The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Rinzai
Zen Master Rinzai is a patriarch of Zen Buddhism.
Compiled by Ma Fang
Zen Master Rinzai (Linji) was trained by the master Huangpo, but attained enlightenment while discussing Huangpo’s teaching during a conversation with the reclusive monk Dayu. Linji then returned to Huangpo to continue his training after awakening. In 851 CE, Linji moved to the Linji temple, where he took his name, which also became the name for the lineage of his form of Zen Buddhism.
Three Mysterious Gates
Zen faced the challenge of expressing its teachings of “suchness” without getting stuck into words or concepts.
Linji is described as using The Three Mysterious Gates to maintain the Zen emphasis on the nonconceptual nature of reality, while employing sutras and teachings to instruct his students:
- The First Gate is the “mystery in the essence”, the use of Buddhist philosophy to explain the interpenetration of all phenomena.
- The Second Gate is the “mystery in the word”, using the Logos for “the process of gradually disentangling the students from the conceptual workings of the mind”.
- The Third Gate is the “mystery in the mystery”, “involving completely nonconceptual expressions, which are intended to remove all of the defects implicit in conceptual understanding”.
On top of Mount Huang-po he met the painful stick. On Ta-yu’s rips he could use his fist.
“Garrulous grandmother! Bed-witting little devil! This lunatic, twice pulling the tiger’s whiskers!”
In a rocky gorge he planted pines, a landmark for later generations. He dug the ground with his mattock; the others were nearly buried alive. Having approved the youngster, Huangpo slapped himself right on the mouth. On leaving, Rinzai wanted to burn the arm-rest; he’ll sit upon the tongues of everyone. If he didn’t go to Ho-nan, he’d return to Ho-pei. His temple overlooked the old ferry landing – he carried travelers across the stream. He guarded the vital fording-place like an escarpment ten thousand spans high. Snatching away the man or the surroundings, he shaped and fashioned superlative students. With his Three States and Three Fundamentals, he forged and tempered black-robed monks. He’s always at home, yet forever on the way.
The true man without rank went in and out the face. The monks to the two halls gave equal shouts, but guest and host were obvious. Illumination and action are simultaneous, fundamentally without front or back. A mirror confronting a form, an empty valley echoing a sound. Marvelously responding in any direction, he left not a trace behind.
Tucking up his robe, he journeyed southward, then went to stay in Ta-ming.
Hsing-hua took him as his teacher and attended him in the Eastern Hall.
Still using the copper pitcher and iron bowl, he closed his room and stopped his words.
As the pines grew old and the clouds idled, he found boundless contentment within himself.
I He had not long sat facing the wall when the secret transmission neared its end.
To whom was the True Dharma transmitted? It was extinguished upon reaching the blind ass!
Old Yen of Yuan-chlueh has now undertaken to circulate this text.
It has been examined and corrected, therefore it contains no error or confusion.
There is still one more shout coming; it needs further consideration:
Zen students who have the eye to see, I entreat you not to exploit this text.
Preface respectfully composed on the day of the midautumn festival, the year keng-tzu of the
Hsuan-ho era 1120.
Counselor 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
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 (in this) 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
“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.”
One day Rinzai went to Ho-fu. Counselor Wang the Prefectural Governor requested the Master
to take the high seat. At that time Ma-yu came forward and asked, “The Great Compassionate One has a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. Which is the true eye?”
The master said, “The Great Compassionate One has a thousand hands and a thousand eyes.
Which is the true eye? Speak, speak!”
Ma-yu pulled the Master down off the high seat and sat on it himself.
Coming up to him, the Master said, “How do you do?”
The master, in his turn, pulled Ma-yu down off the high seat and sat upon it himself.
Ma-yu went out. The Master stepped down.
Zen Master Rinzai took the high seat in the Hall. He said, “On your lump of red ﬂesh is a true man without rank who is always going in and out of the face of every one of you. Those who have not yet proved him, look, look!”
Then a monk came forward and asked, “What about the true man without rank?”
The Master got down from his seat, seized the monk, and cried, “Speak, speak!”
The monk faltered.
Shoving him away, the Master said, “The true man without rank -what a kind of shit-wiping
stick is he!” Then he returned to his quarters.
“My venerable Priest,” said the monk, “you’d better not try to peep at me.”
“Tell me what I’ve fallen into,” the Master said.
The monk gave a shout.
Another monk asked, “What about the cardinal principle of the Buddha-nature?”
The master shouted. The monk bowed.
“Do you say that’s a good shout?” asked the Master.
“The thief in the grass has met complete defeat,” returned the monk.
“What’s my offense?” asked the Master.
“It won’t be pardoned a second time,” replied the monk.
The Master gave a shout.
That sameday the head monk of the two halls had met and at the same moment each have
given a shout.
A monk asked the Master, “Was there a guest and a host?”
“Guest and host were obvious,” replied the Master.
Then he continued, “If you of the assembly want to understand my expression ‘guest and host’
ask the two head monks of the halls.”
Then the master stepped down.
The Master raised his whisk.
The monk shouted. The Master struck him.
Another monk asked, “what about the cardinal principle of the Buddha-dharma?”
Again the Master raised his whisk.
The monk shouted. The Master also shouted.
The monk faltered; the Master struck him.
Then the Master said, “You of the assembly, the man who lives for Dharma does not shrink
form losing his body or his life. Twenty years I was at my late master Huang-po’s place. Three
times I asked him about the cardinal principle of the Buddha-dharma, and three times he
favored me with his stick. But it was as if I’d been patted with a branch of mugwort (plant which was used to exorcise evil spirits) Now I’d like to taste another dose of the stick. Who can give it no me?”
A monk stepped forward and said, “I can.”
The Master held out a stick to him.
The monk tried to take it; the Master struck him.
“Heavens, heavens!” cried the Master.
The monk hesitated; the Master struck him.
Someone asked, “The lay-worker Shih-shih in treading the pestle-shaft of the rice mortar
would forget he was moving his feet; where did he go?”
“Drowned in a deep spring!” the Master replied.
Then he continued, “Whoever comes to me, I do not fail him: I know exactly where he comes
from. If he should come in a particular way, he would be as if he had lost (himself). If he
should not come in a particular way, he would have bound himself without a rope. Never ever
speculate haphazardly. Understanding and not understanding are both wrong. I say this
straight out. Anyone in the world is free to denounce me as he will. You have been standing a
long time. Take care of yourselves.”
buddhist) and the other to be Fu Daishi (famous lay-buddhist). Take care of yourselves.”
offerings of men and devas?” then he stepped down.
“What about the Second Statement?”
The Master said: How could Manjusri (Bodhisattva of Marvelous Wisdom ) permit Mujaku (a monk who met Manjusri) questioning! How could expedience go against the activity that cuts through the stream!”
“What about the Third Statement?”
Zen Master Rinzai said: “Look at the Wooden puppets performing on the stage! Their jumps and jerks all depend upon the man behind.”
The Master further said, “Each Statement must comprise the Gates of the Three Mysteries,
and the gate of each Mystery must comprise the Three Essentials. There are temporary
expedients, and there is functioning. How do all of you understand this?”
The Master stepped down.
the surroundings and do not take away man; sometimes I take away both man and the
surroundings; sometimes I take away neither man nor the surroundings.”
Then a monk asked, “What about ‘to take away man and not the surroundings’?”
The Master said:
“Spring sun comes forth covering the earth with brocade; (the surroundings)
A child is hair hangs down, White as silken strands. (eliminates the man, because no white
haired Chinese child)”
The monk asked, “What about ‘to take away the surroundings and not take away man’?”
Zen Master Rinzai said: “Mandates of the Sovereign are spread throughout the world.
The General has laid the dust of battle beyond the frontiers.”
Again the monk asked, “What about ‘to take away both man and the surroundings?”
The Master said: “Ping and Fen, (old districts which were isolated from government)
isolated away from everywhere.”
The monk asked, “What about ‘to take away neither man nor the surroundings’?”
The Master said: “The Sovereign ascends (his throne in) the jeweled palace;
Aged rustics are singing. (both presented aﬁirmatively in a world of peace)”
Then the Master said, “Nowadays he who studies Buddha-dharma must seek true insight.
Gaining true insight, he is not affected by birth-and-death, but freely goes or stays. He need
not seek that which is excellent -that which is excellent will come of itself.
Followers of the Way, the eminent predecessors we have had from of old all had their own
ways of saving men. As for me, what I want to point out to you is that you must not accept the
deluding views of others. If you want to act, then act. Don’t hesitate.
Students today can’t get anywhere: what ails you? Lack of faith in yourself is what ails you. If
you lack in faith in yourself, you’ll keep on tumbling along, bewilderedly following after all
kinds of circumstances, be taken by these myriad circumstances through transformation after
transformation, and never be yourself.
Bring to rest the thoughts of the ceaselessly seeking mind, and you’ll not differ from the Patriarch-Buddha. Do you want to know the Patriarch-Buddha? He is none than you who
stand before me listening to my discourse. Since you students lack faith in yourself, you run
around seeking something outside. Even if through seeking you ﬁnd something, that
something will be nothing more than elaborate descriptions in written words; in the end you
will fail to gain the mind of the Living Patriarch. Make no mistake, worthy Zen men! If you
don’t meet (him) here and now, you’ll go on transmigratinglthrough the three realms for
myriads of kalpas and thousands of lives, and, held in the clutch of agreeable circumstances,
be born in the womb of an ass or a cow.
Followers of the Way, as I see it we are not different from Sakya. What do we lack for our
manifold activities today? The six rays’ divine light (functioning of the six senses) never ceases to shine. See it this way, and you will be a man who has nothing to do his whole life long.
Virtuous monks, the three realms lack tranquility just like a burning house.
It is not a place where you remain for long. The death-dealing demon impermanence comes in
an instant, without discriminating between noble and base, old and young.
If you wish to differ in no way from the Patriarch-Buddha, just don’t seek outside. The pure
light in your single thought — this is the Dharmakaya Buddha within your own house. The
non-discriminating light in your single thought – this is the Sambhoakaya Buddha within your
own house. The non-discriminating light in your single thought – this is the Nirmanakaya
Buddha within your own house. This threefold Body is you, listening to my discourse right
now before my very eyes. Only because there is no running around seeking outside are there
such meritorious activities.
According to the masters of the sutras and sastras, the Threefold Body is regarded as the
ultimate norm. But in my view this is not so. This Threefold Body is merely a name; moreover,
it is as threefold dependency. A man of old said: ‘The (Buddha-) bodies are posited depending
upon meaning; the (Buddha-) lands are postulated in keeping with substance.’ Therefore we
clearly know that ‘Dharma-natured bodies’ and ‘Dharma-natured lands’ are no more than
Virtuous monks, you must recognize the one who manipulates these reﬂections. ‘He is the
primal source of all the buddhas,’ and every place is the home to which the follower of the
Way returns. This physical body of yours composed of the four great elements can neither expound the Dharma nor listen to it; your spleen and stomach, liver and gallbladder can neither expound the Dharma nor listen to it; the empty sky can neither expound the Dharma nor listen to it.
Then just what can expound the Dharma and listen to it? This very you standing distinctly
before me without any form, shining alone — this can expound the Dharma and listen to it!
Understand it this way, and you are not different from the Patriarch-Buddha. ]ust never ever
be interrupted, and all that contacts your eyes will be right. But, because ‘when feeling arises,
wisdom is barred, and when thinking changes, the substance varies,’ therefore men
transmigrate through the three realms and undergo all kinds of suffering. As I see it, there are
none who are not of the utmost profundity, none who aren’t emancipated.
Followers of the Way, mind is without form and pervades the ten directions: ln the eye it is called seeing, in the ear it is called hearing. In the nose it smells odors, in the month it holds converse. In the hands it grasps and seizes, in the feet it runs and carries.
Fundamentally it is one pure radiance; divided it becomes the six harmoniously united
spheres of sense. Since the mind is non-existent, wherever you are, you are emancipated.
What is my purpose in speaking this way? I do so only because you followers of the Way
cannot stop your mind from running around everywhere seeking, and because you go
clambering after the worthless contrivances of the men of old.
