Zen teachings of Master Lin-Chi
of you who wish to discipline themselves in the Buddha's Dharma must seek true
understanding. When this understanding is attained you will not be defiled by
birth and death. Whether walking or standing still, you will be your own master.
Even when you are not trying to achieve something extraordinary, it will come
to you all by itself.
O Followers of the Way, from olden times each of my
predecessors had his own way of training his disciples. As to my way of leading
people: all that they need is not to be deluded by others. (Be independent) and
go on your way whenever you desire: have no hesitancy.
Do you know where the
disease lies which keeps you learners from reaching (true understanding? It lies
where you have no faith in your Self. When faith in your Self is lacking you find
yourself hurried by others in every possible way. At every encounter you are no
longer your master: you are driven about by others this way or that.
is required is all at once to cease leaving your Self in search of something external.
When this is done you will find your Self no different from the Buddha or the
patriarch. Do you want to know who the Buddha or patriarch is? He is no other
than the one who is, at this moment, right in front of me, listening to my talk
on the Dharma. You have no faith in him and therefore you are in quest of someone
else somewhere outside. And what will you find? Nothing but words and names, however
excellent. You will never reach the moving spirit in the Buddha or patriarch.
continued by Burton Watson [from "The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi"])
no mistake, you followers of Ch'an. If you don't find it in this life, then for
a thousand kalpas you'll be born again and again in the three-fold world, you'll
be lured off by what you think are favorable environments and be born in the belly
of a donkey or a cow!
"Followers of the Way, as I look at it, we're no
different from Shakyamuni. In all our various activities each day, is there anything
we lack? The wonderful light of the six faculties has never for a moment ceased
to shine. If you could just look at it this way, then you'd be the kind of person
who has nothing to do for the rest of his life.
"Fellow believers, 'There
is no safety in the threefold world; it is like a burning house.' This is no place
for you to linger long! The deadly demon of impermanence will be on you in an
instant, regardless of whether you're rich or poor, old or young.
you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, then never look for
something outside yourselves. The clean pure light in a moment of your mind--that
is the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undifferentiated light in
a moment of your mind~that is the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The
undiscriminating light in a moment of your mind--that is the Transformtion-body
of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who
stands before me now listening to this lecture on the Dharma! And simply because
you do not rush around seeking anything outside yourselves, you can command these
"According to the expounders of the sutras and treatises,
the threefold body is to be taken as some kind of ultimate goal. But as I see
it, that's not so. This threefold body is nothing but mere names. Or they're three
types of dependencies. One man of early times said, 'The body depends on doctrine
for its definition, and the land is discussed in terms of the reality.' This'body'
of the Dharma-realm, or reality, and this'land' of the Dharma-realm we can see
clearly are no more than flickering lights.
"Followers of the Way, you
should realize that the person who manipulates these flickering lights is the
source of the buddhas, the home that all followers of the way should return to.
Your physical body made up of the four great elements doesn't know how to preach
the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. Your spleen and stomach, your liver and gall,
don't know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. The empty spaces
don't know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. What is it, then,
that knows how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma? It is you who are
right here before my eyes, this lone brightness without fixed shape or form--this
is what knows how to preach the Dharma and listen to the Dharma. If you can see
it this way, you'll be no different from the patriarchs and the buddhas.
never at any time let go of this even for a moment. Everything ~ that meets your
eyes is this. But'when feelings arise, wisdom is blocked; when thoughts waver,
reality departs,' therefore you keep being reborn again and again in the threefold
world and undergoing all kinds of misery. But as I see it, there are none of you
incapable of profound understanding, none of you are incapable of emancipation.
of the Way, this thing called mind has no fixed form; it penetrates all the ten
directions. In the eye we call it sight; in the ear we call it hearing; in the
nose it detects odors, in the mouth it speaks discourse; in the hand it grasps,
in the feet it runs along. Basically it is a single bright essence, but it divides
itself into these six functions. And because this single mind has no fixed form,
it is everywhere in a state of emancipation. Why do I tell you this? Because you
followers of the Way seem to be incapable of stopping this mind that goes rushing
around everywhere looking for something. So you get caught up in those idle devices
of the men of old.
