From a talk by Zen Master Seung Sahn on December 5, 1992
Buddha’s story is very interesting because he had a very good situation, but he gave up this good situation to have a suffering situation. He did suffering practice for six years, and then BOOM! got enlightenment. So today is Got Enlightenment Day. Everybody understands this day, but when Zen Master Man Gong celebrated this day, he called it “I Lost Enlightenment Day.” That’s a famous story.
Man Gong Sunim was the disciple of a very great monk, Zen Master Chun Song, who did not give the usual style of teaching. Only some people understood. Chun Song Sunim’s temple was in the To Bong Mountains of Korea.
It was wintertime. Buddha’s Enlightenment Day was coming, so many people came to the temple. They were very cold, so everyone went outside and cut trees to make firewood.
But there was a law against cutting down trees, so a policeman came and took this great Zen Master to the police station. He asked Chun Song Sunim, “Why did you cut down these trees?”
“You already understand.”
“WHY?! It’s not correct!”
“What is ‘correct’? What is ‘not correct’?”
“That is the rule!”
“Who makes the rule?”
“Oh! That’s a country rule. I don’t care about country rules. My rule is important.”
“You cut trees, and now you must go to jail. You speak strangely. Who are you?”
“I am a monk.”
“Where do you come from?”
“My mother’s ——–.” (Zen Master Chun Song was famous for his scatalogical speech.) A very strange thing to say to a policeman, right?
“WHAT? Where is your hometown?”
“My father’s ——–.”
“You’re crazy!” shouted the policeman. “Go away!” And he let Chun Song Sunim go. That was Zen Master Chun Song’s action.
On Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, Chun Song Sunim said, “Buddha is number one stupid man!” Everybody asked themselves what this meant.
“Everybody already has enlightenment. Why did he sit for six years, see a star, and then get enlightenment? That’s stupid! If you see a star, you get enlightenment NOW!”
So everybody wondered: now see a star, now get enlightenment? Where is this star?
Nobody understood. “HERE! HERE! This is the star!” But still nobody understood. Then he hit the floor with his Zen stick and yelled “KATZ!!” Still nobody understood him. But under the floor a sleeping dog was woken by the hit. Jumping up, it hit its head. The dog howled.
“Only this dog has enlightenment,” Zen Master Chun Song said.