Commemorative Ceremonies to Celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday

May 27, 2023

Hello! Today is the Buddha’s birthday (also known as the day the Buddha came) in the year 2567 of the Buddhist Era. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim participated in three commemorative ceremonies throughout the day. 

After morning practice and meditation, the first part of the ceremony began at 9 a.m. The first part of the ceremony was a Buddhist ritual to celebrate and commemorate the Buddha’s arrival in the world, conducted exclusively for the members of Jungto Society. 

After the bell ringing and the Yebul ceremony, a video featuring the main temples across the nation and celebratory performances by Jungto practitioners from around the world was presented. 

To transfer the joy of making offerings before the Buddha to our deceased ancestors and to wish for their blissful rebirth in the Pure Land, a ceremony called Cheondojae (aimed at guiding the spirits of the deceased to find peace and rest in the afterlife) was held. 

The second part of the Buddha’s birthday ceremony commenced at 10 am. following the conclusion of Cheondojae. Approximately 1,500 Jungto practitioners gathered in the Teaching Hall on the third floor, the auditorium on the basement floor, and the lobby on the first floor, marking the largest in-person gathering since the outbreak of Covid-19. Additionally, some 2,900 Jungto practitioners participated in the live-streamed ceremony at the main temples in Korea and around the world. Moreover, those who made contributions by lighting lotus lanterns also joined the ceremony from their homes through the live stream. 

After reciting the vow of Refuge in the Three Jewels and the Heart Sutra, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim made an offering of incense before the Buddha, earnestly wishing for the liberation of all sentient beings. 

Following that, the Special International Division, at the forefront of global Dharma propagation, offered lotus lanterns as a symbol of their aspiration to spread the teachings of the Buddha worldwide during the second 10,000-Day Practice. Craig Lewis from the UK and Stanislav Ossovsky from Russia, with a wish for all sentient beings to attain the wisdom of the Buddha, made offerings of lanterns before the Buddha.  

Next, the Special Youth Division, entrusted with leading Junto Society into the future, presented offerings of flowers before the Buddha. Choi Min-gyeong and You Yong-tak, the youngest Dharma volunteers, had the honor of making these offerings. 

Following the offering ceremony, participants asked Sunim to deliver a Dharma talk with three bows. Sunim talked about the significance of the arrival of the Buddha in the world and what we should do to uphold and carry on that meaning. 

“Today is the Buddha’s birthday in the year 2567 of the Buddhist Era. I recently completed a 50-day tour across various regions in Southeast, South, and West Asia. I traveled to 11 countries, where I met people, observed their ways of life, and engaged in conversations. I came to know things that I didn’t know, saw things that I hadn’t seen, and heard things that I hadn’t heard while living in Korea. 

 People suffering in various parts of the world

“First, there were people who had to walk a distance of two kilometers just to obtain water. To sustain a family, they had to fetch water four times a day. This means that if only one person is responsible for fetching water, they need to do so four times daily, while if two people share the task, they need to do it twice a day. Obtaining water itself is a huge challenge. 

“There were also people who had only one meal a day due to a scarcity of food, and children who were unable to study because there was no school in the vicinity. Sri Lanka is experiencing  strong inflation and an economic downturn due to sovereign debt default. Despite education being provided free of charge, there are still children who are unable to attend school due to the cost of essential items such as uniforms, bags, and books. When I asked them, ‘Shouldn’t this problem be resolved by allowing children to attend school without having to wear a uniform?’ The answer I received was ‘The children who do not wear uniforms might feel ashamed.’ It could potentially lead to psychological distress for these children.

“In addition, there were people who had spent their entire lives living in a forest community, only to be expelled due to the forest being designated as a national park—people who live without a proper house, water, or electricity—but no one was aware of their suffering. Recently, mainstream media attention has been focused on the war in Ukraine. On TV, there are many advertisements about helping victims of the war, and all economic support is being directed toward that cause. 

