We don't know much about what he taught, but he was the founder of a line of Chan (Zen) that revered him. Two hundred and fifty years after his death, the disciples of the disciples of the disciples of Linji's disciples created the Linji Yu Lu (The Record of Linji). The book thus reflects the Chan teachings of the Linji school at the beginning of the Song dynasty.
Presumably some of the flavor and style of Linji himself is preserved. Linji's reputation is of an iconoclastic teacher who lead students to awakening with sudden shouts and hitting his students. According the The Record of Linji:
Addressing the assembly, Linji said:Who are you? Master Linji says you are the awakened one.
Once there is beholding of reality as it truly is, 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.
Because you do not have self-confidence, you are always preoccupied, in a hurry to run after myriad kind 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 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 looking for something. Even if he does find something, that object is just a beautiful form of writing and words. It is not the living mind of the master.
My friends, as far as the insight of this mountain monk goes, there is no difference between you and Shakyamuni Buddha. This very day – the venue of all your varied daily activities – what could possibly be lacking? 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. If you want to walk, you walk. If you want to sit, you sit – that is, you wade through the day in a bold and unconstrained manner. There is not a single moment of hoping for the fruit of Buddhahood. (ch. 11)
It’s just that sometimes we forget that.
This very day, what could possibly be lacking? “Anyone who has this insight will be a person who has nothing to do.” Linji is saying, it isn’t about your doing. It’s about your being. He’s not saying to cease all activity. But let your activity flow from who you are rather than from . . . from what? What’s the alternative about which Linji and countless other spiritual guides and wisdom writers have sought to caution us?
What can sometimes happen is that we’re caught up in our unhappiness with the way things are. We can be driven by a desire for ourselves and our world to be different. We’re driven by the energy of rejection.
Suppose instead, you are at peace with yourself, who you are, your world, and your action flows instead from a grounding in acceptance: accepting what is, even as you engage with it to change it.
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This is part 2 of 5 of "Vocation: Who Are You?"
Next: Part 3: "Blessed Be. Who Are You?"
Beginning: Part 1: "Proverbial Vision"