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Linji Yixuan (traditional Chinese: 臨濟義玄; simplified Chinese: 临济义玄; pinyin: Línjì Yìxuán; Wade–Giles: Lin-chi I-hsüan; Japanese: 臨済義玄 Rinzai Gigen; died 866 CE) was the founder of the Linji school of Chán Buddhism during Tang dynasty China.
Information on Linji is based on the Línjì yǔlù (臨濟語錄; Japanese: Rinzai-goroku), the Record of Linji. The standard form of these sayings was not completed until two hundred fifty years after Linji's death, and likely reflects the teaching of Chán in the Linji school at the beginning of the Song dynasty rather than that of Linji in particular.
The Línjì yǔlù contains stories of Linji's interactions with teachers, contemporaries, and students. The recorded lectures are a mixture of the conventional and the iconoclastic; those who resented the iconoclasm saw Linji as “one of the most infamous Chinese Chan masters who censored traditional Buddhist practices and doctrines.”  Despite the iconoclasm, however, the Línjì yǔlù reflects a thorough knowledge of the sūtras; Linji's style of teaching, as recorded in that text, exemplifies Chán development in the Hongzhou school (洪州宗) of Mazu and his successors, such as Huangbo, Linji's master.
According to the Línjì yǔlù, Linji was born into a family named Xing (邢) in Caozhou (modern Heze in Shandong), which he left at a young age to study Buddhism in many places. He was trained by the Chán master Huángbò Xīyùn (黃蘗希運), but attained kensho while discussing Huángbò's teaching during a conversation with the reclusive monk Dàyú (大愚). Linji then returned to Huángbò to continue his training after awakening. In 851 CE, Linji moved to the Linji temple in Hebei from which he took his name, and which also became the name for the lineage of his form of Chán.
Three Mysterious Gates
Chán faced the challenge of expressing its teachings of suchness without getting stuck in words or concepts; the alleged use of shouting and beating was instrumental in this non-conceptual expression—after the students were well educated in the Buddhist tradition.
Linji is described as using the Three Mysterious Gates to maintain the Chán emphasis on the nonconceptual nature of reality, while employing sūtras and teachings to instruct his students:
- The First Gate is the "mystery in the essence", the use of Buddhist philosophy, such as Huayan, to explain the interpenetration of all phenomena.
- The Second Gate is the "mystery in the word", using the Hua Tou[a] 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 such as striking or shouting, which are intended to remove all of the defects implicit in conceptual understanding".
References in popular culture
The titular story of Volume 2 of Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima's manga comic Lone Wolf and Cub revolves around Linji's saying "if you meet a buddha, kill the buddha," in which the protagonist must overcome his self to assassinate a living buddha.
|仏に逢えば仏を殺せ||Butsu ni aeba butsu (w)o korose||If you meet a buddha, kill him.|
|祖に逢えば祖を殺せ||So ni aeba so (w)o korose||If you meet your forefather, kill him.|
|何物にも捕われず||Nanimono ni mo torawarezu||Attached to nothing,|
|縛られず||Shibararezu||Bound [to nothing],|
|ただあるがままに己を生きる||Tada aru ga mama ni onore (w)o ikiru||Live your own life simply as it is.|
|CHINESE NAME||LIFE DATES||VIỆT NAME||JAPANESE NAME||KOREAN NAME|
|28 / 1||達磨 / Damo||?||達磨 / Đạtma||だるま / Daruma||달마 / Dalma|
|29 / 2||慧可 / Shenguang Huìke||487–593||Huệ Khả||Eka||혜가 / Hyega|
|30 / 3||僧璨 / Jianzhi Sengcan||?–606||Tăng Xán||Sōsan||승찬 / Seungchan|
|31 / 4||道信 / Dongshan Daoxin||580–651||Đạo Tín||Dōshin||도신 / Doshim|
|32 / 5||弘忍 / Huangmei Hongren||601/2–674/5||Hoằng Nhẫn||Kōnin||홍인 / Hongihn|
|33 / 6||慧能 / Caoxi Huineng||638–713||Huệ Năng||Enō||혜능 / Hyeneung|
