Happy Birthday

Seon Master Toeong Seongcheol, the late Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, wrote a wonderful poem for Buddha’s Birthday in 1986 which was printed in ‘Echoes from Mt. Kaya’, a book of his teachings now sadly out of print. The book was translated by Brian Barry, the Korean-based artist who painted, among other things, the platform doors in the preaching hall at Wat Suthat here in Bangkok.

The poem, which you can read on Barry’s site under the section entitled Dharma Drumming, or at the website of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, is a hugely energetic birthday greeting to all living beings, and beyond. Happy Birthday, Seongcheol calls out, to the Buddhas in prisons, in taverns, in gardens, and in the skies.

“To all you Buddhas who have become endlessly changing clouds drifting across the sky, to all you Buddhas who are quietly biding your time as boulders — a very happy birthday to you, too. / And happy birthday to all you cute little Buddhas swimming in the waters. To all you lively Buddhas soaring about the sky. To all you reverential Buddhas singing hymns in churches, and to all you handsome Buddhas chanting in temples”.

Written when he was 74 years old, the poem goes on to wish a happy birthday to farm workers, factory workers, and students. Everyone, and everything, he says, is a manifestation of Buddha. Every place is “a site for liberation from suffering and ignorance”, and every day is a day to respect and congratulate each other. It’s a call to happiness. Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!

Brian Barry’s webpage
Jogye Order: Brian Barry
Jogye Order: Happy Birthday
Wikipedia: Master Seongcheol
Return to the Center: Happy Buddha’s Birthday

It is gratitude for somebody who wanted to teach us. It is not a coincidence that Parents’ Day and Teachers’ Day are always around Buddha’s birthday. In this sense, its gratitude to teachers, but also a reminder of the potential within each of us.”
Chong Go Sunim

9 thoughts on “Happy Birthday”

  1. “Everyone and everything is a manifestation of Buddha.” Yes – a great reason to celebrate! Love the poem!

    And so Happy Birthday to you, Marcus-Buddha! ~*~

    Heart Smiles – Christine

  2. Happy Birthday Christine-Buddha! happy Birthday Joseph-Buddha! Happy Birthday to all!

    Actually a little early, but it’s Buddha’s Birthday every day, right?! 🙂


  3. Dear Marcus,

    I received “Echoes from Mt Kaya” over 15 years ago from Do Bom Sunim at MunSu Sa temple in Wakefield MA. I kept it for some time, reading and re-reading it. Such a treasure. Somewhere along the line I gave it away and from time to time, I really miss it. Maybe it’s a good thing I gave it away!

    The thing that I always loved about this poem is that Kun Sunim starts out saying happy birthday to prisoners. As I am often a prisoner in the jail of my own unskillful behaviors, I always feel welcomed by Seong Cheol Kun Sunim’s birthday wishes!


  4. On our Canadian calendars, there is a Buddha’s Day on 27th, (based on Tibetan Saka Dawa, a celebration of Buddha’s birthday, enlightment and passing). I wonder if in Korea anything known about that, since there are Tibetan monks there (are they?)
    And as of everything is manifistation of Buddha – I cannot really see it entirely like that, I think it is good to use discriminative wisdom along with that statement, otherwise confusion is almost definitely to follow, water is water, but you wouldn’t drink sewage water…

  5. ” to all you Buddhas who are quietly biding your time as boulders — a very happy birthday to you, too.”

    Beautiful! Many thanks for posting this Marcus.

  6. Thank you Roy for your wonderful comment, and wow – I can really understand how you must miss that book! I’d love to just see a copy! LOL!

    Hi Tanya-Buddha (and Happy Birthday!) Yes I’m sure that many monks in Korea know about other dates of Buddha’s Birthday around the world – but I guess it’s usual to celebrate on the day that everyone else does. Just like here in Bangkok where we are holding our Korean Buddha’s Birthday celebration on the same day as the Thai one (the 28th). And yes, you are right – you wouldn’t drink sewage water! But your comments do remind me of Won Hyo drinking from the skull in the dark cave – and his Enlightenment the next morning!

    You are so right Joseph. And that’s without saying just who it is that’s folowing that path in order to reveal the Buddhahood! Thank you!

    Thank you and Happy Birthday Adam-Buddha!

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