“The same thing is happening in the areas devastated by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. As news of the earthquake spread, international aid arrived from various parts of the world. Although the earthquake victims in Turkey are experiencing significant hardships, they were fortunate to receive aid from their government, including temporary container homes, since Turkey is a relatively prosperous country. However, a third of the area affected by the earthquakes lie in Syria. Moreover, this affected area is under the control of the anti-regime forces who resisted Syria’s authoritarian government but failed when Russia intervened, leading to a massive refugee crisis. The influx of refugees has shaken European society, prompting countries to provide financial assistance to Turkey to support the protection of Syrian refugees. However, Turkey, unable to cope with the situation, established safe zones and refugee camps in border areas to prevent a further influx from Syria. The situation there has been exacerbated by the earthquakes. At present, there is no way to assist the people in Syria affected by the earthquakes. Permission from the Syrian government is required for UN organizations to enter and provide assistance, however the Syrian government has not granted permission, saying that the region is rebel-held territory. Syria has been categorized by the United States as part of the ‘Axis of Evil.’ Additionally, from Turkey’s perspective, they are not their own citizens. Consequently, there were people in a helpless situation, as no one could go and provide assistance. Despite buildings being completely destroyed by the earthquakes, no efforts were made to clear the debris. The situation was left unattended due to a lack of administrative capacity in the government. 

The reason for lighting lanterns on the Buddha’s birthday

“There are countless people in the world who suffer, unbeknownst to the rest of the world. In Indonesia, I visited a prison to have a Dharma meeting for the inmates. We may perceive them as criminals, but each of them carries a sense of injustice. One young man, imprisoned for seven years, was grieving because he couldn’t attend his grandmother’s funeral. There are many people in prison but we are apathetic to their plight. Similarly, there are many sick people, but we are indifferent to them. 

“The wisdom of the Buddha encompasses understanding all of this. Viewing others as lesser because they’re not from our country, or because they’re a woman, or a person with disabilities, or have broken the law is not compassion. Compassion means recognizing that they are all suffering for various reasons, and finding ways to help them liberate themselves from that suffering.

“Today, as we celebrate the day of the Buddha’s arrival, lighting lanterns has a symbolic significance: it represents illuminating the flame of wisdom and, at the same time, alleviating the suffering of those around us, whom we see, hear, and understand. We do not light lanterns to have fun, brighten the darkness for the Buddha to find his way, or to seek his blessings. While the lantern festival can be a celebration for us, what’s more important is that the light from our lanterns reaches those who are suffering, where it can be transformed into water, food, and school supplies. This is the true attitude we should have as we celebrate the day of the Buddha’s arrival.

“Furthermore, we must learn to embody the Buddha’s teachings correctly to realize that we are beings without suffering. This means that if we understand that we are content, we will no longer feel compelled to use all kinds of energy and money to torment ourselves. Psychological unease or inferiority complexes lead us to desire expensive clothing, expensive bags, expensive earrings, necklaces, and other adornments to compensate. These behaviors are a major cause of environmental destruction—all stemming from the emptiness in one’s heart. However, if I am aware that I am content, I can live proudly without being attached to material possessions or adornments. I only need to eat enough to maintain my health, and clothing should cover my body and protect me from heat and cold. I won’t indulge in gourmet restaurants or obsess over luxury goods.

“Moreover, even by sharing a small portion of my wealth with those around me, we can use money that might otherwise be wasted on a single indulgence to save someone in desperate need from death. Building a house for someone without a home does not require a large sum of money. Building a house can be accomplished with only $1,000. Similarly, digging a well in a place where water is scarce requires just a few hundred dollars. 

Light of wisdom, light of compassion, and light of peace

“These days, South Korea is regarded as an advanced country and has become a nation that many people admire. However, it needs to embody the dignity befitting an advanced nation. As an advanced nation, it must shoulder its share of responsibility for the planet and for humanity. Many Southeast Asians consider Korea as a dream country. In my opinion, their enthusiasm for Korea seems to be even greater than when it was a dream in the past for Koreans to go to the United States. Many people in Southeast Asia are passionate about Korean dramas and music as well as Korean cuisine, clothing, and other aspects of Korean culture.

