Posts Tagged ‘Linji’

I’ve been posting fairly late at night, which is why my thoughts have been in haiku a couple of times.  I sort of like the format though, as it has helped me distill my thoughts into just a few lines.  As someone who types extremely fast — almost as fast as her stream of consciousness — I can sometimes use the help in brevity.

That said, I also can tend to assume that people are familiar with things I reference, but maybe a little reminder might help.  Yesterday’s haiku on meeting the Buddha refers to the old koan attributed to the founder of the Rinzai sect:

If you meet the Buddha, kill him. (逢佛殺佛,逢祖殺祖)

Apparently, he has a longer piece on this, as well:

Followers of the Way [of Chán], if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you’re facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, will not be entangled with things, will pass freely anywhere you wish to go.[7]

Can you see what he’s saying there? Linji worked pretty hard to help his students let go of the conceptual understandings of their own essential nature, once they had the full concepts down. See, the more we know, the more we start to identify with that information. We forget that knowledge and images and understanding and even letting go isn’t our essential nature. It’s just the fun our essential nature gets to have.

So the “killing the Buddha” bit isn’t about ending a life, it’s about ending a life of looking outside oneself for the most innate truths we can experience. As soon as you see something that appears to be outside yourself, it’s important to find a way to cut through that barrier and recognize how all you observe is a reflection within your own self.

Look at it this way: everything you hear, it’s your own ears sending signals to your own brain to decode using your own filters and understandings. Same with things you see, taste, touch, dream… all that. Any understanding you have is just making connections among your own internal wiring — you must already have the tools and the materials within to create anything for you. Others can help trigger these, sure, but that’s the same thing as coming across new blueprints. YOU engage with them. YOU make sense of them. YOU build further within yourself the plans YOU perceive in them according to YOUR nature.

At its core though, that nature is the same essential nature shared by all. Underneath our etchings and fiddlings with our memories and habits, our core nature retains its purity as the uncarved block. As fun as it is to see things outside ourselves as particularly wise, or beautiful, or sacred, eventually we have to set aside our mask and recognize we aren’t looking at something outside ourselves; we are viewing ourselves through a different mirror.

When you see the Buddha, then, go ahead and bow. Just recognize that you aren’t bowing to a greater or lesser being. You’re bowing to that essential nature that is also you, yourself.


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