Someone asked, "What is the Buddha devil?" The
Master said, "If you have doubts in your mind for an instant, that's the
Buddha devil. But if you can understand that the ten thousand phenomena were never
born, that the mind is like a conjurers trick, then not one speck of dust, not
one phenomenon will exist. Everywhere will be clean and pure, and this will be
Buddha. Buddha and devil just refer to two states, one stained, one pure. "As
I see it, there's no Buddha, no living beings, no long ago, no now. If you want
to get it, you've already got it--it's not something that requires time. There's
no religious practice, no enlightenment, no getting anything, no missing out on
anything. At no time is there any other Dharma than this. If anyone claims there
is a Dharma superior to this, I say it must be a dream, a phantom. All I have
to say to you is simply this. "Followers of the Way, this lone brightness
before my eyes now, this person plainly listening to me--this person is unimpeded
at any point but penetrates the ten directions, free to do as he pleases in the
threefold world. No matter what the environment he may encounter, with its peculiarities
and differences, he cannot be swayed or pulled awry. In the space of an instant
he makes his way into the Dharma-realm. If he meets a buddha he preaches to the
buddha, if he meets a patriarch, he preaches to the patriarch, if he meets an
arhat, he preaches to the arhat, if he meets a hungry ghost, he preaches to the
hungry ghost. He goes everywhere, wandering through many lands, teaching and converting
living beings, yet never becomes separated from his single thought. Every place
for him is clean and pure, his light pierces the ten directions, the ten thousand
phenomena are a single thusness.
Followers of the Way, the really first-rate
person knows right now that from the first theres never been anything that needed
doing. Its because you dont have enough faith that you rush around moment by moment
looking for something. You throw away your head and hunt for your head, and you
cant seem to stop yourselves. You are like the bodhisattva of perfect and immediate
enlightenment, who manifests his body in the dharma realm but who, in the midst
of the pure land, still hates the state of common mortal and prays to become a
sage. People like that have yet to forget about choices; their minds are still
occupied with thoughts about purity and impurity. But the Chan school doesnt see
things that way. What counts is this present moment; theres nothing that requires
a lot of time. Everything I say to you is for the moment only, medicine to cure
the disease. Ultimately it has no true reality. If you can see things in this
way you will be true people who have left the household, free to spend ten thousand
pieces of gold every day.
Followers of the Way, dont let just anyone put their
stamp of approval on your face; dont say, I understand Zen; I understand the Way,
spouting off like a waterfall. All that sort of thing is karma, leading to hell.
If you are a person who honestly wants to learn the Way, dont go looking for the
worlds mistakes, but set about as fast as you can looking for true and proper
understanding. If you can acquire true and proper understanding thats clear and
complete, then you can think about calling it quits.
"Followers of the
Way, you take the words that come out of the mouths of a bunch of old teachers
to be a description of the true Way. You think, 'This is a most wonderful teacher
and friend. I have only the mind of a common mortal, I would never dare to try
to fathom such venerableness.' Blind idiots! You go through life with this kind
of understanding, betraying your own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey
on an icy road, saying, 'I would never dare speak ill of such a good friend, I'd
be afraid of making mouth karma!'
"Followers of the Way, the really good
friend is someone who dares speak ill of the Buddha, speak ill of the patriarchs,
pass judgment on anyone in the world, throw away the Tripitaka, revile those little
children, and in the midst of opposition and assent search out the real person.
So for the past twelve years, though I've looked for this thing called karma,
I've never found so much as a particle of it the size of a mustard seed.
Ch'an masters who are as timid as a new bride are afraid they might be expelled
from the monastery or deprived of their meal of rice, worrying and fretting. But
from times past the real teachers, wherever they went, were never listened to
and were always driven out--that's how you know they were men of worth. If everybody
approves of you wherever you go, what use can you be? Hence the saying, let the
lion give one roar and the brains of the little foxes will split open.
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 be enlightened to, what Way there is to practice? In your present aetivities,
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 match one another and proper precaution is taken with regard
to the three types of karma of body, mouth, and mind, only then can one attain
Budhahood.' People who go on like that are as plentiful as springtime showers.
"A man of old said, 'If along the road you meet a man who is master of
the Way, whatever you do, don't talk to him about the Way.' Therefore it is said,
'If a person practices the way, the Way will never proceed. Instead, ten thousand
kinds of mistaken environments will vie in poking up their heads. But if the sword
of wisdom comes to cut them all down, then even before the bright signs manifest
themselves, the dark signs will have become bright. Therefore a man of old said,
'The everyday mind--that is the Way.' "Fellow believers, what are you looking
for? This man of the Way who depends on nothing, here before my eyes now listening
to the Dharma--his brightness 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. When your mind moment by moment
never differentiates, it may be called the living patriarch. If the mind differentiates,
its nature and manifestations become separated from one another. But so long as
it does not differentiate, its nature and manifestations do not become separated."
asked, "What do you mean by the true Buddha, the true Dharma, and the true
Way? Would you be good enough to explain to us?" The Master said, "Buddha--this
is the cleanness and purity of the mind. The Dharma--this is the shining brightness
of the mind. The Way--this is the pure light that is never obstructed anywhere.
