HOMAGE TO OUR ORIGINAL TEACHER SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
read the huge yellow banners inviting all to the celebration of the
Buddha's birthday. More than 600 people, including representatives
from almost every state and from many countries overseas, gathered
to bathe the Buddha, and symbolically cleanse the self-nature.
The Buddha's birthday festivities,
traditionally celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar
month, were sponsored this year by the Sino-American Buddhist
Association, Buddhist Lecture Hall, on May 10th. Early on that clear
Sunday morning. Bay Area Buddhists gathered by the ocean, and as a
symbol of the vow against killing, released birds and fish which had
been bought from butchers.
Early that afternoon a Buddha bathing ceremony
gave many newcomers a chance to participate in this ancient ritual
for the first time; following this ceremony, Tripitaka Master Hsuan
Hua spoke The Lotus Sutra.
At 5 p.m. a repentance ceremony and Buddha
bathing took place in Union Square Park. The Sangha then led a
procession to the great hall for the main celebrations of the day.
Bhiksu Heng Ching, Chairman of the Buddha's Birthday Committee,
opened the evening Dharma meeting, and after introductory remarks,
read some of the many greetings which poured in from around the
world: messages of faith, joy, and congratulations on this occasion,
encouraging the rapid growth of the right Dharma in America. Two
messages of special interest are printed below:
Thank you for your invitation to participate in
the program of fellowship and good will at the First Congregational
Church Sunday, May 10.
Although my duties make it impossible to be
present, I wish to extend my congratulations and good wishes to all
participating in this demonstration of brotherhood. Personally I
take particular interest because at one time I had been assigned to
go to Hankow to help establish a university there, and undertook
Oriental studies in preparation at U.C. Berkeley, World events
cancelled the plan, but I developed profound respect for the
May your celebration prove effective in
promoting cooperation and harmony among our people, regardless of
religion, race or other background difference!
Father Alfred Boeddeker, O.F.M
I wish to thank you for the invitation which
you so kindly extended to me to open the meeting to be sponsored by
the Sino-American Buddhist Association on 10 May.
I deeply regret that my official commitments at
the United Nations will prevent me from coming to San Francisco at that time.
Let me extend to you and your Community, as
well as to the young people who will participate in your
celebrations, my most cordial good wishes.
Yours in Dharma,
Following introductory remarks, the Sangha led assembly in
chanting, which was of great interest to assembly because it
employed instruments traditional used in Buddhist ceremonies but
little known in the today. The Incense Offering was followed by the Repentance Ceremony of the 88 Buddhas from The Avatamsaks. After
chanting Secret School mantras, the Sangha and honored guests,
followed by the entire assembly, bathed the Buddha while the Buddha Bathing Verse and Mantra was chanted.
Talks on the Dharma addressed to the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis,
Upasakas and Upasikas, dignitaries, guests, and friends, comprised
the main part of the evening, The speeches were so well received
that the editors of Vajra Bodhi Sea decided to make them available
(on the following pages) to the many readers unable to attend the celebration.
Recitation of The Amitabha Sutra closed the Buddha’s Birthday
- Picture-1 (left-top):
Bhiksu Heng Ching, Chairman of the Buddha's Birthday Celebration, leads the assembly in the recitaiton of the mantras.
- Picture-2 (right-top):
Bhiksu Heng Ching bathes the Buddha.
- Picture-3 (right-bottom) :
Bhiksu Heng Chien, head of the Sangha, leads the assembly from Union Square Park to the great hall where the main celebrations were held. While walking, they recite "Na Mwo Ben Shr Shr Jya Mwo Ni Fwo", Namo Homage to Our Original Teacher Sakyamuni Buddha.
Upasaka Kuo Jung
M.A., University of Washington; President of
Vajra Bodhi Sea; Buddhist Text Translation Society; recently in the
doctoral program of the Dept. of Chinese
Language and Literature, University of California at Berkeley.
When I was asked to speak tonight, I asked, "Well, what should I
speak about?" I was told that I could speak about whatever I wanted,
at which point I said, "I don't have anything to say." And I was
told, "Speak about that." So since I am here speaking, I hope you
are all there listening.
It is really wonderful that we can all come together here today
to recall and celebrate the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. Now in
America, the Buddhadharma is very young and is just beginning to
show the promise of bearing fruit. Today is the first time in
America that the Buddha's Birthday has been organized by fully
ordained American Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, and so majestically
celebrated. These people, especially Bhiksu Heng Ching, chairman of
the Buddha's Birthday Celebration, and all of the people at the
Sino-American Buddhist Association, have worked very hard to make
today possible. We are also especially fortunate to have with us
today some of the honored representatives of countries which are old
in Buddhism. So we have a chance today to thank them for their aid
in planting the Buddhadharma here in America. We are also fortunate
to have with us well-wishers from our own government and also
representatives of our friends abroad, and we welcome them. So now,
when the Buddhadharma is just beginning in America, this kind of
world wide participation here affirms its universality, because the
Buddhadharma just doesn't have any outside. It includes everyone and
everything, and everywhere.
