Lin-chi (Rinzai) (died 866)

From The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi: A Translation of the Lin-chi lu by Burton Watson (1993)

He is lively as a fish in the water, has neither root nor trunk.
Try to catch him, he refuses to be held on to; try to push him away, you cannot shake him off.
The harder you strive after him the farther away he is.
When you stop striving after him, he is right in front of you.

“Followers of the Way, here and there you hear it said that there is a Way to be practiced, a Dharma to become enlightened to. Will you tell me then just what Dharma there is to become enlightened to, what Way there is to practice? In your activities now, what is it you lack, what is it that practice must mend? But those little greenhorn monks don’t understand this and immediately put faith in that bunch of wild fox spirits, letting them spout their ideas and tie people in knots, saying, ‘When principle and practice are in accord and proper [care] is taken with regard to the three karmic actions, only then can one attain Buddhahood.’ People who go on like that are as plentiful as April showers.”

“A man of old said, ‘If along the road you meet a man of the Way, whatever you do, don’t talk to him about the Way.’ Thus it is said:

If one tries to attain the Way
One cannot walk the Way
Ten thousand wild notions arise
Chasing each other in the head
When [Manjusri’s] sword of wisdom  flashes
There is nothing at all
Before the bright signs manifest themselves*
The dark signs will have become bright

“Therefore an ancient master (Ma-tsu) said, ‘The ordinary mind: that is the Way.’ ”

“Venerable ones, what are you looking for? This man of the Way who depends on nothing, here before my eyes now listening to the Dharma, his light shines clearly; he has never lacked anything. If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, learn to see it this way and never give in to doubt or questioning. If your mind moment by moment never differentiates, you may be called the living patriarch. If your mind differentiates, intrinsic nature and the world are set apart. But so long as it does not differentiate, intrinsic nature and the world are not separated.”

Someone asked, “What do you mean by the mind that moment by moment does not differentiate?”

The Master said, “The moment you ask such a question differentiation has already taken place: intrinsic nature and the world have been set apart.”

“Followers of the Way, make no mistake! The myriad things in this and other worlds are all devoid of intrinsic nature, of a nature that can manifest itself.1 They are empty names, and the characters with which they are written [the scriptures or ching] are likewise empty. If you take these empty names for real, you make a serious mistake.” (Schloegl) “For even if they exist, they change depending on circumstances, like robes that are shifted [i.e. costumes worn by players]. There is the robe of bodhi, the robe of Nirvana, the robe of emancipation, the robe of the threefold body, the robe of things, the robe of bodhisattvas, the robe of the buddha.”

(Watson) “Things like the Three Vehicles (2) and the twelve divisions of the cannon—they’re all so much old paper for wiping shit. The Buddha is a phantom body, the patriarchs are nothing but old monks. You were born of women, weren’t you?3 If you seek the Buddha, you’ll be seized by the buddha-devil. If you seek the patriarchs, you’ll be fettered by the patriarch-devil. As long as you seek something it will only lead to suffering. Better to do nothing.”

“There are a lot of shorn-heads who tell students of the Way that the Buddha represents the ultimate goal, and that one must spend myriad kalpas performing and perfecting all the religious practices before one can gain complete understanding of the Way. Followers of the Way, if you say that the Buddha represents the ultimate goal, then why, after living just eighty years, did the Buddha lie down in the grove of trees in Kushinagara and die?4 Where is the Buddha now? From this we know clearly that in the realm of birth and death he was no different from us.”

