Sister of Charity
Buddhist nun has built the biggest charity in the Chinese world.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen may be a 72-year-old Buddhist nun adhering to a harsh daily regimen in a convent with 160 other nuns, but that doesn't mean she's missing out on the latest technology. Wherever she goes in her small temple abode in eastern Taiwan or in the sprawling office complex she oversees nearby, television screens are close by, including two where morning service is held. She presides over a daily videoconference and, from the computer on her desk, holds emergency meetings via Webcam and tv. In the early 1990s she was quick to get an e-mail address and start surfing the Web.
Cheng Yen is the founder and chief executive of a fast-growing charity, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the largest noNGOvernmental organization in the Chinese world. Thanks to being so wired, she heard about the Haiti earthquake in January right after it hit. She immediately began coordinating a global fund-raising drive and dispatching relief.
Often compared with Mother Teresa, Cheng Yen and five others started Tzu Chi in 1966 when they began sewing baby shoes to raise money for the poor. Begun in a wooden hut not far from its headquarters today, Tzu Chi now enlists entrepreneurs and other lay people as volunteers and organizes itself like a corporation. The number of donors hit 1 million in 1989, the same year that Cheng Yen published her first collection of philosophical musings, Jing Si Aphorisms. But its grassroots activity really caught the public's attention after the foreign press started criticizing Taiwan as an island of greed during a stock market bubble in 1990. The book is now available in 11 languages and has sold 3.5 million copies, and Tzu Chi's donors number 10 million.
Cheng Yen never travels outside of Taiwan because she suffers from heart disease. But this doesn't prevent her from taking Tzu Chi to faraway places; it has branches in 47 other countries, the largest number being in the U.S., where it has 99 field offices. Some 30% of its donors live outside of Taiwan, with the largest group--330,000--in Malaysia. Last year it raised $313 million in Taiwan and at least $30 million overseas; there's no overall total because Tzu Chi doesn't tally what all the branches collect. The branches are self-sustaining and seek funding from the headquarters only when necessary.
The organization is a model of efficiency: Its staff numbers just 800, bolstered by its network of 2 million volunteers, up from 30,000 only 17 years ago. By comparison, the Red Cross has fewer than 1 million volunteers, but it pays 34,000 employees. Bangladesh's BRAC, the world's largest NGO by number of staff, employs more than 120,000.
Since its first overseas mission in 1991 after a flood in Bangladesh, Tzu Chi's medical and relief teams have been active in 70 countries, their signature blue shirts and white trousers visible in such far-flung places as Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia and North Korea. In North Korea, for many years after 1998, Tzu Chi was the only NGO allowed to hand-deliver goods to recipients, not merely drop off the supplies at harbors as other international NGOs had to do.
自從第一次的國際救災（1991年孟加拉洪水）以後，慈濟的醫療和救援隊已經到達了70個國家；他們的「藍天白雲」-- 藍色襯衫和白色長褲 -- 在科索沃、盧安達、柬埔寨和北朝鮮等遙遠的地方都可以看到。在北朝鮮，在1998年後多年，慈濟是唯一被允許直接將救災物資交付到居民手上的的非政府組織，而其他國際非政府組織僅被允許將救災物資運到港口。
In 2003 Tzu Chi became Taiwan's first NGO included under the UN's umbrella, giving it protection in hot spots such as Afghanistan, and in 2008 it was the first offshore NGO allowed to register in China. In January Beijing ruled that its name, Tzu Chi (meaning "compassionate relief"), was worthy of copyright protection against a local copycat. "The best way to look at Tzu Chi from a management point of view is how its efficiency and brand name value continue to pull in volunteers and outside donations," says Stan Shih, a cofounder of Acer. "Cheng Yen is no doubt one of the world's best CEOs."
Shih met Cheng Yen in the 1990s through another Acer cofounder, Ken Tai, a Tzu Chi volunteer, and went on to attend a Tzu Chi summer camp held for businesspeople contributing $30,000 or more. Shih is working with Tzu Chi and other organizations to promote computer literacy as part of a pan-Asia effort.