The three are in fact one. All are empty names and have no true reality.
true and proper man of the Way from moment to moment never permits any interruption
in his mind. When the great teacher Bodhidharma came from the west, he was simply
looking for a man who would not be misled by others. Later the Second Patriarch
encountered Bodhidharma, and after hearing one word, he understood. Then for the
first time he realized that up to then he had been engaged in useless activity
"My understanding today is no different from that of the
patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the first phrase, you can be a teacher
of the patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the second phrase, you can be
a teacher of human and heavenly beings. If you get it with the third phrase, you
can't even save yourself!"
Someone asked, "What was Bodhidharma's
purpose in coming from the west?" The Master said, "If he had had a
purpose, he wouldn't have been able to save even himself!"The questioner
said, "If he had no purpose, then how did the Second Patriarch manage to
get the Dharma?" The Master said, "Getting means not getting."
"If it means not getting," said the questioner, "then what do you
mean by not getting?"
The Master said, "You can't seem to stop your
mind from racing around everywhere seeking something. That's why the patriarch
said, 'Hopeless fellows--using their heads to look for their heads!' You must
right now turn your light around and shine it on yourselves, not go seeking somewhere
else. Then you will understand that in body and mind you are no different from
the patriarchs and the buddhas, and that there is nothing to do. Do that and you
may speak of'getting the Dharma.'
"Fellow believers, at this time, having
found it impossible to refuse, I have been addressing you, putting forth a lot
of trashy talk. But make no mistake! In my view, there are in fact no great number
of principles to be grasped. If you want to use the thing, then use it. If you
don't want to use it, then let it be.
"Followers of the Way, don't take
the Buddha to be some sort of ultimate goal. In my view he's more like the hole
in a privy. Bodhisattvas and arhats are so many cangues and chains, things for
fettering people. Therefore, Manjushri grasped his sword, ready to kill Gautama,
and Angulimala, blade in hand, tried to do injury to Shakyamuni.
of the Way, there is no Buddha to be gained, and the Three Vehicles, the five
natures, the teaching of the perfect and immediate enlightenment are all simply
medicines to cure diseases of the moment. None have any true reality. Even if
they had, they would still all be mere shams, placards proclaiming superticial
matters, so many words lined up, pronouncements of such kind.
of the Way, there are certain baldheads who turn all their efforts inward, seeking
in this way to find some otherworldly truth. But they are completely mistaken!
Seek the Buddha and you'll lose the Buddha. Seek the Way and you'll lose the Way.
Seek the patriarchs and you'll lose the patriarchs.
don't mistake me! I don't care whether you understand the sutras and treatises.
I don't care whether you are rulers or great statesmen. I don't care whether you
can pour out torrents of eloquence. 1 don't care whether you display brilliant
intellects. All I ask is that you have true and proper understanding."
believers, do not use your minds in a mistaken manner, but be like the sea which
rejects the bodies of the dead. While you continue to carry such dead bodies and
go racing around the world with them, you only obstruct your own vision and create
obstacles in your mind. When no clouds block the sun, the beautiful light of heaven
shines everywhere. When no disease afflicts the eye, it does not see phantom flowers
in the empty air.
"Followers of the Way, if you wish to be always in accord
with the Dharma, never give way to doubt. 'Spread it out and it fills the whole
Dharma-realm, gather it up and it's tinier than a thread of hair.' Its lone brightness
gleaming forth, it has never lacked anything. 'The eye doesn't see it, the ear
doesn't hear it.' What shall we call this thing? A man of old said, 'Say something
about a thing and already you're off the mark.' You'll just have to see it for
yourselves. What other way is there? But there's no end to this talk. Each of
you, do your best! Thank you for your trouble."
The Master was entering
an army encampment to attend a dinner when he saw one of the officers at the gate.
He pointed to a bare wooden gatepost and said, "A common mortal or a sage?"
The officer had no reply. The Master struck the gatepost and said, "Even
if you had managed a reply, it would still just be a wooden post!" With that
he entered the camp.
Someone asked, "what is the true nature of mind?"
The Master replied, "officially even a needle cannot enter; unofficially
you can drive a horse and cart through."
(Translation continued by D.T.