“You say that someone with the thirty-two major marks and the eighty minor marks is a buddha; but then the wheel-turning sage king is also a Tathagata.5  So we know clearly that the Buddha is a phantom. A man of old said,

The three bodies of the Tathagata
Were postulated for those with worldly perception
Lest they fall into nihilism
Empty names are expedient means

Thirty-two major marks and eighty minor marks are spoken of
These are empty sounds
The physical body is not the body of bodhi
No-form is the true form 6

“You say the Buddha has the six transcendental powers and that these are marvelous,7 but all heavenly beings, immortals, asuras, and powerful demons also have transcendental powers.8 Does this mean they are buddhas? Followers of the Way, make no mistake: when the asuras fight against the god Indra and are defeated in battle, they lead their host of eighty-four thousand followers and all hide in the hollow stem of a lotus. Is this not miraculous?”9

(Schloegl) “As I see it, all those supernatural powers are karmic and dependent. They are not the six supernatural powers the Buddha possessed: entering the realm of forms without being deluded by forms; entering the realm of hearing without being deluded by sounds; of smelling without being deluded by smells; of taste without being deluded by tastes; of touch without being deluded by touch; and of mental configurations without being deluded by mental configurations.”

(Schloegl) “Therefore the six fields of form, sound, smell, taste, touch and mental configurations are all [empty]; they cannot bind the man [who depends on nothing]. Though the five skandha are leaky by nature, when mastered they become your supernatural powers here on Earth.”
[Desires, cravings and ignorance (asrava) flow out from the mind (skandha) towards the objective world. These are called evil outflows, which are likened to a leak. – Editor]

(Watson) “Followers of the Way, the true Buddha has no form, the true Dharma has no distinctions. You are putting on robes because of a mere phantom.” (Schloegl) “Though you may attain something that way, it is only a wild fox spirit, not the true Buddha.”

(Watson) “A true student of the Way never attaches himself to the Buddha, never attaches himself to the bodhisattva or the arhat, never attaches himself to the finest things of the threefold world.24 Utterly independent, alone and free, he is never entangled in things. Heaven and Earth could turn upside-down and he would not be perturbed. All the buddhas of the ten directions could appear before him and his mind would not feel an instant of joy; the three realms of hell 11 could suddenly open before him and his mind would not feel an instant of  alarm. Why is he like this? Because he knows that all things in the phenomenal world are empty of characteristics. When conditions change, they come into existence; when there is no change, they do not exist. The threefold world is nothing but mind; the ten thousand phenomena are nothing but consciousness. ‘Dreams, illusions, flowers in the air—why try to to grasp them?’ ”

“Followers of the Way, the one right here before your eyes listening to the Dharma is he who enters fire without being burned, enters water without drowning, enters the three realms of hell as though strolling in a garden, enters the realms of the hungry ghosts and the animals without evil karma being attached to him.14 How can he do all this? Because he has no aversions to anything.”

To love sages and despise ordinary  mortals
Rising and sinking in the sea of birth and death
Worldly passions exist because of the mind
Without mind, to what can worldly passions attach themselves?
Don’t labor to discriminate, to grasp characteristics
Without effort you’ll gain the Way in a moment l5

“If you rush off frantically on side roads, studying in hopes of gaining something, then for myriad kalpas you will remain in the realm of birth and death. Better to do nothing, just sit in your seat here in the monastery with your legs crossed.”

“Followers of the Way, when students come here from various parts and we have finished greeting one another as host [master] and guest, the student will make some remark to test the teacher.16 The student comes out with a robe and displays it for the teacher, as if to say, ‘See if you can understand this!’ If you are the teacher and realize that this is just a robe, and you grab it and throw it down a hole, then the student reverts to normal behavior and asks the teacher to instruct him. The teacher then snatches that up too and treats it as he did the earlier remark. The student then says, ‘Very wise! A truly great teacher!’ The teacher says, ‘You certainly can’t tell good from bad!’ ”

“Again suppose the teacher comes out [wearing a certain robe] and displays it to the student. The student sees through this and at every step acts the master, refusing to be misled by the [robe]. The teacher then takes it halfway off, whereupon the student gives a shout [Ho! or Ka!]. The teacher now [puts on the robe of] differences and distinctions, battering the student around with words. The student says, ‘This old shorn-head who can’t tell good from bad!’ The teacher exclaims in admiration, ‘A true and proper follower of the Way!’ ”

“Followers of the Way, those who have left household life need to study the Way. In my case, years ago I turned my attention to the Vinaya,19 and I also delved into the sutras and treatises. But later I realized that these are just medicines to cure the sickness of the world, expositions of surface matters. So finally I tossed them aside and sought the Way through Ch’an practice. Later I encountered an excellent friend and teacher, and then my Dharma eye at last became keen and bright and for the first time I could judge the old priests of the world and tell who was crooked and who was straight. But I wasn’t born with this understanding—I had to probe and polish and undergo experiences until one morning I could see clearly for myself.”

