Put on Your Robe as a Free Person.

From The Record of Master Linji

Linji Bright Clarity pin

Dear Friends,

The first part of this article consists of some short passages from a text by the Zen master Linji with my comments. The second part is Linji’s complete text. The passages that I comment on are the ones that caught my attention most strongly. Of course, as with any text from the sages, there are many pearls to be found throughout the text. My intention is to make this text more accessible for those readers who may not know of Linji.

“At that point, whether you stay or go, you do so as a free person. You do not need to go in search of the transcendent, but the transcendent will seek you out.”

This statement is remarkable for me in that it points to a dynamic of Consciousness that many sages speak of: recognize that any attitude of wanting to find something that is missing in my life will create a continued state of “missing something”. He says that “the transcendent will seek you out.” I see this as saying that Consciousness itself seeks to bring awareness of Itself through the finite forms such as you and I. Only because we are walking around with blinders on (we are seeking something that we ARE) do we have the sense that something is missing. The only way out is to stop seeking and BE what we truly are, and then, in this relaxation of the constricted “seeking mode”, awareness of the Greater can dawn.

“Because you do not have the virtue of self-confidence, you are always preoccupied, in a hurry to run after myriad kinds of objects outside yourselves, and then you are turned around in circles by these objects and lose all your freedom.”

Here he calls this attitude of “something is missing” a lack of self-confidence. Self-confidence, then, means that I open to that inner sense of BEING that, which I seek.

“…always searching for something to grasp hold of that will make you feel comfortable…”

This statement hits the nail on the head: What I am seeking is something to make me feel comfortable. It may be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual comfort. The crux of the matter lies in the fact that I am looking in the WRONG PLACES.

“If you want to be no different from the Buddha, our teacher, do not run after things outside of you.”

The comfort we all seek and yearn for is never to be found outside of us, in the external factor.

“This wonderful function can only be possible when you do not direct your energy to chasing something outside of yourself.”

He advises us to direct our energy inside of us. Then we come in contact with something new.

“Today, in every ordinary activity you do, do you feel you lack anything? Is there any moment when the six miraculous beams of light do not shine out? Anyone who has that insight will be a person who has nothing to do throughout his life.”

This tells me to look at the “bright clarity” of Consciousness that Linji speaks of as what we really are and to see how this inner light, our true being, shines out through our six consciousness senses (the five physical sense organs and thinking).

“Therefore the bodies and the lands in terms of the Dharma nature are clearly just reflections of light.”

Here Linji reminds us to not get confused by the many teachings of levels and celestial realms etc. but to see clearly that all are but forms of the inner light being reflected.

“So what is it that knows how to talk about and listen to the Dharma? It is the bright clarity which has not the slightest outer form standing in front of us here.”

A beautiful statement of our true nature: formless bright clarity.

“According to my way of seeing, there is nothing that is not deep and wonderful, there is nothing that is not liberated.”

Master Linji confirms to us that when seen with clear eyes, there is nothing lacking and no one in bondage.

“My friends, consciousness has no form, it passes freely through the Ten Directions. In the eyes it is called sight, in the ears it is called hearing, in the nose it is called scent, in the mouth it is called conversation, in the hands it is called holding, in the feet running and jumping. All of these arise from one shining light which is divided into six functions working together in harmony.”

This delightful passage sums up his view of things. I especially like how he characterizes consciousness in the mouth, not as “taste”, as it would be expressed in conventional listing, but as “conversation” – a much more alive way to understand the sense of consciousness in the mouth.

“You should stop the mind which is wandering around, running to the neighbor’s house to study Zen, learn the Way, looking for a sentence, looking for words, seeking the masters, seeking the Buddha, seeking a good spiritual friend. Do not take the mistaken direction. You need to look into yourselves.”

This final passage brings home the message: all the ways in which we live out our lack of self-confidence are listed and then the simple reminder: “look into yourselves”.

From The Record of Master Linji

LinJi smallerThe master taught: “In these times whoever studies the Buddhadharma needs right view. Once there is right view, birth and death can no longer touch you. At that point, whether you stay or go, you do so as a free person. You do not need to go in search of the transcendent, but the transcendent will seek you out.

“Friends on the Path, virtuous monks of old have all offered human beings a path of liberation. The place of this mountain monk is just to encourage you to not allow people to delude you. My advice should be enacted immediately. Do not be indecisive or doubting.

“If people of our own time are not able to realize the fruits of practice, why is that? It is because they do not have the virtue of self-confidence. Because you do not have the virtue of self-confidence, you are always preoccupied, in a hurry to run after myriad kinds of objects outside yourselves, and then you are turned around in circles by these objects and lose all your freedom.

“If you are able to put an end to the thinking that chases after external objects, you will see that there is no difference between you yourselves and our teacher, the Buddha. Do you want to know who our teacher, the Buddha, is? The Buddha is you yourselves who are standing before me, listening to me teach the Dharma. The practitioner who does not have enough self-confidence will always direct his attention to what is external and wander around and around looking for something. Even if he does find something, that objects is just a beautiful form of writing and words. It is not the living mind of the master. Good monks, do not make this mistake! If in this present moment you are not able to meet the Buddha in person, then for countless lives to come you will have to be reborn in the three realms of samsara, always searching for something to grasp hold of that will make you feel comfortable, continually being born in the womb of an ox or ass.

