Linji: The Origins of Rinzai

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On meeting the Buddha, slay the Buddha

Like a true reformer, Linji railed most against his own recent practices. He proceeded to denounce all the trappings of Buddhism, even the Chan Ancestors themselves, as he shattered the chains of his former beliefs:

Followers of the Way, if you want insight into Dharma as is, just don't be taken in by the deluded views of others. Whatever you encounter, either within or without, slay it at once: on meeting a buddha slay the buddha, on meeting a patriarch slay the patriarch, on meeting an arhat slay the arhat, on meeting your parents slay your parents, on meeting your kinsman slay your kinsman, and you attain emancipation. By not cleaving to things, you freely pass through.

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!
If you meet the patriarchs or the arhats on your way, kill them too...
Bodhidharma was an old bearded barbarian...
Nirvana and Bodhi are dead stumps to tie your donkey to.
The sacred teachings are only lists of ghosts, sheets of paper fit for wiping the pus from your boils.

Followers of the Way, the Buddha-Dharma needs no skilled application. Just be your ordinary selves with nothing further to seek, relieving nature, wearing robes and eating. . . . If you master the situation you are in, wherever you stand, all becomes true; you can no longer be driven around by circumstances.

Friends I tell you this: there is no Buddha, no spiritual path to follow, no training and no realization. What are you feverishly running after? Putting a head on top of your own head, you blind idiots! Your head is right where it should be. The trouble lies in your not believing in yourselves enough. Because you don't believe in yourselves you are knocked here and there by all the conditions in which you find yourselves. Being enslaved and turned around by objective situations, you have no freedom whatever, you are not masters of yourselves. Stop turning to the outside and don't be attached to my words either. Just cease clinging to the past and hankering after the future. Elements

Soon after becoming the priest of a small temple on the banks of a river—Linji or "Overlooking the Ford"—Linji was forced by local warfare to flee. While wandering, before settling at his final temple, we see Linji as a man of Chan:

One day the Master entered an army camp to attend a feast. At the gate he saw a staff officer.

Linji, pointing to an open-air pillar: "Is this secular or sacred?"

The officer had no reply.

Linji, striking the pillar: "Even if you could speak, this is still only a wooden post." Then he went in.

Fortunately, Chan was not a sect that required a lot of paraphernalia; apparently the Chanists had completely abandoned even any pretense of traditional Buddhism — again a fortuitous development, considering traditional Buddhism's imminent destruction.

Counselor, meeting the Master in front of the Monks' Hall while coming to visit: "Do the monks of this monastery read the sutras?"

"No, they don't read sutras,"

The Counselor: "Then do they learn meditation?"

"No, they don't learn meditation," answered the Master.

The Counselor: "If they neither read sutras nor learn meditation, what in the world are they doing?"

"All I do is make them become buddhas and patriarchs,"