(Suzuki) “Followers of the Way, if you wish to gain an orthodox understanding, do not be deceived by others. Inwardly or outwardly, if you encounter any obstacles, lay them low right away. If you encounter the Buddha, slay him; if you encounter the patriarch, slay him; if you encounter the arhat or the parent or the relative, slay them all without hesitation, for this is the only way to deliverance. Do not get yourselves entangled with any object, but stand above, pass on, and be free. As I see those so-called followers of the Way from all over the country, there are none who come to me free and independent of objects. In dealing with them, I strike them down any way they come. If they rely on the strength of their arms, I chop them right off; if they rely on their eloquence, I shut them up; if they rely on the sharpness of their eyes, I strike them blind. There are indeed so far none who have presented themselves before me all alone, all free, all unique. They are invariably found caught by the idle tricks of the old masters. I have really nothing to give you; all that I can do is to cure you of the diseases and deliver you from bondage.” (Suzuki, 1949, p. 347)

(Watson) “O you followers of the Way, show yourselves here independent of all objects; I want to weigh the matter with you. For five or ten years I have waited in vain for such, and there are no such yet. They are all ghostly things, haunting the woods or bamboo-groves, wild fox spirits, frantically biting into every piece of shit they happen on. Blind fools, shamelessly accepting alms from all the ten directions, declaring, ‘I’ve left home!’ Thus is their understanding.”

“I tell you, there’s no Buddha, no Dharma, no practice, no enlightenment; yet you go off like this on side roads, trying to find something. Blind fools! Will you put another head on top of the one you have? What do you lack in yourselves?”

“Followers of the Way, what you are making use of at this very moment is none other than what makes a patriarch or a buddha. But you don’t believe it and go searching for something outside of yourself. Make no mistake: there’s no Dharma outside of you, and even what is on the inside can’t be grasped. You hang onto every word that comes out of my mouth, but it would be better if you stopped everything and did nothing. Things already underway, don’t continue with them. Things not yet underway, don’t begin them. That’s better for you than ten years traveling around on pilgrimages.”

“The way I see it, there’s no call for anything special. Just be ordinary, put on your robes, eat your rice, pass the time doing nothing. You who come from here and there, you all have a mind to do something. You search for Buddha, search for the Dharma, search for emancipation, search for a way to get out of the threefold world. Fools, trying to get out of the threefold world! Where will you go?”

“Buddha, patriarchs—these are just words of reverence and entanglement. Do you want to know what the threefold world is? It is nothing other than the mind-ground that you who are now listening to the Dharma are standing on. When you have a moment of greed in your mind, that is the world of desire.24 When you have a moment of anger in your mind, that is the world of form. When you have a moment of ignorance in your mind, that is the world of formlessness. These are the pieces of furniture in your own house.”

(composite) “The threefold world did not name itself. Followers of the Way, it is the one clearly manifested and lively in front of my eyes who shines his light on the ten thousand things and sizes up the threefold world; it is he who assigns names to them.”

“Venerable ones, this body made up of the four major elements has no permanence. Things like spleen and stomach, liver and gall, hair, nails and teeth, are simply evidence that all phenomenal things are empty of fixed characteristics. When your mind has learned to cease its momentary seeking, this is called the state of the bodhi tree. But while your mind is incapable of ceasing, this is called the tree of ignorance. Ignorance has no fixed abode, ignorance has no beginning or end. As long as your mind is unable to cease its moment-by-moment activity, then you are up in the tree of ignorance. You enter among the six realms of existence and of the four types of birth,25 clothed in fur and with horns on your head. But if you can learn to cease, then you’ll be in the world of the clean pure body. If not one thought arises, you’ll be up in the bodhi tree, using your transcendental powers to take different forms in the threefold world, assuming any bodily shape you please, feasting on Dharma bliss and meditation delight,26 illuminating things for yourself with the light from your own body. Think of clothes and you’ll be swathed in a thousand layers of fine silk, think of food and you’ll be provided with a hundred delicacies. And you will suffer no sudden illnesses. Bodhi has no fixed abode: that’s why there’s nothing to take hold of.”

