Be the Master of My Life

By Feng Hui-ling (馮慧玲) and Li Se-juan (李色娟)
Photos by Song Dai-chun (宋岱淳)
Abridged and translated by Huang Yung-ping (黃永平)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

Be the Master of My Life

By Feng Hui-ling (馮慧玲)
Li Se-juan (李色娟)
Photos by Song Dai-chun (宋岱淳)
Abridged and translated by
Huang Yung-ping (黃永平)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

"For once in my life, I have done something right!" exclaimed Chen Yue-liang (陳岳良) in his mind as Dharma Master Cheng Yen (證嚴上人) pinned onto his suit a Tzu Cheng member badge. He has become a certified Tzu Chi volunteer. It was early 2015, and Chen—then 45 years old—was very emotional as he has finally found the right direction in life.

In 2015, after becoming a certified Tzu Chi volunteer, Chen Yue-liang participated in a sutra adaptation during a Year-end Blessings Ceremony.

Born out of wedlock, Chen lived with his grandparents since little, and was often jeered and called a kid without a father or a mother. In third grade, he finally got to live with his mother, Chen Mei-yun (陳美雲), a famous Taiwanese opera performer. Out of a desire to compensate her son, the actress gave him a lot of pocket money, but Chen, still feeling unloved, fell into the habit of squandering money and using it to make friends. He soon went astray, turned violent, and ended up in prison when he was 13. In the following decades, Chen's life revolved around drugs, deception, and getting in and out of prison. His mother was so embarrassed and disappointed that she cut all connections with him.

One day while still in jail, Chen received a copy of Tzu Chi Monthly magazine from his counselor and saw a portrait of Dharma Master Cheng Yen. This encounter inspired Chen to truly want to turn over a new leaf. In 2012, just out of jail and riding on a train, Chen chanced upon Tzu Chi volunteer Liu Qiu-ling (劉秋伶). He mustered up his courage to write her a note, which said, "Hello, I just got out of Taitung Prison today…I really want to change myself for the better and become a Tzu Chi volunteer. Would you tell me how to become one?" That was a turning point in his life.

At a prison in Yilan, Chen shared his story to prisoners in the company of Tzu Chi volunteer Liu Qiu-ling, whom he met on a train after being released from jail. (Photo by Lai Zhen-feng)

Soon enough, with the help and support from Liu and other Tzu Chi volunteers, Chen started taking training classes to become a volunteer. However, his path of transformation was not an easy one. When faced with obstacles and challenges, Chen had doubts and wondered whether he had what it takes to complete the training, become certified, and restart his life. Luckily, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers would always be there to offer him much-needed support and encouragement as he struggled to quit his bad habits.

While still in training to become a volunteer, Chen also got married and started his own business. With family and work requiring much of his time and attention, Chen often felt that he was not as dedicated as other trainees. But, on the day when he got married, Chen had the chance to meet Master Cheng Yen, who gave him her good wishes. The Master's blessings meant the world to Chen and gave him strength to persevere on his path of self-renewal. Whenever Chen faced internal conflicts, the image of the Master would appear in his mind, serving as a reminder not to fall back into his old ways.

Since Chen started his training with Tzu Chi, his mother, wife, and friends have found him changed and different from the way he used to be. "I don't really know what part of me has changed. It could be my facial expressions. I smile more often now," said Chen bashfully.

In 2015, two years after he left prison for the last time, Chen became a certified Tzu Chi volunteer. Wearing Tzu Chi's blue-and-white uniform, he visited his mother. Upon seeing her reformed son, his mother returned to her room, cried out loud, and shed tears of joy. Her son was a major embarrassment to her for 45 years, but now, she can proudly tell others that her son is a Tzu Chi volunteer. And for Chen, after all these years, he has finally discovered his mother's love for him and deeply cherishes his relationship with his family.

After joining Tzu Chi, Chen smiles more than he did before. (Photo by Cai Li-yu)

With his wife by his side, Chen shares his experience with inmates in Taipei Prison. (Photo by Li Zhao-tian)

Hoping to help other former inmates reintegrate into society, Chen has set up a staffing agency that mainly employs ex-prisoners. From experience, Chen knows well that without a stable job, former inmates easily return to their old ways, so he not only provides them with job opportunities but has also built a dormitory to offer accommodation to his employees. "As long as we don't give up on ourselves, no one will give us up. We owe ourselves a chance to change for the better," Chen told his staff members. He is also determined to help prisoners turn their lives around. By visiting prisons to share his story and journey of transformation, Chen hopes to inspire inmates to walk onto a path of hope and goodness.

Every now and then, Chen would still look back at the life he had led before, but instead of dwelling on his crooked past, he would say to himself, "That's all history now. By letting go of the past and seizing the present moment, I can create my own future!" He knows that what he does now is all that matters and has come to know what it feels like to be the master of his life.

Chen and other Tzu Chi volunteers gather to prepare for a home visit to help people in need. (Photo by Feng Hui-ling)

In 2015, two years after he left prison for the last time, Chen became a certified Tzu Chi volunteer. Wearing Tzu Chi's blue-and-white uniform, he visited his mother. Upon seeing her reformed son, his mother returned to her room, cried out loud, and shed tears of joy. Her son was a major embarrassment to her for 45 years, but now, she can proudly tell others that her son is a Tzu Chi volunteer. And for Chen, after all these years, he has finally discovered his mother's love for him and deeply cherishes his relationship with his family.

After joining Tzu Chi, Chen smiles more than he did before. (Photo by Cai Li-yu)

With his wife by his side, Chen shares his experience with inmates in Taipei Prison. (Photo by Li Zhao-tian)

Hoping to help other former inmates reintegrate into society, Chen has set up a staffing agency that mainly employs ex-prisoners. From experience, Chen knows well that without a stable job, former inmates easily return to their old ways, so he not only provides them with job opportunities but has also built a dormitory to offer accommodation to his employees. "As long as we don't give up on ourselves, no one will give us up. We owe ourselves a chance to change for the better," Chen told his staff members. He is also determined to help prisoners turn their lives around. By visiting prisons to share his story and journey of transformation, Chen hopes to inspire inmates to walk onto a path of hope and goodness.

Every now and then, Chen would still look back at the life he had led before, but instead of dwelling on his crooked past, he would say to himself, "That's all history now. By letting go of the past and seizing the present moment, I can create my own future!" He knows that what he does now is all that matters and has come to know what it feels like to be the master of his life.

Chen and other Tzu Chi volunteers gather to prepare for a home visit to help people in need. (Photo by Feng Hui-ling)

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