Well, you may be thinking, "I just came because I was curious.
What do I have to do with the Buddhadharma, and what does the
Buddha's birthday have to do with me?" The Buddha opened
enlightenment and said, "All living beings have the Buddha-Nature;
it is only because of their false thinking and attachment that they
are not able to give proof to its attainment." So I asked you, when I
began speaking, "Are you listening?" and I hope you are still listening.
What did I mean? Should you listen to me? Well there is probably
someone who is thinking, "I was studying Buddhism before you even
arrived on the scene, why should I listen to you? I shouldn't listen
to you, you should listen to me."
Well, I am trying to listen to you and I hope you are also trying
to listen to yourself. But when you listen, listen with your true
heart, not with your false thinking heart, not with the heart that
is attached to there being a great big you and a great big me, and a
great big he. Listen with your true heart; listen to your true heart.
Today we should all bathe the Buddha in our own heart and wash
away all the accumulated dust of false thinking and attachment and
then listen, listen until we hear the true heart everywhere and in
everyone. What else could I have to say except to remind myself and
perhaps also to remind you, in case we have both forgotten, how to
listen. I hope we all, whether we are talking or being talked to, or
chanting, no matter what we are doing, I hope we all listen, listen
with our true heart, and altogether be one with the Buddha.
Honorable George Chinn
Supervisor, Social Services Commissioner, City of San Francisco.
I consider it a distinct privilege and honor to
be able to be present here tonight to help celebrate Buddha
birthday. I come in the capacity of representing the Mayor of San
Francisco, who, because of a previous engagement, finds himself
unable to attend. He sends his regrets for not being able to join
you here tonight and has dispatched me in his place, which I
consider a personal honor. So, on his
behalf, and through him, and on the behalf of the people of San
Francisco, we welcome you here and rejoice with you on this joyous
occasion, the celebration of Buddha's birthday. I understand that
this is the first organized attempt to celebrate this great
religious leader from the East's birthday, and I think this is most
befitting that you have selected our fair city in doing so, because
the greatness of this city has received so much from the greatness
of the Orient.
We celebrate this joyous occasion to pay
tribute and to give remembrance to this great man, Buddha, who gave
up his life of abundance and luxury in order to devote himself to
the search for the enlightened truth, and who, almost 600 years
before the birth of Christ, preached and pursued the doctrine of
brotherly love. Indeed, tonight's celebration is not only a joyous
one; I think as well it is a solemn one, because we are living in a
world of turmoil and disturbance, where everywhere is beset with
human misery, where violence plagues us with every turn, and in the
minds and hearts of people everywhere doubt has taken the place of
faith, and distrust has supplanted the truth. So I think more than
ever before do we need, and appreciate the need, for religion to
restore our faith and hope and also to heal the wounds of mankind.
And more than ever before do we need to apply the great teachings of
Buddha's brotherly love and transform it into actual deeds, not only
in our daily dealings with one another as individuals, but to extend
I am told that the goal of every Buddhist is to
attain Nirvana during his life, just as
every Christian's highest hope is to attain heaven after his death.
I am also told that the state of Nirvana
to a Buddhist is when a person has accomplished absolute
self-control, a total unselfishness through which to pursue the
enlightenment and truth and knowledge, true compassion for human
beings, and at the same time has removed himself completely from all
forms of anger, passion, evil and sin. And so as we celebrate
Buddha's birthday tonight, I think it would do all of us here well
to join him in his quest for peace through the search for truth, and
to make every attempt as individuals to strive for the lofty ideals
in the attainment of Nirvana. I think only
by doing this could we truly celebrate joyously his birthday, and
only when we do so can we have true meaning and pay just tribute to this man.
Thank you very much for inviting the Mayor to
be present to share your joyous occasion, and to permit me, as his representative, to say a few words.
Luiz Dilormando de Castello
Consul in Charge of the Consulate General of Brazil in San Francisco.
I am really very honored to have been invited
to participate in this Sakyamuni Buddha's Birthday Festival. Coming
from a country which is so new, which has barely 500 years of
history, I can, however, tell vou that the wisdom of Buddha has been
present in my country for at least 100 years, and therefore I am
really thankful to have this opportunity to bring to you who have
gathered here to celebrate this special day, the greetings of my
office, of my government, of the people of Brazil, and chiefly of
the Buddhist community of Brazil, which I am sure is now also
celebrating this special event. Thank you.
Reverend Haruyoshi Kusada
of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley.
I was not prepared to speak tonight, and I have
difficulty with English, but I am very honored to have been invited.
Today is a very happy day: Sakyamuni Buddha was born.
