On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

January 01, 2013

Discourse 18 Lin-chi

Lin-chi d. 866

Nowadays, one who studies Buddhadharma must seek true insight. Gaining true insight, you are not affected by birth-and-death, but freely can go or stay. You need not seek that which is excellent—that which is excellent will come of itself.

Followers of the Way, the eminent predecessors we have had from of old all had their own ways of saving people. As for me, what I want to point out to you is that you must not accept the deluding views of others. If you want to act, then act. Don’t hesitate.

Students of today can’t get anywhere: what ails you? Lack of faith in yourself is what ails you. If you lack faith in yourself, you’ll keep on tumbling along, bewilderedly following after all kinds of circumstances, be taken by these myriad circumstances through transformation after transformation, and never be yourself.

Bring to rest the thoughts of the ceaselessly seeking mind, and you’ll not differ from the Patriarch-Buddha. Do you want to know the Buddha? He is none other than you who stand before me listening to my discourse. Since you students lack faith in yourselves, you run around seeking something outside. Even if through seeking you find something, that something will be nothing more than elaborate descriptions in written words; in the end you will fail to gain the mind of the Living Patriarch.

Make no mistake, worthy Ch’an practitioners! If you don’t meet the Buddha here and now, you’ll go on transmigrating through the three realms for myriads of kalpas and thousands of lives, and held in the clutch of agreeable circumstances, be born in the womb of as ass or cow.

Followers of the Way, as I see it we are no different from Shakya. What do we lack for our manifold activities today? The six rays’ divine light never ceases to shine. See it this way, and you’ll be a person who has nothing to do his whole life long. 

Virtuous monks, the three realms lack tranquility, just like a burning house. It is not a place where you remain for long. The death-dealing demon impermanence comes in an instant, without discriminating between noble and base, old and young.

If you wish to differ in no way from the Buddha, just don’t seek outside. The pure light in your single thought—this is the Dharmakaya Buddha within your own house. The non-discriminating light in your single thought—this is the Sambhogakaya Buddha within your own house. The non-differentiating light in your single thought—this is the Nirmanakaya Buddha within your own house. This Threefold Body is you, listening to my discourse right now before my very eyes. Only because there is no running around seeking outside are there such meritorious activities.

According to the masters of the sutras and sastras, the Threefold Body is regarded as the ultimate norm. But in my view this is not so. This Threefold Body is merely a name; moreover, it is a threefold dependency. A man of old said, “The Buddha-bodies are posited depending on meaning; the Buddha-lands are postulated in keeping with this substance.” Therefore we clearly know that Dharma-natured bodies and Dharma-natured lands are no more than reflections.

Virtuous monks, you must recognize the one who manipulates these reflections. He is the primal source of all the buddhas, and every place is the home to which the follower of the Way returns.

This physical body of yours composed of the four great elements can neither expound the Dharma nor listen to it; your spleen and stomach, liver and gall bladder can neither expound the Dharma nor listen to it; the empty sky can neither expound the Dharma 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 no different from the Buddha.

Just never ever be interrupted, and all that contacts your eyes will be right. Realize that when feeling arises, wisdom is barred, and when thinking changes, the substance varies, therefore people transmigrate through the three realms and undergo all kinds of suffering. As I see it, there are none who are not of the utmost profundity, none who aren’t emancipated.  

Followers of the Way, mind is without form and pervades the ten directions:

In the eye it is called seeing,
In the ear it is called hearing.
In the nose it smells odors,
In the mouth it holds converse.
In the hands it grasps and seizes,
In the feet it runs and carries.

Fundamentally it is one pure radiance; divided it becomes the six harmoniously united spheres of sense. Since the mind is non-existent, wherever you are, you are emancipated.

What is the purpose in speaking this way? I do so only because you followers of the Way cannot stop your mind from running around everywhere seeking, and because you go clambering after the worthless contrivances of the people of old.

The true Person of the Way is never like that: merely according with circumstance as they are one makes use of past karma; accepting things as they come, they put on their clothes; when they want to walk, they walk; whey they want to sit, they sit; there is never a single thought of seeking Buddhahood. Why is this so? A man of old said,

“If you create karma trying to seek Buddha, Buddha will become a great precursor of birth-and-death.”

Virtuous monks, time is precious. Yet you try by hurrying hither and thither to learn meditation, to study the Way, to accept names, to accept phrases, to seek Buddha, to seek a Patriarch, to seek a good teacher, and try to speculate.

Make no mistake, followers of the Way! After all, you do have a father and a mother. What more would you seek? Try turning your own light inward upon yourselves! A man of old said:

“Yajnadatta thought he had lost his head, but when his seeking mind came to rest, he was at ease.”

Virtuous monks, just be ordinary. Don’t put on airs. There are a bunch of shavepates who can’t tell good from bad: they see spirits, they see demons; they point to the east, they point to the west; they like fair weather; they like rain. The day will come when such men as these, every one of them, will have to repay their debts in front of old Yama by swallowing red hot iron balls.

You sons and daughters of good families, bewitched by this pack of wild foxes, lose your senses. Blind idiots!

Lin-chi d. 866

Excerpted from The Recorded Sayings of Chan master Lin-chi Hui-chao of Chen Prefecture trans by Ruth Fuller Sasaki 1975

A strong exhortation from Lin-chi makes us sit up and take note…what ails us today? Isn’t it the same thing he was talking to his listeners about back in the 800’s?

He is not talking about a philosophy of license, anything goes in the name of the ego; when he refers to a lack of faith in ourselves, it would be easy to misunderstand. Those of us who have grown up around the “century of the self” as the West has fallen prey to thanks to marketing, have to pause and wonder, really, what is he talking about?

Our often glib understanding undercuts deep penetration. Our drive for instant communication and hand held devices weakens our resolve to stay with something long enough to plumb the depths.

Instead of tacitly accepting our first blink of recognition as something more, we need more space to see that our first response may be our conditioning, our culture, our own agenda, our over inflated idea of our “understanding,” our peers’ views we are seeing through. Instead of questioning our first response, we tend to be totally unaware of how superficial it can be at times.

The seeing that stops you in your tracks, that shuts off the internal noise, that is empty of response, sometimes that space is what allows a new insight or beginning.

“Bring to rest the thoughts of the ceaselessly seeking mind, and you’ll not differ from the Patriarch-Buddha. Do you want to know the Buddha? He is none other than you who stand before me listening to my discourse.”

How simple and yet how elusive ….

Offering nothing extra,


Recent Journals

Journal Archives