The Historical Rinzai and Koans

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Larry
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The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Larry » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:46 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:37 am
Rinzai himself never used the word in the records we have and ridiculed the way some abused a similar practice.
That's interesting. Can you say more.

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jul 04, 2018 1:46 pm

As far as I know (hopefully wiser heads can jump in):

Linji Yixuan (aka Lin-chi I-hsüan; Japanese: Rinzai Gigen, Korean: Imje) died around 866 CE. Our textual Information on Linji is based on the Línjì yǔlù (Japanese: Rinzai-goroku) or the Record of Linji. The standard form of this collection of sayings was not completed until about 250 years after Linji's death. The phrase “public case” or koan was not widely used as a technical term until well after his death and so it should not be surprising that there appears to be no record of him using it.

Koan use became really widely used in the 12th century when Dahui popularized the practice of kan huatou, or "inspecting the critical phrase", of a kōan story. There is no particular reason I know to assume it was especially associated with Rinzai during his life or to believe that Rinzai stressed koan practice. Later on, koan practice was popularized by his lineage which may account for the popular confusion that equates Rinzai with koan practice.

In his only references to a practice that seems similar or identical to koan practice, he slams its practioners. This should not be misunderstood as “Rinzai attacked koans.”Rinzai was most famous for the vigor and directness in his teachings, often criticizing bad practice. Some moderns have even misunderstood his scolding of his monks’ zazen to mean that he condemned zazen or even Buddhism!

The focus of his Zen, like any legimate teacher, was realization, seeing the ground we walk on, not this or that expedient means.

BTW, as Meido has pointed out, it is not the only practice of the Rinzai lineage even today.

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Meido
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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Meido » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:33 pm

It is best to consider koan practice not as a Linji/Rinzai lineage thing, but a general Zen thing i.e. the use of verbal means of direct pointing by the teacher causing the student to recognize the nature of mind. Direct pointing as an activity of the teacher accomplished by verbal, physical, and other means is just a distinguishing aspect of Zen as a whole from the beginning.

Of course the use of specifically verbal means was known from Zen's earliest days, and examples are found in many major Zen writings and records of eminent teachers including the Rinzairoku. It was likewise acknowledged from quite early that passages from sutras or other texts could similarly serve as tools for bringing the student to that moment of entrance. Later of course we have various collections of utterances, anecdotes, episodes, and passages from texts thought to be useful in that way: what we call koans. Linji/Rinzai lines over the centuries happened to refine this method to a high degree, and so many have inherited a extensive practice focused on wato and koans.

But the fundamental method itself pre-dates all of that, and focus should still be placed not on the koans themselves, but on their use within encounter with the teacher. In other words: it is sanzen, mutual investigation of Zen with the teacher, that remains the primary Rinzai practice. Koans are just one thing used within sanzen.

Finally, it is true as mentioned that koan practice is only one tool in Rinzai Zen. In fact, someone who is rather sharp can complete the formal course of koan practice used in Japanese Rinzai practice (that is, the koan curriculum largely organized by Hakuin and Torei) in perhaps 6-10 years. But it is the many other practices that one is led to grasp and clarify with the teacher's guidance during the course of koan practice that actually define the Rinzai path and are truly crucial, for example the practice of hokkyo zanmai by which the recognition arrived at with kensho is actually integrated over the course of a lifetime.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by jundocohen » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm

I hope I may jump in here to dissent a bit, especially as the topic is whether Linji was or was not a "Koan" fellow in the Rinzai way. We cherish Linji too on the Soto side, and Dogen often quoted him.

First, "Koan Introspection Zazen" did not exist until many centuries later, and even most of the Koan stories themselves which depict scenes purporting to have happened in the Tang seem actually to be largely literary creations of the Song Dynasty. There is nothing that I see in the Rinzairoku and its recorded sayings that strikes me as much like the back and forth of Koan structure (I may be forgetting, as I have not looked for awhile). Some of the sayings in the record can be turned into Koans or used as Koans, but they do not seem to have been intended particularly that way in context. In fact, I did publish last year on what I found to be the surprisingly Shikantaza-ish words of Master Rinzai. Please have a look:
The Shikantaza Teachings of ... Master Rinzai!

