Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #38
Linji's True Person
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #38
Linji's True Person
Linji Yixuan (812-867, 11th gen) was a disciple of Huangbo 770?-850, 10th gen), disciple of Baizhang (720-814, 9th gen), disciple of Mazu (709-88, 8th gen). Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen.Case
Linji addressed the assembly, saying, "There is a true person of no rank. He is always leaving and entering the gates of your face. You beginners who have not witnessed him: Look! Look!"The Record of Linji, Chap. 3, Trans by Jeffrey Broughton & Elise Yoko Watanbe
Thereupon a monk asked, "How about this true person of no rank?"
Linji got down from the seat and grabbed him.
The monk hesitated, and Linji pushed him away, saying, "This true person of no rank; what a shit-stick he is!"
Spoken at a Dharma-Hall Convocation: "Beyond the red-meatball [mind] there is the one true person [true mind or buddha nature] who can't be ranked. [I.e., who does not belong to the 'buddha' ranking and does not belong to the 'sentient-being' ranking.] [That true person/true mind] is constantly exiting and entering from the face-gates of all of you people [like the dazzling rays of light emitted from the face-gate of a buddha]. Those who have not seen with their own eyes -- look! Look!"The Record of Linji, Chap. 3, Trans by Thich Nhat Hanh
At one point there was a monk who emerged to ask: "What is the true person who can't be ranked?"
The Master got down from the [curved-wood] Chan chair, and grabbed him by the collar, saying, "C'mon! C'mon!"
The monk dithered.
The Master, thrusting him back, said, "[This] 'true person who can't be ranked' -- what a magnificent piece of dried shit!" And he at once returned to the fangzhang [personal chamber, ten-foot square].
One day the Zen master came into the Dharma Hall and said, "On this lump of red flesh is a real person of no position who comes in and out right before your face. Whoever has not seen that person should look carefully. Have a good look!"Wansong's Preface
At that point a monk came up and asked, "What is that real person of no position?"
The master stepped down from the meditation platform, took hold of the monk and said, "Speak! speak! What is that real person with no position?"
The monk was perplexed.
The master let go of him and said, "The real person with no position is no more than dry excrement on a stick."
Having spoken, he went back to his room immediately.
Taking a theif for a son, perceiving a servant as master. A broken wooden ladle -- how can this be the dried skull of an Ancestor! A donkey saddle cannot be the lower jaw of a grandfather. When the land is split up and the thatch roof is partitioned, how do we distinguish the master?Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Delusion and enlightenment are mutually opposedThich Nhat Hanh's Comment
Delusion and enlightenment are opposite,
Subtly conveyed, it's simple:
Subtly communicated, with simplicity;
In spring, the hundred flowers bloom by a zephyr;
Spring opens the hundred flowers, in one puff,
in strength, nine oxen are turned about with a jerk.
Power pulls back nine bulls, in one yank.
It's hopeless to dig a hole in the mud -- it won't stay open
It's hopeless -- the mud and sand can't be cleared away;
Clearly the sweet spring's eye has been closed.
Clearly blocking off the eye of the sweet spring,
Suddenly dash out and it freely gushes forth.
If suddenly it burst forth, it would freely flow.
The word "position" (in "person of no position") is often understood to mean our status in society. In this case it also means our exact location in space and time. The true person without position can't be located in time and space. This doesn't mean the true person isn't there; it's just that the true person can't be grasped. The Buddha can't be grasped. The Tathagata cannot be found in form, nor outside of form, nor in feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness, nor does the Tathagata transcend form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness (Anuradha Sutra). Master Linji was saying the same thing. This pile of flesh here, with blood, bone, and marrow, is not the true person. Nor is the true person something outside of them. We live our whole life in this ignorance, thinking our feelings and our flesh are the sum total of our true person. Our true person has no position, is not inside or outside, is not tricked by birth and death, by coming and going, by having or not having, by what we do or don't do. Our true person can't be found by means of our intellect, our reasoning. Our true person is our own miraculous Buddha, present in our wonderful relationship with all things. We are the clouds, the sky, all our ancestors and descendants. Our true person is a wonder. And when we can see this, we are well. We still have our ups and downs, but we don't identify ourselves with them; we know we are more than that.Wick's Comment
"...no more than dry excrement on a stick." Linji expressed his disappointment but at the same time used an image opposite the one we have of the true person. We tend to think of a true person as pure and noble, someone extraordinary, so Linji uses this image of dried excrement to neutralize our view. If we have a set view about what our true person is, then that view has no more value than a piece of dry fecal matter.
"No rank" means "no basis on which to depend." We find security in our credentials. We are proud of our accomplishments and continually want recognition. Any hint of accomplishment or of feeling better than someone else is like putting chevrons on your sleeve and displaying your rank. No rank means to strip away all of your credentials and then see who you are. The true person of no rank is continually entering and leaving the five sensory gates of your face. Linji gave a clue about how to reveal that true person: "Mind is without form and pervades the ten directions. In the eye, it's called seeing. In the ear, it's called hearing. In the nose, it smells odors. In the mouth, it holds conversation. In the hand, it grasps and seizes. In the feet, it runs and carries. Fundamentally, it is one pure radiance. Divided, it becomes harmoniously united spheres of sense. Since the mind is not existent, wherever you go, you're free." By polishing away our credentials, our cherished views, our status and position, the true person of no rank will appear. On whose door does the moonlight not shine? Who is not the true person of no rank?Non-Abiding Riding Waves' Verse
Linji's "True Man"Daido's Comment
Watching the mind that thinks
the blind man sees through his ears.
Witness looking in and out
of the face
When it comes back to you let go
The true person of no rank is the real form of truth as it appears throughout the universe. It is fluid and in a constant state of becoming. The true person of rank is the real form of truth as it appears throughout the universe. It, too, is fluid and in a constant state of becoming. Rank and no rank are nondual. Therefore, each and every thing up to and including each one of us exists thus!Daido's Verse
The essence of all phenomena is thusness; the real nature of body and mind is thusness. Therefore, it cannot be attained by any personal effort. Realized or not, it has always been manifesting as our very life itself.
It is at once you,Sturmer's Verse
yet you are not it.
It must be understood in this way,
if you are to merge with suchness.
Although they shaved offHotetsu's Verse
and gave Chairman Mao
breasts and a facelift,
the dead still recognized
their former oppressors
and call out their names
down the streets of the afterlife.
Right where you are is everywhere-nowhere.
Without rank, position, business, affairs,
The no-rowing rowing of your no-boat boat:
Gentle, merry, carried by the stream.
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