Buddhism spread in Asia, Tibet, China, Korea,
Mongolia, and Japan. It remained in the East for many centuries, but
now Buddhism comes to this country. Buddhism, in every country,
gradually spread. Now Buddhism has come to this country and I
believe it will reach everyone. I am very happy tonight. Thank you.
Upasika Kuo Shih
Founder, Buddhist Lecture
Hall; Director of Translation, Vajra Bodhi Sea.
I am very happy that we are all gathered here
tonight to celebrate the Birthday of Buddha Sakyamuni. We celebrate
here today, but we haven't noted the traditional date of the
birthday of Buddha Sakyamuni. His birthday is on the eighth day of
the fourth month by the Lunar Calendar. Most people, however, don't
work Sunday, so Sunday has been chosen as the convenient day for all
of us to meet and celebrate.
As a coincidence, today is also Mother's Day. As
you all know, all sons and daughters try to please their mothers
with presents, gifts, and good food. Maybe the mother doesn't even
have to get up in the morning to make breakfast. This is a real
treat for mothers and as sons and daughters, we all try to reward
our mother’s love with little gifts, presents, and good food. This
is only for the worldly doings to our worldly mothers.
Buddha Sakyamuni is the original teacher of
Buddhism in this Saha World. He is not
just a teacher. He is also like a father or a mother to us. He is
just our Dharma parent. Today, Mother's Day, we try to reward our
mother with what we can do; but we should also think of our Dharma
parent too, our Dharma mother. How are we going to reward her?
If you have studied Buddhism, you know that
Buddha Sakyamuni went through many hardships and difficulties to
find the way for us to end the cycle of birth and death and attain
Buddhahood. Now we could follow his path. He treats us and all
beings just like his sons and daughters. Therefore, on this special
day. Mother's Day, we do not just reward our worldly mothers, but
also we should try to give our Dharma mother some rewards too. Our
Dharma mother is waiting for us to come home. So please hurry home.
Thank you for listening.
Upasaka Kuo Kuang
Noted Professor of Music.
Upasaka Kuang especially took time out
from a very busy schedule in Los Angeles to attend the celebration.
I am very honored to be here and to speak to
you. Tonight this is a celebration not just of the birth of a man,
but of a potential for all of us: that we can realize our full
potential, whether we call it Vajradarahood, Buddhahood, or
Nirvana. There are many paths to
accomplish this, and Buddhism alone offers many techniques and
methods, meeting our needs whatever they may be. During the past 50
or 60 years in America, various Buddhist organizations have
appeared. Here and there you can see a Chinese or Japanese Temple,
but until the past few years these have not been very significant to
any American people. But meditation, the solution of problems, and
leisure time, which have given rise to the search after something
higher, after deeper joys, have stimulated the opening of the doors
of these temples and teachings. This is now becoming a leavening
agent in our culture. We all hope to see it grow more and more, so
that the pragmatic nature of Americans, with their desire to
experiment and test, will bring a solid realization everywhere of
the promises and the example that the Buddha set for us.
Reverend Sam Lewis
In the name of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. I regret that I have to correct certain political men who
have spoken here tonight. The Dharma was
introduced into this city in the last century. Evidence of it is the
Daibutsu in Golden Gate Park, where I was privileged to celebrate
this holy day many times in boyhood, and I remember especially the
celebration fifty years ago which was the first time I went in any
official capacity. I regret to inform the misinformed gentlemen that
the religions of the world are getting together, and the press never
tells it. I have returned from a conference of all the great
religious teachers of the world—not professors, educated or miseducated in other sections, but the actual representatives. For
example I met Count Okuni who sends his regards to the Berkeley
Center; I met her Highness Princess Poon Diskul, the president of
the World Federation; I met the representative of the Dali Lama
whose silence was more beautiful than any speech I have ever heard
from anybody, including my own spiritual teachers. When I went to
London after that, I met a Zen Roshi and he became very voluble, anD
my friend said, "He never did that before." I said, "No, because Mr.
Loud Ears was coming, and when Mr. Loud Ears comes, sometimes the
silent men speak."
I have nothing but a message of hope; I have
nothing but a message of good will, I have nothing but a hope that
we will follow the young who are spiritual advanced, and get away
from the drivel that is poured on us constantly. There is a teaching
of some of the Mahayana schools that Nirvana
and samsara are the same It would be good to look into it, and to
practice it, and in the midst of the turmoils we can carry our
peace. I have seen such people of peace, I have met such people of
peace, and I hope to meet more.
I returned and I found the young people of this
country...no, it is many years since we who are outcasts said, "The
time will come when the Dharma will be established in America, and
established by the young." This prediction of us outcasts is
fulfilled tonight in these young beautiful souls who have taken over
and given us this holy celebration. Thank you.
Upasaka Kuo Tsun
Upasaka Kuo Tsun has done
graduate work at the University of Washington and is presently teaching.
