Lin-chi I-hsüan

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Lin-chi I-hsüan (Jap. Rinzai Gigen, d. 867 CE). Chinese master who founded the Zen Buddhist Lin-chi line (Rinzai-shū in Japanese). Lin-chi was noted for his emphasis on shouting (ho) and striking (kyosaku) as techniques for spurring on the spiritual progress of his students. ‘A type of Chinese Socrates’ (Demiéville), he is one of the outstanding figures, not just of Buddhism, but of humanity.

The Lin-chi way is characterized by dialectical formulae, the three statements (sanku), three mysteries (sangen), and three essentials (sanyō); and the sets of four—four alternatives (shiryōken), four conversations, four types of shouting (shikatsu). The threefold formulae are dense and not explained.

His sayings and some biographical information are gathered in Lin-chi lu (tr. R. F. Sasaki, 1975; see also Rinzairoku), which includes the notable command: ‘If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha; if you meet the patriarch, kill the patriarch’, which summarizes the goal of independence from even the highest authority in the achieving of what they alone have the authority to teach.