|34 / 7||南嶽懷讓 / Nanyue Huairang||677–744||Nam Nhạc Hoài Nhượng||Nangaku Ejō||남악회양 / Namak Hweyang|
|35 / 8||馬祖道一 / Mazu Daoyi||709–788||Mã Tổ Đạo Nhất||Baso Dōitsu||마조도일 / Majo Toil|
|36 / 9||百丈懷海 / Baizhang Huaihai||720?/749?–814||Bách Trượng Hoài Hải||Hyakujō Ekai||백장회해 / Paekchang Hwehae|
|37 / 10||黃蘗希運 / Huangbo Xiyun||?–850||Hoàng Bá Hy Vận||Ōbaku Kiun||황벽희운 / Hwangbyeok Heuiun|
|38 / 11||臨濟義玄 / Linji Yixuan||?–866/7||Lâm Tế Nghĩa Huyền||Rinzai Gigen||임제의현 / Imje Euihyeon|
- Buddhism in China
- Dharma Drum Retreat Center Chán Buddhism retreat center founded by Ch'an master Sheng-yen
- List of Rinzai Buddhists
- Stuart Lachs: "The Chinese term Hua-t’ou can be translated as “critical phrase.” Literally it means the “head of speech” or the “point beyond which speech exhausts itself.” In Korean, hua-t’ou are known as hwadu and in Japanese as wato [...] A hua-t’ou is a short phrase (sometimes a part of a koan) that can be taken as a subject of meditation and introspection to focus the mind in a particular way, which is conducive to enlightenment.[web 1]
- Welter n.d.
- George A. Keyworth, “How the Mount Wutai Cult Stimulated the Development of Chinese Chan in Southern China at Qingliang Monasteries,” Studies in Chinese Religions 2019, 5.
- McRae 2003.
- Buswell 1992, pp. 245–246.
- characters and Wade-Giles Romanization
- See Thiền Sư Trung Quốc for a list of Chinese Zen Masters in Vietnamese.
- Hangeul and South Korean Revised Romanization
- extensive article in Mazu Daoyi
- Buswell, Robert E. Jr. (1992). "Ch'an Hermeneutics: A Korean View". In Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (ed.). Buddhist Hermeneutics. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press (Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 6). pp. 231–256.
- Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-860560-9
- Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. "Lone Wolf and Cub 2: The Gateless Barrier". Dark Horse, 2000. ISBN 1-56971-503-3, ISBN 978-1-56971-503-1
- Lowenstein, Tom. The Vision of the Buddha: Buddhism – The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment. ISBN 1-903296-91-9
- McMahan, David L. (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518327-6
- McRae, John (2003), Seeing Through Zen. Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism, The University Press Group Ltd, ISBN 978-0-520-23798-8
- Schloegl, Irmgard. The Zen Teaching of Rinzai. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Berkeley, 1976. ISBN 0-87773-087-3
- Watson, Burton (1999), The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi: A Translation of the Lin-chi lu, New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-11485-0
- Welter, Albert (n.d.), The Textual History of the Linji lu (Record of Linji): The Earliest Recorded Fragments
- Ruth Fuller Sasaki, The Record of Linji
- Welter, Albert (2006), Monks, Rulers, and Literati. The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism, Wisdom Books
- Welter, Albert (2008), The Linji Lu and the Creation of Chan Orthodoxy: The Development of Chan's Records of Sayings Literature, Oxford University Press
- Schlütter, Morten (2008), How Zen became Zen. The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-3508-8
- Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 47, No. 1985 The Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association online Chinese character text of The Record of Linji (臨濟録 Linji Lu)
- Japanese translation of Linji
- The record of Linji. Translation by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, and introduction by Yanagida Seizan
- The Zen Teaching of Rinzai (a.k.a. The Record of Rinzai) Translation by Irmgard Schloegel PDF Text
- Albert Welter, The Textual History of the Linji lu (Record of Linji): The Earliest Recorded Fragments