There are many people here tonight. It is
indeed quite amazing that we have all come here because of past
causes with Buddhism. Perhaps we don't remember these causes; they
could have occurred in the lifetime before this one. or perhaps a
number of lifetimes ago. Nevertheless, we have all come here because
we have something deeply in common; that is the search for total
enlightenment. This is the goal of all of us here, whether we
realize it or not. Some of us are closer than others, some on the
very threshold, and some have a long way to go. But for none of us
is this an easy task, to be treated lightly.
Occasionally I, and other Buddhists are asked:
"Why do you not actively protest the disturbing events in the world
today?" The world is literally falling apart. This is nothing new.
Since the world began, if we may speak of a beginning, it has been
falling apart. There are those who realize this, and realize the
necessity of extracting themselves from that world.
Buddhists! We have no time to wage war against
war. As we bathe the Buddha, it is a symbol of bathing our own
Buddha-natures and returning them to peace and purity, to
cleanliness and calm. Until this is done thoroughly and completely,
how can we think to do else. We have a battle raging here in our own
breast, how can we abandon problems near in order to seek difficulties afar?
Today, especially, we recall the immaculate
nature of our own original hearts that was pointed out to us by the
Buddha. We here are of the vehicle of the Mahayana, which takes as
its ideal the Bodhisattva principle. As we are thought to be
passive, we are indeed extremely active, demonstrating the
Bodhisattva principle which is to realize our own self-natures
completely, and then raise this immaculate nature like a torch and
carry it forth as a teaching, spreading the light to other sentient
beings. This is the task of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, and all of us here.
Upasika Kuo Hsun
Presently serving as a
Director in the Dept. of Recreation and Parks , San Francisco City
Government; Editor, Vajra Bodhi Sea.
Tonight we are all gathered here for a
celebration, the celebration of the Buddha's birthday. Maybe you are
thinking, "What does that mean to me?" Well, among other things, the
Buddha came here and told us how to turn off our TV sets. In the
world today there are a lot of things that don't seem very just,
they don't seem very fair, and they don't seem very right. Many
young people feel like they have been watching a TV program too
long, and even though it's not a show they want to see, they don't
know how to turn their TV set off. Because they don't know how to
turn their TV set off, they decide to pick up rocks, and chairs, and
bottles, and anything else that is handy, and throw it at the TV
set, and break it, and make the program go off.
But as soon as they do that with one TV set,
some one else comes along with another TV set, and sets it down in
front of them and before they know it they are back watching TV
again. It's still a program they don’t like at all.
Once you realize you are watching TV, maybe you
will say to yourself, "What is it that keeps me here, that keeps me
glued to this program, the world outside, show after show?" On the
surface it's three really simple things that are in all of us;
greed; hatred; a delusion. Whether your greed is for something new
an shiny in 1970 colors, or for something old and funky and fine,
it's still something, and it's still something outside of you. So
the Buddha says, "Baby, the TV doesn’t exist, that program you are
watching really isn't on either, and if you sit there very quietly,
nobody will know that you're really not watching TV." And you can
look inside, take a look at yourself, and you'll see that there is
no program at all, and maybe then you’ll see that there's really no
you. Thank you.
Upasaka Kuo Ti
Chairman of Board of
Trustees, Vajra Bodhi Sea.
It's my nickel, and if I don't say anything for
next five minutes, that's alright. Because it's still my nickel;
they gave me five minutes up here.
The Buddha did not offer many
Dharmas without them being asked. In fact, there was only one Sutra that he spoke
without being asked. Explicit requests to solve a problem produced
the other speakings of the Buddh. That unasked Dharma
was The Sutra of Amitabha Buddha;
it points one way, and it is available to anyone anytime, any place,
from the highest of beings to the most worthless chunk of chaff. It
was not offered to an explicit group of beings. Much can be said
further along this line, but not now.
It is quite often that the young do not wish to
listen to one who is slightly grey on top. They would rather do it
themselves. Really this is right, because if you don't take that
Sutra apart and put it back together within you, what good does it
do, even if you can spit it out word for word from your mouth? So,
it's a do-it-yourself job. You want to obey the Buddha's law? It's a
do-it-yourself job. If you don't obey it, nobody will chastise you
for it. If you do obey it, only you will really know it.
There is a word. It's a trite old word. Some
people call it "wonderful". How many ways can you say wonderful,
wonderful, wonderful? Well I'd run out of ways when I stumbled onto
this slightly shorter word that means more of less the same thing in
one of the oldest languages on the earth, Chinese—And if you say it
and don't watch out, someone will accuse you of being a feline
creature. But they're just fighters. Just see how many ways you can
say the word, miao (wonderful). Miao Fa (wonderful
Dharma)..,now isn't that miao? If you
watch that word, it will penetrate all the way through you, just
that one word. Hear it, and watch where it goes. And you
do-it-yourselfers, you rebels who are strong enough to penetrate
watching where that sound goes to...who? Thank you.
Upasaka Kuo Chan
Bodhi Sea; Buddhist Text Translation Society.
