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Buddism: Ch’an Master Lin-chi I-hsuan Hui-chao Explicatory Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2019

Ch’an Master Lin-chi I-hsuan Hui-chao was a notable figure in the Buddhist religion, he founded one of the most famous schools that became a leading one among all Japanese schools. Moreover, he formed a new the Rinzai School of Buddhism. One of the best translations of this teaching is made by Burton Watson.

In his book, we can find the most detailed description of Lin-chi’s teaching, its principles and sermons. In this paper, I am going to discus some of Lin-chi’s principles and practices, such as the role of the hit and shout in Lin-chi’s style of teaching, Lin-chi’s exhortations not to be swayed by the environment, Lin-chi’s statement that doubt is the Buddha devil and such famous expression as “True Man with no rank” and the one who “has nothing to do” or who “just acts ordinary”.

So, the first issue under discussion is Lin-chi’s explanation of the “True Man with no rank”. The teacher assumes:

“O Followers of the Way, you have not yet attained the view whereby all kalpas are reduced to Emptiness. When this is not realized, there are all such hindrances. It is not so with the true man who has insight into Reality. He gives himself up to all manner of situations in which he finds himself in obedience to his past karma.

He appears in whatever garments re ready for him to put on. As it is desired of him either to move or to sit quietly, he moves or sits. He has not a thought of running after Buddhahood. He is free from such pinings. Why is it so with him? Says an ancient sage, “When the Buddha is sought after, he is the cause of transmigration.” (Watson 75).

The True Man or, in other words, a Real Person is someone who understands and, which is more important, follows the Way to enlightenment that is called “Tao”. This is the one who has a “Buddha nature” in all his/her actions and desires. It is a genenal concept of the book and teacher, who mentions it only ones, refers to it constantly when he speaks about “brightness without fixed shape or form” (Watson 24).

Lin-chi sees “True Man with no rank” is all his listeners. He encourages them to “turn and experience this man” (Watson 25) to feel a true enlightenment which will help them to overcome the barriers to the “realm of Emptiness”.

Thus, they will become persons with “nothing to do”. The concept does not mean that the person should be idle or not perform any daily activities and only pursue some goal. It means that the person will only accept the daily experience and will not be misled by the surroundings. In addition, the person who “has nothing to do” should “just act ordinary”. Lin-chi taught emptiness and an absolute freedom.

On the way to enlightenment, one can meet some environment and be misled by it. The teacher emphasized that no matter what environment one can meet, a person can be “free to do as he pleased” (Watson 33). One should not be swayed by the environment and not to be led astray by other people in using the teaching of Dharma, “If you want to use this thing, then use it and have no doubts or hesitations!” (Watson 23).

Thus, one must “just act ordinary” and not to be affected by the outside environment and try to do something special. Thus, the concepts the “True Man”, the one who “has nothing to do” and the one who “just acts ordinary” describe a person who has no obsession, self confident and has true understanding of the Way to enlightenment.

Furthermore, Lin-chi explained the concept “Buddha devil”, “Someone asked, “What is the Buddha devil?” The Master said, “If you have doubts in your mind for an instant, that’s the Buddha devil.” (Watson 33). Everyone who seeks Buddha is seized by Buddha devil just like the one who seeks knowledge is seized by doubts. Again, the one who is not affected by other people and environment and has no doubts in teaching and not preoccupied with the “externals of the religion”, will follow the true Way to brightness.

The teaching of Lin-chi included not only lectures and sermons, but hits and shouts. The teacher could shout at his pupils, hit them with stick or even leave them for a long time without warning. It is what Lich-chi called “to act with the whole essence”. He believed that only such tactic can bring his pupils to enlightenment.

So, the teaching of Lin-chi is “the oldest and the most authentic voice that has come down to us from the early traditions of Chinese Ch’an or Zen” (Watson 4). He had his own interpretation of the Dharma teaching and explanation of the concepts of belief and way to enlightenment.

Ten-Foot-Square Hut Discussion

Kamo no Comei was a very famous Japanese poet. His poetical education permitted him to take a governmental post. However, later he became a Buddhist monk and spent his life like a hermit living in a small hub. Usually, monks who turned their backs on society went to monasteries and Kamo was the first who isolated himself in the forest.

The author described his experience and his hut in the essay called An Account of My Hut where he described all the advantages of leaving in tranquility and isolation from the society. In his essay, he describes his hub and historical events that made him live in isolation and his Buddhist practices.

So, the historical events that made poet turn his back to society were related to the battle between two ruling clans Taira and Minamoto. Those events “resulted in the fires of the capital” (Lawall 215) and big destructions. The author compares this period with the arrival of the “mappo” which is associated in the Buddhist philosophy with the end of time and end of dharma. According to the author, the world became pessimistic and it entered in its “final era” and there is no any hope to rebuild the world.

The author describes his final dwelling as a place for his Buddhist practices and a perfect place for isolation: “Knowing myself and the world, I have no ambitions and do not mix in the world. I seek only tranquility; I rejoice in the absence of grief” (Addiss and Watson 49).

He admired nature and practiced self-reflection. His hut was small, ten feet square with roughly roof and, “Along the west wall he built a shelf for holy water and installed an image of the Buddha. The light of the setting sun shines between its eyebrows…” (Addiss and Watson 40).

As it has already been mention, the author’s dwelling was his place for solitude and Buddhism practices. But, according to the Buddhism teaching, one should not be obsessed with any form of mental gasping. Chomei loved his dwelling and described it with admiration:

“Outside the hut is a fenced garden to the north and a rock pool to the south with a bamboo pipe draining water. The woods are close, providing plenty of brush-wood, and only to the west is a clearing beyond vines and overgrown valleys”. (Addiss and Watson 58).

It may seem to be contradictory to the ideals of Buddhism. However, the poet has his solution to this problem. He went to awakening practicing nembutsu that means “buddha in mind”. The main means of this practice is the meditation. Nembutsu is interpreted in the Buddhism practice as a living incarnation of Amida, “you come to a shrine of the god Hachiman.

The object of worship is a statue of the Buddha Amida… All I could do was call upon my tongue to utter two or three recitations of Amida Buddha’s name” (Addiss and Watson 78, 89). This is how the author found a solution to the problem of his grasping. These days, it is a common spiritual practice in Buddhism and it is accepted in monasteries.

So, Kamo no Chomei lived in times when Japan survived chaotic and era. He became a witness of historical events that made him turn his back to society and live in isolation in a lonely hub. The descriptions of this hub and the author’s life in it became one of the most famous masterpieces of the world literature.

Works Cited

Addiss, Stephen, and Burton Watson. Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life. Boston and London: Shambhala, 2002.

Lawall, Sarah. Reading World Literature: Theory, History, Practice. Austine: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Watson, Burton. The Zen teachings of Master Lin-chi: a Translation of the Lin-chi lu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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