Buddha's Enlightenment Day Speech 1975

On Sunday, January 19, there were many flowers and fruits on the altar to commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment according to the lunar calendar. That evening during the ceremony Zen Master Seung Sahn delivered the following Dharma Speech:

Holding up the Zen stick, pointing to the sky, then hitting the table,

"Do you understand this? If you understand this, then you have already attained enlightenment.

"If you don't understand this, then you cannot get out from the world of fire.

"There are three worlds of fire: the world of desire, the world of form, and the world of no form. All these are made by thinking. Thinking is desire; desire is suffering; suffering is the mind's fire. So the whole world is on fire. If you don't understand, you cannot escape from suffering.

"Long ago, Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree for six years. One morning he saw the eastern star and attained enlightenment. How did he attain enlightenment? He only saw the eastern star.

"That star is still in the sky. If you find it, you will attain enlightenment. But in the sky there are many stars.

"Which one is it?

"Where is it?

"Have you found it?

"If you haven't found it, I will show you.''

Holding up the Zen stick, then hitting the table,

"Now can you find it? If you still can't find it, then you must enter through the sound. The name for this is first enlightenment. But enlightenment is no enlightenment. True enlightenment is before thinking. So there are no words, no speech, no star, no sound.

"What is true enlightenment?

"Put it all down!"

Slowly lifting up the Zen stick,

"Can you see this?

"What is it? (pause)

"This is a Zen stick.''

Hitting the table,

"Can you hear this?

"What is it? (pause)

"This is a sound.

"The stick is the stick; the sound is the sound.

"When you see the stick, your mind is only the stick. When you hear the sound, your mind is only the sound. Only become one.

"Buddha only saw the star. Only like this. The star is the star. Red comes: red. Yellow comes: yellow. Birds fly in the sky; fish swim in the water. Honey is sweet; salt is salty. One plus two equals three.

"All is like this. That is the truth.

"But you must not say, 'I have attained enlightenment.' If you open your mouth, I will hit you thirty times.



"Today is Buddha's enlightenment day. The star is in the eastern sky.

"Watch your step!''