“However, even while living in South Korea that is admired, many of you are suffering. This suffering cannot be resolved merely through material means. Despite being hailed as an admirable country, South Korea has the highest suicide rate and the lowest birthrate in the world. The high suicide rate symbolizes the difficulties of our current living conditions, while the low birthrate signifies a lack of hope for the future. This is not just a problem for Jungto Society or for Buddhism. It is not important to bolster the influence of Buddhism by building larger temples or increasing the number of Buddhists. What Buddhists should do today is to alleviate the suffering of the impoverished in various parts of the world and to take the lead in addressing the global climate crisis by stopping the foolish pursuit of material desires. There is no other way to solve these problems except through the authentic teachings of the Buddha.

“It’s not the time for South Korea to boast about living in better material conditions compared with other countries. Instead, the country  should share with those facing difficult circumstances and strive to create a new civilization that can serve as a vision for all of humanity. By doing so, South Korea can enhance the happiness of its people and contribute to sustainable development for the future of humanity. 

“While South Korea is often referred to as a dream country, there is also concern about the possibility of war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula. Given the current geopolitical situation, where South Korea leans toward the United States and Japan, while North Korea is aligned with China and Russia, many people worry about the prospect of a war. North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons, and with South Korea recognized as a global powerhouse in the defense industry, such concerns deepen. When I met socially conscious individuals in Southeast Asia, they asked questions about the potential for war on the Korean Peninsula. It is peculiar that while people outside of Korea express concern about a potential war, South Koreans seem unconcerned. Therefore, as we commemorate the Buddha’s birthday, it is important for us to firmly hold the position that there must never be a war on the Korean Peninsula.

“When we light lanterns, let’s first light the lantern of wisdom, secondly the lantern of compassion, and thirdly the lantern of peace. I hope you become a person free of suffering by lighting the lantern of wisdom. Aspire to alleviate the suffering of others by lighting the lantern of compassion. And contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and ultimately to world peace by lighting the lantern of peace.”

Next was a chant in praise of the Buddha’s birth led by Sunim, with the rest of the participants following suit. 

“Under the Ashoka tree in Lumbini, in the peaceful kingdom of the Shakyas, also known as the descendants of Kapilavastu, which lies in the southern foothills of the Himalayas, the tallest mountain range in the world, the bodhisattva came to this world, born from the right side of his mother, Queen Maya …”

Then everybody sang the Buddha’s Birthday Song and participated in the symbolic bathing of the baby Buddha. According to Sunim’s instructions, people participated in the bathing ceremony and received a prediction of enlightenment from Sunim. 

“The ritual of bathing the infant Buddha symbolizes our aspiration to cleanse ourselves and become like the Buddha by bathing the Buddha. After performing the ritual, you will stand before me to receive a prediction of enlightenment. According to Indian tradition, it is said that there is an eye of enlightenment between each person’s two physical eyes. Majeongsugi is a ceremonial practice where a prediction of enlightenment that ‘You will become a Buddha in the future’ is given. For those who are participating online, please place your face directly in front of the monitor.”

Sunim performed the ceremony for the online participants by extending the brush toward the camera. 

“You will become a Buddha in the future.”

After announcing the birth of the Buddha, the participants read a statement expressing their aspiration to follow the path of enlightenment and liberation. 

“We make a special vow today. Currently, tensions on the Korean Peninsula are escalating and the risk of accidental military conflict is increasing. Instead of achieving peace through the armistice, we face the risk of a new war. As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the armistice agreement, we wish for the freezing of North Korea’s nuclear program and the establishment of diplomatic relations between North Korea and the United States so that a lasting peace can be achieved and all the citizens of North and South Korea may coexist peacefully. 

“We recognize that the tragedy of the war in Ukraine can happen at any time on the Korean Peninsula and we hope that we achieve peace in Korea and become a guiding light for peace in the world by uniting our people as one, transcending religions, ideologies, and factions. 

“With the merit of our aspiration, we vow that all of us who participate in this ceremony to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday will awaken from our ignorance, become free from suffering, and live a bodhisattva’s life, serving as a support to our neighbors and the world.”

The second part of the ceremony concluded with a speech by the president of Jungto Society and Four Great Vows. 