“Followers of the Way, the really superior man—what doubts does he have? Carrying out activities before my eyes—who is he anyway? Get hold of this thing and use it, but don’t attach a label to it. It is called the hidden meaning. When you can see it this way, you won’t be averse to anything. An old master said:

The hsin turns with the ten thousand things
Its turning is truly mysterious
Following the flow, perceiving its nature
There is neither joy nor sorrow 28

“Followers of the Way, in the view of the Ch’an school the world of death and birth has its proper procedures. Students: pay close attention. When host and guest meet, there is an exchange of remarks. Sometimes a robe is shown accordingly; sometimes the entire body is revealed. Sometimes one tries to gain the upper hand by feigning anger; sometimes half of the body is revealed. Sometimes the lion is mounted, sometimes the elephant.”30

“If the student truly knows what he is doing, he will give a shout and then put out a tray of sticky lacquer.31 The teacher, failing to recognize the trap steps into it and begins expounding his wisdom. The student gives a shout, but the teacher refuses to abandon his approach. In this case the sickness is incurable. This is called ‘guest meets host.’ ”32

“Or perhaps the teacher will not come out with any robe of his own, but will wait for the student to show his and then snatch it away. The student, seeing his robe snatched away, won’t let go but holds on for dear life. This is called ‘host meets guest.’ ”

“Perhaps there is a student who comes before the teacher wearing a robe of purity. The teacher discerns this is only a robe and grabs it and throws it down a hole. The student says, ‘A truly great teacher!’ Instantly the teacher says, ‘Hopeless—can’t tell good from bad!’ The student gives a low bow. This is called ‘host meets host.’ ”

“Or there may be a student who comes before the teacher bound with a shackle (cangue) and chains. The teacher proceeds to load him with another shackle and chains. The student is delighted, unaware of what has happened. Neither one is capable of discernment. This is called ‘guest meets guest.’ ”34

“Fellow believers, these examples I have cited are all meant to enable you to spy the devil, sort out what’s improper, and learn to tell crooked from straight.”

(Suzuki) “O Followers of the Way, difficult indeed it is to be really true to oneself! The Buddha-dharma is deep, obscure, and unfathomable, but when it is understood, how easy it is! I spend all day telling people what the Dharma is, but learners seem not at all concerned to pay any attention to my talk. How many thousand times they tread it under their feet, yet it is utterly obscure to them.”

(Suzuki) “It has no form whatever, and yet how clearly it is manifesting itself in its solitariness! As they are deficient, however, in faith, they strive to understand it by means of names and words. Half a century of their life is simply wasted by carrying a lifeless corpse from door to door. They run wildly up and down through the whole country carrying their sack of shit (body). Yamaraja, Lord of the Underworld, will surely some day exact a price for all the sandals they have worn out.”

(Suzuki) “O Venerable Sirs, when I tell you that there is no Dharma as long as you seek it outwardly, learners fail to understand me. They would now turn inwardly and search for its meaning. They sit cross-legged against the wall with the tongue glued to the palate and in a state of immobility. They think this is the Buddhist tradition practiced by the patriarchs. A great error is here committed. If you think that a state of unmoving purity is what is required, this is to acknowledge your state of ignorance. Says an ancient master, ‘The darkest abyss of tranquillity—this is indeed what should make one shudder.’ This is only what has been said before. On the other hand, if you take movement for the right thing, all the plant world knows what movement is, but this could not be called the Tao. Movement is the nature of the wind, while immobility is the nature of the Earth. Neither has a self-nature.”