There are five teaching schools in Buddhism.
The first is the Ch'an, or Zen School, the practicers
of which cultivate meditation, concentration. There is the Pure Land
School, the practicers of which recite the
Buddha's name. The essentials of this school are laid out in
The Amitabha Sutra which we will
recite tonight at the close of the ceremonies. Other cultivators
watch their conduct; they cultivate the precepts. This is the third.
The fourth is the Secret School. No one talks about the Secret
School, because it's secret. The fifth is the Teaching School. This
concerns the study of the Sutras; people
devote their lives to the study of the entire Tripitaka. These are
the five central schools in which the 84,000 Dharma doors are
revealed. The 84,000 Dharma doors represent the many ways, the
myriad limitless ways, that the myriad limitless living beings can
realize the way.
You might be thinking now, "Why did he say what
he said about the Secret School? Here tonight we recited perhaps 11
or 12 mantras before the speeches began. These are certainly from
the Secret School."
That's right, they are, and there is nothing
secret about them. They are right there printed on the page, open to all.
"Well." some of you might be thinking, "these
aren't very powerful mantras, perhaps there are other mantras,
secret mantras, which are a lot more efficacious than the ones we chanted tonight."
The Ta Pei Mantra, the first long one which we
chanted, is the mantra presented in The Great
Comapssion Heart Dharani Sutra, a Secret School Sutra in
the Tripitaka. The wonderful uses of this mantra are laid out
specifically in this Sutra; they are not hidden at all. It says in
this Sutra that this mantra has the power, if cultivated with a
sincere heart, to overcome any and all evil mantras, any and all
false or outside forces that seek to control by the use of mantras.
This Great Compassion Mantra is able to subdue these outside
mantras. It is very clearly stated, so that there is no question at all.
Well then, what is secret about the Secret
School? If mantras are available to all, what is it that is secret?
Perhaps it is the way in which the mantras are said, perhaps there
is some special pronunciation that must be used in order to make the mantras work.
Let me interject something here for those of
you who may not be familiar: a mantra, also known as Dharani,
perhaps can best be translated into the Western term "spell", "magic
spell". Mantras are used to control ghosts and spirits and demons.
They are used to speak with these creatures, to speak with forces
and energies which are not material. Perhaps there is some special
way, then. that these mantras must be said in order to speak with
the ghosts and the demons and those beings which you don't often
come into immediate contact with. There is a story about the secret
pronunciation of mantras:
There was once a cultivator who decided, when
he started cultivating, to practice the Secret School. He was given
a mantra to cultivate. Now he was a bit cloudy. And to speak a
little bit more clearly, he was a little stupid, and so when he
started cultivating his mantra, he didn't get it quite right. He
started cultivating, "Om mani padme niu; Om mani padme niu." Niu, in
English, translates as "cow".
So he cultivated Om mani padme cow. Each time
he repeated it he picked a bean from one pot and dropped it into
another pot, and thus chanted this mantra all day long, moving beans
from one pot to another. Each time he said the mantra he moved a
bean. He did this for a few years——twenty years, to be exact. And at
the end of the twenty years he could just sit back in full lotus and
recite "Om mani padme niu", and the beans would magically jump from
one pot to another; he didn't even have to move them. This is just
an indication of what an incredible response he got from cultivating this mantra.
As he was sitting back going "Om mani padme niu"
and watching the beans jump back and forth, an old cultivator came
by, a very proper cultivator who did everything just right, who knew
the five schools, knew the Sutras, and who delighted in upbraiding
younger cultivators for their mistakes. He heard this sound and
couldn't believe his ears. He walked in and immediately chastised
the cultivator of the Secret School, saying, "You're slandering the
Secret School, this is terrible! You've got to do it right." And he
taught him the mantra as it should be said, "Om mani padme hum."
And so the cultivator of the Secret School
started cultivating it right, greatly chagrined that he had done it
wrong in the first place, but it didn't work. He kept doing it and
doing it and working very hard, but he couldn't get any response at
all. The beans wouldn't move. More and more frustrated every day,
all the samadhi power that he had worked up in twenty years of
cultivation was rapidly dispersing as his frustration grew.
What happened? Shortly thereafter he returned
to reciting "Om mani padme niu", regained everything he had lost,
and soon opened great wisdom.
The principle here is that there is nothing
secret about the way these mantras are said. The secrets contained
in the Secret School are the secrets which Sakyamuni Buddha, whose
birthday we are celebrating here tonight, opened to all men.
Sakyamuni Buddha lived to help men realize the way, to make the way
open and clear, not to create secrets. He pointed to the
Buddha-Nature which exists in every man. The secret of the Secret
School is identical to the secret of all the other schools: it is
secret until it's cultivated. When it is cultivated, it is open. The
secret of the Secret School is none other than the magical response
that one can get cultivating this school, as one can get a magical
response by cultivating any of the other schools. The secret of the
Secret School lies within each and every one of us.
