Japanese painting of Linji Yixuan(Jap. Rinzai Gigen).
Línjì Yìxuán (臨済義玄; Wade-Giles: Lin-chi I-hsüan; Japanese: Rinzai Gigen) (?–866) was the founder of the Linji school of Chán Buddhism during Tang Dynasty China. Linji was trained by the Chan master Huangbo Xiyun (Huángbò Xīyùn; 黃蘗希運; Huang-Po Hsi-Yun), but enlightened by the reclusive monk Dàyú (大愚). He suddenly realized the emptiness of thoughts, words, and philosophical explanations, and that truth was to be found within the self, in everyday existence. Linji’s teachings encouraged people to have faith that their natural spontaneous mind is the true Buddha-Mind, and to enter simply and wholeheartedly into every activity. When Linji’s students told him they were searching for deliverance from this world, he would ask them, “If you are delivered from this world, where else is there to go?”
In 851, Linji moved to the Linji temple in Hebei, where he took his name, which also became the name for the lineage of his form of Zen Buddhism. The Linji school of Buddhism was brought to Japan by Myoan Eisai in 1191.
Life and His Realization
Linji was born into a family named Xing in Caozhou (modern Heze in Shandong). At a young age he left home to travel and study Buddhism in many places. According to the Record of Linji, the story of his enlightenment is as follows:
As a young monk, Linji was trained by the Chan master Huangbo Xiyun (Huángbò Xīyùn; 黃蘗希運; Huang-Po Hsi-Yun). During his first three years at the temple, Linji was unnoticed by the master as he worked in the fields and the ktichen, meditated, and served the older monks. The head monk, Mu Chou, was impressed by Linji’s kindness and sincerity and wanted to bring him to the attention of the Master. Linji was so humble and sincere that he never asked questions or did anything to attract notice. Mu Chou advised Linji to ask the Master a question, "What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?" Linji asked Huangbo Xiyun this question three times, and each time the Master hit him with a six-foot pole. Linji could not understand the meaning of these blows, and decided to leave the temple and wander about on foot (hsing-chiao), learning from ordinary life what he had failed to learn in the temple.
When he went to say goodbye to the Master, Huangbo advised him not to travel far, but to visit the reclusive monk Dàyú (大愚), who would teach him what he needed to know. Linji went to Dàyú’s monastery and told him what had taken place. Dàyú then said, "Why, Huang Po was to you as your own grandmother. Why have you come here suddenly, asking me about your faults?" Suddenly Linji became Enlightened. Up to that moment, Linji had perceived Buddhism and its teachings as merely ideas, separate from himself. He had always searched for the truth outside of himself. Now, in a flash, he experienced existence as it is in itself, and he realized the emptiness of thoughts, words, and philosophical explanations. He now understood that Huangbo’s stick pointed to the truth of his own being, and that his own question about Buddhism came from illusion. He recognized the true generosity and liberating kindness of Master Huang Po.
Linji returned to Master Huangbo's monastery and told him what had happened. Huangbo, delighted, said, "Just wait till Ta Yu comes here. I'll give that blabbermouth a real beating." Linji cried out, "Why wait? You have it (Reality) all now!" and hit Master Huangbo. Huangbo, was secretly amused by this, but taking the attitude of a master, he shouted, "A madman! He's come back to pull the tiger's whiskers." Linji then responded with a thundering great shout of "Ho!" Linji's "Ho" became famous and is still used by Rinzai masters. "Ho" became "Kwatz" in the Japanese language; this word is shouted to empty the student's mind and free him from dualistic, ego-centered perception.
In 851, Linji moved to the Linji temple in Hebei, where he took his name, which also became the name for the lineage of his form of Zen Buddhism. The Linji school ultimately became the most successful and widespread of the Five Houses of Chan.
The Linji school of Buddhism was brought to Japan by Myoan Eisai in 1191. The Japanese Rinzai school is a branch of the school Linji founded, as are the smaller Japanese Obaku school and the now-defunct Japanese Fuke school.
Linji’s own teaching was greatly inspired by his master's, and was characterized by abrupt, harsh encounters with students, aiming to bring about the moment of enlightenment. His methods included shouting and striking, most often using the fly-whisk that was considered a symbol of a Zen master's authority:
The Master [Linji] saw a monk coming and held his fly whisk straight up. The monk made a low bow, whereupon the Master struck him a blow. The Master saw another monk coming and again held his fly whisk straight up. The monk paid no attention, whereupon the Master struck him a blow as well (Watson 1999, 84).
Linji also taught with lectures and sermons, which were collected by his students into the Línjì-lù (臨済錄; Japanese: Rinzai-roku), the Record of Linji. His lectures were a mixture of the conventional and the iconoclastic. He is particularly famous for encouraging his students to free themselves from the influence of masters and doctrinal concepts, in order to be able to better discover their own Buddha-nature. Famed examples of Linji's iconoclasm include the following:
Followers of the Way [of Zen], if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you're facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, will not be entangled with things, will pass freely anywhere you wish to go (Watson 1999, 52).
Those who have fulfilled the ten stages of bodhisattva practice are no better than hired field hands; those who have attained the enlightenment of the fifty-first and fifty-second stages are prisoners shackled and bound; arhats and pratyekabuddhas are so much filth in the latrine; bodhi and nirvana are hitching posts for donkeys (Watson 1999, 26).
Linji's teachings encouraged people to have faith that their natural spontaneous mind is the true Buddha-Mind, a pure state of being in which one does not obstruct, block, withhold, or repress anything. Freedom from attachment does not mean to be without feeling, but instead means entering wholeheartedly into all activities and being completely at one with any situation. This is the enlightened way to live an ordinary life. When Linji's students told him they were searching for deliverance from this world, he would ask them, “If you are delivered from this world, where else is there to go?” He advised his student to live simply and wholeheartedly.
When it's time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Just be your ordinary self in ordinary life, unconcerned in seeking for Buddhahood. When you're tired, lie down. The fool will laugh at you but the wise man will understand.
The True Man
Linji made a distinction between the physical body and the “true man” who made use of it.
"The Master took the high seat in the Hall. He said: "on your lump of red flesh is a true man without rank who is always going in and out of the face of every one of you. Those who have not yet proved him, look, look!"
"The Master said: Look at the wooden puppets performing on the stage! Their jumps and jerks all depend on the man behind." (Discourse IX)
"This physical body of yours, composed of the four great elements, can neither expound the Dharma [Buddhist teaching] nor listen to it... Then just what can expound the Dharma and listen to it? This very you standing distinctly before me without any form, shining alone—this can expound the Dharma and listen to it! Understand it this way, and you are not different from the Patriarch Buddha." (Discourse X)
Buddha, Dharma, and all the profound Buddhist scriptures themselves were not particularly important at all; of real importance was the One who considered them. Lin-chi taught that realization is attained by clear perception and union with the "true man," the unchanging One, the Light pervading all ten directions. Pure Mind is the "true man," the Buddha.
Followers of the Way, mind is without form and pervades the ten directions… Fundamentally, it is one pure radiance; divided it becomes the six harmoniously united spheres of sense [the five physical senses, plus intellect]. Since the mind is non-existent, wherever you are, you are emancipated. (Discourse X)
Followers of the Way, he who at this moment, before my eyes is shining alone and clearly listening to my discourse—this man tarries nowhere; he traverses the ten directions and is freely himself in the three realms... In traveling everywhere through every land, in bringing enlightenment to sentient beings, he is never separate from his present mind. Everywhere is pure, light illumines the ten directions, and the ten thousand dharmas [things] are one as is. (Discourse XIII)