An ancient doctor says that the body is dependent on its meaning, and
the ground is describable by its substance. Being so, we know that Dharma-body
and Dharma-ground are reflections of the (original) light. O Venerable Sirs, let
us take hold of this person who handles these reflections. For he is the source
of all the Buddhas and the house of truth-seekers everywhere. The body made up
of the four elements does not understand how to discourse or how to listen to
a discourse. Nor do the liver, the stomach, the kidneys, the bowels. Nor does
the vacuity of space. That which is most unmistakably perceivable right before
your eyes, though without form, yet absolutely identifiable-this is what understands
the discourse and listens to it.
When this is thoroughly seen into, there is
no difference between yourselves and the old masters. Only let not your insight
be interrupted through all the periods of time, and you will be at peace with
whatever situation you come into. When wrong imaginations are stirred, the insight
is no more immediate; when thoughts are changeable, the essence is no more the
same. For this reason, we transmigrate in the triple world and suffer varieties
of pain. As I view the matter in my way, deep indeed is (Reality), and there is
none who is not destined for emancipation.
O Followers of the Way, Mind has
no form and penetrates every corner of the universe. In the eye it sees, in the
ear it hears, in the nose it smells, in the mouth it talks, in the hand it seizes,
in the leg it runs. The source is just one illuminating essence, which divides
itself into six functioning units. Let all interfering thoughts depart from Mind,
and you experience emancipation wherever you go. What do you think is my idea
of talking to you like this? I simply wish to see you stop wandering after external
objects, for it is because of this hankering that the old masters play tricks
Followers of the Way, when you come to view things as I do, you
are able to sit over the heads of the Enjoyment- and Transformation-Buddhas; the
Bodhisattvas who have successfully mounted the scale of ten stages look like hirelings;
those who have attained the stage of full enlightenment resemble prisoners in
chains; the Arhats and Pratyeka-Buddhas are cesspools; Bodhi and Nirvana are a
stake to which donkeys are fastened. Why so? Because. O Followers of the Way,
you have not yet attained the view whereby all kalpas are reduced to Emptiness.
When this is not realized, there are all such hindrances. It is not so with the
true man who has insight into Reality. He gives himself up to all manner of situations
in which he finds himself in obedience to his past karma. He appears in whatever
garments re ready for him to put on. As it is desired of him either to move or
to sit quietly, he moves or sits. He has not a thought of running after Buddhahood.
He is free from such pinings. Why is it so with him? Says an ancient sage, "When
the Buddha is sought after, he is the cause of transmigration."
Sirs, time is not to be wasted. Do not commit yourselves to a grave mistake by
convulsively looking around your neighborhood and not within yourselves. You make
mistakes by truing to master Zen, to master the Way, to learn words and phrases,
to seek for Buddhas and Fathers and good friends. There is just one parenthood
for you, and outside of it what do you wish to acquire? Just look within yourselves.
The Buddha tells us the story of Yajnadatta. Thinking he had lost his head, he
wildly ran after it; but when he found that he had never lost it, he became a
peaceful man. O Followers of the Way, be just yourselves, stop your hysterical
antics. There are some old baldheaded fools who know not good from bad. They recognize
all kinds of things, they see spirits, they see ghosts, they look this way and
that way, they like fair weather, they like rainy weather. If they go on like
this, they are sure one day to appear before the King of Death, who will ask them
to pay up their debts by swallowing red-hot iron balls. Sons and daughters of
good families become possessed of this uncanny fox-spirit and go wildly astray
even against their original sanity. Poor blind followers! Some day they will have
to pay up their board.
is translated by Thomas Cleary
True Perception and Understanding:
who study Buddhism should seek real, true perception and understanding for now.
If you attain real, true perception and understanding, birth and death won't affect
you - you are free to go or stay. You needn't seek wonders, for wonders come of
What I point out to you is only that you shouldn't
allow yourselves to be confused by others. Act when you need to, without further
hesitation or doubt. People today can't do this - what is their affliction? Their
affliction is in their lack of self-confidence. If you do not spontaneously trust
yourself sufficiently, you will be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects
and being changed by those objects, unable to be independent.
is no stability in the world; it is like a house on fire. This is not a place
where you can stay for a long time. The murderous demon of impermanence is instantaneous,
and it does not choose between the upper and lower classes, or between the young
and old. If you want to be no different from the Buddhas and Zen masters, just
don't seek externally. The pure light in a moment of awareness in your mind is
the Buddha's essence within you. The nondiscriminating light in a moment of awareness
in your mind is the Buddha's wisom within you. The undifferentiated light in a
moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha's manifestation within you.