Bhiksu Heng Ch'ien
Director of Publications,
Vajra Bodhi Sea; Buddhist Text Translation Society.
It is surely due to meritorious deeds done in
the past that we Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Honored Guests, Upasakas, and
Upasikas are able to gather here today to celebrate the birth of
Sakyamuni Buddha. If we had not attended Dharma meetings with
previous Buddhas, with Sakyamuni Buddha, we would not be able to
have this opportunity to meet and celebrate the birthday of
Sakyamuni Buddha. So today we all come together, recite praises,
offer incense, chant mantras, and recite Sutras,
all to honor and praise our Original Teacher Sakyamuni Buddha.
That's today. What do we celebrate tomorrow? Tomorrow we should also
celebrate the birthday of the Buddha. Well you may think, "Tomorrow
is not today, and today is the birthday of the Buddha. I do not wish
to celebrate the birthday of the Buddha tomorrow. I don't want to
hear any more speeches, or sit in these pews any longer, so why
celebrate it tomorrow? Isn't today enough?"
Considering celebrating the birthday of the
Buddha, we should not think that it is done in just this one way.
Because we living beings, in the long night of time, have been
confused and drunkenly reel through birth and death, not knowing
from where we came nor where we are going, we should daily celebrate
the birth of the Buddha. To daily celebrate the birth of the Buddha
means that every day we should recollect the Buddha, recollect the
Dharma, and recollect the Sangha. Every day we should turn our own
light inward and seek out own original Buddha-Nature.
Because of another day, because of another event which we will all
attend—the event of our death--we celebrate the birth of the one who
is master over birth and death. This is why every day we should
study the sutras of the Buddha, chant the mantras of the Buddha,
follow the conduct of the Buddha, and in this way attain our own Buddhahood.
There are many kinds of birthdays. One birthday
which we all had, was the day we were born into this world. You may
think, "That one is my birthday. I was just born once; how can you
talk of other birthdays?" Well, yes, that is your birthday, but
there is another birthday which is even more worthy of celebration.
It is the day that we turn our lives towards Buddhahood, that we
turn ourselves towards enlightenment. It is the day we become
disciples of the Buddha and begin the practice and cultivation of
our own original prajna wisdom, of our own original Buddha-Nature.
This is the birthday that we should really celebrate. It is a day
that gives birth to wisdom, morality, and concentration.
I hope that all of us here do not just think
that this is Sakyamuni Buddha's birthday, Sakyamuni's and not ours,
and that's that. We should all certainly take this birthday as our
own birthday. Take it as our own birthday and give birth to our own
Buddha-Nature, give birth to our own
original enlightenment, and give birth to our own original wisdom.
That's called the Secret School, because the secret is just inside you. Thank you.
Bhiksu Heng Shou
Director of Ceremonies,
Buddha's Birthday Committee: Director of Administration,
Bodhi Sea; Buddhist Text Translation Society.
The time has come for me to say a few words on
the occasion of the celebration of the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha.
The Buddha was born in India some twenty-five hundred years ago.
After spending his youth as a wealthy prince, he put aside the
impermanent pleasures of the palace and left home to contemplate the
contradictions of existence in this Saha World. This world is called
"Saha" because "Saha" means "difficult to bear". That it is
difficult to bear is the great contradiction of existence in this
world. If this world wasn't difficult to bear. if life was constant
joy for all of us, then surely there wouldn't be much reason to
celebrate the Buddha's birth. But, if we take an honest look at this
world of ours, then we must admit that beings here aren't always
happy. When we aren't happy, we are usually sad.
So, why do we celebrate the birth of the
Buddha?' It is because, having contemplated the contradiction of
happiness and sadness, Sakyamuni Buddha became enlightened to the
source of all such contradictions. Sakyamuni Buddha then completely
understood the vastness of the mind of man.
Mencius, who was a profound philosopher and a
superior man, said something once which is appropriate now. He said:
"To act without knowing why; to do a thing
habitually without examining the reasons; to pursue an activity all
life long without understanding inherent process——this is to be one
of the crowd."
The great appeal of the teachings of Sakyamuni
Buddha is that they explicitly explain to all beings how to
understand the process inherent in life and death, how not to be
just another one of the suffering crowd. The Buddha explained how to
be one of the few who delight in total understanding of our mind and
the limitless realms which it includes.
Why do we celebrate the Buddha's birthday,
anyway? Didn't the Buddha die several thousand years ago? Surely
such celebrations should have perished with the Buddha's bones, the
Buddha's body, and the Buddha's blood!
I agree! In one respect, the Buddha has been
dead for what seems like a very long time. But, if you truly
investigate and understand the Buddha, then you will realize that
Buddha was not just a single physical body which appeared on this
earth centuries ago. The Buddha was not merely a single life which
was smothered beneath the gathering dust of time. Actually, the
Buddha isn't dead. The Buddha is alive! The Buddha is alive right
now! That is the essence of a healthy understanding of your Buddha-Nature.