Following the conclusion of the live-streamed ceremony, everybody at the venue participated in the ceremonial bathing of the baby Buddha and Majeongsugi.  

People of all ages including parents holding young children, gray-haired seniors, and elementary school students formed a long line to bathe the baby Buddha and receive the prediction of enlightenment from Sunim. 

After performing the Majeongsugi ceremony for more than 500 people, Sunim stepped down from the Dharma seat. Nuan and his family from Sri Lanka greeted Sunim warmly. He provided significant assistance when JTS provided emergency relief to Sri Lanka, which had declared national bankruptcy. 

“Sunim, thank you very much for helping our people.”

“You worked hard, too. If you continue to identify people who are struggling in Sri Lanka, JTS will continue to provide support. I will also make time to discuss the situation concerning Sri Lankan workers in Korea with you.”

When Sunim was about to leave for the cafeteria, Nuan’s daughter and son bowed to Sunim. 

“Wow, they bow so well.”

Then it was time for lunch. Many volunteers had put in a great deal of effort in preparing 1,500 servings of bibimbap. In the underground cafeteria and the second-floor cafe, a long line of people waited for their turn to enjoy the food. 

Sunim went around Seoul Jungto Center expressing appreciation to the volunteers for their hard work. 

“Thank you for your hard work. Thank you.”

After expressing his appreciation to each of the volunteers, Sunim took a seat in the cafeteria and had his bibimbap. During the meal, the two international participants who had earlier offered lotus lanterns before the Buddha came to have a conversation with Sunim. 

After a short rest, Sunim began greeting the guests at 3 pm. Jungto Society holds a ceremony each year, bringing together religious and social leaders to commemorate the true meaning of the Buddha’s birth. In the second-floor cafe, those who had arrived early sat at tables, engaging in conversations. Sunim greeted each person warmly, shaking hands and exchanging friendly greetings. 

At 4 pm, the ceremony to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday with religious and social leaders began. Religious leaders sat in the front row and distinguished social leaders, politicians, and people working in the fields of art and culture sat behind them. 

After reciting the vow of refuge in the Three Jewels, words for practice, and the praise of the birth of the Buddha, religious leaders offered lotus lanterns before the Buddha. 

Following that, all the guests participated in the bathing of the baby Buddha. Although their religions, political beliefs, and the work they do may differ, they embraced the significance of the Buddha’s arrival in this world with unified hearts. 

Afterward, Sunim gave a talk. 

“The story about the Buddha’s birth originated from a record written 1,000 years after the death of the Buddha. According to the record, the Buddha was born a prince of a small kingdom in India called Kapilavastu in the foothills of the Himalayas. The record depicts the scene of Queen Maya giving birth to the Buddha in a highly mystical manner. 

Living humans are the most precious

“It is said that the Ashoka trees were in full bloom, and as soon as Queen Maya raised her right hand and touched one of the branches of the most enchanting Ashoka tree, she started to feel labor pains. Shortly after, a baby was born from her right side. The Four Heavenly Kings from the sky received the baby on a golden net, and the Dragon King washed the baby. Sakra covered the baby with a parasol, and Brahma guarded him with a whisk. As soon as the baby was born, he took seven steps in four directions and exclaimed with his right hand pointing to the heaven and his left hand pointing to the earth: 

Throughout heaven and earth, I alone am the most honored one.

All sentient beings are suffering.

I will alleviate all of their suffering. 

“The story of the Buddha’s birth is depicted beautifully and mysteriously like this. Arguing about the truthfulness or falsehood of this depiction is meaningless. It wasn’t written in the Buddha’s lifetime, nor by the Buddha himself, instead it was recorded after the Buddha had attained enlightenment and gained reverence as a sage. This record can be seen as a symbolic depiction of the Buddha’s life, from his birth to his attainment of enlightenment and his efforts to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings after his enlightenment. 