Most Zen folks do not realize that the actual Master Linji Yixuan (Master Rinzai, 臨濟義玄, died 866) probably practiced a kind of non-seeking meditation seemingly closer in attitude to "Just Sitting" non-seeking, non-gaining "Shikantaza" than to the Koan Introspection Zazen which is now associated with the "Rinzai School" of Zen.

Of course, to say that Linji practiced "Shikantaza" would be incorrect, if we mean the way of sitting honed by Dogen in Japan some 400 years later. Shikantaza as we know did not exist at the time. However, Koan Introspection Zazen also did not exist at the time. Koan Introspection Zazen was developed by a monk in the Rinzai Lineage named Dahui (Dahui Zonggao 大慧宗杲) in the 12th Century, and further developed by others later including in Japan by Master Hakuin in the 18th Century, many many centuries after Rinzai lived. We do not know exactly what form of meditation Master Rinzai practiced, and the evidence is thin. But it is unlikely to have been Koan Introspection as we now know it, which did not exist at the time ... and most of the Koan stories themselves (many about Rinzai himself!) were not created as Koan stories until the Song Dynasty. There is no doubt that Silent Illumination and the like is an older tradition in the Zen/Chan world than Kanna (Koan Introspection) Zazen.

I simply make the point that so many of the Linji quotes below seem like dandy "don't seek, don't stop the thoughts, don't doubt, Just Sitting" instructions!

Anyway, here are the "Shikantaza-ish" quotes from the Record of Linji, and please judge for yourself:

----



“In my view there is no Buddha, no sentient beings, no past, no present. Anything attained was already attained—no time is needed. There is nothing to practice, nothing to realize, nothing to gain, nothing to lose. Throughout all time there is no other dharma than this. ‘If one claims there’s a dharma surpassing this, I say that it’s like a dream, like a phantasm.’ This is all I have to teach.

“Outside mind there’s no dharma, nor is there anything to be gained within it. What are you seeking? Everywhere you say, ‘There’s something to practice, something to obtain.’ Make no mistake! Even if there were something to be gained by practice, it would be nothing but birth-and-death karma."

“Bring to rest the thoughts of the ceaselessly seeking mind, and you will not differ from the patriarch-buddha. Do you want to know the patriarch-buddha? He is none other than you who stand before me listening to my discourse. But because you students lack faith in yourselves, you run around seeking something outside. Even if, through your seeking, you did find something, that something would be nothing more than fancy descriptions in written words; never would you gain the mind of the living patriarch.

“If you wish to differ in no way from the patriarch-buddha, just don’t seek outside. The pure light in a single thought of yours—this is the dharmakāya buddha within your own house. The nondiscriminating light in a single thought of yours—this is the saṃbhogakāya buddha within your own house. The nondifferentiating light in a single thought of yours—this is the nirmāṇakāya buddha within your own house. Th is threefold body is you, listening to my discourse right now before my very eyes. It is precisely because you don’t run around seeking outside that you have such meritorious activities.

“A true follower of the Way is never like this; conforming with circumstances as they are he exhausts his past karma; accepting things as they are 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.

“Virtuous monks, time is precious. And yet, hurrying hither and thither, you try 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, to think and speculate.
“Make no mistake, followers of the Way! Aft er all, you have a father and a mother—what more do you seek? Turn your own light inward upon yourselves!
A man of old said, Yajñadatta [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.

“One thought of doubt, and instantly the demon [māra] enters your mind. Even a bodhisattva, when in doubt, is taken advantage of by the demon of birth-and-death. Just desist from thinking, and never seek outside. If something should come, illumine it. Have faith in your activity revealed now—there isn’t a thing to do. [Jundo Note: An interesting quote for a man often associated with recommending 'Great Balls of Doubt'}

“There are a bunch of blind shavepates who, having stuff ed themselves with food, sit down to meditate and practice contemplation. Arresting the flow of thought they don’t let it 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 the mind to clarify inside, concentrate the mind to enter samādhi—all such [practices] as these are artificial striving.’ [Jundo Note: This and several other quotes on not trying to still the flow of thoughts]

“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 say to you there is no buddha, no dharma, nothing to practice, nothing to enlighten to. Just what are you seeking in the highways and byways? Blind men! You’re putting a head on top of the one you already have. What do you yourselves lack? Followers of the Way, your own present activities do not diff er 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 nothing to be obtained. Better than grasp at the words from my mouth, take it easy and do nothing.

The master said, “It is because you cannot stop your 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.’

There are many more ...
http://info.stiltij.nl/publiek/meditati ... sasaki.pdf
By the way, Meido notes this ...
the use of verbal means of direct pointing by the teacher in order to cause the student to recognize the nature of mind was known from Zen's earliest days, and examples are found in many major Zen writings and records of eminent teachers, including the Rinzairoku.
If you just mean that teachers say and do stuff, sometimes not conforming to usual common logic and grammar rules, in order to express Zen perspectives and get folks to realize so for themselves ... well, we all still do that! (Probably one reason folks don't always understand me). However, classic Koans have various set structures, settings and expectations that Steve Heine and others have analyzed in great detail. The Rinzairoku just doesn't conform to that, and the genre really did not develop until several centuries later.

Gassho, Jundo

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Last edited by jundocohen on Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Meido » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:27 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
First, "Koan Introspection Zazen" did not exist until many centuries later,
No one said otherwise. I said that koan introspection practice is one manifestation of the fundamental Zen practice of direct pointing, and one that was later developed to a high degree in Rinzai lines.
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
If you just mean that teachers say and do stuff, sometimes not conforming to usual common logic and grammar rules, in order to express Zen perspectives and get folks to realize so for themselves ... well, we all still do that!
I do not mean that, as that is not what is meant by direct pointing.
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
However, classic Koans has various set structures, settings and expectations that Steve Heine and others have analyzed in great detail.
Such analysis has almost no relation to how these things are used by actual practitionersin Chan/Zen lineages. See Hori instead.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

[Note: not reachable by PM. To get in touch please email through the website above.]

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by jundocohen » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:38 pm

Meido wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:27 pm
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
If you just mean that teachers say and do stuff, sometimes not conforming to usual common logic and grammar rules, in order to express Zen perspectives and get folks to realize so for themselves ... well, we all still do that!
I do not mean that, as that is not what is meant by direct pointing.[
Hi Meido,

I believe that we are all engaged in direct pointing when we try to help someone realize. Do you have a more specific definition of "direct pointing"?
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
However, classic Koans has various set structures, settings and expectations that Steve Heine and others have analyzed in great detail.
Such analysis has almost no relation to how these things are used by actual practitionersin Chan/Zen lineages. See Hori instead.
If you mean his writings such as Zen Sand (and I think I have read everything else by him too), it is about how Koans are handled in Rinzai practice, but not the actual structure of what set Koans apart from earlier Zen histories and collections. The development of the Koan as a genre has been now well documented, not only by Heine, but by Schlutter, McRae, Foulk and many others. I don't think that anything in the structure of the Linji-lu would quite qualify. The sayings can be used as Koans, however, and they were by many masters in later periods.

Gassho, Jundo
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by lindama » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:54 pm

yes, as Meido says: "Such analysis has almost no relation to how these things are used by actual practitionersin Chan/Zen lineages." I've seen a few teachers/sanghas who work with koans, it varies.

Jundo, thanks for the quotes by Linji, many are familiar. I'm not a scholar yet heard them many times in sangha. Personally, I've worked with koans yet never took up the curriculum (of 500). My teacher spoke often of Linji and Hakuin and others.... and stories used as koans. I've seen other teachers speak more of the zen patriarchs and stories about them.

Linji is most remembered (by me) for..... "there is nothing I dislike".

linda

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Meido » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:08 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:38 pm
I believe that we are all engaged in direct pointing when we try to help someone realize. Do you have a more specific definition of "direct pointing"?
Of course, I have in mind the traditional understanding of what direct pointing entails, how it is effected, and in what manner it is an error when we "try" to help someone realize.

There is a koan dealing with these things, actually :)
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:38 pm
The development of the Koan as a genre has been now well documented, not only by Heine, but by Schlutter, McRae, Foulk and many others. I don't think that anything in the structure of the Linji-lu would quite qualify. The sayings can be used as Koans, however, and they were by many masters in later periods
Again: no claim was made that koan practice as it was later developed and refined is found exactly so in earlier times.

I said that koan practice as it is later found is a natural expression of core principles that we find in Zen from the beginning: direct pointing as the crucial activity of the teacher (and specifically the use of verbal means as one method for doing so), and the primacy of encounter with the teacher as a central method of Zen.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

[Note: not reachable by PM. To get in touch please email through the website above.]

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:38 pm

Thanks for wiser heads jumping in.
jundocohen wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 pm
I hope I may jump in here to dissent a bit,..
Respectfully, who or what are you dissenting from?

It is not possible to say that Rinzai did not use what we now call koans or Shikantaza or prayer because we don’t have evidence of that; nor can we claim that any specific individual uniquely invented their use. We can say that Rinzai Roku lambasted the way that some of his monks were practicing (and how Shikantaza or koan practice or prayer is so often practiced or presented even today). What we can also do is talk about koans in a literary/historical way because we have some documented history. So we can say that one general way of koan practice was popularized or often stressed by Dahui, for example, and because we have some evidence about that. We can say that this is the earlest evidence we have found of that approach.

An important point to make is that when we talk about these interesting literary/historical notes we must put them in context. Dogen, for example, “does not have a single, simple or uniform method of koan interpretation, but he varies rhetorical and narrative strategies to bring out particular ideas concerning specific items of doctrine and ritual” at specific times for different audiences (Steven Heine at http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Dog ... dition.pdf).

It is even more important to bear in mind Meido’s comment that, “Such analysis has almost no relation to how these things are used by actual practitioners in Chan/Zen lineages."

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:49 pm

Love this thread.

Come on 7-day Ch'an retreat and let's see what comes up. Is it k'ung-an material? Sometimes it is. And it's entirely contemporary. Why? Because human Life is universally human Life. No getting away from that, or from it.

This is what I celebrate.

--Joe

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by lindama » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:05 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:49 pm
And it's entirely contemporary. Why? Because human Life is universally human Life. No getting away from that, or from it.
yes, indeedy, it is entirely contemporary. Zen scholars turn to the history, that's fine too, it's a goood job somebody has to do.

After all these years, Meido summarizes it beautifully:
I said that koan practice as it is later found is a natural expression of core principles that we find in Zen from the beginning: direct pointing as the crucial activity of the teacher (and specifically the use of verbal means as one method for doing so), and the primacy of encounter with the teacher as a central method of Zen.
The primacy of encounter.... with our lives. yes, ofc, a teach can facilitate.

John Tarrant tells this koan story...

two students are sewing. one asks the other.... how's it going? ... one stitch follows the other....

the second students says, it's never like that for me. {What's it like for you?} .... with each stitch the universe bursts into flames.

John humorously asks.... who would you rather go on a date with? (some might think he's picking and choosing, he's not)

it's alive!

as far as I can tell, just sitting can be just as alive, or not.

linda

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Re: The Historical Rinzai and Koans

Post by Anders » Thu Jul 05, 2018 8:10 am

lindama wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:05 am
John Tarrant tells this koan story...

two students are sewing. one asks the other.... how's it going? ... one stitch follows the other....

the second students says, it's never like that for me. {What's it like for you?} .... with each stitch the universe bursts into flames.
A real haymaker of a right hook, that story. :111: :namaste:

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