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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

From Charity Relief to Environmental Sustainability: cross-religious practices of sustainability promoted by Taiwan Tzu Chi

With Professor Yu-Mei Tsai and Master De-Yin Shih (General Education Center, Tzu Chi College of Technology)

Series: London Taiwan Seminar, special series of Forums with Tzu Chi

Date: Monday 14 September 2009, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room A607 (Seligman Library), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (Taiwan Research Programme)

Details of this event are also available in Chinese.


This paper discusses Dharma Master Cheng Yen's religious practice of seeking benefit for others through actions of caring for life, particularly as expressed in environmental ethics and concern for sustainable development in the context of globalization. Her humanitarian rationale is showcased in the sign language opera Love Transcends the Skyline, performed by the teachers and students of Tzu Chi College of Technology, and is demonstrated through practices undertaken by Tzu Chi volunteers around the world, particularly waste recycling, international humanitarian relief, and vegetarianism and fasting. Tzu Chi's efforts have been shown to be effective in crossing the boundaries of different religions and cultures, and can serve as a reference for other religious organizations seeking to contribute to the discussion of environmental ethics and sustainable development. The Tzu Chi Humanities Program seeks to contribute to ethical sustainability through humanitarian relief actions that span ethnic, national, and religious obstacles; to aid moral sustainability through mass media communication in an effective environmental education system; and to support spiritual sustainability through using dietary improvements as a way of curbing desires and restoring what is considered by Tzu Chi to be moral behaviour. Inspired by Buddhist teachings of "one mindful thought" and "from one to innumerability", Taiwan's Tzu Chi Foundation has launched these sustainability activities as a means to fulfil the goal of "Buddha in the world."

About the Speakers 

Master De-Yin Shih received her Bachelors Degree in Music Performance from Musashino University in Tokyo, which was established on "Buddhist-based" principles. She has been teaching music and Tzu Chi Humanities at Tzu Chi College of Technology for 15 years. Determined to practice Buddhism in action, in 1995 Master De-Yin became a monastic practitioner at the Jing Shi Abode, led by Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen. In addition to developing an interdisciplinary curriculum of activities in the humanities, art, language, history, geography, and environmental education, Master De-Yin is dedicated to promoting officially canonized Tzu Chi songs through books for chorus, piano and chamber music. She also coordinates concert performances and sign-language opera performances of Love Transcends the Skyline

Dr Yu-Mei Tsai is a dedicated professional in the field of education. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas, Austin, and she is an assistant professor at Tzu Chi College of Technology, where she serves as Director of the General Education Center. Dr. Tsai is particularly interested action research on the humanities and moral character education, and she has spearheaded research in these areas. Since 2002, she has coordinated several projects funded by Taiwan's Ministry of Education in the areas of EFL teaching, humanities education, and cross-cultural exchange. She uses each as a means to introduce Chinese traditional culture and moral ethics, focusing on the value found in benefiting others through unselfish giving as highlighted in Tzu Chi Humanities education.