(Suzuki) “If you look toward motion and try to grasp the truth there, it will stand in nonmotion, and if you look toward nonmotion and try to grasp it there, it will stand in motion, as a fish living hidden in a lake is revealed through the movement of the water on the surface.”36

(Suzuki) “O Venerable Sirs, moving and not moving are two aspects of the Self when it is objectively viewed, while it is no other than the Tao-man himself who is not dependent on anything. It is he who freely makes use of the two, sometimes moving, sometimes not moving.” (Suzuki, 1960, pp. 39-40)

(Watson) “When students come from here and there, I classify them into three categories according to their basic ability.37 In such cases, if a student of inferior ability comes to me, I snatch away the scriptures (ching) but leave conceptions (Chinese fa; Sanskrit dharma). If a student of better than average ability comes to me, I snatch away both scriptures and conceptions. If a student of truly superior ability comes to me, I do not snatch away anything—neither scriptures, nor conceptions, nor person. If a student appears whose understanding surpasses all these categories, then I reveal my whole body and take no account of his basic ability.”

(composite) “Venerable ones, if a student has reached this stage, if he is so firm and strong that there are no outflowings, suddenly a spark flies from flint, a lightning flash.* If he blinks his eyes, all is lost. The moment the mind is applied, it disappears; the moment a thought arises it turns away. One who understands keeps it always before him.”

*The Great Way surpasses all that is,
free to go West or East.
Spark does not fly from flint so fast,
nor lightning flash so far.

(Suzuki) “Venerable ones, you carry your bowl and your sack of shit (body) and rush about looking for the Buddha and the Dharma. Do you know him who thus runs about seeking? He is lively as a fish in the water, has neither root nor trunk. Try to catch him, he refuses to be held on to; try to push him away, you cannot shake him off. The harder you strive after him the farther away he is. When you stop striving after him, he is right in front of you. His supersensuous voice fills your ear. Those without faith labor for a hundred years to no purpose.”

(Suzuki) “Followers of the Way, it is he who enters in an instant of thought into the realm of the Lotus-womb, into  the Land of Vairochana, into the Land of Emancipation, into the Land of Supernatural Powers, into the Land of Purity, into the Dharma-realm. It is he who enters into the worlds of defilement and purity, into the worlds of ordinary men and of the sages. It is he who enters into the realm of animals and of hungry ghosts. Wherever he may enter, we cannot discover any trace of his birth and death, however hard we try to locate him. What we have is no more than empty names. ‘Dreams, illusions, flowers in the air—why try to grasp them? Gain and loss, right and wrong—throw them away at once!’ ”

(Suzuki) “As to the way I, the mountain monk, handle myself, whether in affirmation or in negation, it is in conformity with the true. Playing with the supernatural I freely enter into all situations as if I were not engaged in anything. Any changes that occur in my environment do not affect me. Whoever comes to me seeking something, I come out to see him. He fails to recognize me. Then I put on various different robes, and the learners start to give their interpretations, unwittingly captivated by my words and phrases.” (1960, p. 41)

(Schloegl) “Blind monks without eyes, they take the robes I wear and distinguish the colors: blue, yellow, red, or white. When I take those off and put on the robe of purity, the students cast one glance and are beside themselves with joy. And when I take that one off they are disappointed and shocked, run about frantically and complain that I wear nothing at all! So I say to them: ‘Do you at all know me who puts on all these robes?’ And suddenly they turn their heads and recognize me.”

(Schloegl) “O Venerable Sirs, beware of taking robes for the real thing. The robe can’t move of itself—it is the man who puts on various robes: the robe of purity, the robe of the unborn, the robe of bodhi, the robe of nirvana, the robe of a patriarch, the robe of Buddha. O Venerable Sirs, what we have here are merely sounds, words, and they are no better than the robes we shift. (Suzuki, 1960, p. 42)] [Breath rises from the abdomen, it beats against the teeth and comes out as a statement of an idea. Do you not see that these are but illusory phantoms?”