Followers of the Way, take my viewpoint, and you will cut off the heads of the Sambhogakaya
and Nirmanakaya Buddhas; a bodhisattva who’s attained the completed mind of the tenth
stage will be like a mere hireling; a bodhisattva of Approximate Enlightenment will be like a
pilloried prisoner; an arhat and a pratyeka-buddha (a person who gains enlightenment by himself) will be like privy ﬁlth; Bodhi and Nirvana will be like hitching-posts for asses. Why is this so? It is just because you haven’t realized the emptiness of the three asamkhyeya kalpas (needed to complete the practice) that you followers of the Way have such obstacles.
The true man of the Way is never like that; merely according with circumstances as they are
he makes use of his past karma; accepting things as they come he puts on his clothes; when
he wants to walk he walks, when he wants to sit he sits; he never has a single thought of
seeking Buddhahood. Why is this so? A man of old said: “If you create karma trying to seek Buddha, Buddha will become a great precursor of birth-and-death.”
Virtuous monks, time is precious. Yet you try by hurrying hither and thither to learn
meditation, to study the Way, to accept names, to accept phrases, to seek Buddha, to seek a
Patriarch, to seek a good teacher, and try to speculate.
Make no mistake, followers of the Way! After all, you do have a father and a mother (you are
complete). What more would you seek? Try turning your own light inward upon yourselves! A
man of old said: “Kajnadatta ( thought he had ) lost his head, but when his seeking mind came to rest, he was at ease.”
Virtuous monks, just be ordinary. Don’t put on airs. There’re a bunch of shavepates who can’t
tell good from bad; they see spirits, they see demons; they point to the east, they point to the
west; they like fair weather, they like rain. The day will come when such men as these, every
one of them, will have to repay their depts in front of old Yama by swallowing red-hot iron
balls. (You) sons and daughters of good families, bewitched by this pack of wild foxes, lose your senses. Blind idiots! Someday you’ll be made to pay up for the vittles you’ve eaten!”
“Followers of the Way, it is urgently necessary that you endeavor to acquire true insight and
stride boldly (here) under heaven so as not to lose your senses due to that bunch of spirits.
(He who has) nothing to do is the noble man. Simply don’t strive — just be ordinary. But you go and run hither and thither outside and make inquiries, looking for some helper. You’re all
wrong! You only try to seek Buddha, but Buddha is merely a name. Don’t you know what it is you are running around seeking? The buddhas and the patriarchs of the three periods (past, present and future) and the ten directions (eight points on the compass plus nadir and zenith) only appear in order to seek Dharma. You followers of the Way who are the students of today, you, too, have only to seek Dharma. Attain Dharma and you’re all done. Until then, you’ll go on transmigrating through the five paths Of existence (heavenly beings, human, animals, ghosts, and hell-dwellers) just as you have been.
What is Dharma? Dharma is mind-dharma. Mind-dharma is without form; it pervades the ten
directions and is manifesting its activities right before your every eyes. Since men lack
sufficient faith (in this), they accept names and phrases, and try to speculate about
Buddha-dharma from written words. (They and Dharma,) heaven and earth are far apart!
Followers of the Way, when l, this mountain monk, expound the Dharma, what Dharma do I
expound? I expound the Dharma of mind-ground (from which all things are produced), by which one can enter the secular and the sacred, the pure and the dirty, the real and the temporal. But mark you! You are mistaken if you suppose that your real and temporal, secular and sacred can attach a nameto everything real and temporal, secular and sacred. The real and temporal, the secular and the sacred cannot attach a name to this man. Followers of the Way, grasp and use, but never name — this is called the ‘mysterious principle.’
My discourse on Dharma is different from that of every other man on earth. Supposing
Manjusri (wisdom) and Samantabhadra (meditation) were to appear before me, manifesting
their respective bodily forms for the purpose of questioning me about Dharma. The moment
they say, ’Rinzai, what…’ I would have already discerned them through and through. Likewise,
when this old monk is sitting ﬁrmly and a follower of the Way comes for an interview with me,
I discern him through and through. Why is this so? ]ust because my insight is different; I make
no choice between the secular and the sacred without, nor do I stay in the absolute state
within; I see penetratingly, and am free from all doubt.
“Followers of the Way, as to Buddha-dharma no effort is necessary. You only have to be
ordinary with nothing to do — defecating, urinating, putting on clothes, eating food, and lying
down when tired. Fools laugh at me, but the Wise man understands.
A man of old said: “To make Work on the outside is just being a blockhead.”
]ust make yourself master of every situation, and wherever you stand is the true (place). No
matter what circumstances come they cannot dislodge you (from where you stand). Even
though you bear the remaining inﬂuences of past delusions or the karma from (having
committed) the ﬁve heinous crimes (matricide, patricide, killing an arhat, shedding the blood of a Buddha, destroying the harmony of the sangha), these of themselves become the ocean of emancipation. Students nowadays know nothing of Dharma. They are just like sheep that take into their mouths whatever their noses happen to hit against. They neither discriminate between master and slave, nor distinguish host from guest. Such as these, having entered the Way with crooked motives, readily enter bustling places. They cannot be called true renouncers of home — on the contrary — they’ve in fact are true householders.
Now he who is a renouncer of home must, acquiring the usual and true insight, distinguish
between Buddha and Mara (any person or thing which leads men astray), between the true and the false, the secular and the sacred. If he can do this, then he may be called a true renouncer of home. But if he cannot distinguish Mara from Buddha, then he has only left one house to enter another. He maybe dubbed a karma-creating sentient being, but he cannot be called a true renouncer of home. Now, supposing there were a Buddha-Mara, inseparably united in one body, like the mixture of water and milk of which the King of Geese drinks only the milk, the follower of the Way who possess the true Dharma Eye would handle Mara and Buddha equally. But, If you lo Ve the sacred and hate the secular; You ‘ll ﬂoat and sink in the birth -and-dea th sea.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “Our thought of doubt in your mind is Mara. If you realize that the ten
thousand dharmas never come into being, that mind is like a phantom, that not even a single
grain of dust or a single dharma exists, that there is no place whatsoever that is not
immaculate and pure — this is Buddha. Thus Buddha and Mara are two states, the one pure,
the other impure.
According to my view there is no Buddha, no sentient being, no past, no present. Attainment
is attained instantly, with no time required, no practice, no realizing, no gain, no loss;
throughout all time there is no other Dharma. Even though there were a Dharma that
surpasses this, I say to you that it would be like a dream, like a phantom. This is all I teach.
Followers of the Way, he, who at this moment, before my eyes is shining alone and clearly
listening to my discourse — this man tarries nowhere; he traverses the ten directions and is
freely himself in the three realms. Though he enters the differentiations of every state, no one
of these can divert him. In an instant of time he penetrates the dharmadhatus (realms of
phenomena of the physical universe): on meeting a Buddha he persuades the Buddha, on meeting a patriarch he persuades the patriarch, on meeting an arhat he persuades the arhat, on meeting a hungry ghost he persuades the hungry ghost. In traveling everywhere through every land, in bringing enlightenment to sentient beings, he is never separate from his present mind. Everywhere is pure, light illumines the ten directions, and ‘the ten thousand dharmas are one as is.’
Followers of the Way, right now the resolute man knows full well that from the beginning
there is nothing to do. Only because your faith (in this) is insufﬁcient do you ceaselessly chase
about; having thrown away your head you go on and on looking for it, unable to stop yourself.
The Bodhisattva of Complete and Immediate (Enlightenment) having entered the
dharmadhatu and manifested his body, within the Pure Land detests the secular and delights
in the sacred. Such as he has not yet left off accepting and rejecting; ideas of purity and
deﬁlement still remain.
For the Zen School, understanding is not thus — it is instantaneous, now, not a matter of time!
All I teach is just temporary medicine to cure a corresponding illness. Indeed, no real Dharma
exists. He who understands this is a true renouncer of home; he may spend million gold coins
Followers of the Way, don’t have your face stamped at random with the seal of sanction
by any old master anywhere, then go around saying, ‘I understand Zen, I understand the Way.’ Though your eloquence is like a rushing torrent, it is nothing but hell-creating karma.
The true student of the Way does not look to the faults of the world; he eagerly desires to seek
true insight. If he attains true insight in its perfect clarity, then, indeed, that is all.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “You have only at anytime enter the secular, enter the sacred, enter the deﬁled, enter the pure, enter the lands of all the Buddhas, the Tower of Maitreya, and the
dharmadhatu of Vairocana (dharmakaya), and (enter) all the lands everywhere which you
manifest (that) come into being, exist, decay, and disappear.
The Buddha came into the world, turned the Wheel of the Great Dharma, then entered
Nirvana, yet no trace of his coming and going can be seen. Though you seek (proof of) his
birth and death, you will never ﬁnd it.
Then, having entered the Birthless Dhamadhatu and traveled throughout every country, you
enter the Lotus-womb Realm, and there see through and through that all dharmas are
characterized by emptiness and that there is no real dharma whatsoever.
There is only the man of the Way, listening to my discourse, dependent upon nothing — he it is who is the mother of all Buddhas. Therefore buddhas are born from non-dependence. Awaken to non-dependence, and there is no Buddha to be obtained, either. Insight such as this is true insight.
Students do not comprehend this, and, because they adhere to names and phrases and are
obstructed by such terms as ‘secular’ and ‘sacred,’ becloud their Dharma Eye and cannot
obtain clarity of vision. Take for instance the twelve divisions of the teachings – all are but
expositions in written words. Not understanding this, students form interpretations based
upon names and written words. Being dependent, they fall into causation; they don’t escape
the round of birth-and-death in the three realms.
If you want to freely live or die, go or stay, to take off or put on (your clothes), then right now
recognize the man who is listening to my discourse. He is without form, without
characteristics, without root, without source, and without any dwelling place, yet is brisk and
lively. As for all his manifold responsive activities, the place where they are carried on is, in
fact, no-place. Therefore, when you look for him, he retreats farther and farther; when you
seek him, he turns more and more the other way; this is called the ‘Mystery.’
Followers of the Way, don’t acknowledge your illusory companion, the body; sooner or later it
will return to impermanence. What kind of thing are you looking for within this world that
(you think) will give you emancipation! You look for a mouthful of food to eat and while away
the time patching your robe. You should be searching for a good teacher. Don’t drift along (like this) pursuing comfort. Value every second. Each successive thought is impermanent. The
gross material (of which you are composed) is at the mercy of (the four elements,) earth,
water, fire, and wind; the ﬁne material (of which you are composed) is at the mercy of the
four phases, birth, being, decay, and death. Followers of the Way, you must right now
apprehend the state in which the four (elements and four phases) are formless to avoid being
buffeted about by circumstances.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “An instant of doubt in your mind and you’re obstructed by earth; an instant of lust in your mind and you’re drowned by water; an instant of anger in your mind and you’re scorched by ﬁre; an instant by joy in your mind and you’re blown about by wind. Gain such discernment as this, and you are not turned this way and that by circumstances; making use of circumstances everywhere you spring up in the east and sink down in the west, spring up in the south and sink down in thebnorth, spring up in the center and sink down in the border, spring up at the border and sink down in the center, walk on the water as on land and walk on the land as on water.
How is this possible? Because you have realized that the four elements are like dreams, like
illusions. Followers of the Way, the You who right now is listening to my discourse is not your
four elements; this is you makes use of your four elements. If you can fully understand this,
you are free to go or to stay (as you please).
From my viewpoint, there is not a thing to be disliked. If you love the ‘sacred,’ what is sacred
is no more than the name ‘sacred.’
There’re a bunch of students who seek Manjusri on Mount Wutai. Wrong from the start!
There’s no Manjusri on Mount Wutai. Do you want to know Manjusri? Your activity right now,
never changing, nowhere faltering — this is the living Manjusri. Your single thought’s
non-differentiating light — this indeed is the true Samantabhadra. Your single thought that of
itself frees from bondage and brings emancipation everywhere – this is the
Avalokitesvara-samadhi. Since these (three) alternately take position of master and
attendants, when they appear they appear at one and the same time. The one is the three, the
three are the one. Gain understanding such as this, and then you can read the sutras.