“In Indian mythology, it is believed that royalty is born from the side of a deva. Therefore, being born from the right side indicates that the Buddha came from a royal lineage. Additionally, in Indian tradition, it is said that humans cycle through six realms, ranging from hell to heavenly realms, in what is known as the Six Realms of Rebirth. The Buddha transcended this cycle of rebirth. So the legend of the Buddha taking seven steps in the four cardinal directions represents the attainment of liberation and enlightenment, transcending the cycle of the six realms.

“In the passage that says with one hand pointing to the heaven and the other hand pointing to the earth, proclaiming, ‘Throughout heaven and earth, I alone am the most honored one,’ ‘heaven’ refers to the realm of devas while ‘earth’ represents the realm of humans. It signifies that he is the most honored one throughout the realms of devas and humans. In other words, it can be seen as a declaration of human rights that living humans are the most precious. 

Anyone can live a happy life

“Just as all living beings are born healthy unless affected by special conditions or illnesses, every person who is born can live a happy life. However, we suffer due to our foolishness and diseased mind. By healing this diseased mind, anyone can live a happy life. This is the essence of the statement that everyone can become a buddha. The statement ‘Throughout heaven and earth, I alone am the most honored one’ conveys this. 

“South Korea has become a highly developed country. If you visit Southeast Asia, you’ll find many people dreaming of coming to Korea, just as we  in the past used to dream of going to the United States. However, those of us living in Korea are suffering. From the outside, Korea appears to be a beautiful and good country to live in, but the people living within it are struggling. This demonstrates that material progress and reforms of systems alone cannot bring happiness. In that sense, religions, including Buddhism, should play a role in enhancing people’s happiness by awakening them from foolishness. However, it seems that religions are increasingly pursuing material desire, which is causing young people to distance themselves from religion.

“I would like to express my gratitude to not only the Buddhist community but also the leaders of other religions, including Catholicism, Protestantism, and Cheondogyo, for joining us in celebrating the Buddha’s birthday. I am also thankful that those who have worked for social justice are with us today, regardless of their religious affiliation and non-membership in Jungto Society, and that they support us in our aspiration to contribute to the happiness of our society and people.  

For the people who are suffering unbeknownst to us

“There are areas where people’s suffering goes unnoticed by the rest of the world and countless people are suffering unbeknownst to us. By illuminating ourselves with the light of the Buddha’s teachings, we will move toward a state free of suffering by removing our ignorance. When we shine that light upon our surroundings, we will be able to see and hear the cries of those who are suffering, cries that we had previously not noticed. This wisdom of illuminating our surroundings is called compassion. I hope that this beacon of wisdom will shine upon the Korean Peninsula, preventing war and bringing peace.

“I would like to thank the elders again for joining us today, despite your busy schedules and advanced age.”

Next, Professor Kim Hong-tae, a deacon at Gyeongdong Church, graced us with a beautiful song. The emcee introduced him as a Buddhist only on the Buddha’s birthday, eliciting a burst of laughter from everyone.

When the song ended, thunderous applause filled the auditorium. Then, Sunim introduced the guests. Unlike in previous years, all the guests stepped onto the stage to be introduced. 

First, religious leaders were introduced and delivered messages of congratulations.

“Recently, the world has seemed like a muddy swamp, which is disheartening. However, this also presents an opportunity for lotus flowers to bloom. On this Buddha’s birthday, I hope that we commit ourselves to causing lotus flowers to bloom.”

“Although we may have different religions and different values, I came here with the thought of how wonderful it would be if we could unite and live together as one.”

Following that, a choir performance by the children of young members of Jungto Society took place. 

“Even if it blooms in the mountain, it’s a flower, even if it blooms in the field, it’s a flower.

Even if it blooms by the roadside, it’s a flower, they are all flowers.

Even if it blooms anywhere, even if it blooms as it is. 

Even if it blooms without a name, they are all flowers. 

Everyone was delighted by the adorable gestures of the children. Next, the social leaders were introduced and delivered messages of congratulations.

“Ven. Pomnyun Sunim has shown us a new direction to follow whenever our nation encounters adversity. As I witness the current state of affairs, I often feel disheartened and frustrated. I came here today with the hope that Ven. Pomnyun Sunim would provide us with guidance. I hope that Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and Jungto Society continue to serve as a guiding light in this dark world.”