Buddhism isn't Chinese and Buddhism isn't
English and Buddhism isn't Japanese. There isn't any sectarianism
about Buddhism at all, because there isn't a principle or place
which the Buddha does not include, whether it be in the ten
directions of space, or the three periods of time. All worlds of the
past, the present, and the future are included in the body of the
Buddha. All those worlds may be understood in a single moment, if
you awaken to your own Buddha-Nature.
I know many of you have heard of the Sixth
Patriarch and at least a few of you have an interest in Dhyana
meditation. The Sixth Patriarch is famous for his accomplishment in
Dhyana concentration and wisdom. He is
also famous because, although he couldn't recognize a single written
word, he completely fathomed the Buddha Mind. From the example of
the Sixth Patriarch, we should all know that true understanding of
the self-nature is not dependent on words and not dependent on
books. Those are things which we must eventually transcend.
Although for a long time he couldn't read the
Sutras of the Buddha, nevertheless the
Sixth Patriarch penetrated the Buddha principle, and in time spoke a
Sutra himself, The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Recorded
in that Sutra are such words as these: "The changing of faults is
surely the birth of wisdom." Right here,.., if you truly
understand..., is the source of your own immediate enlightenment.
This isn't a matter of waiting. It is a matter of doing.
It is a matter of doing now. If we merely change our faults,
it we put aside what we are greedy for, if we put down all thoughts
of hate, if we cease our stupid actions of body and mind, then the
walls of ignorance will immediately dissolve. The reason we haven't
become enlightened like the Sixth Patriarch, is because we
habitually course in greed, hatred, and stupidity, not examining the
reasons and not understanding inherent process.
The Great Master also said, "If one protects
one's shortcomings, the mind within is unworthy." The unworthy
mind is really familiar to most of us because we each have
weaknesses of which we are fond. These are shortcomings which we
stubbornly cling to and protect, whether they be gross physical
objects outside, or subtle mental toys of our inner world. The
inside and the outside are both included in the Buddha-Nature.
We must relinquish our inward attachments to realize the outside and
we must put everything down outside to realize what is within. If we
can put it all down-—really put it down, then that is true
liberation. It is liberation from all suffering and sadness of the
Saha World. Whether we readily admit it or not, clinging to
existence results in suffering and sadness. It is because we have
cherished our shortcomings for many lives that we are now immersed
in a world of relative pain. It is because we are clouded by
ignorance and confusion that few of us remember the pain of birth.
But if we continue to treasure our faults, then undoubtedly we all
will undergo great pain at death. The true mother of the Buddha has
got to be wisdom! Well, if wisdom is the mother of the Buddha, then
who is the mother of wisdom? If we have listened to the Sixth
Patriarch, we'll know that the mother of wisdom and the grandmother
of all Buddhas is just the changing of faults. I hope you all can
carry that principle with you and apply it in your daily cultivation.
It is only necessary to be ever mindful in action and thought, and
not depend on the objects of desire.
Today is Mother's Day as well as the Buddha's
Birthday, so perhaps we all ought to be a little more filial. Again
we may listen to the Sixth Patriarch who also said, "Kindness is
the filial support of father and mother." This is a principle
which few Americans understand.——I know, because for a long time, I
too did not understand. Only recently have I realized that we need
only treat each other just as we would our mothers and fathers in
our most conscious moments. Then, where would there be a problem?
What need would there be for filial piety? Certainly it would not
exist at all. Today we celebrate the Buddha's Birthday and we
celebrate Mother's Day. Actually, the Buddha is the mother of all
mothers and the mother of all men, for the totality of life arises
from the Buddha-Nature, which we share. In
fact, we people, when we relinquish all traces of ignorance, are
just Buddhas. The Buddha was once a common person like you or me. So
certainly we too can accomplish the perfection of Buddhahood merely
by listening to the teachings of the Buddha and applying them in
daily life. That is what is so wonderful about Buddhism. It is not
so fragile and rigid that the body of the teaching shatters in the
face of individual expression. Because the Buddha understood the
personal differences of all living beings, he revealed countless
methods so that we might become enlightened and enlighten others.
Therefore, if we earnestly investigate the Buddhadharma, each of us
will find a suitable method, for every teaching spoken by the Buddha
leads to the same universal enlightenment.
So, every day remember that we may each
celebrate the Buddha's birthday, as long as we change our faults and
give birth to wisdom. That is the Buddha's birth. However, every
day, we may each mourn the death of the Buddha as well, if we
continue to cling to our faults. That is the Buddha's death. It is
up to us. For each of us, it is a matter of personal action and
personal liberation. No one, not even the Buddha himself, can
accomplish it for us. Thank you.
Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Buddhist Text Translation Society.