(Watson) “Fellow believers, the karma of sounds and words finds outward expression, the objects of the mind are manifested within. Because of mental processes, thoughts are formed, but all of these are just robes. If you take the robe that a person is wearing to be the person’s true identity, then though endless kalpas may pass, you will become proficient in robes only and will remain forever circling round in the threefold world, transmigrating in the realm of birth and death. Better to do nothing. An old master states:

I meet him yet know him not
I converse with him yet I know not his name

“Fellow believers, you rush around frantically from one place to another—what are you looking for, tramping till your arches have fallen? There is no Buddha to be sought, no Way to be carried out, no Dharma to be gained. Seeking outside for some Buddha possessing form—this hardly becomes you! If you wish to know your original mind, don’t try to join with it, don’t try to depart from it.”47

“Followers of the Way, the true Buddha is without form, the true Way is without entity, the true Dharma is without distinctions. These three things mingle and blend, fusing together in one place. But because you fail to perceive this, you let yourselves be called creatures muddled by karma-created consciousness.”

Notes (Burton Watson)
1. All things in the phenomenal world arise from and are dependent on various causes and conditions and are in a constant state of flux. They hence lack any intrinsic, or inherent nature, or any nature that manifests itself in fixed characteristics.
2. Three approaches or paths to enlightenment, that of the shravaka, or disciple of the Buddha, that of the pratyekabuddha, or self-enlightened being, and that of the bodhisattva.
3. Being born of a woman is an example of the kind of conditioned and dependent state that Lin-chi is talking about here.
4. The death of Shakyamuni Buddha as described in the scriptures. Kushinagara was in northeastern India near the Nepal border.
5. The thirty-two features and eighty auspicious characteristics are various unusual physical marks possessed by a buddha. They derive from earlier Indian thought, where they were said to distinguish a wheel-turning king [Chakravarti Raja] or ideal ruler.
6. From the “Hymn on the Diamond Sutra” by Fu Ta-shih (497-569).
7. The power of being anywhere at will, the power of seeing anything anywhere, the power of hearing any sound anywhere, the power of knowing the thoughts of all other minds, the power of knowing past lives, and the power of eradicating illusions. Only a buddha possesses all six, but the first five are also possessed by other types of beings.
8. The asuras are angry demons who in lndian mythology continually fight with the god Indra.
9. Accounts of such legendary battles between Indra and the asuras are found in Avatamsaka Sutra 15 and other Buddhist works.
10. The five aggregates, which come together temporarily to form a human being, are matter, sense-perception, conception (cognition), volition, and consciousness.
11. The hells of fire, of blood, and of knives.
12. The sentence is based on a passage in Chapter 7 of the Ch’eng-wei-shih lun, a basic text of the Consciousness-Only School of Buddhism.
14. Hell, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals constitute the lowest of the six realms of existence. Ordinarily one is born in these three lower realms as a consequence of bad karma or evil acts done in previous existences, undergoing punishment there until one has worked off the effect of the bad karma.
15. This section is quoted from Pao-chih’s “Hymns of the Mahayana” already quoted in section 11.
16. This section, known as “Lin-chi’s Four Guests and Hosts,” (63) describes four types of interviews between a Ch’an master and a student, in which both parties seek to test and determine the other’s level of understanding. In the first two interviews, both the student and the teacher demonstrate the correct approach. In most places, the text uses the term shan-chih-shih, or good friend, to designate the teacher, but for the sake of greater clarity I have translated it here as ‘teacher’.
19. The section of the Tripitaka dealing with precepts and monastic discipline. The other two sections contain the sutras and treatises respectively.
24. The threefold world is made up of the world of desire, the world of form, and the world of formlessness and is equivalent to the six realms of existence in which unenlightened beings transmigrate. Beings in the world of desire are dominated by desires for sensual things. Beings in the world of form have material form but no desires. Beings in the world of formlessness are free from the restrictions of form but are still within the realm of the unenlightened and are subject to rebirth.
25. The six realms, as noted earlier, are those of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, human beings, and heavenly beings. The four types of birth are birth from the womb, birth from an egg, birth from dampness, and birth by a process of transformation. Insects were believed to be born from dampness and heavenly beings and hell-dwellers to be born through a process of transformation.
26. Dharma bliss and meditation delight are two of the five kinds of supermundane or nonmaterial foods by which enlightened beings are nourished.
28. From the hymn by the Twenty-second Indian Patriarch Manorhita, as recorded in Pao-lin chuan.
30. The Bodhisattva Manjushri, who symbolizes wisdom, or the realm of the Absolute, is commonly depicted riding on a lion; the Bodhisatrva Samantabhadra, symbolic of religious practice, or the realm of the relative, is shown riding on an elephant.
31. i.e., a trap that his opponent will get stuck in.
32. The student has seen through and bested the teacher. The example that follows represents the opposite situation.
33. That is, both student and teacher come out on top.
34. Both student and teacher have acted incorrectly.
36. The simile is taken from the Chinese translation of Vasubandhu: “By the transformations of external motions, one is shown the intentions in living beings’ hearts, As one is shown a fish living hidden in a lake, through the transformations of the waves.”
37. This section, like section 10, deals with four procedures that Lin-chi uses with different types of students. In that section he spoke in terms of ching (scriptures) and jen (person). Here he adds a third term, fa, which is Chinese for dharma. A dharma can be a physical thing or a thought-thing.
38. The sentence originates in the “Letter in Reply to Liu I-min” by Seng-chao (384-414).
45. This seems to be an old saying; it appears also in the Nan-ch’uan yu-yao, a work containing the sayings of Nan-ch’uan.
47. Quoted from a hymn by the Eighth Indian Patriarch Buddhanandi recorded in Pao-lin chuan 3. Since the original mind is identical with the Buddha-nature inherent in one, there is no need to make any special effort to join with it, nor of course to separate from it.

