Linji Yixuan

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Linji Yixuan
Japanese painting of Linji Yixuan (Jap. Rinzai Gigen).
TitleCh'an Master
Died866 CE
Senior posting
TeacherHuangbo Xiyun

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, the recorded sayings of Linji. According to the Línjì yǔlù, Linji was born into a family named Xing () 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.

Línjì yǔlù[edit]

The Línjì yǔlù (臨濟語錄; Japanese: Rinzai-goroku), the Record of Linji, is a collection of sayings and anecdotes attributed to 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.[1]

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.” [2] 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.

Teaching style[edit]

A statue of Linji Yixuan under the southern gate of Zhengding Hebei, China


Linji is reputed to have been iconoclastic, leading students to awakening by hitting and shouting.[3]

Three Mysterious Gates[edit]

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.[4]

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:[4]

  1. The First Gate is the "mystery in the essence", the use of Buddhist philosophy, such as Huayan, to explain the interpenetration of all phenomena.
  2. 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".
  3. 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".


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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]


Written references[edit]

  1. ^ Welter n.d.
  2. ^ Keyworth, George A. (2019). "How the Mount Wutai cult stimulated the development of Chinese Chan in southern China at Qingliang monasteries". Studies in Chinese Religions. 5 (3–4): 353–376. doi:10.1080/23729988.2019.1686872. S2CID 213258968.
  3. ^ McRae 2003.
  4. ^ a b Buswell 1992, pp. 245–246.
  5. ^ characters and Wade-Giles Romanization
  6. ^ See Thiền Sư Trung Quốc for a list of Chinese Zen Masters in Vietnamese.
  7. ^ Romaji
  8. ^ Hangeul and South Korean Revised Romanization


Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lowenstein, Tom (2002), The Vision of the Buddha: Buddhism: The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment, Duncan Baird, ISBN 1-903296-91-9
  • McMahan, David L. (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518327-6
  • Schloegl, Irmgard (1976), The Zen Teaching of Rinzai, Berkeley: Shambhala Publications, ISBN 0-87773-087-3
  • 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
  • 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 (2006), Monks, Rulers, and Literati: The Political Ascendancy of Chan Buddhism, Wisdom Books[ISBN missing]
  • Welter, Albert (2008), The Linji Lu and the Creation of Chan Orthodoxy: The Development of Chan's Records of Sayings Literature, Oxford University Press[ISBN missing]
  • Welter, Albert (n.d.), "The Textual History of the Linji lu (Record of Linji): The Earliest Recorded Fragments", thezensite
  • Yixuan, Linji (1976), The Zen Teaching of Rinzai: The Record of Rinzai, The Clear Light Series, translated by Irmgard Schloegel, Berkeley: Shambhala, ISBN 978-0394731766
  • Yixuan, Linji (2009), Kirchner, Thomas Yuho (ed.), The Record of Linji, translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0824833190

External links[edit]

Buddhist titles
Preceded by Rinzai Zen patriarch Succeeded by