The Recorded Sayings of Chan Master of Lin-chi
The Chan Master Lin-chi uses his experience as a teaching device to lead, push, and even jolt “Followers of the Way” to the gateway of enlightenment. His simple and direct method employs the use of several reoccurring themes: the “True man with no rank,” not to be swayed by the environment and other people, the hit and shout teaching style, the one who “has nothing to do,” but “just acts ordinary,” and that doubt is the Buddha devil.
Lin-chi said, “Here in this lump of red flesh there is a True man with no rank,” and “if there are any of you who don’t know this for a fact, then look! Look!” What he means is that living beings are ultimately beyond the world of perception, duality, and form. To realize this one need only “look.” This is the true person within all; the Tathagat-garba. The body is simply a vehicle to be mastered like “…puppets performing on the state….their every movement controlled by the people backstage.” Lin-chi explains that the body is unable to “preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma,” but what is able to preach and listen to the Dharma is “…you who are right before my eyes, this lone brightness without shape or form…it penetrates all the ten directions…it is a single bright essence, but it divides itself into these six functions.” The six functions are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and intellect. Students of the Way, Lin-chi explains, need only have faith in themselves and realize that everything they see in the Dharma-realm of humans is “no more than flickering lights,” and they, the True man, are the ones who “manipulate” them. Once this is realized, students are no longer manipulated by the sense objects and are free from duality. Therefore, they are “no different from the patriarchs and Buddhas” and have no rank. They have transcended self and have transcended subject. Not being swayed by the environment, allowing the six functions (sense objects), to manipulate students, and other people is another theme Lin-chi uses as a teaching device. This is the transcending of object. Lin-chi explains that “when students fail to make progress, “it is due to a lack of “faith in themselves.” This, he explains, results in being “twisted and turned” by whatever environment they are in, or being “caught up in those idle devices of the men of old.” Lin-chi says that “followers of the Way…are not the four great elements in you, but something that can make use of the four great elements in you.” The four great elements are earth, water, fire, and wind. The four types of environment and are without characteristics, Lin-chi teaches, meaning that they are impermanent and are subject to birth and death; “don’t just let the environment batter you around.” People should not search for “what is outside themselves.” Emancipation begins with the ceasing of searching, dependence, and leaning on things. This includes thoughts, teachings, and even the Buddha. Dependence in any form is an obstacle to enlightenment. Those with a true understanding “cannot be swayed or pulled awry,” but are able to “wander at ease everywhere, for you see that these [environments] are all empty names.” Another theme Lin-chi uses is the hit and shout teaching style. This is done to aid the student by cutting off their thoughts and perceptions and forces the student to react instantly without a moment of hesitation. The student is able to experience a moment free from thoughts and judgments and helps them realize that ultimate reality is beyond words and reason. Lin-chi teaches about the one who “has nothing to do,” and the one who “just acts ordinary” and says that once a true and proper understanding is gained, “then you can start thinking of calling it quits.” What he means is that once a person realizes the true nature of reality, they seek nothing, lack nothing, question nothing, doubt nothing, depend on...