From Watson, Burton (1993). The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi. Berkeley, California: Shambhala Publications.

Also used:

2. Schloegl, Irmgard (1975). The Zen Teaching of Rinzai: Translated from the Chinese by Irmgard Schloegl. Berkeley, California: Shambhala Publications.

3. Erich Fromm, D. T. Suzuki, Richard de Martino (1960). Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, New York: Harper Colophon Books.

4. Suzuki, D. T. (1949). Essays in Zen Buddhism (First Series). New York: Grove Press.

*The early Ch’an patriarchs spoke of dark knowledge in the sense of hidden. Simon Magus, in a work called The Great Announcement, said, “the principle of all things is a certain indefinite power which is spoken of under the name of Fire, and also under that of Silence. Under the name of Fire it is described as having two natures, one secret and one manifest, the secret nature being hidden in the manifest, and the manifest produced by the secret; the one embraces the whole intelligible and the other the whole sensible universe.” [Mansel, Henry (1875). The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London: John Murray pub. (p. 85)]

Note by the editor:

Most of the text taken from Schloegl or Suzuki is identified as such; however some lines are composites of two or three translations.

This post came about as a result of an inquiry to find the best translation of the Lin-chi ch’an-shih yu-lu, or Recorded Sayings of Ch’an Master Lin-chi, often referred to simply as the Lin-chi lu. D. T. Suzuki was a great admirer of the master and he translated parts of the Lin-chi lu; as far as I know his translations are only available in Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (Fromm et al) and in his Essays on Zen Buddhism Third Series.

While looking for Suzuki’s translations on Terebess, a great source of translated Buddhist scriptures, I learned about three more: one by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, one by Burton Watson and the third by Irmgard Schloegl. Burton Watson wrote a fine introduction to his, in which he discussed the background of Lin-chi and the Lin-chi lu, and also talked about the small world of scholars who were translating Zen texts into English in the mid-twentieth century.

