From the Record of Linji
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 senses 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 your life.
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 ancestors and buddhas. Do you want to get to know the ancestors and buddhas? They’re none other than you, the people standing in front of me listening to this Dharma talk!
If you want to be no different from the ancestors and buddhas, then never look for something outside yourselves. A moment of pure light in your mind – that is the Dharmakaya, the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. A moment of undifferentiated light in your mind – that is the Samboghakaya, the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. A moment of nondiscriminating light in your mind – that is the Nirmanakaya, the Transformation-body of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who stands before me now!
What is it, then, that knows how to preach 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, then you’ll be no different from the ancestors and buddhas. As I see it, there are none of you incapable of profound understanding, none of you 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 words; 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.
Just get so you can follow along with circumstances and use up your old karma. When the time comes to do so, put on your clothes. If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sit, sit. But never for a moment set your mind on seeking buddhahood. Why? A person of old said, “If you try to create good karma and seek to be a buddha, then Buddha will become a sure sign you will remain in the realm of birth and death.”
Followers of the Way, the Dharma of the buddhas calls for no special undertakings. Just act ordinary, without trying to do anything particular. If, wherever you are, you take the role of host, then whatever spot you stand in will be a true one. Then whatever circumstances surround you, they can never pull you awry. You don’t have to strive for benefits, benefits will come of themselves. Even if you’re faced with bad karma left over from the past, or the five crimes that bring on the hell of incessant suffering, these will of themselves become the great sea of emancipation.
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.
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 you please in the threefold world. No matter what environment you may encounter, with its peculiarities and differences, you cannot be swayed or pulled awry. In the space of an instant you make your way into the Dharma-realm. If you meet a buddha you preach to the buddha, if you meet an ancestor you preach to the ancestor, if you meet a hungry ghost you preach to the hungry ghost. You go everywhere, wandering through many lands, yet never become separated from your single thought. Every place is clean and pure to you, your light pierces the ten directions, the ten thousand phenomena are a single thusness.
If you want to be free to be born or die, to go or stay as one would put on or take off a garment, then you must understand right now that the person here listening to the Dharma has no form, no characteristics, no root, no beginning, no place you abide, yet you are vibrantly alive. All the ten thousand kinds of contrived happenings operate in a place that is in fact no place. Therefore the more you search the farther away you get, the harder you hunt the wider astray you go. This is what I call the secret of the matter.
The way I see it, one shouldn’t be averse to anything. Suppose you yearn to be a sage. Sage is just a word, sage. There are some types of students who go off to Mount Wu-t’ai looking for Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. They’re wrong from the very start! Would you like to get to know Manjushri? You here in front of my eyes, carrying out your activities, from first to last never changing, wherever you go never doubting – this is the living Manjushri!
Your mind that each moment shines with the light of nondiscrimination – wherever it may be, this is the true Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva of action. Your mind that each moment is capable of freeing itself from its shackles, everywhere emancipate – this is the method of meditating on Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion. These three act as host and companion to one another, all three appearing at the same time when they appear, one in three, three in one.
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 become enlightened to, what Way there is to practice? In your present activities, what is it you lack, what is it that practice must mend?
What are you looking for? This person of the Way who depends on nothing, here before my eyes now listening to the Dharma – your brightness shines clearly, you have never lacked anything.
[adapted from Burton Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi]
The Ninth Duino Elegy
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Why, if this interval of being can be spent serenely
in the form of a laurel, slightly darker than all
other green, with tiny waves on the edges
of every leaf (like the smile of a breeze) – : why then
have to be human – and, escaping from fate,
keep longing for fate?…
Oh not because happiness exists,
that too-hasty profit snatched from approaching loss.
Not out of curiosity, not as practice for the heart, which
would exist in the laurel too…
But because truly being here is so much; because everything here
apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way
keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.
Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.
And so we keep pressing on, trying to achieve it,
trying to hold it firmly in our simple hands,
in our overcrowded gaze, in our speechless heart.
Trying to become it. – Whom can we give it to? We would
hold on to it all, forever… Ah, but what can we take along
into that other realm? Not the art of looking,
which is learned so slowly, and nothing that happened here. Nothing.
The sufferings, then. And, above all, the heaviness,
and the long experience of love, – just what is wholly
unsayable. But later, among the stars,
what good is it – they are better as they are: unsayable.
