Amitofo Care Centre (ACC) is a Buddhist orphanage home dedicated to help Africa with Buddhism

2012-11-29 Daddy Monk: Master Hui Li

Here is a recent article about Master Hui Li as he led another group of ACC kids to visit the donors in Taiwan.

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When we heard a ten-year old African girl reading an age-old Chinese poem ‘The Rules for Students’, we really started to realise that the Amitofo Care Center (ACC) has injected new blood into the prolonging of the Chinese culture and heritage.

The name of this girl is Wan Heng – a ten-year-old kid who is based in ACC Lesotho in Southern Africa. When she opened her mouth and started reading the Chinese poem, the whole audience became speechless. With her good pronunciations, she read it rhythmically without making any mistakes:

"The Rules for Students are the Sage’s teachings.First be good to parents and respect elders; next be reverent and trustworthy. Love everyone and become close with the kind-hearted…”

And so on…

The audience was truly amazed and gave Wan Heng a big round of applause for her extraordinary performance. One woman then asked her, “Do you know what this poem means?”. Wan Heng, who has two big eyes that are as bright as diamonds, responded in perfect Chinese, “Yes because Daddy Monk has explained it to us”. At that moment, the audience was astonished and somewhat embarrassed because they can’t even remember the whole poem, never mind the meaning of it. The woman then said, “This is truly exceptional – the very same heritage which we have not fully maintained has now emerged in Africa!”

The Daddy Monk which Wan Heng referred to is a true monk. He is not married and has not broken any of the Buddhist precepts, but he has ‘thousands of children’ who are now under the care of his organisation Amitofo Care Centre. He is the Taiwanese-born Master Hui Li.

Master Hui Li, with the birth name Tsai Rong-Guai, was ordained under the Fo Guang Shan Monastry shortly after he served a three-year term in the Taiwanese army. In 1991 he volunteered to come to South Africa to build the first Buddhist temple in Africa, the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple. He witnessed the pain and suffering in Africa and decided to focus on building care centres that would address some of the issues at a root level. He also vowed to reincarnate for five lifetimes in Africa in order to bring more hopes and lights to the so-called ‘dark continent’.

When Master Hui Li was a child, he had close relationships with the Christian missionaries who built schools, hospitals and care centres to support the local villages in Taiwan. He personally benefited from the support of a piano teacher who paid for his tuition fees which allowed him to finish high school. Master Hui Li has always been highly appreciative of this support he received and he now feels that it is time for the Taiwanese people to give back to the world.

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For those who have not visited Africa before, it is very difficult to even imagine the kind of conditions and challenges which some of the Africans face on a daily basis, but Master Hui Li has seen it all. In our interview, he recounted a story about how desperate people can get when they are faced with hunger. One day he saw a woman next a filthy river, washing some maize that have clearly been contaminated by chemicals. He tried to stop her from consuming the maize, but the woman told him that her family had no choice but to eat this, otherwise they would have died of hunger.

Master Hui Li has spent the last ten years developing the Amitofo Care Centres which are now present and operational in Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Initially he was faced with many challenges and obstacles that mostly arose from a misunderstanding of the care centre. For example, some of the tribal chiefs did not want to hand over their orphans because they mistakenly believed that Chinese people are cannibals. Another example is that some religious groups have strongly opposed some of the conducts at the centre such as vegetarianism and compulsory morning and evening religious services. Nonetheless Master Hui Li’s spiritual practice has helped him overcome these challenges - with mesmerizing calmness and kindness.

Despite overcoming these bigger obstacles Master Hui Li is still faced with many challenges relating to the daily lives of the kids, but his determination is driven by one simple belief – if there is one thing that would guarantee a better future for the kids in Africa, it would be education. He insisted that the kids should learn Chinese because he hopes that this additional ability would give them more career opportunities in future.