Next, young members of Jungto Society sang a song while dancing, expressing their wishes for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Following their performance, politicians were introduced and delivered messages of congratulations. 

“In 2017, we were in a situation where the risks of war were escalating, similar to the current circumstances. At that time, in response to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s request, I facilitated a dialogue between him and the commander of the U.S. forces stationed in Korea. Actually, thanks to the tireless efforts of Ven. Pomnyun Sunim behind the scenes, the volatile situation transformed into a peaceful one. I hope that Jungto Society will continue to serve as a beacon of peace.”

Next, Kim Myung-suk, a master pansori singer, Lee Won-wang, a master of the daegeum (Korean bamboo flute), and Choi Tae-jin, a drummer, took to the stage and delivered a pansori performance. The lively interjections of “eolssigu” and “jotta” heightened the atmosphere even further. 

Next, civic activists and those working in the fields of entertainment, art, and culture were introduced and delivered messages of congratulations. 

“Many people talk about religious harmony but in reality, not many people actually make the effort to organize gatherings like this. Even in the Christian organization I belong to, we haven’t been able to create such an opportunity. I deeply thank Jungto Society for always taking the lead ahead of the times.”

“I am from North Korea. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and Jungto Society have provided humanitarian aid to the starving North Koreans. On behalf of North Koreans, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude.”

Although each person had a different story, they all shared their experiences of meeting Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and expressed their support for the efforts of Sunim and Jungto Society in driving social change, and encouraged us to continue our work in the future. 

Lastly, writer Kim Hong-shin delivered the closing remarks for today’s ceremony. The ceremony came to a close around 6 o’clock and the participants proceeded to the cafeteria for dinner. 

Ven. Sunim guided everyone to their seats until everyone had taken their place at the tables. Once everyone had begun their meal, Sunim took a seat and joined in the dining. After the meal, Sunim went around to each table, expressing gratitude for their presence amid their busy schedules.

Seven o’clock was quickly approaching. Sunim bid farewell to everyone, saying, “I have another ceremony to attend at 7 pm. Thank you for coming today,” and made his way to the Teaching Hall on the third floor. At 7 pm, the commemorative ceremony for young members commenced. They had enjoyed recreational activities since 6 pm. When Sunim arrived, they requested a Dharma talk with three bows. 

Sunim explained the purpose of Buddha’s arrival in this world and the significance of lighting the lanterns, and also talked about the perspective we should adopt to live free and happy lives. After the commemorative Dharma talk, a Dharma Q&A session took place. 

Five people asked questions. One of them said that even though he had learned that he should live a frugal and simple life as a practitioner, he still had a strong desire for consumption and asked how he could follow the path of a practitioner.  

Although I have learned about practice, I still want to consume to my heart’s content

“These days, I’ve been thinking about how I should live. It seems that until now, I’ve been living without a clear sense of purpose, simply following along with what others do. However, I am wondering if I’ve been separating the teachings I learned from you from my own life. On one hand, I aspire to live a frugal practitioner’s life, but on the other hand, I still have many desires and want to consume to my heart’s content. I still feel anxious, thinking that maybe I should make more money. How can I integrate the values I learned from you and the Buddha into my own life?”

“When did I teach you not to make money? I advised you to live frugally, but I never taught you not to make money. When you adopt the principle of frugality, you won’t drool over material things even when you don’t have money, and you can live frugally even when you have money. Living frugally allows you to save money, donate it, use it for meaningful purposes, or simply keep it. Therefore, living a frugal life brings no harm.

“However, when you desire to live a wealthy life, it often leads to wasteful spending in order to show off, and if you are not wealthy, it can make you feel like a failure and cause you to suffer. Either way, the results are not good. That’s why I suggest that if you want to make money, then go ahead and do so. However, does simply desiring to make money guarantee that you will make it? If you desire to make money but find yourself unable to do so, it will only cause you more distress.

“However, if you live by the principle of frugality, it doesn’t matter if you make less money. I never taught you to make less money. I simply said that there is no issue with making less. Since there are no problems with making less, it also means that there are no issues with making more.

