Friday, September 7, 2012

The Zen Teachings of Rinzai By Irmgard Schloegl And Lin-chi Lu

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"One of my favourite books.. i really like it.. very inspiring" --jebalkober

The Record of Rinzai is one of the main texts in the School of Rinzai Zen.

Rinzai Gigen, father of the line or school of Rinzai Zen, died January 10th, 866 A.D. His date of birth is unknown, but it is generally taken that his teaching career was not much longer than a decade. The Rinzai Line is one of the Five Houses of Zen, best thought of as teaching styles that developed within the Zen school, following a great master. It was brought to Japan in the 13th century.

The historical development of the Zen School is well documented. A bibliography is appended. Rinzai's "Record" was written by his disciples. It contains his teachings, episodes from his training, and from his teaching career. As all the great Zen masters, he was firmly based on the Buddhist teachings, conversant with the scriptures, and freely quoting them. But rather than lip-service and routine learning, he demands genuine insight into the scriptures, and a life lived out of this insight. If at times he seems to deride, it is not the scriptures, but his students, who were apt to piously and tenaciously cling to the words rather than attempt to understand them.

Rinzai has the reputation of being extremely fierce and direct. When he really lashes out, it is to break down attachments to any ideal, and he is addressing seasoned monks. His seeming contradictions are another teaching device to rout his students from any complacency. In his Record, he speaks for himself, clearly and decisively. There are, however, some passages which may seem obscure. These are worked on in meditation only, and insight into them is tested by the Zen master. They are training subjects rather than teaching material. But this does not mean that they are in any way special, or "esoteric", or available only for a few. Zen is refreshingly direct and down to earth, entirely commonsensical.

As a training it has been and is open to anybody, monk or layman. But it has always demanded a good deal of hard training without which the sight will not become clear. 

The Record may give the impression that monks were a good 
deal on the road, wandering about. In fact, this was the practice only for senior and well settled monks, who went from master to master -- either to test their own understanding or, in case they felt "something still lacking," to find a master under whom they could complete their training. Young monks stayed put to
undergo their basic training.

In general, as well as in Rinzai's own 
life, three phases can be distinguished in the life of a master: The training under a master, wandering about to settle and test his insight, and his teaching career.

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