Linji Yixuan and the Linji Lu

Linji Yixuan and the Linji Lu

(an excerpt)

Counsellor Wang, the Prefectural Governor, and the other officials requested the Master to address them. 

The Master took the high seat in the Dharma Hall and said: “Today, I, this mountain monk, having no choice in the matter, have perforce yielded to customary etiquette and taken this seat. If I were to demonstrate the Great Matter in strict keeping with the teaching of the Patriarchal School, I simply couldn’t open my mouth and there wouldn’t be any place for you to find footing. But since I’ve been so earnestly entreated today by the Counselor, why should I conceal the essential doctrine of our School? Now is there any adept warrior who forthwith can array his battle-line and unfurl his banners here before me? Let him try proving himself before the assembly!”

A monk asked: “What about the cardinal principle of the Buddha-dharma?”
The master gave a shout.
The monk bowed low.
“As an opponent in argument this young reverend is rather good,” said the Master.

A monk asked, “Master, of what house is the tune you sing? To whose style of Zen do you succeed?”
The master said, “When I was staying at Huang-po’s place I questioned him three times and was hit three times.”
The monk hesitated.
The master gave a shout and then struck him, saying, “You can’t drive a stake into empty sky.”

A lecture-master asked: “The Three Vehicles’ twelve divisions of teachings reveal the Buddha-nature, do they not?”
“This weed-patch has never been spaded,” said Rinzai.
“Surely the Buddha would not have deceived men!” said the lecture-master. 
“Where is Buddha?” asked Rinzai.
The lecture-master had no reply.
“You thought you’d make a fool of me in front of the Counselor,” said the Master. “Get out,  get out! You’re keeping the others from asking questions.”

The Master further said, “Today’s Dharma-assembly is concerned with the Great Matter. Does anyone else have a question? If so, let him ask it now! But the instant you open your mouth you are already way off. Why is this so? Don’t you know? Venerable Shakyamuni said, ‘Dharma is separate from words, because it is neither subject to causation nor dependent upon conditions. Your faith is insufficient; therefore we have bandied words today. I fear I am obstructing the Counselor and his staff, thereby obscuring the Buddha-nature. l had better withdraw.”

“Khat!” shouted the Master, and then said, “For those whose root of faith is insufficient a final day will never come. You have been standing a long time. Take care of yourselves.”



‘The Linji Chan school was founded by Linji Yixuan (Lin-chi I-hsuan, d. 866), who taught in  Hebei Province in northeast China.

Master Linji is remembered for his outrageous,  harsh teaching style. His shouts and punches would startle his disciples. Much of what we know about Master Linji is from a book of his collected sayings called the Linji Lu, or ‘Record of Linji’, known in Japanese as ‘The Rinzairoku’.

The Linji school remained obscure until the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was during this period that the Linji school developed its distinctive practice of koan contemplation.’