Derived from the Ch’an master Lin Chi, the Japanese
Rinzai school is known for extensive use of koans.
The following passages are from The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi translated by Burton Watson:
The Master instructed the group, saying: “Those who study the Dharma of the buddhas these days should approach it with a true and proper understanding. If you approach it with a true and proper understanding, you won’t be affected by considerations of birth and death, you’ll be free to go or stay as you please. You don’t have to strive for benefits, benefits will come of themselves.
“Followers of the Way, the outstanding teachers from times past have all had ways of drawing people out. What I want myself to impress on you is that you mustn’t be led astray by others. If you want to use this thing, then use it and have no doubts or hesitations!
“When students today fail to make progress, where’s the fault? The fault lies in the fact that they don’t have faith in themselves! If you don’t have faith in yourself, then you’ll 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. But if you can just stop this mind that goes rushing around moment by moment looking for something, then you’ll be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas. Do you want to get to know the patriarchs and buddhas? They’re none other than you, the people standing in front of me listening to this lecture on the Dharma! “Students don’t have enough faith in themselves, and so they rush around looking for something outside themselves. But even if they get something, all it will be is words and phrases, pretty appearances. They’ll never get at the living thought of the patriarchs!
“Make 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.
“If 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 Transformation-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 fine faculties.
“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.
“But 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.
“Followers 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, 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.
“Those 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.
“Followers 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.”
Someone 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.
“The 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 and striving.
“My understanding today is no different from that of the patriachs 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.
“Followers 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 superficial matters, so many words lined up, pronouncements of such kind.
“Followers 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.
“Fellow believers, 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.”
“Fellow 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.