For when the traveler returns from the mountain-slopes into the valley,
he brings, not a handful of earth, unsayable to others, but instead
some word he has gained, some pure word, the yellow and blue
gentian. Perhaps we are here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window –
at most: column, tower… But to say them, you must understand,
oh to say them more intensely than the Things themselves
ever dreamed of existing. Isn’t the secret intent
of this taciturn earth, when it forces lovers together,
that inside their boundless emotion all things may shudder with joy?
Threshold: what it means for two lovers
to be wearing down, imperceptibly, the ancient threshold of their door –
they too, after the many who came before them
and before those to come…, lightly.
Here is the time for the sayable, here is its homeland.
Speak and bear witness. More than ever
the Things that we might experience are vanishing, for
what crowds them out and replaces them is an imageless act.
An act under a shell, which easily cracks open as soon as
the business inside outgrows it and seeks new limits.
Between the hammers our heart
endures, just as the tongue does
between the teeth and, despite that,
still is able to praise.
Praise this world to the angel, not the unsayable one,
you can’t impress him with glorious emotion; in the universe
where he feels more powerfully, you are a novice. So show him
something simple which, formed over generations,
lives as our own, near our hand and within our gaze.
Tell him of Things. He will stand astonished; as you stood
by the rope-maker in Rome or the potter along the Nile.
Show him how happy a Thing can be, how innocent and ours,
how even lamenting grief purely decides to take form,
serves as a Thing, or dies into a Thing –, and blissfully
escapes far beyond the violin. – And these Things,
which live by perishing, know you are praising them; transient,
they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all.
They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart,
within – oh endlessly – within us! Whoever we may be at last.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise within us,
invisible? Isn’t it your dream
to be wholly invisible someday? – O Earth: invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your urgent command?
Earth, my dearest, I will. Oh believe me, you no longer
need your springtimes to win me over – one of them,
ah, even one, is already too much for my blood.
Unspeakably I have belonged to you, from the first.
You were always right, and your holiest inspiration
is our intimate companion, Death.
Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows any smaller… Superabundant being
wells up in my heart.
(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Taking Part in the Gathering
The mind of the great Indian Immortal
moves seamlessly between East and West.
It’s human nature to be quick or slow,
but in the Way there are no northern or southern ancestors.
The mysterious source of the bright is clear and unstained;
branches of light stream from that dark.
Trying to control things is only delusion,
but hanging onto the absolute isn’t enlightenment, either.
We and everything we perceive
are interwoven and not interwoven,
and this interweaving continues on and on,
while each thing stands in its own place.
In the world of form, we differentiate substances and images;
in the world of sound, we distinguish music from noise.
In the embrace of the dark, good words and bad words are the same,
but in the bright we divide clear speech from confusion.
The four elements return to their natures
like a child to the mother.
Fire is hot, the winds blow,
water is wet, the earth solid.
The eye sees form, the ear hears voices,
the nose smells fragrance, the tongue tastes salt and sour.
Everything, depending on its root, spreads out its leaves.
Both roots and branches must return to their origin,
and so do respectful and insulting words.
The darkness is inside the bright,
but don’t look only with the eyes of the dark.
The brightness is inside the dark,
but don’t look only through the eyes of the bright.
Bright and dark are a pair,
like front foot and back foot walking.
Each thing by nature has worth,
but we notice it is shaped by its circumstances.
Things fit together like boxes and lids,
while the absolute is like arrows meeting in mid-air.
When you let these words in, you encounter the ancestors;
Don’t limit yourself to your own small story.
If you don’t see the Way with your own eyes,
you won’t know the road even as you’re walking on it.
Walking the Way, we’re never near or far from it;
deluded, we are cut off from it by mountains and rivers.
You who seek the mystery,
in daylight or in the shadows of night, don’t throw away your time.
(Translated by Joan Sutherland & John Tarrant)
Song of Enlightenment
—Yongjia Xuanjue [Yoong-jee-ah Shwahn-joo-eh]
There is a leisurely one,
walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is buddha nature itself;
the empty, illlusory body is the very body of the Dharma.
When the dharma body awakens completely,
there is nothing at all.
The source of our self-nature
is the buddha of innocent truth.
Mental and physical reactions come and go
like clouds in the empty sky;
greed, hatred, and ignorance appear and disappear
like bubbles on the surface of the sea.
When we realize actuality,
there is no distinction between mind and thing
and the path to hell instantly vanishes.
If this is a lie meant to fool the world,
may my tongue be cut out forever.
Once we awaken to tathagata Zen, [ta-TA-ga-ta]
the six noble deeds and the ten thousand good actions
are already complete within us.
In our dream we see the six levels of illusion clearly;
after we awaken the whole universe is empty.
No bad fortune, no good fortune, no loss, no gain,
never seek such things in nirvana.
For years the dusty mirror has gone uncleaned;
now let us polish it completely, once and for all.
Who has no thought? Who is not born?
If we are truly not born,
we are not unborn either.
Ask a robot if this is not so.
How can we realize ourselves
by virtuous deeds or seeking the Buddha?
Release your hold on earth, water, fire, wind;
drink and eat as you wish in nirvana.
All things are transient and completely empty;
this is the great enlightenment of the Tathagata.
Transience, emptiness, and enlightenment--
These are the ultimate truths of Buddhism;
keeping and teaching them is true sangha devotion.
If you don’t agree, please ask me about it.
Directly cut out the root of it all –
this is the very point of the buddha seal.
I can’t respond to any concerns about leaves and branches.
People do not recognize the wish-fulfilling jewel.
Living intimately within the tathagata womb,
it operates our sight, hearing, smell, taste, sensation, awareness;
and all of these are empty, yet not empty.
The rays shining from this perfect wish-fullfiling jewel
have the form of no form at all.
Clarify the five eyes and develop the five powers;
this is not intellectual work – just realize, just know.
It is not difficult to see images in a mirror,
but who can take hold of the moon in water?
Always working alone, always walking alone,
the enlightened one walks the free way of nirvana,
with a melody old and clear in spirit
and a naturally elegant style,
but with a body that is tough and bony,
passing unnoticed in the world.
We know that Shakyamuni’s sons and daughters
are poor in body, but not in the Tao.
In their poverty, they always wear patchwork clothing,
but they have the jewel of no price treasured within.
This jewel of no price can never be used up,
though they spend it freely to help the people they meet.
Dharmakaya, Samboghakaya, Nirmanakaya,
and the four kinds of wisdom
are all contained within.
The eight kinds of emancipation and the six universal powers
are all impressed on the ground of their mind.
The best student goes directly to the ultimate;
others are learned but their faith is uncertain.
Remove the dirty garments from your own mind;
why should you show off your outward striving?
Some may slander, some may abuse;
they try to set fire to the heavens with a torch
and end by merely tiring themselves out.
I hear their scandal as though it were ambrosial truth;
immediately everything melts
and I enter the place beyond thought and words.
When I consider the virtue of abusive words,
I find the scandalmonger is my good teacher.
If we do not become angry at gossip,
we have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.
To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression,
and the full-moon brilliance of samadhi and prajna
does not stagnate in emptiness.
Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
but all buddha bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
can become awakened in exactly the same way.
The incomparable lion roar of the doctrine
strikes fear in the hearts of all other animals.
Even the monarch of elephants will run away, forgetting pride;
only the heavenly dragon listens calmly, with pure delight.
I wandered over rivers and seas, crossing mountains and streams,
visiting teachers, asking about the Way in personal interviews.
Since I recognized the Sixth Founding Teacher at Cao Qi, [Tsao-Chee]
I know what is beyond the relativity of birth and death.
Walking is Zen, sitting is Zen;
speaking or silent, active or quiet, the essence is at peace.
Even facing the sword of death, our mind is unmoved;
even drinking poison, our mind is quiet.
Our teacher, Shakyamuni, met Dipankara Buddha
and for many æons he trained as Kshanti, the ascetic. [Kuh-shahn-tee]
Many births, many deaths;
I am serene in this cycle – there is no end to it.
Since I abruptly realized the unborn,
I have had no reason for joy or sorrow
at any honor or disgrace.
I have entered the deep mountains to silence and beauty;
in a profound valley beneath high cliffs,
I sit under the old pine trees.
Meditation in my rustic cottage
is peaceful, lonely, and truly comfortable.
When you truly awaken,
you have no formal merit.
In the multiplicity of the relative world,
you cannot find such freedom.
Self-centered merit might bring the joy of heaven itself,
but it is like shooting an arrow at the sky;
when its force is exhausted, it falls to earth,
and then everything goes wrong.
How can this be better
than the true way of the absolute,
directly penetrating to the ground of Tathagata?
Just take hold of the source
and never mind the branches.
It is like a treasure-moon
enclosed in a beautiful emerald.
Now I understand this wish-fulfilling jewel
and my attainment is the attainment of everyone, endlessly.
The moon shines on the river,
the wind blows through the pines –
whose providence is this long beautiful evening?
The buddha nature jewel of morality
is impressed on the ground of my mind,
and my robe is the dew, the fog, the cloud, and the mist.
A bowl once calmed dragons
and a staff separated fighting tigers;
the rings on this staff jingle musically.
These things are not to be taken lightly;
the treasure staff of the Tathagata
has left traces for us to follow.
The awakened one does not seek truth,
does not cut off delusion.
Truth and delusion are both vacant and formless,
but this no-form is neither empty nor not empty;
it is the true form of the Tathagata.
The mind-mirror is clear, so there are no obstacles.
Its brilliance illuminates the universe
to the depths and in every grain of sand.
All things in the cosmos
are reflected in the mind,
and this full clarity has neither inside nor outside.
To live in nothingness is to ignore cause and effect;
such chaos leads only to disaster.
The one who clings to emptiness, rejecting the world of things,
escapes from drowning but leaps into fire.
Holding truth and rejecting delusion –
these are but skillful lies.
Students who practice meditation by such lies
mistake a thief for their own child.
They miss the dharma treasure,
they lose accumulated power,
and this disaster follows directly upon dualistic thinking.
So Zen is the complete realization of mind,
the complete cutting off of delusion,
the power of wise vision penetrating directly to the unborn.
[End of Part One]
Students of vigorous will hold the sword of wisdom;
its prajna blade is a diamond flame.
It not only cuts off useless knowledge
but also exterminates delusions.
They roar with dharma thunder,
they strike the dharma drum,
they spread clouds of love that pour ambrosial rain.
Their giant footsteps nourish one and all;
shravaka, pratyeka, bodhisattva – all are enlightened; [SHRAH-vaka, praht-YEH-ka]
people of every kind are emancipated.
High in the Himalayas, only feini grass grows. [fay-nee]
Here cows produce pure and delicious milk,
and this is the food I am continually enjoying.
One complete nature passes to all natures;
one universal Dharma encloses all dharmas.
One moon is reflected in many waters;
all the water-moons are from the one moon.
The dharma body of all buddhas has etered my own nature,
and my nature becomes one with the Tathagata.
One level of awakening contains all levels;
it is not matter, mind, or activity.
In an instant eighty-thousand teachings are fulfilled;
in a twinkling the evil of eons is destroyed.
All categories are no category;
what relation do they have to insight?
Beyond praise, beyond blame –
like space itself it has no bounds.
Right here it is eternally full and serene;
if you search elsewhere, you cannot find it.
You cannot grasp it, you cannot reject it;
in the midst of not attaining,
in that condition you attain it.
It speaks in silence;
in speech you hear its silence.
The great way opens and there are no obstacles.
If someone asks, What is your sect
and how do you understand it?
I reply, The power of tremendous prajna.
People say it is positive,
people say it is negative,
but they do not know.
A smooth road, a rough road –
even heaven cannot imagine.
I have practiced meditation for many eons;
I do not say any of this to confuse you.
I raise the dharma banner and set forth our teaching;
it is the clear doctrine of the Buddha,
which I found with my teacher, Huineng. [Hway-nuhng]
Mahakashyapa became the buddha successor, [Maha-kash-YA-pa]
receiving the lamp and passing it on.
Twenty-eight generations of teachers in India,
then over seas and rivers to our land
came Bodhidharma as our own first founder;
his robe, as we all know, passed through six teachers here.
And how many generations to come will gain the path,
no one knows.
The truth cannot be set forth;
the false is basically empty.
Put both being and non-being aside,
and even non-emptiness is empty,
the twenty kinds of emptiness have no basis,
and the Tathagata’s nature is oneness,
its essence the same.
Mind is the mirror stand, phenomena are dust;
yet both are like a flaw in the mirror.
When the flaw is wiped clean,
the light begins to shine.
When both mind and phenomena are forgotten,
we become naturally genuine.