Resolute men, don’t just pass your days in discussion and idle talk, arguing about authorities
and outlaws, right and wrong, licentiousness and wealth. As for me, whoever comes here,
whether he be monk or layman, I discern him through and through. Regardless of the manner
in which he presents himself, as far as (his) words and phrases are concerned, they are all
dreams and illusions. On the other hand, it is obvious that the man who avails himself of every
circumstance is (embodying) the mysterious principle of all the Buddhas. The state of
Buddhahood does not of itself proclaim, ‘I am the state of Buddhahood!’; rather than that, this
very man of the Way, who is dependent upon nothing, comes forth availing himself of every
If someone comes forth and asks me about seeking Buddha, I immediately appear in
conformity with the state of purity; if someone asks me about bodhisattva hood, I
immediately appear in conformity with the state of compassion; if someone asks me about
Bodhi, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of pure mystery; if someone asks me
about Nirvana, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of serene stillness. Though
there be ten thousand differentiated states, the man himself does not differ. Therefore,
According with ( the ) things he manifests a form,
Like the moon (reﬂecting) on the wate.
Followers of the Way, if you want to accord with Dharma as is, just be men of great resolve. If
you spinelessly shilly-shally along, you’re good for nothing. just as a cracked jug is unﬁt to
hold glee, so he who would be a great vessel (of Dharma) must not be taken in by the deluded
views of others. Make yourself master everywhere, and wherever you stand is the true
Whatever comes along, don’t accept any of it. One thought of doubt, and instantly the demon
(Mara) enters your mind. When even a bodhisattva doubts, the demon of birth-and-death
takes his advantage. lust desist from thinking, and never seek outside. If something should
come, illumine it. lust have faith in your activity revealed now — there isn’t a thing to do.
One thought of your mind produces the three realms and, in accordance with causal
conditions and inﬂuenced by circumstances, the division into six dusts takes place. What is
lacking in your present responsive activity! In an instant you enter the pure, enter the dirty,
enter the Tower of Maitreya, enter the Land of the Three Eyes, and everywhere you travel all
you see is empty names.
The Master said: “When you and I together enter the Land of Pure Mystery we put on the robe
of pureness and persuade the Dharmakaya Buddha; when we enter the Land of
Non-differentiation we put on the robe of non-differentiation and persuade the
Sambhogakaya Buddha; when we enter the Land of Emancipation we put on the robe of
brightness and persuade the Nirmanakaya Buddha. These Lands of the Three are all
According to the masters of the sutras and sastras, the Dharmakaya is regarded as basic
substance and the Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya as function. From my point of view the
Dharmakaya Buddha cannot expound the Dharma. Therefore a man of old said: ‘The
(Buddha-) bodies are posited depending upon meaning; the (Buddha-) lands are postulated
in keeping with substance. Therefore we clearly know that the Dharma-natured bodiesand
Dharma-natured lands are objects and lands established through dependent understanding.
Empty ﬁsts and yellow leaves used to fool a child! Spiked-gorse seeds! Horned water
chestnuts! What kind of juice are you looking for in such a dried-up bones!
Outside mind there’s no Dharma (dharma), nor is there anything to be obtained within it.
What are you seeking? Everywhere you’re saying, ‘There’s something to practice, something
to prove.’ Make no mistake! Even if there were something to be obtained by practice, it would
be nothing but birth-and-death karma. You are saying, ‘The six paramitas (charity, keeping the
precepts, patience, zeal, meditation, wisdom) and the ten thousands (virtuous) actions are equally to be practiced.’ As I see it, all this is just making karma. Seeking Buddha and seeking Dharma is only making hellkarma. Seeking bodhisattvahood is also making karma; reading the sutras and studying the teaching is also making karma. Buddhas and Patriarchs are men with
nothing to do. Therefore, (for them) both deﬁling passions and activities and also
passionlessness and non-activity are ‘pure’ karma.
There are a bunch of blind shave-pates who, having stuffed themselves with food, sit down to
meditate and practice contemplation; arresting the ﬂow of thought they don’t let rise; they
hate noise and seek stillness. This is the method of the heretics. A patriarch said: ‘If you stop
the mind to look at stillness, arouse the mind to illumine outside, control mind to clarify
inside, concentrate the mind to enter Samadhi — all such (practices) as these are artiﬁcial
This very you, the man who right now is thus listening to my discourse, how is he to be
cultivated, to be proved, to be adorned! He is not one to be cultivated; he is not one to be
adorned. But if you let him do the adorning, then everything can be adorned. Don’t you be
Followers of the Way, you seize upon words from mouths of those old masters and take them
to be the true Way (and say): ‘These good teachers are wonderful, and I, simple-minded
fellow that I am don’t dare measure such old worthies.’ Blind idiots! You go through your
entire life holding such views, betraying your own eyes. Trembling with fright, like donkeys
on an icy path, (you say to yourselvesz) ‘I don’t dare disparage these good teachers for fear of making karma with my mouth!’
Followers of the Way, it is only the great teacher who dares to disparage the buddhas, dares to
disparage the patriarchs, to determine the right and the wrong of the world, to reject the
teachings of the Tripitaka, to revile all the infantile fellows, and to look for a man amidst
fortunate or unfortunate circumstances.
Therefore, when I look back over the past twelve years for a single thing having the nature of
karma, l can’t find anything even the size of a mustard seed. The Zen master who is like a new
bride will fear lest he be thrown out of is temple, be given no food to eat, and have no
contentment and ease. From olden days our predecessors never had people anywhere who
believed in them. Only after they had been driven out did their worth become recognized. If
they had been completely accepted by people everywhere, what would they have been good
for? Therefore it is said: ‘The lion is one roar splits the jackals’skulls. ‘
Followers of the Way, people everywhere say that there is a Way to be practiced, a Dharma to
be proven. Tell me, what Dharma will you prove, what Way will you practice! What is lacking
in your present activity! What still needs to be patched up!
The immature young teacher, not understanding this, believes in these fox-spirits; he lets
them talk the kind of nonsense that binds other people and say that only by harmonizing the
principle and practice and by guarding (against) the three karmas can Buddhahood be
attained. People who talk like this are as numerous as the ﬁne threads of spring rain.
A man of old said: “If you meet a man on the road who has penetrated the Way,
above all do not try to approach the Way!”
Therefore it is said:
When a man tries to practice the Way the Way does notfunction,
And the ten thousand evil circumstances vie inraising their heads.
But when the Sword of Wisdom ﬂashes forth, nothing remains;
Before brigh tn ess is manifest; darkness is bright.
For that reason a man of old said, ‘Usual mind is the Way.’
Virtuous monks, what are you looking for? The non-dependent man of the Way who right now
before my eyes is listening to my discourse, clearly distinguishable, (it is you who’ve) never
yet lacked anything. If you want to be no different from the Patriarch-Buddha, just see things
this way There’s no need to waver.
Your minds and Mind do not differ — thiscalled (your) Living Patriarch. If mind differs, the
essential nature and forms will be different. Since mind does not differ, therefore the essential
nature and forms are not different.”
The Master said: “At the instant you try to question (me) your mindhas already differed, and
your nature and form have separated from each other.
Followers of the Way, make no mistake! All the dharmas of this world and of the world
beyond are without self-nature. Also, they are without produced nature. There is just the
name ‘empty’ and the name (empty) is also empty. All you are doing is taking these worthless
names to be real. That’s all wrong! Even though they do exist, they are nothing but states of
dependent transformation, such as the dependent transformation of bodhi, nirvana,
emancipation the threefold body, the (objective) surroundings and the (subjective) mind,
bodhisattvahood, and Buddhahood. What are you looking for in these lands of dependent
transformation! All of these, up to and including the Three Vehicle’s twelve divisions of
teachings, are just so much waste paper to wipe off privy ﬁlth. The Buddha is just a phantom
body, the patriarchs are just old bhikus.
But you, weren’t you born of a mother? If you seek Buddha, you’ll be held in the grip of the
Buddha-mara. If you seek the patriarchs, you’ll be bound by the ropes of the patriarch-mara. If
you engage in any seeking, it will all be pain. Much better do nothing.
There are a bunch of shave-pate bhikus who say to students: ‘Buddha is the Ultimate; he
attained Buddhahood only after he came to the fruition of practices carried on through three
great asamkhyeya kalpas.’ Followers of the Way, if you say that Buddha is the ultimate, how is
it that after eighty years of life the Buddha lay down on his side between the twin sala trees at
Kusinagara and died? Where is Buddha now! We clearly know that his birth and death were
not different from ours.
You say, ‘The thirty-two (primary) features and the eighty (secondary) features indicating a
Buddha.’ Then must the Cakra-vartin (universal monarch also have these) also be considered a
Tathagata? We clearly know that features are illusory transformations. A man of old said:
The Tathagata is Various bodily features
Were assumed to accord with worldly feelings.
Lest men conceive annihilist vie ws, ‘
He pro Visionally pro vided unreal names.
Temporarily we speak of the ‘thirty-two, ‘
The ’eighly’also, are but emptysounds.
The mortal body is not the awakened body
Featureless is the true ﬁgure.
You say, ‘A Buddha has six natural powers (1. Transform the body at will, and move to any places. 2. See anything anywhere, as well future births, etc. 3. Hear any sound, understand all speech in the realm of form. 4. Know thoughts in the minds of others. 5. Knowledge of all the previous existences. 6. Knowledge of the subsiding of the outﬂows, or passion.)
entering the world of odor yet not being deluded by odor;
Followers of the Way, true Buddha has no ﬁgure, true Dharma has no form. All you are doing
is fashioning models and creating patterns out of illusory transformation. Anything you may
ﬁnd through seeking will only be a wild fox spirit; it certainly won’t be true Buddha. It will be
the understanding of a heretic.
The true student of the Way has nothing to do with Buddhas, nothing to do with Bodhisattvas
or Arhats. Nor has he anything to do with what is held to be excellent in the three realms.
Having transcended these, in solitary freedom, he is not bound by things. Though heaven and
earth were to turn upside down I wouldn’t have a doubt: though all the buddhas of the ten
directions were to manifest themselves before me, I wouldn’t have any joy; though three hells
were to suddenly yawn at my feet, I wouldn’t have any fear. Why is this so? Because as I see it,
all dharmas are empty” forms; when transformation takes place they are existent, when
transformation does not take place they are non-existent. The three realms are mind only, the
ten thousand dharmas are consciousness only. Hence:
Illusory dreams, ﬂowers in the sky;
Why trouble to grasp at them!
Only you, the follower of the Way right now before my eyes listening to my discourse, (only
you) enter ﬁre and are not burned, enter water and are not drowned, enter the three hells as
though strolling in a pleasure garden, enter the realms of the hungry ghosts and the beasts
without suffering their fate. How can this be? There are no dharmas to be disliked. ‘
lf you love the sacred and hate the secular;
You ‘ll ﬂoat and sink in the birth-and-death sea.
The passions exist dependent on mind:
Have no-mind and how can they bind you?
Without troubling to discriminate or cling to forms,
You ‘ll attain the Way naturally in a moment of time.
But if you try to get understanding by hurrying along this byway and that, after three asamkhyeya kalpas you’ll still end up in the round of birth-and-death. Better take your ease
sitting cross-legged on the corner of a meditation chair in a monastery.
Followers of the Way, students come from every quarter, and after host and guest have met, a
student come will take the measure of the teacher before him with a phrase. Some tricky
words are picked out by the student and thrown at the corner of the teacher’s mouth. ‘Let’s
see if you can understand this!’ he says. If you recognize it to be a device, you seize it and ﬂing
it into a pit. Whereupon the student quiets down, then asks the teacher to say something. As
before, the teacher robs him of his attitude. The student says, ‘What superlative wisdom! A
great teacher, indeed!’ To which you instantly retort, ‘You can’t even tell good from bad.’
Or a teacher may take out a bunch of stuff and play with it in front of a student. The latter,
having seen through this, makes himself master every time and doesn’t fall for the humbug.
Now the teacher reveals the half of his body, whereupon the student gives a shout. Again the
teacher tries to rattle the student by using all sorts of expression having to do with
differentiation. ‘You can’t tell good from bad, you old shave-pate!’ exclaims the student. And
the teacher, with a sigh of admiration, says, ‘Ah, a true follower of the Way!‘
There’re teachers all around who can’t distinguish the false from the true. When students
come asking about Bodhi, nirvana, the trikaya, or the (objective) surroundings and the
(subjective) mind, the blind old teachers immediately start explaining to them. When they’re
railed at by the students they grab their sticks and hit them, (shouting.) ‘What insolent talk!’
Obviously you teachers yourselves are without an eye so you’ve no right to get angry with
And then there’re a bunch of shave-pates who, not knowing good from bad, point to the east
and point to the west, delight in fair weather, delight in rain, and delight in lanterns and
pillars! There is a good reason for this (loss of eyebrows). Lacking understanding, students
become infatuated with them. Such (shave-pates) as these are all wild fox spirits and nature
goblins. Good students snicker, ‘Te-hee!’ and say, ‘Blind old shave-pates, deluding and
bewitching everyone under heaven!’
Followers of the Way, he who is a renouncer of home must needs study the Way. Take me, for
example: in bygone days I devoted myself to Vinaya and also delved into the sutras and
sastras. Later, when I realized that there were medicine for salvation and displays of doctrines
in written words, I once and for all threw them away, and, searching for the Way, I practiced
meditation. Still later I met great teachers. Then it was, with my Dharma Eye becoming clear,
that I could discern all the old teachers under heaven and tell the false ones from the true. It is
not that I understood from the moment I was born of my mother, but that, after exhaustive
investigation and grinding discipline, in an instant I knew of myself.
Followers of the Way, if you want insight into Dharma as is, just don’t be taken in by the
deluded views of others. Whatever you encounter, either within or without, slay it at once: on
meeting a Buddha slay the Buddha, on meeting a patriarch slay the patriarch, on meeting an
arhat slay the arhat, on meeting your parents slay your parents, on meeting your kinsman
slay your kinsman, and you attain emancipation. By not cleaving to things, you freely pass
Among all the students from every quarter who are followers of the Way, none have yet come
before me without being dependent on something. Here I hit them right from the start. If they come forth using their hands, I hit them on the hands; if they come forth using their mouths, I
hit them on the mouths; if they come forth using their eyes, I hit them on the eyes. Not one
has yet come before me in solitary freedom. All are clambering after the worthless
contrivances of the men of old. As for myself, I haven’t a single dharma to give to men. All I can
do is to cure illness and unloosen bonds. You followers of the Way from every quarter, try
coming before me without being dependent upon things. I would confer with you.
Five years, nay ten years passed, but as yet not one man (has appeared). All have been
(ghosts) dependent upon grasses or attached to leaves, souls of bamboos and trees, wild fox
spirits. They recklessly gnaw on all kinds of dung clods. Blind fools! Wastefully squandering
the alms given them by believers everywhere and saying, ‘I am a renouncer of home!’ all the
while holding such views as these! i
I say to youthere is no Buddha, no Dharma, nothing to practice, nothing to prove. lust what
are you seeking thus in the highways and byways? Blind men! You’re putting a head on top of
the one you already have. What do you yourself lack! Followers of the Way, your own present
activities do not differ from those of the patriarch-buddhas. You just don’t believe this and
keep on seeking outside. Make no mistake! Outside there is no dharma; inside, there is none
to be obtained. Better than grasp at the words from my mouth, take it easy and do nothing.
Don’t continue thoughts that have already arisen and don’t let those that have not yet arisen
be aroused. just this will be worth far more to you than a ten years’ pilgrimage.
As I see it, there isn’t so much to do. Just be ordinary — put on your robes, eat your food, and
pass the time doing nothing. You who come here from every quarter all have the idea of
seeking Buddha, seeking Dharma, seeking emancipation, seeking to get out of the three
realms. Foolish fellows! When you’ve left the three realms where would you go?
‘Buddha’ and ‘Patriarch’ are only names of praising-bondage. Do you want to know the three
realms? They are not separate from the mind-ground of you who right now are listening to
my discourse. Your single covetous thought is the realm of desire; your single angry thought is
the realm of form; your single delusive thought is the realm of formlessness. These are the
furnishings within your own house. The three realms do not of themselves proclaim: ‘We are
the three realms!’ But you, followers of the Way, right now vividly illuminating all things and
taking the measure of the world, you give the names to the three realms.
Virtuous monks, the physical body (composed) of the four great elements is impermanent;
(every part of it,) including the spleen, stomach, liver, and gallbladder, the hair, nails, and
teeth as well, only proves that all dharmas are empty appearances. The place where your one
thought comes to rest is called the ‘Bodhi Tree’; the place where your one thought cannot
come to rest is called the ‘Avidya Tree’. Avidya has no dwelling-place; avidya has no beginning
and no end. If your successive thoughts cannot come to a rest, you go up the Avidya tree: you
enter the six paths of existence and the four modes of birth (womb, egg, moisture, and
metamorphosis), wear fur on your body and horns on your head (become an animal). If your
successive thoughts can come to a rest, then this very body is the pure body.
When not a single thought arises in your mind, then you go up the Bodhi Tree; you
supernaturally transform yourself in the three realms and change your bodily’ form at will.
You rejoice in the Dharma, delight in Samadhi and the radiance of your body shines forth of
itself. At the thought of garments a thousand lengths of brocade are at hand; at the thought of food a hundred delicacies are before you; furthermore, you never suffer unusual illness.
‘Bodhi has no dwelling-place, therefore it is not attainable.’
Followers of the Way, what more is there for the resolute fellow to doubt? The activity going
on right now -whose is it? Grasp and use, but never name — this is called the ‘mysterious
principle.’ Come to such understanding as this, and there are no dharmas to be disliked.
A man of old said:
Mind turns in accordance with the myriad circumstances,
And this turning in truth, is most mysterious.
Recognizing (my) nature While according with the ﬂow;
I’v no more joy nor any sorrow.
orderly. The student of Zen must examine (this) most carefully.
When host and guest meet they vie with one another in discussion. At times, in response to
something, they may manifest a form; at times they may act with their whole body; or they
may, by picking up a tricky device, (make a display of) joy or anger; or they may reveal the
half of the body; or again they may ride upon a lion (Manjusri) or mount upon a lordly elephant (Samantabhadra).
A true student gives a shout, and to start with holds out a sticky lacquer tray. The teacher not
discerning that this is an objective circumstance goes after it and performs a lot of antics with
it. The student again shouts but still the teacher is unwilling to let go. This is a disease of the
vitals which no doctoring can cure: it is called ‘the guest examines the host.’
Sometimes a teacher will proffer nothing, but the instant a student asks a question, robs him
of it. The Student, having been robbed, resists to the death and will not let go; this is called
‘the host is examine the guest. ‘
Sometimes a student comes forth before a teacher in conformity with a state of purity. The
teacher, discerning that this is an objective circumstance, seizes it and ﬂings it into a pit.
‘What an excellent teacher!’ exclaims the student, and the teacher replies, ‘Bah! You can’t tell
good from bad!’ Thereupon the student makes a deep bow: this is called ‘the host examines
Or again, a student will appear before a teacher wearing a cangue and bound with chains. The
teacher fastens on still more chains and cangues for him. The student is so delighted he can’t
tell what is what: this is called ‘the guest examines the guest.’
Virtuous monks, all the examples I have brought before you serve to distinguish demons and
point out heretics, thus making it possible for you to know what is erroneous what is correct.
Followers of the Way, true sincerity is extremely difﬁcult to attain, and the Buddha-dharma is
deep and mysterious, yet a goodly measure of understanding can be acquired. I explain it
exhaustively all day long, but you students give not the slightest heed. Though a thousand
times, nay ten thousand times, you tread it under foot, you are still in utter darkness. It is
without a vestige of form, yet distinct inits solitary shining.
Because your faith (in yourselves) is insufﬁcient, you students turn to words and phrases and from them create your understanding. Until you’ve reached the half-century mark you
continue dragging (your) dead bodies up blind alleys and running about the world bearing
heavy loads on bending shoulder-poles. The day will come when you’ll have to pay up for the
straw sandals you’ve worn out.
Virtuous monks, when I state that there are no dharmas outside, the student does not
comprehend and immediately tries to ﬁnd understanding within. He sits down cross-legged
with his back against the wall, his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth, completely still and
motionless. This he takes to be the Buddha-dharma of the Patriarchal School. That’s all
If you take the state of motionlessness and purity to be correct, then you are recognizing the
darkness (of avidya) as master. This is what a man of old meant when he said: -‘Fearful indeed
is the bottomless black pit!’ If on the other hand you recognize motion to be correct, since
all plants and trees can move, must they then be the Way? –
Thus ‘motion is the wind element: motionlessness is the earth element.’ Motion and
motionlessness both are without self-nature. If you try to seize it within motion, it takes a
position within motionlessness. If you try to seize it within motionlessness, it takes a position
Like a ﬁsh hidden in a pool,
Smacking the waves as it leaps (from the water).
non-dependent Man of the Way who utilizes motion and utilizes motionlessness.
As for the students who come from every quarter, I myself divide them into three categories
according to their inherent capacities. If one of less than average capacity comes, I snatch
away his state but do not take away his Dharma. If one of better than average capacity comes,
I snatch away both his state and Dharma. If one of superior capacity comes, I snatch away
neither his state, his Dharma, nor himself. But should a man of extraordinary understanding
come, I would act with my whole body and not categorize him. Virtuous monks, when a
student has reached this point, his manifest power is impenetrateable to any wind and swifter
than a spark from ﬂint or a ﬂash of lightening. The moment a student blinks his eyes, he’s
already way off. The moment he tries to think, he’s already differed. The moment he arouses a
thought, he’s already deviated. But for the man who understands, it’s always right here before
Virtuous monks, with your bowl-bag and your dung-sack slung from your shoulders, you rush
up blind alleys, seeking Buddha and seeking Dharma. Do you know who it is who right now is
running around seeking this way? He is brisk and lively, with no roots at all. Though you (try
to) embrace him, you cannot gather him in; though you (try to) drive him away, you cannot
‘shake him off. If you seek him he retreats farther and farther away; if you don’t seek him, then
he’s right before your eyes, his wondrous voice resounding in your ears. If a man has no faith
(in this), he’ll waste his entire life.
Followers of the Way, in an instant you enter the Lotus World, the Land of Vairocana, the Land
of Emancipation, the Land of Supernatural Powers, the Land of Purity, and the Dharmadhatu; you enter the dirty and the pure, the secular and the sacred, the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and the Realm of Beasts. Yet however far and wide you may search nowhere will you see any birth or death; there will only be empty names.
lllusory transformation, ﬂowers in the sky,
I don ‘t trouble to grasp at them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong,
I do away with them once and for all.
that has continued in a single line through the masters Ma-yu, Tan-hsia, Tao-I, Lu-shan, and
Shik-kung, and has spread all over the world. ‘Yet no one has faith in it and everyone heaps
slander on it.
Master Tao-l’s activity was pure and simple; not one of his three to ﬁve hundred students
could discern what he meant. Master Lu-shan was free and true; his students couldn’t fathom
his action of conforming to or going against — they were all dumbfounded. Master Tan-hsia
played with the pearl, concealing and revealing it; every single student who came was reviled
by him. As for Master Ma-yu’s activity, it was as bitter as the huang-po tree; no one could
approach him. Master Shin-kung’s activity was to seek for a man with the point of his arrow;
all who came before him were struck with fear.
With respect to my own activity today – true creation and destruction – I play with
miraculous transformations, enter into all kinds of circumstances, yet nowhere have I
anything to do. Circumstances cannot change me.
Let someone who is seeking come here and I immediately go out to look for him. He doesn’t
know me. Thereupon I don various kinds of robes. The student, putting some meaning on to
this, straightway falls into words and phrases. What a pity that the blind shavepate, a man
without the eye (to see), grasps at the robe I’m wearing and declares it to be blue or yellow,
red or white! When I disrobe and enter the state of purity, the student takes one look and is
immediately ﬁlled with delight and longing. Then, when I cast off everything, the student is
stunned and, running about in wild confusion, cries, ‘You’re naked!’ If I say, ‘Do you know me,
the man who wears these robes?’ he’ll abruptly turn his head around and recognize me
through and through.
Virtuous monks, don’t acknowledge robes. Robes cannot move, but a man can put them on.
There is the robe of purity, the robe of Birthlessness, the robe of Bodhi, the robe of Nirvana,
the Patriarch-robe, and the Buddha-robe. Virtuous monks, as for spoken words and written
phrases, they’re all but a transformation of robe.
Churning up the sea of breath in your belly and clacking your teeth together, you devise
wordy interpretations. It’s clear that you’re only illusory transformations. Virtuous monks,
Acts of speech are displayed Without,
Mental activities are manifested Within.
Depending upon mental activities there are thoughts. All these are robes. If all you do is to acknowledge as real the robes that are put on, even after the passage of
kalpas numerous as dust, you’ll still have nothing but an understanding of robes. You’ll keep
on going around and around in the three realms, transmigrating through birth-and-death.
Much better do nothing.
I meet (him) yet do notrecoguize (him),
I speak with (him) yet do notknowhis name.
acknowledgement of names. They inscribe the words of some dead old guy in a great big
notebook, wrap it up in four or ﬁve squares of cloth, and won’t let anyone look at it. ‘This is
the Mysterious Principle,’ they aver, and safeguard it with care. That’s all wrong. Blind idiots!
What kind of juice are you looking for in such dried-up bones!
Then there’re a bunch of guys who not knowing good from bad, prefer to guess around and
speculate regarding the scriptures and make wordy interpretations of them. They’re like men
who, having held dung-clods in their mouths, spit them out for the other people. Or, they’re
like peasants engaged in playing a passing-the-word game. They spend their entire lifetime in
vain, yet declare ‘We are renouncers of home!‘ Questioned about Buddha-dharma, they just
shut their mouths, bereft of words. Their eyes are as vacant as a black chimney holes and
their mouths sag like (loaded) carrying-poles. Such men has these, even though they were to
be present when Maitreya appears in this world, would be banished to another region and
there, lodged in hell, suffer its torments.
Virtuous monks, what are you seeking for as you go around hither and yon, walking until the
soles of your feet are ﬂat? There is no Buddha to seek, no Way to attain, no Dharma to obtain.
If you seek outside for a Buddha ha Ving form,
You Won’t ﬁnd him to resemble you,”
If you know your own original mind,
ltis neither united with nor apartfrom (him).
Followers of the Way, true Buddha has no ﬁgure, true Way has no substance, true Dharma has
no form; these three are fused together harmoniously united into one. lust because you can’t
understand this, you’re called ‘sentient beings with unlimited karmic consciousness.”
The Master said: “Buddha is the mind’s purity; Dharma is the mind’s radiance; the Way is th
pure light pervading everywhere without hindrance. The three are one, yet all are empty
names and have no real existence. With the true man of the Way, from moment to moment
mind is not interrupted.
From the time the great teacher Bodhidharma came from the Western Land, he just sought for a man who would not accept the deluded views of others. Later, he met the Second Patriarch, who, having understood at (Bodhidharma’s) one word, for the ﬁrst time realized that hitherto he had been futilely engaged in striving.
As for my understanding today, it’s not different from that of the patriarch-buddhas. He who
attains at the ﬁrst statement becomes the teacher of patriarch-buddhas; he who attains at the
second statement becomes the teacher of men and devas; he who attains at the third
statement cannot save even himself.”
The Master said: “If he had a purpose he couldn’t have saved even himself.”
Someone asked: “Since he had no purpose, how did the Second Patriarch obtain the Dharma?”
The Master said: “‘To obtain’ is to not obtain.”
Someone asked: “If it is ‘to not obtain,’ what is the meaning of ‘to not obtain’?”
The Master said: “It is because you cannot stop you mind which runs on seeking everywhere
that a patriarch said: ‘Bah, superior men! Searching for your heads with your heads!’ When at
these words you turn your own light in upon yourselves and never seek elsewhere, then you’ll
know that your body and mind are not different from those of the patriarch-buddhas and on
the instant have nothing to do — this is called ‘obtaining the Dharma.’
Virtuous monks, at present I’ve no other choice than to speak so much trash and rubbish.
Don’t be mistaken. As I see it there really aren’t so many problems. If you Want to act act; if you don’t; don ‘t.
There are people in every quarter who assert that the the ten thousand practices of this six
paramitas constitute the Buddha-dharma. But I say to you that they are merely methods of
(spiritual) adornment and of carrying on the Buddhas work; they are not Buddha-dharma
(itself). Even those who keep the rules regarding food and conduct with the care of a man
carrying a bowl of oil so as not to spill a drop, their Dharma-eye not being clear they ‘ll have to
pay up their debts, and the day will come when the cost of their food will be exacted from
them. Why is this so?
Since he entered the Way but didn ‘t penetrate the Principle,
He returned in the ﬂesh to repay the alms he’d received.
When the rich man reaches four score and one
The tree will no longer produce the fungus.
Even those who live alone on a solitary peak, or who eat their single meal at dawn, sit for a
long time without lying down, and worship Buddha at the six appointed hours of the day — all
these are only men creating karma. There are others who give away everything as alms — their heads and eyes, marrow and brains, states and cities, wives and children elephants, horses, and the seven precious things (gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, cornelian, red pearls or rubies) — but all such acts as these only cause suffering of body and mind instead invite future sorrow. It is better to have nothing to do, better to be plain and simple.
Even though the bodhisattvas who have the completed mind of the tenth stage all search for
traces of this follower of the Way, they can never ﬁnd them. Therefore (it is said): ‘All the ‘
devas rejoice, the gods of earth clasp his feet in adoration, and of all the buddhas of the ten
directions, there are none who do not praise him.’ Why is this so? Because the man of the Way
who is now listening to my discourse leaves no trace of his activity.”
The Buddha of Supreme Penetration and Surpassing Wisdom, sat for ten kalpas in a place of practice, but the Buddha-dharma did not manifest (itself to him ), and he did not attain the Buddha-way. I don’t understand the meaning of this. Would the Master kindly explain?”
The Master said: “’Supreme Penetration’ means that one personally penetrates everywhere
into the naturelessness and formlessness of the ten thousand dharmas. ‘Surpassing Wisdom’
means to have no doubts anywhere and to not obtain a single dharma. ‘Buddha’ means
pureness of the mind whose radiance pervades the entire dharmadhatu. ‘Sat for ten kalpas in
a place of practice‘ refers to (the practice of) the ten paramitas. ‘The Buddha-dharma did not
manifest’ means that Buddha is in essence birthless and Dharma (dharmas) in essence
unextinguished: why should it manifest itself! ‘He did not attain the Buddha-way’: Buddha
can’t become Buddha again.
A man of old said: ‘Buddha is always present in the world, but is not stained by worldly
dharmas.’ Followers of the Way, if you want to become Buddha, don’t go along with the ten
When mind arises, all kinds of dharma arise,
When mind is extinguished, all kinds of dharmas are extinguished
When mind does not arise, ,
The ten thousand dharmas have no fault.
Neither in this world nor beyond this world is there any Buddha or any Dharma; they neither
reveal themselves nor are they ever lost. Even if such things existed, they would only be
words and writings for the guidance “of little children, expedient remedies for illness, and
displays of names and phrases. Moreover, names and phrases are not of themselves names
and phrases; it is you, who right now radiantly and vividly perceive, know, and clearly
illumine (everything) — you it is who afﬁx all names and phrases.
Virtuous monks, by creating the karma of the ﬁve heinous crimes, you attain emancipation.”
The Master said: “Killing the father, slaying the mother, shedding the blood of a Buddha,
destroying the harmony of the sangha, and burning the scriptures and images – this is the
karma of the ﬁve heinous crimes.”
Someone asked: “What is meant by ‘father’?”
The Master said: “Avidya is the father. A single thought in your mind whose place of arising or
extinguishment is not to be found, like a sound reverberating throughout space -and (thus)
there’s nothing for you to do — this is called ‘killing the father.’
Someone asked: “What is meant by ‘mother’?”
The Master said: “Covetousness is the mother. A single thought in your mind, lacking
covetousness, on entering the world of desire sees that all dharmas are but empty forms —
and (thus) you’ve no attachment anywhere — this is called ‘slaying the mother”
Someone asked: “What is meant by ‘shedding the blood of a Buddha’?”
The Master said: “In the midst of the pure dharmadhatu you haven’t a single thought in your
mind which creates understanding — and (thus) pitch blackness pervades everywhere — this is called ‘shedding the blood of a Buddha.”‘
Someone asked: “What is meant by ‘destroying the harmony of the sangha’?”
The Master said: “A single thought in your mind truly realizes that the bonds and instigations
of the passions are like space having nothing on which to depend — this is called ‘destroying
the harmony of the sangha.”’
Someone asked: “What is meant by ‘burning the scriptures and images’?”
The Master said: “Having seen that the sequence of causal relations is empty, that mind is
empty, and that dharmas are empty — (thus) your single thought being decisively cut off,
transcendent you’ve nothing to do – this is called ‘burning the scriptures and images.”‘
Virtuous monks, reach such understanding as this, and you’ll be free from the hindrances of
names (like) ‘secular’ and ‘sacred.’
Yet a single thought in your mind is doing nothing but,
Conceiving an empty ﬁst or a (pointing) finger to be real,
Senselessiv conjuring up apparitions from among the dharmas of the sense-ﬁelds.
You belittle yourselves and modestly withdraw, saying, ‘We are but commoners; he is a sage.’
Bald idiots! What’s the frantic hurry to wrap yourselves in lions’ skin while you’re yapping
like jackals! (A certain lion would give three roars each morning before going out hunting. A wild fox who followed and scavenged after the lion decided to outdo him and rule the forest, but when he tried to give the three roars, he could only make a wild fox’s yapping.) Resolute fellows (that you are), you do not draw the breath of the resolute. Unwilling to have
faith in the possession within your own house, you do nothing but seek outside, go
clambering after the worthless sayings of the men of old, rely on the yin and depend upon
yang, and are unable to achieve (by yourselves). On meeting (outer) circumstances, you
establish relationship with them; on meeting (sense-) dusts you cling to them; wherever you
are doubts arise, and you yourselves have no standard of judgment.
Followers of the Way, don’t accept what I state. Why? Statements have no proof. They are
pictures temporarily drawn in the empty sky, as in the metaphor of the painted ﬁgures. (brush,
colors, have originally no patterns, but are used to make various ﬁgures) ‘
Followers of the Way, don’t take Buddha to be the ultimate. As I see it, he is just like a privy
hole. Both bodhisattvahood and arahtship are cangues and chains that bind one. This is why
Manjusri tried to kill Gautama with his sword, and why Angulimalya attempted to slay
Shakyamuni with his dagger. (Buddha desiring to rid the ﬁve hundred bodhisattvas of their differentiating mind and have them attain the ﬁrm conviction that dharmas are uncreated, by his supernatural power induced Manjusri to attack him with his sword of wisdom. Angulimala was a notorious robber whom Shakyamuni encounetered whole strolling in a wood. Though he rushed after the Buddha brandishing his drawn dagger, the robber could not overtake him, and in the end converted and became a disciple of Buddha.)
Followers of the Way, there is no Buddha to be obtained. Even the doctrines (including those)
of the Three Vehicles, the ﬁve natures, and Complete and Immediate Enlightenment – all these
are but temporary medicines to cure corresponding illnesses. In no sense do any real Dharma
exist. Even if they were to exist, they would all be nothing but imitations, publicly displayed
proclamations, arrangements of letters, just for the time being stated this way.
Followers of the Way, there’re a bunch of shave-pates who try to seek a transcendental
Dharma by directing their efforts inward. A great mistake! If a man seeks Buddha, he’ll lose
Buddha, if he seeks the Way, he’ll lose the Way, if he seeks the Patriarchs, he’ll lose, the
Virtuous monks, make no mistakes. I don’t care if you understand the sutras or sastras, if you
are a king or a high minister, if you are as eloquent as a rushing torrent, or if you are clever or
wise. I only want you to have true insight.
Followers of the Way, even though you could master a hundred sutras and sastras, you’re not
as good as a teacher who has nothing to do. If you do master them, you’ll regard others with
contempt. Warring asuras and men’s egotistical avidya increase the karma which leads to hell.