“My friends, as far as the insight of this mountain monk goes, there is no difference between you and Shakyamuni Buddha. Today, in every ordinary activity you do, do you feel you lack anything? Is there any moment when the six miraculous beams of light do not shine out? Anyone who has that insight will be a person who has nothing to do throughout his life.

“Venerable monks, in the three realms there is nothing secure. These realms are like a house on fire. They are not the place to make your lifelong home. At every moment impermanence, like a demon, is there to put out its hand and take your life, making no distinction between the young and the old, the noble and the lowly.

“If you want to be no different from the Buddha, our teacher, do not run after things outside of you. Every movement of your mind which is able to shine out the light of purity is the Dharma body of the Buddha who is right here in your home. The light of nondiscrimination which arises in one moment of recollection is the glorious retribution body of the Buddha right here in your home. The light of nondiscrimination which arises from every moment of recollection is the transformation body of the Buddha which is right in your home. These three bodies are not different from you who are standing in front of me listening to the Dharma. This wonderful function can only be possible when you do not direct your energy to chasing something outside of yourself.

“Having become reliant on scholars who study and write commentaries on the sutras and shastras, (Sutras are the recorded oral teachings of the historical Buddha. Shastras are commentaries on the sutras or on other treatises or texts concerning Buddhist teachings.) people go in search of the three bodies as absolute standards outside of themselves. According to me, it is not like that. These three bodies they talk about are just names and words. They can also become three places of refuge which people become attached to and caught in. A teacher of old has said, ‘Three bodies are established in dependence on the true meaning. The Buddha lands are commented on in dependence on the original nature.’ Therefore the bodies and the lands in terms of the Dharma nature are clearly just reflections of light.

“Venerable monks, you should know that the reflections which people hold on to and play around with is the source of Buddhas. As far as the speaker is concerned, every place is the place of arrival, every place is true home for the practitioner.

“Your body made of the four elements does not know how to speak or listen to the Dharma. Your spleen, stomach, liver, and gallbladder cannot talk about or listen to the Dharma. So what is it that knows how to talk about and listen to the Dharma? It is the bright clarity which has not the slightest outer form standing in front of us here. That is what knows how to speak about and listen to the Dharma. If you are able to see that, you are no different from the Buddha and the masters. The thing is to maintain that insight constantly, do not allow it to be interrupted; whenever your eyes are in contact with it, you will be able to see it.”

“Only because emotional attachment arises, understanding is obstructed. Because perceptions are changing, the form of the true nature changes. That is why there is rebirth in the three realms and we have to undergo many kinds of suffering. According to my way of seeing, there is nothing that is not deep and wonderful, there is nothing that is not liberated.

“My friends, consciousness has no form, it passes freely through the Ten Directions. In the eyes it is called sight, in the ears it is called hearing, in the nose it is called scent, in the mouth it is called conversation, in the hands it is called holding, in the feet running and jumping. All of these arise from one shining light which is divided into six functions working together in harmony. Whenever wrong thinking does not arise, there is liberation. What do I mean by that? It is only because you have not been able to put an end to seeking that you fall into traps that the ancient ones have spread out for you.

Shikan Taza“My friends, try and apply my insight. Sit still and cut off the heads of every retribution and transformation body of the Buddha. See that all the bodhisattvas in the ten bodhisattva stages, all fully awakened and wonderfully awakened ones are just like shackles coming to imprison you. Arhats and self-enlightened ones are like the latrine pit. Awakening (bodhi) and nirvana are tethering posts for mules. Why? Because you have not been able to realize clear understanding of the emptiness of three incalculably long kalpas, you run into the obstacles that you are presently experiencing. If you practiced correctly the true teachings, it would not be like that. You just need to use these favorable circumstances to put an end to your past karma. Put on your robe as a free person. When it is necessary to walk, walk. When it is necessary to sit, sit. Do not for a moment yearn for Buddhahood.

“Why? Men of old have said, ‘If you want to find the Buddha by making the practice hard labor, Buddha will become the retribution that holds you in the cycle of birth and death.’ Venerable monks, time is very precious. You should stop the mind which is wandering around, running to the neighbor’s house to study Zen, learn the Way, looking for a sentence, looking for words, seeking the masters, seeking the Buddha, seeking a good spiritual friend. Do not take the mistaken direction. You need to look into yourselves. A teacher of old said Yajnadatta thought he had lost his head, but when his mind was able to stop searching he was able to achieve the state of having nothing to do right away.

“Venerable monks, you should live your lives in a very natural way. Do not put on airs. There are a number of shaved heads who are not able to distinguish good from bad. They say they see spirits and demons. They point to the East and the West, and they pray for rain and sunshine. This group will surely have to repay what they have borrowed and one day before the judge of the dead, Yama, they will swallow lumps of molten iron. And those of good families who are deluded by this group of wild fox spirits will also have to pay the debt of the rice they have eaten. There is no way they can avoid it.”

Linji, Excerpt from The Record of Master Linji, source: Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, pgs. 26 – 29

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9 thoughts on “Put on Your Robe as a Free Person.

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