Submitted By ashleytu1993
R/ST 341i: MW 3:30 pm
The Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Lin-chi
One of the greatest Zen Masters of all time, who spoke powerfully to awaken without compromise, was Ch’an Master Lin-chi. Among the most important texts of Zen literature, the Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi details the insights and exploits of the great ninth century Chinese Zen master Lin-chi, one of the most highly regarded of the T'ang period masters. This essay discusses about some main themes in the Record of Lin-chi.
“The Recorded Sayings of Chan Master” depicts the exchange between Lin-chi and the monk-questioner in much more vivid terms. Following the monk's question: "Who is the true man with no rank?” the passage continues Lin-chi provocations with "the Master got down from his chair, seized hold of the monk and said "Speak! Speak!" (Watson 1). The monk tried to say something. The Master let go of him, and said: "The true man with no rank-what a dried shit stick!" He then returned to his quarters." Lin-chi is really saying that the essential Buddha is the One who controls the physical body. This "true man without rank" has no form and is definitely not a fixed thing. The "true man" is intrinsically free from the basic qualities of material and mental phenomena. The One who sits upon this lump of red flesh is free of impermanence, suffering, and insubstantiality — what Buddhists call "the three marks" of conditioned phenomena. True nature is intrinsically free, now and forever ( Watson 1). This could be tied back to Buddhist concept of avoiding the antas, or extreme, and finding the middle ground, or Madhya in that the true man is neither on the road nor at home yet; he is both. A description of an arhat, or an enlightened body, a true man with no rank is just that, one who falls between the lines, never reaching or meeting the extremes and exemplifying the label of “without rank” in that he is in describable, without character, a pure essence likened to zero.
Then, in the evening lecture, the Master lectures that one takes away the person but doesn’t take away the environment at times. And at times one takes away the environment but not person, and can take away either the person or the environment. At other times one can takes away neither the person nor environment. He exhorted that people do not let their thoughts manipulated and fabricated by the perception of the material world translated by the environment, and the skandhas. Every translation, whether literature or sense object, is tweaked so that it is nearly impossible to get the true essence of the original. What all branches of Buddhism provide are ways to see past this translation difference and allow one to operate their senses in a way to respond to the essence, or Dharma’s pure land. Those who study the Dharma of Buddhas these days should approach it with true and proper understanding, so they wont be affected by considerations of birth or death, they’ll be free to go or stay at they please and don’t have to strive for benefits, benefits will come up themselves. The Master wants to impress on the Followers that they must not be led astray by others. He also said” If you don’t have faith in yourself, you will be forever in a hurry trying to keep up with everything around you, you’ll be twisted and turned by whatever environment you’re in and you can never move freely” (Watson 1, page 23).
Lin-chi’s tendency to use a method of teaching discipline is the hit and shout. Silence is one kind of real of presentation, when it is the silence of being fully present, but fully emptied of self, body and mind having dropped away into that bottomless silence. This is a silence that will be manifested itself after many years of practice. We shouldn’t confuse it with the silence of simply not knowing how to answer!
[WHAT!!!!] is another presentation - in the midst of a shout - or getting hit - we can't help but be fully present, there's no place for a thought or judgment to intrude. The shout is so simple yet so powerful. It is just a sound but the truest essence of noise, understood by any creature with audible sensation. The shout, if self-prescribed is actually a great physical feeling when applied at the right times. It can be likened to a type of release felt in many systems of the body, from mental to physical stress release and, if thought of positively, is a great tool given to Lin-chi students. So Lin-chi and a lot of old teachers liked that kind of presentation: the shout or the slap that obliterated any thought, any duality. “What is Buddha? Come closer and I'll tell you! WHACK! When Lin-chi first asked his teacher Huang-po that question, he got hit - only later did he realize he wasn't being punished - he had been given the answer” (Watson 1). Of course, such behavior can quickly become stereotyped and over the years became a caricature in many people's minds of "Zen" behavior.
According to the Master’s lecture: “ Followers of the Way, what is important is to approach things with a true and proper understanding. Walk wherever you please in the world but don’t let yourselves be muddled or misled by that bunch of goblin spirits. The man of value is the one who has nothing to do”, no idle, since daily activities never cease, but pursuing no purposive goal, reaching out for no distant ideal, accepting all experience as it comes to them and no longer being pushed around or led astray by their surrounding(Watson 1). The Dharma of the Buddhas calls for no special undertakings. Just act ordinary, without trying to do anything particular. If, wherever people are, they take the role of host, then whatever spot they stand in will be a true one. Then whatever circumstances surround, it can never pull them awry. People don’t have to strive for benefits, and benefits will come up themselves. They were going off on side roads hunting for something, trying to get your hand on some-thing. That’s mistake. People keep trying to look for the Buddha, but Buddha just a name.
When someone asked, “what is the Buddha devil?” The Master said that if people have doubts in their mind for an instant, that’s the Buddha evil. According to Lin-chi, even the enlightened ones, free of all karma, and on their way to a perfect non-existence are potential prey to the seed of doubt. In this case, Lin-chi called it Mara, or devil. It is a rare moment of encouragement from Lin-chi to trust in their own essence and strip away the façade, the materialism, and see the true nature of the universe. It can be understood that the ten thousand phenomena were never born, that the mind is like a conjurer’s trick, then none specks of dust, none phenomenon will exist. Everywhere will be clean and pure, and this will be Buddha. Buddha and devil just refer to two states, one stained and one pure.
In conclusion, with Watson's lucid introduction to the work, a glossary of terms, and notes to the text, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi is a generously constructed and accessible model of translation that will stand as the definitive primary material on Lin-chi for many years in the future.
Watons, Burton. The Zen teachings of Master Lin-chi, 1999.…...