The Lin-chi lu had been roughly translated into English by Sokei-an Sasaki, the first master to open a Zen center in the U.S. After WWII, Sasaki married Ruth Fuller. Here is the description of a book written about the two, which is titled Zen Odyssey:

Ruth Fuller Sasaki and Sokei-an Shigetsu Sasaki: two pioneers of Zen in the West. Ruth was an American with a privileged life, even during the height of the Great Depression, before she went to Japan and met D. T. Suzuki. Sokei-an was one of the first Zen priests to come to America; he brought the gift of the Dharma to the United States but in 1942 was put in an internment camp. One made his way to the West and the other would find her way to the East, but together they created the First Zen Institute of America and helped birth a new generation of Zen practitioners: among them, Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, and Burton Watson. They were married less than a year before Sokei-an died, but Ruth would go on to helm trailblazing translations in his honor and to become the first foreigner to be the priest of a Rinzai Zen temple in Japan.

The following is Watson’s account of how he ended up translating the Lin-chi lu:

My first acquaintance with the Lin-chi lu came in the fifties, when I was a graduate student in Chinese studies at Kyoto University and was working part-time for Mrs. Ruth Fuller Sasaki, an American student of Zen who set up in her home in Kyoto a small research center known as the First Zen Institute of America in Japan. Mrs. Sasaki’s late husband, the Zen master Sasaki Sokei-an, had some years earlier made an English translation of the Lin-chi lu. In order to go over the translation, improve the English style, and ready it for publication, Mrs. Sasaki organized a small study group consisting of persons who were at that time connected with the institute. The group was headed by Professor Iriya Yoshitaka, a professor of Chinese at Kyoto University and an expert in Tang-period colloquial texts such as the Lin-chi lu, and Professor Yanagida Seizan of Hanazono College, a young scholar just then coming to prominence as an authority on Chinese Ch’an. The other members, in addition re Mrs. Sasaki herself, were Philip Yampolsky, the librarian of the institute and later professor of Japanese at Columbia University, the poet and Zen student Gary Snyder, and myself.

Irmgard Schloegl’s translation is based on the Chinese; however he based his translation on his eleven years of training in the Rinzai School of Zen. He also made use of materials developed by Ruth Fuller-Sasaki’s group, but his translation is much influenced by the commentaries of his own Japanese masters. (Apparently he also married while in Japan.)

But returning to the purpose of this post, when I looked over the translations by Watson and Schloegl, I found that there were some sections where Watson missed the meaning and Schloegl got it, and some where Schloegl missed the meaning and Watson got it. For example, in Watson’s translation there is the following exchange:

Someone asked, “How about the lay disciple Shih-shih who worked the pestle but forgot he was moving his feet — where has he gotten to?”2

The Master said, “Drowned in a deep spring.”

This is Watson’s explanation:

Shih-shih Shan-tao, an older contemporary of Lin-chi. A monk who had been forced to return to lay life during the Buddhist persecution under Emperor Wu-tsung, he remained as a lay disciple, and worked at the temple treading a pestle to pound grain. “Where has he gotten to?” means What mental state or degree of enlightenment has he reached?

This is nonsense: the allusion is obviously to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, who worked a rice mill for eight months before receiving the robe and Dharma of the patriarchate. Hui-neng was a “stream-enterer” when he arrived at Hung-jen’s monastery, so when he forgot his feet, it was because he was submerged in the stream.

Schloegl got the reference to Hui-neng, but he gave this inadequate translation of another exchange:

From the High Seat, the master said: “One is on a lonely mountain peak with no track to come down; one is in the middle of a busy crossroad and cannot go forward or back; of these two, who is further on, who lags behind? Do not take them to be Vimalakirti or the great Master Fu.”

Watson’s translation, on the other hand, makes perfect sense:

The Master ascended the hall and said, “One person is sitting on top of a lonely mountain peak, yet he has not removed himself from the world. One person is in the middle of the city streets, yet he has no likes or dislikes. Now which one is ahead? Which one is behind? Don’t think I’m talking about Vimalakirti, and don’t think I’m talking about Fu Ta-shih!”

The one in the city is like Lester Levenson, who became completely detached from the world while living in Manhattan; the point is simply that detachment is an interior state.

3 thoughts on “Lin-chi (Rinzai) (died 866)

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