Ah, the degenerate materialistic world!
People are unhappy; they find discipline difficult.
In the centuries since Shakyamuni, false views run deep,
demons are strong, the Dharma is weak, disturbances abound.
When people hear the Buddha’s doctrine of sudden awakening,
if they accept it, the demons will be crushed
as easily as a roofing tile.
But they cannot accept – what a pity!
Your mind is the source of your actions;
your body is the agent of calamity –
no pity or blame for anyone else.
If you’re not seeking an invitation to hell,
never slander the Tathagata’s true teaching.
In the sandalwood forest, where there are no other trees,
only the lion lives in such dense, luxuriant woods,
wandering freely in a state of peace.
Other animals and birds stay far away.
Just lion cubs follow their parents,
and three-year-olds already roar loudly.
How could the jackal pursue the monarch of the Dharma
even with a hundred thousand demonic arts?
The Buddha’s doctrine of sudden awakening
is not a matter of human emotion.
If you doubt this or feel uncertain,
you must discuss it with me.
This mountain monk isn’t just giving free rein to his ego;
I fear your training may lead to wrong views
about a permanent soul or complete extinction.
Being is not being; non-being is not non-being;
miss this by a hair,
and you are off by a thousand miles.
Understanding it, the dragon-girl instantly attains buddhahood;
misunderstanding it, the greatest scholar falls into hell.
From my youth I piled studies upon studies;
in sutras and commentaries I searched and researched,
classifying terms and forms, oblivious to fatigue,
just as futile as diving into the sea to count its sands.
Then the Tathagata scolded me kindly
as I read, “What profit in counting your neighbor’s treasure?”
My work had been misguided and entirely useless;
for years I had been dust blown by the wind.
If your seed-nature is wrong, misunderstandings arise,
and the Buddha’s doctrine of sudden awakening cannot be attained.
Shravaka and pratyeka students may study earnestly,
but they lack aspiration.
Others may be very clever,
but they lack prajna.
Ignorant ones, childish ones,
they suppose there is something inside an empty fist
and mistake the pointing finger for the moon.
They are idle dreamers lost in form and sensation.
Not supposing a single thing is the Tathagata.
This is truly Guanyin, the bodhisattva who sees freely.
When awakened, we find karmic hindrances are empty.
But when not awakened, we must repay all our debts.
The hungry are served a royal feast
but they cannot eat.
The sick meet the sovereign doctor;
why don’t they recover?
To practice Zen in this greedy world
takes powerful discernment,
but the lotus lives in the midst of the fire
and is never destroyed.
Pradhanashura broke the gravest precepts [Prah-dana-shura]
But went on to realize the unborn.
The buddhahood he attained in that moment
lives with us now in our time.
Oh, the incomparable lion roar of the Dharma!
How sad that people are stubborn in their ignorance,
believing that crime blocks enlightenment,
missing the secret of the Tathagata’s teaching.
Long ago, two monks were guilty of murder and carnality.
Their leader, Upali, had the light of a glow-worm; [Oo-PA-lee]
he just added to their plight.
But Vimalakirti cleared their doubts at once, [Vee-ma-la-KEER-tee]
as sunshine melts the frost and snow.
The remarkable power of liberation
works wonders countless as the sands of the Ganges.
To this we offer clothing, food, bedding, medicine.
Ten thousand pieces of gold are not enough;
though you break your body
and your bones become powder,
even that is not sufficient repayment,
but one vivid word surpasses millions of years of practice.
The Ruler of the Dharma deserves our highest respect.
Tathagatas, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
all prove this fact by their attainment.
Now I reveal to you the wish-fulfilling jewel,
and those who believe will attain it:
When we see truly, there is nothing at all.
There is no person; there is no buddha.
The myriad things of the universe
are just foam on the sea,
wise sages like flashes of lightning.
However the burning iron ring revolves about my head,
with the bright completeness of samadhi and prajna
I never lose my equanimity.
Even if the sun became cold and the moon hot,
evil cannot shatter the truth.
The elephant carriage moves like a mountain;
how can an insect block the way?
The great elephant does not travel on a rabbit’s path,
and great enlightenment is not concerned with details.
Don’t belittle the sky by looking at it through a pipe.
If you still don’t understand, I will settle it for you.
(Version by Joan Sutherland based on Robert Aitken)