It is most urgent that you seek real, true perception and understanding,
so you can be free in the world and not confused by ordinary spiritualists. It
is best to have no obsessions. Just do not be contrived. Simply be normal. You
impulsively seek elsewhere, looking to others for your own hands and feet. This
is already mistaken.
The Mind Ground:
The mind ground can go into the ordinary,
into the holy, into the pure, into the defiled, into the real, into the conventional;
but it is not your "real" or "conventional," "ordinary"
or "holy." It can put labels on all the real and conventional, the ordinary
and the holy, but the real and conventional, the ordinary and the holy, cannot
put labels on someone in the mind ground. If you can get it, use it, without putting
any more labels on it.
When followers of Zen come
to see me, I have already understood them completely. How can I do this? Simply
because my perception is independent - externally I do not grasp the ordinary
or the holy, internally I do not dwell on the fundamental. I see all the way through
and do not doubt or err anymore.
Just be autonomous wherever
you are, and right there is realization. Situations that come up cannot change
you. Even if you have bad habits, you will spontaneously be liberated from them.
Zen students today are totally unaware of truth.
They are like foraging goats that pick up whatever they bump into They do not
distinguish between the servant and the master, or between guest and host. People
like this enter Zen with distorted minds, and are unable to enter effectively
into dynamic situations. They may be called true initiates, but actually they
are really mundane people. Those who really leave attachments must master real,
true perception to distinguish the enlightened from the obsessed, the genuine
from the artificial, the unregenerate from the sage. If you can make these discernments,
you can be said to have really left dependency. Professionally Buddhist clergy
who cannot tell obsession from enlightenment have just left one social group and
entered another social group. They cannot really be said to be independent. Now
there is an obsession with Buddhism that is mixed in with the real thing. Those
with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. If you love the sacred
and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.
and Objective Truth:
Because you grasp labels and slogans, you are hindered
by those labels and slogans, both those used in ordinary life and those considered
sacred. Thus they obstruct your perception of objective truth, and you cannot
The Free Self:
If you want to be free, get to know
your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but
is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot
be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it, when you
seek it you turn away from it all the more.
Just put thoughts
to rest and don't seek outwardly anymore. When things come up, then give them
your attention; just trust what is functional in you at present, and you have
nothing to be concerned about.
There are blind baldies who,
after they have eaten their fill, do zazen and practice meditation, arresting
thoughts leaking out to prevent them from arising, shunning clamor and seeking
quiet. This is a deviated form of Zen.
the words of these ordinary Zen teachers for the real Way, supposing that Zen
teachers are incomprehensible and as an ordinary person you dare not attempt to
assess those old timers. You are blind if you take this view all your life, contrary
to the evidence of your own eyes.
At Zen centers they say
there is a Way to be practiced and a religious truth to be realized. Tell me,
what religious truth is realized and what Way is practiced? In your present functioning,
what do you lack? What would you fix? Younger newcomers, not understanding this,
immediately believe these mesmerists and let them talk about things that tie people
The six supernormal faculties of the enlightened
are the ability to enter the realm of form without being confused by form, to
enter the realm of sound without being confused by sound, to enter the realm of
scent without being confused by scent, to enter the realm of flavor without being
confused by flavor, to enter the realm of feeling without being confused by feeling,
to enter the realm of phenomena without being confused by phenomena.
Perception and Understanding:
If you want to perceive and understand objectively,
just don't allow yourself to be confused by people. Detach from whatever you find
inside or outside yourself - detach from religion, tradition, and society, and
only then will you attain liberation. When you are not entangled in things, you
pass through freely to autonomy.
I have no doctrine to give
people - I just cure ailments and unlock fetters.
Adding Mud to Dirt:
are Zen students who are in chains when they go to a teacher, and the teacher
adds another chain. The students are delighted, unable to discern one thing from
another. This is called a guest looking at a guest.
When I say
there is nothing outside, students who do not understand me intepret this in terms
of inwardness, so they sit silent and still, taking this to be Zen Buddhism. This
is a big mistake. If you take a state of unmoving clarity to be Zen, you are recognizing
ignorance as a slave master.
Movement and Stillness:
If you try to grasp
Zen in movement, it goes into stillness. If you try to grasp Zen in stillness,
it goes into movement. It is like a fish hidden in a spring, drumming up waves
and dancing independently. Movement and stillness are two states. The Zen master,
who does not depend on anything, makes deliberate use of both movement and stillness.