In the Fall 2010 issue of Parabola about desire, Diane Wolkstein writes of the time she met Dharma Master Cheng Yen, the Taiwanese nun known as “Mother Teresa of Asia.” She describes the small, five-foot woman’s presence as “a force of nature that can’t be stopped. Whatever she has envisioned so far, she has brought into being: humanitarian relief, hospitals, schools, programs of love that are broadcast throughout the world.” From “The Desire to Relieve All Suffering”:
Master Cheng Yen had the same burning desire as the Tang Priest, one of the chief protagonists in Journey to the West. The Tang Priest (like the historical monk, Xuanzang, on whom his character is based) was willing to make an arduous journey of ten thousand miles from China to India. His goal was to bring back the Buddhist scriptures in order to relieve the suffering of his people. Once the Tang Priest had made up his mind to make this journey, no one could stop him. Although the Tang Priest’s character was based on an actual person, I had trouble relating to him. Many of the other storytellers in the Journey to the West marathon also had difficulty believing that a human being could be so pure-hearted, so altruistic. Yet the more I read about Master Cheng Yen, the more I realized she was the living dharma. Once she set her course, she, also, could not be stopped. In forty years, she had changed the world for millions of people.