Noting the Great Zen Master Linji, Together With a Couple of Pointers

Linji 2
 

 

Today, the 10th of January, is the traditional date marking the death of Linji Yixuan in 866 within our common era. Linji is a signal spiritual teacher who gave his name to one of the two principal surviving schools of the Zen way.

His precise birthdate is not known, nor, actually, the date of his death. He was born somewhere between the end of the Eighth and the dawn of the Ninth century to the Xing family in what today is Shandong, in China. He appears to have been very young when he left on a spiritual quest, which culminated in his becoming a disciple of, and eventually a dharma heir to the great Huangbo Xiyun.

While I have to admit a bias in favor of marking birthdays of signal figures with all the promise of that moment, I have to acknowledge the power of marking their death date. In Christianity this is normative, but it assumes with it the dawn of one’s birth into glory. In Buddhism it is more the mark of the fullness of a life, and in that sense celebrating the life of Linji on this (traditional) date makes a world of sense.

Linji’s teachings are captured in an anthology called the Linjilu, the Record of Linji.

 

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