositions or conversations to her disciples, or with members or the public. Its concise and profound texts were translated into eighteen languages, and proved helpful and popular in both Chinese and international communities.

Works by Master Cheng Yen cover a wide variety of topics, including books tailored for younger generations such as “A Promise in Spring”, “An Honest Merchant”, and “The Seeds of a Good Life – Blessings to the Youth”, which provide systematic, sincere and earnest advice. With regard to climate change, she calls for environmental protection and the purification of the mind in books such as “Cleansing the Environment from the Source”, “Heart Effects”, and “Coexistence with the Earth”. Almost every quarter, Master Cheng Yen will publish a new book, and she encourages disciples to study and comtemplate them together to cultivate wisdom.

Master Cheng Yen and the Tzu Chi Foundation is a Buddhism foundation, an international NGO, and a monastic community that encourages people to better themselves and pursue goodness. Since 1993, Master Cheng Yen has been awarded seven honorary doctorates in social sciences, social welfare, and the humanities from various universities at home and abroad, but the Master has always humbly acknowledged that any honors are due to the efforts and inspiration of Tzu Chi volunteers around the world.

【List of Honorary Doctorate Degrees Awarded to Master Cheng Yen】

Year Awarded Degree Received
1993 Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
2001 Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa, University of Hong Kong (HKU)
2002 Honorary Doctorate in Social Science and Culture, National Chiao Tung University (NCTU)
2011 Honorary Doctorate in Humanities, University of the East (UE), Philippines
2012 Honorary Doctorate in Social Welfare, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU), Thailand
2015 Honorary Doctorate in Social Development, Naresuan University, Thailand
2019 Doctor of Letters honoris causa, Chung Cheng University (CCU)