“Would it be better for Jungto Society, as a community of practitioners, to have less money? No, it wouldn’t. Having more money will allow us to engage in more activities to help those in need. If we have less money, we can simply reduce those activities. Even when assisting others, if we approach it with greed, it will only lead to suffering. This is because if we don’t have the ability to help, it will inevitably cause distress. That’s why I advise against being greedy. If you want to make money, go ahead and make it. If you want to get married and have the ability to do so, go ahead. Who said not to get married? However, the point is that pursuing marriage out of greed will only bring suffering. The reason why some of you want to get married but can’t is because your expectations are too high.

“If there is something you want to do, go ahead and do it. However, it comes with responsibilities and consequences. Engaging in a romantic relationship comes with responsibilities, getting married comes with responsibilities, starting a business comes with responsibilities, and even getting a job at a company comes with responsibilities. When you work for a company, you have to wake up early in the morning and commute to work. You have to listen to your boss’s nagging and receive performance evaluations. However, many of you open a store and celebrate the opening with flower stands, only to later experience regret when the store fails to thrive. I congratulate someone on their marriage, but later they want to get divorced. I congratulate someone on landing a job, but later they say that they can’t handle the job. Why do you end up regretting something you did, even though you chose to do it because you liked it? It’s similar to a mouse falling for poisoned food or a fish falling for a baited hook.

“When you get married, if you meet someone better than yourself, you end up being pushed around. You’ll live as a slave. However, all of you keep searching for poisoned food instead of eating the food right in front of you. You constantly seek out pain and suffering. When I talk like this, can you feel the generation gap? (laughter)

“If you want to make money, go ahead and do so. If you want to get married, go ahead and do so. But remember to take responsibility for your choices. How can only good things happen when two people come together? If you want something, the other person is likely to want something different. Conflicts are bound to arise if you refuse to consider the other person’s needs while solely pursuing your own desires. It’s such an irresponsible attitude. I advise against such foolish behavior.

“Greed does not mean wanting something. First, it is called greed when one tries to pursue something that is not realistically possible. Second, even if something is realistically possible, if it brings harm or loss, it is greed. You often ask, ‘How can we live if we abandon greed?’ But the advice to abandon greed means to avoid incurring losses or harm.

“I didn’t say not to make money. If you want to make a lot of money, go ahead and make it. However, you should live frugally, considering the Earth’s environment and other people. First, living frugally and reducing consumption helps preserve the Earth’s environment. Second, wealthy individuals should live modestly and consume less to prevent others from feeling a sense of inferiority. The constant portrayal of wealthy individuals indulging in excessive consumption on television leads many people to feel inferior. Why would you feel inferior? Why do you feel disheartened when you live in this prosperous era and this wonderful country? None of you are lacking or inferior. It is the constant portrayal of excessive consumption by the wealthy in the media that instills a sense of inferiority in the entire nation.

“Go and live in Southeast Asia for a while. Just having Korean citizenship alone will make you realize that you possess assets worth hundreds of thousands dollars. You will be able to understand how abundant your current life is and how significant your existence is.

“Thank you.”

Next, the members of the Special Youth Division expressed gratitude to Sunim. Three young people from the Sutra Course and the Special Youth Division read letters they had written. Although their stories were different, each letter contained a heartfelt account of how encountering the teachings of the Buddha had allowed them to escape from their suffering. 

These young people presented Sunim with gifts expressing their gratitude. The gifts were a large card containing their vow and a bouquet of flowers. 

“Together with all the young people in the world, we’ll become a Mosaic Buddha.”

All the participants enthusiastically shouted the words on the card. Following the Four Great Vows, a photo of all participants was taken. Over 200 people stood closely together, facing the camera with wide smiles on their faces. 

Sunim bid farewell to the young people and left the Teaching Hall to head for Dubuk Retreat Center. 

Sunim left Seoul at 9 pm and arrived at Dubuk Retreat Center at 1:30 am and completed the day’s schedule. Starting tomorrow, a two-day training session for resident Dharma teachers will be held at Dubuk Retreat Center. 

Commemorative Ceremonies to Celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday