According to the lunar-calendar the Buddha’s birthday will take place on May 10. On April 8, the Providence Zen Center hold a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday upon which occasion Soen Sa Nim gave the following talk:
Long ago an eminent teacher said, “The Buddha did not come to the Kapila empire and was not born of his mother, for he had already saved all people from suffering.” This is having one thousand mouths, and yet not needing them. If you understand this you will understand that in the palm of your hands you hold the noses of all the eminent teachers from the distant past to the present. And so, you will first attain. If you do not understand, you should not speak for that is only blood dripping. It is better for you to keep your mouth shut as spring passes.
The Buddha sprang from the right side of his mother and took seven steps in each of the four directions. He then looked once each way, raised one finger to the sky, and touched the ground with his other hand, He said, “In the sky above and the sky below, only I am Holy.” You must understand this speech and must understand what this “I” is. I is empty. Empty is full. It has no name or form and does not appear nor disappear. All people and all things have it. So where is the Buddha coming from?
Long ago Zen Master Un Mun said, “On the Buddha’s birthday, as he sprang from his mother’s side, I hit him once and killed him, and gave him to a hungry dog. The entire world was at peace.”
What the Buddha said on his birthday is no good, so I will hit him thirty times. What the Zen Master Un Mun said is also no good, so I will hit him thirty times. What I have just said is no good, so I will. hit myself thirty times.
Where is the mistake?
Today is the Buddha’s birthday and outside white snow is falling.
After the talk, one of the guests asked Soen Sa. Nim, ‘Some people say the Buddha is a divine entity, others say he was was superhuman and god-like, still others say he was just a wise, old man who understood a little more than most. What is Buddha?’
‘How did you get here?’
‘Why did you come by foot?’
‘I had no car.’
‘A man drives a car. What is it that drove your body here?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘The mind that does not know is the Buddha.’
‘Why do you then celebrate Buddha’s birthday?’
‘As I mentioned earlier, the great Master Un Mun once said, “On the Bruddha’s birthday, as he sprang from the side of his mother, I hit him once and killed him, and gave him to a hungry dog. The entire world was at peace.” Do you understand what this means?’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘This is the Buddha’s teaching. When you understand this you will come to understand why we celebrate his birthday.’