Linji: The Origins of Rinzai

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Encounters with Huangbo

After his enlightenment, Linji had many exchanges with Huangbo in which he came off ahead as often as not. It is also interesting that many of the interactions involved the manual labor of the monastery, an indication of the significance of work in Chan life. One famous joust between Linji and Huangbo went as follows:

One day Master Linji went with Huangbo to do some work in which all the monks participated. Linji followed his master who, turning his head, noticed that Linji was carrying nothing in his hand.

"Where is your hoe?"

Linji: "Somebody took it away."

Huangbo: "Come here: let us discuss something," As Linji drew nearer, he thrust his hoe into the ground: "There is no one in the world who can pick up my hoe."

Linji, seizing the tool and lifting it up: "How then could it be in my hands?"

"Today we have another hand with us; it is not necessary for me to join in."

And Huangbo returned to the temple.

Another exchange between Huangbo and Linji may may‚Ä® more dialectical significance:

One day Huangbo ordered all the monks of the temple to work in the tea garden. He himself was the last to arrive.

Linji greeted him, but stood therewith his hands resting on the hoe.

Huangbo: "Are you tired?"

Linji: "I just started working; how can you say that I am tired?"

Huangbo immediately lifted his stick and struck Linji, who then seized the stick, and with a push, made his master fall to the ground.

The supervisor, summoned by Huangbo to help him up: "Master; how can you let such a madman insult you like that?"

Huangbo picked up the stick and struck the supervisor.

Linji, digging the ground by himself: "Let all other places use cremation; here I will bury you alive."

Of Linji's final quip John Wu observed:

It was tantamount to declaring that his old conventional self was now dead and buried, with only the True Self living in him; that this death may and should take place long before one's physical decease; that it is when this death has taken place that one becomes one's True Self which, being unborn, cannot die.