Chief executives are famous for their long hours, but Cheng Yen--who declined to talk to FORBES ASIA for this story--takes this to an extreme. Her office hours begin at 3:45 a.m. and end past 10 p.m. Her schedule is filled months ahead with visits from donors, volunteers, people asking for help and politicians, interrupted only by meals that last no longer than 15 minutes. Frugal to the point of hardship, she is known for using no more than one basin of water a day. A couple of times a year she travels around the island to visit volunteers and deliver speeches. A forceful speaker, she prods housewives to save part of their grocery money to help the poor with medical expenses, and she converts big-name business leaders into devout disciples.
CEO們工作的時間都很長，但證嚴上人 - 拒絕接受富比士亞洲的訪問 - 更是將此發揮到了極致。她每天從早上3點45分開始工作到晚上10點，接見會眾、志工、求助的人和政治人物，用餐時間不超過15分鐘。她的行程總是已經安排到未來幾個月以後。她節儉到幾近苦修，每天不用超過一盆水。一年有兩三次，她環島行腳，與志工會晤並開示。她的演講極為有力，她激勵家庭主婦省下她們菜錢的一部分，來幫助窮人的醫療費用，也有許多商界領袖成為她虔誠的弟子。
An early disciple was Wei Yin-Chun, one of the four founding brothers of Tingyi Holdings. In 1988, four years before the brothers moved to China to found what later would become the largest instant-noodle maker there, Wei, then 31, was deeply touched by stories in a Tzu Chi publication and contacted its local office to make a donation. In 1995 he started working with Tzu Chi in China, doling out relief and building schools in remote villages. After completing a two-year apprenticeship, Wei became a disciple and now heads the food unit of Tzu Chi's international aid arm. When disaster strikes, he puts aside work at the family business to focus on relief efforts, as he did in January for Haiti while on business in China. Now back in Taiwan at the helm of a family subsidiary, Wei Chuan Food, Wei set up a unit in 2008 inside the company to offer courses for the group's 5,000 employees.
Relentless and inspiring as Cheng Yen is, it's her ability to deliver results while converting the philosophical thought of Buddhism into plain language and applying it to daily life that win her wide admiration. "She talks in a way that makes things sound so simple that you can understand," says Franky Widjaja, son of Eka Tjipta Widjaja, founder of Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group. "There's nothing mystical about what she says."
The father, a Christian, and his son visited Cheng Yen for the first time just days before riots broke out in Indonesia in 1998 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. After returning, the Widjajas jumped into action, distributing food, toothpaste, instant noodles and other daily necessities to victims and the army during the riots. They also worked with Tzu Chi to clean up Jakarta's notoriously polluted Angke River after disastrous flooding in 2002 and to raise $30 million to resettle victims of the 2004 tsunami. With the help of volunteers such as the Widjajas, Tzu Chi arrived in Banda Aceh, capital of the area devastated by the tsunami, one day ahead of Indonesia's president, several ministers and the army.
Such grassroots mobilization is meshed with a consensus-driven decision-making structure at headquarters. Cheng Yen intervenes in contentious issues, such as in the decision to help China resettle millions of victims of the 1991 mass flooding in eastern China, even though politics stood in the way on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. It was Taiwan's first relief effort in China--the Chinese government was suspicious of Tzu Chi's motives, and some Taiwanese weren't happy that Tzu Chi was helping mainlanders instead of focusing on domestic relief. "She can combine her charisma with the management of a modern organization," says C. Julia Huang, an anthropology professor at National Tsing Hua University and author of a new book on Tzu Chi. "That makes Tzu Chi an interesting case study of a nonprofit organization, different from most other Buddhist groups." Many Buddhist groups have trouble growing beyond their roots as a religious organization, she says.
花蓮本會的決策通常以共識來動員基層。但是在1991年，即使海峽兩邊的政治人物都干預，證嚴上人仍然決定幫助在中國華東大水災中數以百萬計的民眾安置。這是台灣在中國的第一個救援工作 - 中國政府覺得慈濟的動機可疑，而一些台灣人對於慈濟幫助大陸，而不是專注於國內救濟感到不開心。 國立清華大學人類學教授黃倩玉說：「她能結合她的人格魅力與現代組織管理，這使得慈濟在非營利組織中成為一個有趣的案例，與大多數其他佛教團體不同。」她說，許多佛教團體在擴大組織時都遇到困難。
Mixing her idealism with perseverance, Cheng Yen often commits herself to a project before raising the money. Despite worries about funding, she overruled skeptics and agreed to the requests of every school headmaster who knocked at Tzu Chi's door asking for money to rebuild after an earthquake flattened a slice of central Taiwan in 1999. Tzu Chi raised $300 million to build 51 schools, all shock-resistant structures. After eight years of trying, she built her first hospital in 1986 by collecting small donations and bypassing big donors. "Do not leave trouble to our offspring," she told her disciples when explaining why she declined an offer from a Japanese donor to underwrite the whole hospital project. She worried that relying on a single donor would jeopardize Tzu Chi's independence if the donor demanded a bigger say in its operation.