Such was the case of the monk Shan-hsing; though he understood the twelve divisions of the
teachings, he fell alive into hell. (He could recite all the sutras but didn’t understand not even one word.)
The great earth had no place for him.
It’s better to do nothing and take it easy.
When hunger comes I eat my rice;
When sleep comes I close my eyes.
Fools laugh at me, but
The wise man understands.
wearied, and there’s no beneﬁt in gulping icy air. (chanting) It is better, by the single thought
that causal relations are (fundamentally) birthless, to surpass the bodhisattvas who depend
upon the provisional teaching of the Three Vehicles.
Virtuous monks, don’t spent your days drifting along. In the past, when I had as yet no
understanding, all about me was utter darkness. But I wasn’t one to waste time, so with a
burning belly and a turbulent mind, l ran around inquiring about the Way. Later, however, I
got some help and ﬁnally today I can talk to you like this. I advise all you followers of the Way
no to live for food and clothes. Look! The world passes swiftly away, and meeting a good
teacher is as rare as the ﬂowering of the Udumbara three. (has only every 3000 years ﬂowers)
Hearing everywhere of old man Rinzai, you come here intending to bait me with difﬁcult
questions and make it impossible for me to answer. Faced with a demonstration of the activity
of my whole body, you students just stare blankly and can’t move your mouths at all; you’re at
such a loss you don’t know how to answer me. I tell you that asses can’t bear being trampled
on by a dragon-elephant.
You go around everywhere thumbing your own chests and whacking your own ribs, saying, ‘I
understand Zen! I understand the Way!’ But let two or three of you come here and you can’t
do a thing. Bah! Carrying that body and mind of yours, you go around everywhere ﬂapping
your lips like winnowing fans and deceiving villagers. The day will come when you’ll be
ﬂogged with iron rods. You’re not (true) renouncers of home. You’ll all be herded together in
the realm of the asuras.
As for the Way of Ultimate Truth, it is not something that seeks to arouse enthusiasm by
arguments and disputes, nor is it something that uses resounding oratory to refute heretics.
As to the transmission of the Buddhas and the Patriarchs, it has no special purpose. Even
though there are verbal teachings, they all fall into (the category of) such formulas for
salvation as the Three Vehicles, the ﬁve natures, and the cause and effect which leads to
(rebirth as) men or devas. But in the case of the teaching of the Complete and Immediate
Enlightenment this isn’t so: Sudhana did not go around seeking any of these. (The doctrines ‘of
the complete and sudden schools, are not such mere spoken teachings as are criticized above, and also that sudhana did not seek such mere spoken teachings.) ‘ .
Virtuous monks, don’t use your minds mistakenly. The great sea does not detain bodies. But
all you do is rush about the world carrying them on your shoulders. You yourselves raise the
obstructions that impede your minds. When the sun above has no clouds, the bright heavens
shine everywhere. When there is no cataract on the eye, there are no (imaginary) ﬂowers in
Followers of the Way, if you wish to be Dharma as is, just have no doubts. ‘Spread out, it ﬁlls
the entire dharmadhatu; gathered in, the smallest hair cannot stand upon it.’ Distinctly and
radiantly shining alone, it has never lacked anything. No eye can see it, no ear can hear it –
then by what name can it be called? A man of old said: ‘To speak about a thing is to miss the
Just see for yourselves — what is there! I can keep on talking forever. Each one of you must
strive individually. Take care of yourselves.
The cook said, “I’m picking over the rice for the monks.”
“How much do they eat in a day?” asked Huang-po.
“Two and half shih,” said the monk.
“Isn’t that too much?” asked Huang-po.
”I’m afraid it isn’t enough,” replied the cook. Huang-po struck him.
Later the cook mentioned this to Master Rinzai. Rinzai said, ”I’ll test the old fellow for you.”
As soon as Rinzai came to attend Huang-po, Huang-po told him the story. ”The cook didn’t
understand,” said Rinzai. “Venerable Priest, please give a turning-word in place of the cook.”
Whereupon Rinzai asked, “Isn’t that too much?”
Huang-po said, “Well, why not say, ‘Well eat a meal again tomorrow!”‘
“Why talk about tomorrow,” said Rinzai. “Eat it right now!” and gave Huang-po a slap in the
“This lunatic has come here again to pull the tiger’s whiskers,” said Huang-po.
Rinzai shouted and went out.
Later, Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan, “What did these two worthies have in mind?”
“What do you think, Master?” asked Yang-shan.
“Only when you have a child do you understand fatherly love,” said Kuei-shan.
“Not at all!” said Yang-shan.
“Then what do you think?” asked Kuei-shan.
“lt’s more like ‘To bring in a thief and ruin the house,”‘ replied Yang-shan.
The monk shouted.
The Master saluted him and motioned him to sit down. The monk hesitated. The Master hit
Seeing another monk coming, the Master raised his whisk.
The monk bowed low. The Master hit him.
Seeing still another monk coming, the Master again raised his whisk. The monk paid no
attention. The Master hit him too.
Master asked: “A hair swallows up the great sea and a mustard seed contains Mount Sumeru.
Is this the marvelous activity of supernatural power or original substance as it is?”
P’u-hua kicked over the dinner table.
“How coarse!” exclaimed the Master.
“What place do you think this is – talking about coarse and ﬁne!” said P’u-hua.
The next day the Master and P’u-hua again attended a dinner. The Master asked, “How does
today’s feast compare with yesterday’s?”
P’u-hua kicked over the dinner table as before.
“Good enough, but” said the Master, “how coarse!”
“Blind man!” said P’u-hua. “What’s Buddha-dharma got to do with coarse and ﬁne!”
The Master stuck out his tongue. (expression of fear or surprise)
together around the fire-pit in the Monk’s Hall, the Master said; “Every day P’u-hua goes
through the streets acting like a lunatic. Who knows whether he’s a commoner or a sage?”
Before he had ﬁnished speaking, P’u-hua came in and joined them.
“Are you a commoner or a sage?” the Master asked.
“Now, you tell me whether I’m a commoner or a sage,” answered P’u-hua.
The Master shouted.
Pointing his ﬁnger at them, P’u-hua said: “Ho-yang is a new bride, Mu-t’a is a Zen granny, and
Rinzai is a young menial, but he has the eye.”
“You thief!” cried the Master.
“Thief, thief!” cried P’u-hua, and went out.
and said: “]ust like an ass!”
“Heehaw, heehaw!” brayed P’u-hua.
“You thief!” said the Master.
“Thief, thief !” cried P’u-hua and went out.
Coming as brightness I hit the darkness;
Coming as darkness, I hit the darkness;
Coming ﬁom the four quarters and eight directions, 1 hit like a Whirlwind;
Coming ﬁom empty slg; I slash like a ﬂail.
The Master told his attendant to go and, the moment he heard P’u-hua say these words, to
grab him and ask; “lf coming is not at all thus, what then?” The attendant went and did so.
P’u-hua pushed him away, saying, “There’ll be a feast tomorrow at the temple.”
The attendant returned and told this to the Master. The Master said: “I’ve always held wonder
for that fellow.”
proper to bow, or is it proper not to bow?”
The Master shouted. The old worthy bowed low.
“A ﬁne thief in the grass you are!” said the Master.
“Thief, thief!” cried the old worthy and started to go out.
The Master said: “Better not think you can get away with that.”
Later when the head monk was attending the Master, the Master asked: “Was there any fault?”
The head monk said, “There was.”
“Whose fault was it, the guest’s or the host’s?” asked the Master.
“Both were at fault,” answered the head monk.
“Where was the fault?” asked the Master.
The head monk started to go out.
The Master said: “Better not think you can get away with that.”
Later a monk told the story to Master Nansen. Nansen said: “Fine horse trampling one
Pointing to an open-air pillar, he asked: “Is this secular or sacred?”
The ofﬁcer had no reply. –
Striking the pillar, the Master said: “Even if you could speak, this is still only a wooden post.”
Then he went in.
“I’ve been to the provincial capital to sell the millet,” answered the steward.
“Did you sell all of it?” asked the Master.
“Yes, I sold all of it,” replied the steward.
The Master drew a line in front of him with his staff and said:
“But, can you sell this?”
The steward gave a shout. The Master hit him.
The chief cook came in. The Master told him about the previous conversation. The chief cook
said: “The steward didn’t understand you.”
“How about you?” asked the Master.
The chief cook bowed low. The Master hit him too.
“What sutras and sastras do you expound?”
“In so far as my miserable abilities allow, I have made a cursory study of the ‘Consciousness
Only School’,” replied the lecturer-master.
The Master said: “Suppose there was a man who had attained comprehension of the Three
Vehicles’ twelve divisions of the teachings, and there was another man who had not
comprehended it: would there be any difference or not?”
“For the one who had attained the comprehension of it, it would be different,” replied the
Lo-p’u, who was attending the Master and was standing behind him, said: “Lecturer-master,
where do you think you are, talking about ‘same and different’!”
Turning his head, the Master asked the attendant: “Well, how about you?”
The attendant gave a shout.
When the Master returned from seeing the lecturer-master off, he said to the attendant: “Was
it to me that you shouted just now?” .
“Yes,” said the attendant. The Master hit him.
thirty blows if you can’t.” The Master told Lo-p’u to go and ask Te-shan: “‘Why thirty blows to
one who can speak?’ Wait until he hits at you, then grab his stick and give him a jab. See what
he does then.”
When Lo-p’u reached Te-shan’s place he questioned him as instructed. Te-shan hit at him.
Lo-p’u seized the stick and gave Te-shan a jab with it. Te-shan went back to his quarters.
Lo-p’u returned and told Rinzai what had taken place.
“I’ve always held wonder for that fellow,” the Master said.
“Be that as it may, do you understand Te-shan?”
Lo-p’u hesitated. The Master hit him. (Te-shan was famous for the use of his stick: Te-shan’s stick and Rinzai’s shout.)
Monk’s Hall, he asked: “Do the monks of this monastery read the sutras?”
“No, they don’t read the sutras,” said the Master.
“Then do they learn meditation?” asked the Counselor.
“N o, they don’t learn meditation,” answered the Master.
“If they neither read the sutras nor learn meditation, what in the world are they doing?” asked
“All I do is make them become buddhas and patriarchs,” said the Master.
The Counselor said: “‘Though gold dust is valuable, in the eye it causes cataract’.”
“I always used to think you were just a common fellow,” said the Master.
“Moo, moo!” said Hsing-shan.
“A mute, eh?” said the Master.
“Venerable sir, how about you?” said Hsing-shan.
“You beast!” said the Master.
(In order to induce his children to leave the burning house, the father promises them all sorts of toys. After the children have left the house and are sitting outside on the ‘bare ground’, he gives them each a cart drawn by a ‘white ox’.)
“Neither,” replied Lo-p’u.
“What does come close?” asked the Master.
Lo-p’u shouted. The Master hit him.
“Do you understand?” the Master asked.
“N o, I don’t” replied the monk.
“lt iS impossible to break open Hun-lun,” said the Master. (a range of mountains in far western china, original chaos)
“I’ll give you a couple of cash.”
Master threw down the whisk. Ta-chueh folded up the mat and went into the Monks’ Hall.
“That monk must be related to the Ho-shang. He didn’t bow and didn’t get hit,” said the
Hearing of this, the Master sent for Te-chueh. When Te-chueh came out, the Master said: “The
monks are saying that you haven’t yet paid your respects to the Master.”
“How are you?” said Ta-chueh and rejoined the monks.
when they met.
Ioshu asked: “What is the purpose of the Patriarch’s coming from the West?”
“I just happen to be washing my feet,” replied the Master.
Ioshu came closer and gave the appearance of cocking his ear. The Master said: “Now I’m
going to pour out a second dipper of dirty water.”
The Master got down from his rope-bottom chair. Seizing the disciple, he gave him a slap and
pushed him away. The disciple stood still.
A monk standing by said: “Monk, why don’t you bow?” Just as he bowed, the disciple attained
twelve-faced Kuan-yin?” (An image used by esoteric schools, which symbolizes Kuan-yin’s unlimited functioning and customarily has eleven different faces arranged above, to the side of, and behind a single face.)