My friends from the prison say unto me,
"How good, how good it must feel to be free." And I answer them most mysteriously,
"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?" A long time
ago, before I left home, I played the blues guitar. And then I got
an opportunity to go to Taiwan and become a Buddhist
Bhiksuni. When I came back from Taiwan, I brought back 348 precepts, and a
transmission of how to play the music you heard tonight. I get to
play the wooden fish.
Tonight when I was listening to the
Eighty-Eight Buddhas Repentance, I listened to the beat, and it
sounded like a heart. Then when we said the Great Compassion
Mantra, it sounded like it included the outside and the inside. The
Great Compassion. It isn't something that you have—that you have, or
I have. It's not something that I can teach you, or that you can
learn. It appears at the time when we are able to put down the
small, to put down the things that aren't important, to put down our
self—the self that seeks after the smallest things, or the largest
things. Greed for thrills, greed for fame—at the time when all that
is really put aside, the Great Compassion manifests.
The teaching of the Buddha doesn't go beyond
the realization of the Great Compassion. There have been a lot of
speeches tonight, and I'm not going to talk very much longer, but I
hope that when you hear the beat, that you will listen for the Great
Compassion and hear it in yourself.
Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih
Birthday Committee, Buddhist Text Translation Society.
The Buddha got born, then what happened? When
he was nineteen, he decided to leave all the wealth of his noble
family. The events proceeding this renunciation are well known: One
day he went to the East gate of the palace to see the world. When he
got there, he saw a woman rolling on the road in pain, and because
he didn't know what he saw, he asked his follower who accompanied
him, "What's wrong with that woman?"
His follower replied, "She is just giving birth."
The Prince said, "I didn't know birth was
suffering,” and he returned to his home.
The next day he went South and when he got
there he saw a man who could barely stand, who was blind, and whose
skin was wrinkled like a chicken's. And he said, "What happened to that man?"
His follower said, "He got old."
The Prince thought, "What kind of world is
this? Birth is suffering , and getting old is suffering."
The next day he went West and he saw another
man. The man's skin was open and from his body poured pus and blood;
he was in fever and couldn't think. The Prince asked, "That man, what is it?"
His follower said, "The man is sick." The last
day the Prince went North and outside the gate was a man, white,
cold, still. "That's death, " said his follower.
Several days thereafter the Prince wandered
along the palace grounds very disturbed. He thought, "Certainly,
there is a way, once you're born, not to have to get old, get sick and die. There
must be a method." He sat down under a tree and from the heavens
came a being, appearing like a Bhiksu in robes, and he came before the Prince, and he was "out-of-sight", and
the Prince asked, "What are you?"
He said, "I'm a Bhiksu."
The Prince said, "What's a Bhiksu?"
He said, "A Bhiksu is one who has left home to cultivate the way."
The Prince said, "What way?"
He said, "The way to end birth, old age,
sickness, and death." It was then that the Prince knew there was a method.
Bhiksu Heng Ching
Birthday Committee; Director of Translation, Vajra Bodhi Sea;
Buddhist Text Translation Society.
Today, as you may have heard, is the Buddha's
Birthday Celebration. By this point in the evening, it probably
doesn't come as a surprise. When the speeches began this evening,
Upasaka Kuo Jung said that he didn't have much to say. And a lot of
people have said the same thing for a long time. I've been waiting
over there, with a lot to say, an awful lot to say. And I've been
sitting there, thinking, thinking—there is just so much to say that
the best thing to do would be to compress it. In the Tripitaka there
is a Sutra which belongs to the Secret School; it's one letter long;
and it's a letter that phonetically is a silent letter. It's
probably one of the best Sutras in the entire Tripitaka.
In the Tripitaka there is another
Sutra; we have heard about that too. We
have heard about the Pure Land Dharma Door, the cultivation of the
recitation of the Buddha's name. Everyone tonight has waxed
eloquent, but no one has waxed quite as eloquent as the Buddha who
spoke a Dharma which was not requested.
Before now we haven't really had a chance to hear it because it
hasn't been very clearly written down. Tonight, very shortly, a new
translation will be read. When the Buddha spoke The Lotus Sutra, a lot of
people left; he talked for pages and pages and pages and finally a
whole bunch of people left. And the Buddha said something like,
"Alright, now I can start to get down to the real nitty gritty, to
what it's really all about, because only people with really good
roots have been able to stick it out this far."
One of the most important things that we are
going to do this evening is recite this Sutra which is not just one
word but a little longer. You can say that it has never been heard
before. And since I don't see anybody out there banging and
clamoring to hear the Sutra, it is definitely not asked for, and yet
it arises by itself. So in celebration of the Buddha's birth, as a
birthday present to the Buddha, and as a birthday present to all
people, there will be the first public reading of a new translation
of The Amitabha Sutra by Upasaka Kuo Jung, the first speaker tonight.
Before, when you all stood up, you probably
wanted to sit down; now you probably all want to stand up; and now,
you're going to get a chance.