After six more hospitals came the establishment of a full-fledged university and a medical college, all in Taiwan, and a media group that includes a 24-hour global satellite TV station carrying in-house productions of news, dramas, talk shows and documentaries, as well as Cheng Yen's speeches and notices of charity activities posted by its global offices from as far as Lesotho. The media group draws a quarter of its annual budget from a metal, plastic and paper recycling business in Taiwan staffed by 60,000 volunteers.
目前慈濟在台灣有六個醫院、一所完整的大學包含醫學院，以及大愛電視台（24小時的全球衛星電視台）播放新聞、電視劇、談話節目和紀錄片製作、證嚴上人的說法和其全球各地的慈善活動新聞，播放範圍遠及賴索托。大愛電視台年度預算的四分之一，是由環保志業 -- 由60,000名志工組成，回收金屬，塑膠和紙張。
Today Tzu Chi also runs Asia's largest bone-marrow registry, and its reserve of emergency medical supplies, enough to treat 30,000 patients for a month, rivals that of leading medical missions. "Tzu Chi's biggest asset is the master, the second asset is the volunteers, the third is the capital and experience of its entrepreneurs," says Walter Huang, chairman of Texma International, a garmentmaker for U.S. brands such as J.C. Penney ( JCP - news - people ), gap and Tommy Hilfiger. Huang is among the five founding donors and managers of a nonprofit textile business under Tzu Chi using fabric made from recycled plastic bottles to sew blankets for refugees around the world.
目前慈濟擁有亞洲最大的骨髓庫，其緊急醫療物資儲備足以治療30,000名患者一個月。 德式馬企業股份有限公司（供應J.C. Penny、GAP、以及Tommy Hilfiger等知名品牌的布料）董事長黃華德先生說：「慈濟最大的資產是上人，第二大的資產是志工，第三大的資產才是有資本和經驗的企業家」，黃華德先生是大愛感恩科技的五個創始捐助者與管理者，負責以回收塑料瓶製成的材料縫製毯子，提供給世界各地的難民。
No apparent successor has emerged from Tzu Chi's four deputies, all professional managers, or from the nuns. "We and the master always focus on now," says Gary K.C. Ho, a real estate brokerage entrepreneur who heads the Canada branch. "Master hopes to finish everything while she is still alive, so everything will be in place when we have a successor, who might be less charismatic but would feel less pressured." But running against a clock that she has meticulously divided into 86,400 seconds a day, Cheng Yen has always said there's no retirement for her.
從慈濟的四個副總執行長（都是專業經理人），或是比丘尼中，目前沒有明顯的繼任者出線。 「我們和上人始終專注於當下，」何國慶先生（房地產經紀企業家，目前負責的加拿大分會）說。 「師父希望在她住世時完成一切，所以當我們有一個繼任者時，一切都已經完備，這樣繼任者即使沒有那麼多力量，但壓力會小一點。」但是，對於分秒不空過的上人來說，她總是說自己沒有退休的那一天。
Cheng Yen's Ten Commandments 慈濟十戒
Words of wisdom for Tzu Chi disciples:
1. Do not kill 不殺生
2. Do not steal 不偷盜
3. Do not fornicate 不邪淫
4. Do not lie 不妄語
5. Do not drink alcohol 不飲酒
6. Do not smoke, use drugs or chew betel nuts 不抽煙、不吸毒、不嚼檳榔
7. Do not gamble or speculate 不賭博、不投機取巧
8. Respect your parents and be moderate in speech and attitude 孝順父母，調和聲色
9. Follow the traffic regulations 遵守交通規則
10. Do not participate in politics or demonstrations 不參與政治活動、示威遊行