Getting down from the rope-bottom chair, the Master seized the mat with one hand and with
the other grabbed hole Ma-yu. “Where has the twelve-faced Kuan-yin gone?” he asked.
Ma-yu jerked himself free and tried to sit on the chair.
The Master picked up his stick and hit at him. Ma-yu seized the stick and holding it between
them, they entered the Master’s quarters.
The monk hesitated. The Master gave a shout.
The nun shouted.
“Go on, go on, speak!” cried the Master, taking up his stick.
Again the nun shouted. The Master hit her.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “Hand me the back-rest.” (kind of cushion)
Lung-ya handed the back-rest to the Master. The Master took it and hit him with it.
Lung-ya said: “lt’s all right that you hit me, but there still isn’t any purpose in the Patriarch’s
coming from the West.”
Later Lung-ya went to see Ts’ui-wei and asked him: “What is the purpose of the Patriarch’s
coming from the West?”
Ts’ui-wei said: “Hand me the rush mat.” Lung-ya handed the mat to Ts’ui-wei. Ts’ui-wei took it
and hit him with it.
Lung-ya said: “That is all right that you hit me, but there still isn’t any purpose in the
Patriarch’s coming from the West.”
After Lung-ya had become the master of a temple, a monk entered his room to receive
“I have heard,” the monk said, ”that when you were making a pilgrimage, Master, you had the
opportunity to interview two eminent elders. Did you acknowledge them?”
“I acknowledged them profoundly all right, but there still isn’t any purpose in the Patriarch’s
coming from the West.”
Huang-po ordered Zen Master Rinzai to go to Ching-shan. Then he asked: “What will you do when you get
“When I get there I’ll know what to do,” said Rinzai.
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Ching-shan. Still wearing his traveling clothes, he went to the Dharma Hall to see the Master of Ching-shan. ]ust as the Master raised his head, Zen Master Rinzai shouted, and when he
started to open his mouth, Rinzai swung his sleeves as he turned and left.
Shortly after, a monk asked the Master of Ching-shan: “What did you say just now that made
that monk shout at you, Master?”
Ching-shan replied: “That monk came from Huang-po’s assembly. If you want to know, ask
Of the ﬁve hundred monks at Ching-shan, the greater part drifted away.
offered him one, but P’u-hua declined them all.
Rinzai had the steward of the temple buy a cofﬁn, and when P’u-hua came back the Master
said: “I’ve ﬁxed up a one-piece gown for you.”
P’u-hua put the cofﬁn on his shoulders and went around the streets calling out: “Rinzai ﬁxed
me up a one-piece gown. I’m going to the East Gate to depart this life.” All the townspeople
scrambled after him to watch. .
“No, not today,” said P’u-hua, “but tomorrow I’ll go to the South Gate to depart this life.”
After he had done the same thing for three days no one believed him anymore.
On the fourth day not a single person followed him to watch. He went outside the town walls
all by himself, got into the cofﬁn, and asked a passer-by to nail it up. The news immediately
got about. The townspeople all came scrambling; on opening the cofﬁn, they saw he had
vanished, body and all. Only the sound of his bell could be heard in the sky, receding away,
Record of Pilgrimages
When Zen Master Rinzai was one of the assembly of monks under Huang-po, he was plain and direct in
his behavior. The head monk praised him saying: “Though he’s a youngster, he’s different from
the other monks.” So he asked: “Rinzai, how long have you been here?”
“Three years,” replied Rinzai.
“Have you ever asked for instruction?”
“No, I’ve never asked for instruction. I don’t know what to ask,” replied Rinzai.
“Why don’t you go and ask the head Master of this temple just what the cardinal principle of
the Buddha-dharma is?” said the head monk.
Rinzai went and asked. Before he had ﬁnished speaking Huang-po hit him. Rinzai came back.
“How did your questioning go?” asked the head monk.
“Before I ﬁnished speaking the Master hit me. I don’t understand,” said Rinzai. n
“Then go and ask him again,” said the head monk.
So Zen Master Rinzai went back and asked, and again Huang-po hit him.
Thus Rinzai asked the same question three times and was hit three times.
Rinzai came back and said to the head monk: “It was so kind of you to send me to question the
Master. Three times I asked him and three times I was hit by him. I regret that some
obstruction caused by my own past karma prevents me from grasping his profound meaning.
I’m going away for a while.”
The head monk said: “If you are going away, you should go take your leave of the Master.”
Rinzai bowed low and withdrew.
The head monk went to the Master’s quarters before Rinzai and said: “The young man who
has been questioning you is a man of Dharma. If he comes to take his leave, please handle him expediently. In the future, with training, he is sure to become a great tree which will provide cool shade for the people of the world.”
Rinzai came to take his leave. Huang-po said: “You mustn’t go anywhere else but to Ta-yu’s
place by the river in Kao-an. He’s sure to explain things for you.”
Rinzai arrived at Ta-yu’s temple. Ta-yu said: “Where have you come from?”
“I have come from Huang-po’s place,” replied Rinzai.
“What did Huang-po have to say?” asked Ta-yu. “Three times I asked him just what the cardinal principle of the Buddha-dharma was and three times he hit me. I don’t know whether I was at fault or not.”
“Huang-po is such a grandmother that he utterly exhausted himself with your troubles!” said
Ta-yu. “And now you come here asking whether you were at fault or not!”
At these words Rinzai attained great enlightenment. “Ah, there isn’t so much to Huang-po’s
Buddha-dharma!” he cried.
Ta-yu grabbed hold of Zen Master Rinzai and said: “You bed-wetting little devil! You just ﬁnished asking
whether you were at fault or not, and now you say, ‘There isn’t so much to Huang-po’s
Buddha-dharma.’ What did you just see? Speak, speak!”
Rinzai jabbed Ta-yu in the side three times. Shoving him away, Ta-yu said: “You have
Huang-po for a teacher. It’s not my business.”
Rinzai left Ta-yu and returned to Huang-po. Huang-po saw him coming and said: “What a
fellow! Coming and going, coming and going — when will it end!”
“It’s all due to your grandmotherly kindness,” Rinzai said, and then presented the customary
gift and stood waiting.
“Where have you been?” asked Huang-po.
“Recently you deigned to favor me by sending me to see Ta-yu,” said Zen Master Rinzai.
“What did Ta-yu have to say?” asked Huang-po.
Rinzai then related what had happened. Huang-po said: “How I’d like to catch that fellow and
give him a good dose of the stick!”
“Why say you’d ‘like to’? Take it right now!” said Rinzai and immediately gave Huang-po a
“You lunatic!” cried Huang-po. “Coming back here and pulling the tiger’s whiskers.”
Rinzai gave a shout.
“Attendant, get this lunatic out of here and take him to the Monks’ Hall,” said Huang-po.
Later Kuei-shan, telling the story to Yang-shan, asked: “On that occasion did Zen Master Rinzai get help
from Ta-yu, or Huang-po?”
“He not only rode on the tiger’s head but also seized its tail,” replied Yang-shan.
When Zen Master Rinzai was planting pine trees, Huang-po asked: “What’s the good of planting so many
trees in the deep mountains?”
“First, I want to make a natural setting for the main gate. Second, I want to make a landmark
for later generations,” said Rinzai and thumped the ground with his mattock three times.
“Be that as it may, you’ve already tasted thirty blows of my stick,” replied Huang-po.
Again Rinzai thumped the ground with his mattock three times and breathed out a great
“Under you my line will ﬂourish throughout the worId,” said Huang-po.
Later Kuei-shan related these words to Yang-shan. “On that occasion did Huang-po put his
trust only in Zen Master Rinzai, or will there be someone else too?” he asked.
“There will be,” replied Yang-shan. “But he’ll come so far in the future that I don’t want to tell
you about him, Master.
“Be that as it may, I’d like to know. Come on, try and tell me,” said Kuei-shan.
Yang-shan said: “One man landing south: Wu and Yueh well-governed. When one meets the
Great Wind he stops.” (Prophesizing Master Feng-hsueh)
When Zen Master Rinzai was attending Te-shan, Te-shan said: “I’m tired today.”
“Old man!” said Rinzai, ”what’s the good of talking in your sleep!” Te-shan hit him.
Rinzai overturned the rope-bottom chair. Te-shan desisted.
Once, during the group work, Zen Master Rinzai was hoeing the ground. Seeing Huang-po coming, he
stopped and stood leaning on his mattock.
“ls this guy tired already?” said Huang-po.
“I haven’t even lifted my mattock yet. How could I be tired?” answered Zen Master Rinzai. Huang-po hit at
him. Zen Master Rinzai seized Huang-po’s stick, jabbed him with it, and knocked him down.
Huang-po called to the head monk: “Head monk, help me up!” The head monk came running
and helped him up. “Master, how can you let this lunatic get away with such rudeness!” he
Huang-po no sooner got to his feet than he hit the head monk.
Hoeing the ground Rinzai said: “Everywhere elseathe dead are cremated, but here I bury them
alive at once.”
Later Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “What did Huang-po have in mind when he hit the head
“The real thief escapes, and his pursuer gets the stick,” answered Yang-shan.
One day Zen Master Rinzai was sitting in front of the Monks’ Hall. Seeing Huang-po coming, he closed his
eyes. Giving the appearance of being frightened, Huang-po returned to his quarters. Zen Master Rinzai
followed him there and bowed low.
The head monk was attending Huang-po. Huang-po said to him: “Though he’s a youngster, he
knows about this matter.”
“Venerable Master, your own feet aren’t touching the ground, yet you give recognition to this
youngster,” said the head monk.
Huang-po gave himself a slap on the mouth.
“It’s all right as long as you know it,” said the head monk.
Zen Master Rinzai was sleeping in the Monks’ Hall. Huang-po came in, and seeing him struck the front
plank of the sitting platform once with his staff. Rinzai lifted his head, and seeing it was
Huang-po, went back to sleep.
Huang-po again struck the front plank, and went to the upper part of the Hall. Seeing the head
monk sitting in mediation, he said: “That youngster down in the lower part of the Hall is
sitting in meditation; what’re you doing here, cooking up wild fancies!”
“What’s this old man up to?” said the head monk. Huang-po struck the front plank once more
Later Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “What do you make of Huang-po in the Monks’ Hall?”
“Two wins, one match,” replied Yang-shan.
One day during the group work, Zen Master Rinzai was going along behind the others. Huang-po looked
around, and, seeing that Rinzai was empty—handed, asked: “Where is your mattock?”
“Somebody took it away from me,” said Rinzai.
“Come here,” said Huang-po. “l want to talk the matter over with you.” Rinzai stepped forward.
Huang-po lifted up his mattock and said: “]ust this people on the earth cannot hold up.”
Rinzai snatched the mattock from Huang-po’s grasp and held it high. “Then why is this in my
hand now?” he asked.
“Today there’s a man who really is working,” said Huang-po and returned to the temple.
Sometimes later Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “The mattock was in Huang-po’s hand. How
could it have been taken away by Rinzai?”
“The thief’s a little man, but he surpasses the superior man in intelligence,” answered
Bearing a letter from Huang-po, Zen Master Rinzai went in haste to Kuei-shan. Yang-shan, who at the time
was in charge of receiving the guests, took the letter and said: “This is Huang-po’s; where’s
the messenger’s?” Rinzai slapped at him.
Yang-shan seized Rinzai and said: “Brother since you know this much, that’s enough.” Then
they went together to see Kuei-shan.
Kuei-shan asked: “How many students has my brother Huang-po?”
“Seven hundred,” answered Rinzai.
“Who is their leader?” asked Kuei-shan.
“He has just delivered a letter to you,” replied Rinzai.
Then Zen Master Rinzai, in his turn, asked Kuei-shan: “Master, how many students do you have here?”
“Fifteen hundred,” answered Kuei-shan.
“That’s a lot!” said Rinzai.
“My brother Huang-po also has no small number,” said Kuei-shan.
Zen Master Rinzai took his leave of Kuei-shan. As Yang-shan was seeing him off, he said: “Later on you’ll
go to the north and there’ll be a place for you to stay.”
“How can that be!” said Rinzai.
“Just go,” replied Yang-shan. “Afterwards there’ll be a man to help you, my venerable brother.
He’ll have a head but no tail, a beginning but no end.”
