On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

October 16, 2003

Sayings of Lin-chi – Part I

Lin-chi (d. 867)

People who study Buddhism in the present day should for now seek truly accurate vision and understanding. Then life and death will not influence you, and you will be free to leave or to stay. You do not need to seek the extraordinary, for the extraordinary will come of itself.

The worthies of old all had means of emancipating people. What I teach people just requires you not to take on the confusions of others. If you need to act, then act, without any further hesitation or doubt.

When students today do not realize this, where is the problem? The problem is in not spontaneously trusting. If you do not trust yourself completely, you will then hurriedly go along with whatever happens in all situations; as you are caused to undergo changes by those myriad situations, you cannot be independent.

If you were able to put a stop to the mentality in which every thought is running after something, then you would be no different from a Zen master or a Buddha. Do you want to know what a Zen master or a Buddha is? Simply that which is immediately present, listening to the Teaching. It is just because students do not trust completely that they seek outwardly. Even if they get something by seeking, it is all literary excellence; they never attain the living meaning of the masters.

Make no mistake about it; if you do not find it now, you will repeat the same routines for myriad eons, a thousand times over again, following and picking up on objects that attract you.

We are no different from Shakyamuni Buddha. Today, in your various activities, what do you lack? The spiritual light coursing through your six senses has never been interrupted. If you can see in this way, you will simply be free of burdens all your life.

The world is unstable, like a house on fire. This is not a place where you stay long. The haunt of impermanence comes upon you in a flash, no matter whether you are rich or poor, old or young. If you want to be no different from a Zen master or a Buddha, just do not seek outwardly.

Do not allow any more interruptions at any time, and everything that you see is It. Just because feelings arise, knowledge is blocked. That is why you keep repeating the same routines in the world and suffer a variety of miseries.

The reality of mind has no form but pervades the ten directions. In the eyes it is called seeing, in the ears it is called hearing, in the nose it smells, in the mouth it speaks, in the hand it grips, in the feet it steps. Basically it is a single spiritual light; seeing thus, you are liberated wherever you are.

What do I mean when I say this? It is just because you are unable to stop the mentality of seeking that you get hooked on useless actions and states of other people who lived a long time ago. If you take my view, you will sit at the head of the embodiments of Buddha.

You have these obstacles only because you have not realized the emptiness of the eons. Genuine Wayfarers are never like this; they just dissolve their history according to conditions, dressing according to circumstances, acting when they need to act, and sitting when they need to sit, without any idea of seeking the fruits of buddhahood.

Time is to be valued! Don't stop with learning Zen or Tao on the surface as something outside yourself, learning to recognize terms and slogan, seeking “buddhahood,” seeking “mastery,” seeking “teachers,” considering them conceptually. Make no mistake about it; turn your attention back upon yourself and observe.

Lin-chi (d. 867)

Excerpted from The Five Houses of Zen Translated by Thomas Cleary (1997)

It is our tendency as students to make exotic teachings more appealing; more difficult to understand teachers, profound; and our own confusion a sign that we are still far from it. And yet as Lin-chi states above, “in your various activities, what do you lack?” Practice, meditation allows us to enter fully into the Present. The ability to let the thoughts and feelings arise and then continue on gives us the experience of spaciousness, a time of not being pushed and pulled by ourselves or others, an opening where something new can arise.

The kensei comes to see that his light and the vision of the sages is essentially one and the same. The way of action emerging from stillness is the non-action of the sages.

Light of the Kense

Yours along the Way,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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