Later Rinzai arrived in Chen-chou; P’u-hua was already there. When Rinzai became head of
the temple, P’u-hua was of help to him. But the Master had not been there very long P’u-hua
just vanished, body and all.
Zen Master Rinzai came up to Mount Huang-po in the middle of the summer session. Seeing Huang-po
reading a sutra, he said: “l always used to think you were a man. Now I see you’re just a
black-bean-eating old Master!”
Rinzai stayed a few days and then tried to take his leave. Huang-po said: “You came in
violation of the rules of the summer session, and now you’re leaving before it’s over.”
“I came for a little while to pay my respects to you, Master,” said Rinzai.
Huang-po hit him and chased him out. After he had gone a few miles, Rinzai thinking the
matter over, returned to the temple and ﬁnished the summer session. One day he took his leave of Huang-po. Huang-po asked: “Where you are going?”
“If I don’t go to Ho-nan, I’ll return to Ho-pei,” replied Rinzai. Huang-po hit at him.
Rinzai seized Huang-po and gave him a slap. Laughing heartily, Huang-po called to his
attendant: “Bring me the back-rest and arm-rest that belonged to my late teacher Po-chang.”
“Attendant, bring me some ﬁre!” cried Zen Master Rinzai.
“Be that as it may, just take them with you. In the future you’ll sit upon the tongue of every
man on earth,” said Huang-po.
Later, Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “Didn’t Rinzai abuse Huang-po’s trust?”
“Not at alI!” said Yang-shan.
“Well then what do you think?”
“Only one who recognizes beneﬁcence can require it,” said Yang-shan.
“From ancient times to the present, has there been anyone like him?” asked Kuei-shan.
“Yes there has, but he lived so long ago I don’t want to tell you about him, Master,” replied
“Be that as it may, I’d like to know. Come on, try and tell me,” said Kuei-shan.
Yang-shan said: “At the Surangama assembly Ananda, in praising the Buddha, said: ‘With my
whole heart I shall serve all beings throughout the myriad worlds. This is called “requiting the
Buddha’s beneﬁcence.”‘ Isn’t this also an example of requiting beneﬁcence?”
“Just so, just so!” replied Kuei-shan. “One whose insight is the same as his teacher’s lacks hall
of his teacher’s power. Only one whose insight surpasses his teacher’s is worthy to be his
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Bodhidharma’s memorial tower. The master of the tower said to him
“Venerable sir, will you pay homage ﬁrst to Buddha or Bodhidharma?”
“I don’t pay homage to either Buddha or Bodhidharma,” said Rinzai.
“Venerable sir, why are Buddha and Bodhidharma your enemies?” asked the master of the
Rinzai swung his sleeves and left.
Zen Master Rinzai, while on a pilgrimage, arrived at Lung kuang Lung kuang had already ascended the
high seat for giving a discourse when Rinzai advanced and asked Without unsheathing the
point of a weapon, how can one win a battle?”
Lung-kuang straightened up in his seat.
“Doesn’t the venerable teacher have an expedient means of expression?’ said Rinzai
Staring ﬁxedly at Rinzai, Lung-kuang uttered: “Sa'”
Rinzai pointed his ﬁnger at Lung-kuang and said Today you lose, old man.
Rinzai arrived at San-feng. Master P’ing asked him “Where did you come from?’
“l came from Huang-po,” replied Rinzai.
“What does Huang-po have to say?” asked P’ing.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “The golden ox met With disaster last night,
And no one has seen a trace of it since.”
P’ing said: “The autumn wind blows a ﬂute of jade; Who is he who knows the tune?”
Rinzai said: “He goes right through the myriad-folded barrier; And stays not even within the clear sky.”
“Your question is much too lofty,” said P’ing.
Zen Master Rinzai said: “The dragon ‘s given birth to golden phoenix; Who breaks through the azure dome of hea Ven?”
“Do sit down and have some tea,” said P’ing. Then he asked “Where have you been recently?”
“At Lung-kuang,” said Rinzai.
“How is Lung-kuang these days?” asked P’ing. At that Rinzai went off
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Ta-tz’u. Ta-tz’u was sitting in his quarters. Rinzai asked: “How is it with you
when you’re sitting erect in your quarters?”
Ta-tz’u replied: “The green of the Winter pine endures a thousand years. An aged rustic picks a ﬂower and in myriad lands itis spring.”
Rinzai answered: “Forever transcending past and present is the body of perﬁect Wisdom.
Blocking the Way to the Three Mountains there is a myriad-fold barrier.”
Ta-tz’u gave a shout. Rinzai also shouted.
“Well?” said Ta-tz’u. Rinzai swung his sleeves and left.
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Hua-yen. Hua-yen was leaning on his staff, giving the appearance of being
asleep. Rinzai said: “Venerable Master, what’s the good of dozing?”
“An adept Zen man is of himself unusual,” said Hua-yen.
“Attendant, make some tea and give it to the Master to drink,” said Rinzai.
Hua-yen called the head monk and said: “Place this honorable monk in the third seat.” (high
When Zen Master Rinzai reached Ts’ui-feng, Ts’ui-feng asked: “Where did you come from?”
“I came from Huang-po,” said Rinzai.
“What words does Huang-po use to instruct people?” asked Ts’ui-feng.
“Huang-po has no words,” said Rinzai.
“Why not?” asked Ts’ui-feng.
“Even if he had any, I wouldn’t know how to state them,” answered Rinzai.
“Come on, try and tell me,” said Ts’ui-feng.
“The arrow has ﬂown off to the Western Heaven,” said Rinzai.
Zen Master Rinzai visited Hsiang-t’ien and said to him: “lt’s neither secular nor sacred — please, Master
“I’m just this way,” Hsiang-t’ien replied.
Rinzai shouted and said: “What kind of vittles are all these baldpates looking for here!”
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Ming-hua. Ming-hua asked: “What’s the good of all this coming and going!”
“l’m just trying to wear out my straw sandals,” said Rinzai.
“What for, then?” asked Ming-hua.
“Old man, you don’t even know the subject of the conversation!” replied Rinzai.
When Zen Master Rinzai was going to Feng-lin, he met an old womanon the road. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Feng-lin,” replied Rinzai.
“Feng-lin happens to be away just now,” said the old woman.
“Where did he go?” asked Rinzai. At that the old woman walked away Rinzai called to her. The
old woman turned her head. Rinzai hit her. (or ‘Rinzai then walked away.’)
Rinzai arrived at Feng-lin. Feng-lin said: “There is something I want to ask you, may l?”
“Why gouge out good ﬂesh and make a wound!” replied Rinzai.
Feng-lin said: “Shadowless shines the moon on the sea;
The gamholing fish himself does awander!”
Rinzai replied: “Since shadowWless is the moon over the sea,
How can the gamboling ﬁsh be awander?”
Feng-lin said: “Watching the wind l know the arising of waves;
And see boats asport on the water with ﬂuttering sails.”
Zen Master Rinzai replied: “The solitary moon alone does shine – rivers and mountains are still;
One laugh from me startles both heaven and earth.”
Feng-lin said: “Your tongue may illumine heaven and earth, but try speaking a word apropos of the moment.”
Zen Master Rinzai replied: “lf on the road you meet a swordsman, offer him your sword.
To a man who is no ta poet, don ‘t present a poem.”
Feng-lin desisted. Rinzai then recited this verse:
The Great Way defies comparison — one goes east or west at will.
No spark from ﬂint can go so fast, nor lightening ﬂash pass by.
Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “If no spark from ﬂint can go so fast, nor lightening ﬂash pass by,
how did the old time sages save men?”
“What do you think, Master?” asked Yang-shan.
Kuei-shan said: “Nor words have actual signiﬁcance.”
“Not so,” disagreed Yang-shan.
“Then what do you think?” asked Kuei-shan.
“Ofﬁcially a needle is not permitted to enter; privately carriages can get through.”
Zen Master Rinzai arrived at Chin-niu. Chin-niu saw him coming, and holding a stick crosswise, sat down
at the gate. Rinzai struck the stick three times with his hand, then entered the Monks’ Hall and
seated himself in the ﬁrst seat. Chin-niu came in, saw him, and said: “In an interview between
host and guest, each should conform to the prescribed formalities. Where do you come from,
monk, that you are so rude?”
“What are you talking about, Master?” replied Rinzai.
Chin-niu started to open his mouth, and Rinzai hit him. Chin-niu gave the appearance of
falling down. Rinzai hit him again.
Chin-niu said: “I’m not doing so well today.”
Kuei-shan asked Yang-shan: “In the case of these two venerable ones, was there a winner or a
“The winner indeed won; the loser indeed lost,” replied Yang-shan.
When Zen Master Rinzai was about to pass away, he seated himself and said: “After I am extinguished, do not let my True Dharma Eye be extinguished.”
San-sheng came forward and said: ”How could I let your True Dharma Eye be extinguished!”
“Later on, when somebody asks you about it, what will you say to him?” asked the Master.
San-sheng gave a shout.
“Who would have thought that my True Dharma Eye would be extinguished upon reaching
this blind ass!” said the Master.
Having spoken these words, sitting erect, the Master revealed his nirvana.
The Master’s name as a monk was I-hsuan. He was a native of the prefecture of Nan-hua in the province of Ts’ao. His family name was Hsing. As a child he was exceptionally brilliant, and
when he became older, he was known for his ﬁlial piety. After shaving his head and receiving
the full commandments, he frequented lecture halls; he mastered the vinaya and made a wide
study of the sutras and sastras.
Suddenly one day he said with a sigh: “These are prescriptions for the salvation of the world,
not the principle of the transmission outside the scriptures.” The he changed his robe and
traveled on a pilgrimage. First he studied under Huang-po. Then he visited Ta-yu. What was
said on those occasions has been set down in the “Record of Pilgrimages.”
After receiving the Seal of Dharma from Huang-po, the Master went to Hopeh and became a
priest of a small temple on the banks of the Hu-t’o River, outside the southeast corner of the
capital of Chen Province. Because of its location, the temple was called ‘Rinzai’ (‘Overlooking
the Ford’). By that time P’u-hua was already there. Pretending to be crazy, P’u-hua mixed with
the people and no one could tell whether he was a sage or a commoner. When the Master
arrived there P’u-hua was of help to him. When the Master’s teaching began to ﬂourish,
P’u-hua vanished, body and all. This agreed with the prediction mage by Yang-shan, the ‘little
It happened that a local ﬁghting broke out, and Rinzai abandoned the temple. The Grand
Marshal, Mo Chung-ho, donated his house inside the town walls and made it into a temple.
Hanging up a plaque there, inscribed with the old name ‘Rinzai’, he had the Master make it his
Later, the Master tucked up his robes and went south to the prefecture of Ho. The Governor of the prefecture, the Counselor Wang, extended to him the honors due a master. After staying for a short while, the Master went to Hsing-hua temple in Ta-ming Prefecture, where he lived in the Eastern Hall.
Suddenly one day, the Master, although not ill, adjusted his robes, sat erect, and when his
dialogue with San-sheng was ﬁnished, quietly passed away. It was on the tenth of the ﬁrst
month in the eighth year of Hsien-t’ung of the T’ang dynasty.
His disciples built a pagoda for the Master’s body in the northwest corner of the capital of
Ta-ming Prefecture. The Emperor decreed that the Master be given the posthumous title, Zen
Master Hui-chao (‘Wisdom-Illuminating’) and his pagoda be called Cheng-ling (‘Translucent
Joining my hands with palms together and bowing low my head, I have recorded in summary
the life of the Master.
Respectfully inscribed by the humble heir Yen-chao of Pao-shou in Chen Province.
Here ends the Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Rinzai Hui-chao of Chen Province.
Collated by the humble heir Ts’un-chiang of Hsing-hua in Ta-ming Prefecture.
Here you can find more information about the ordination as Zen Monk / Zen Nun. For further questions about zen master Rinzai contact us at any time via a contact form on the homepage or call. We would be pleased to welcome you in one of our Zen temples. Visit for a cup of coffee, an evening meditation, for a short or long term templestay. The temple gates are always open and the daily routine continues. Examine and share Life & Death with the Zen Nuns and Zen Monks in Switzerland.