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The Record of Linji

Ruth Fuller Sasaki (trans.)

Publication Year: 2009

The Linji lu (Record of Linji) has been an essential text of Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. A compilation of sermons, statements, and acts attributed to the great Chinese Zen master Linji Yixuan (d. 866), it serves as both an authoritative statement of Zen’s basic standpoint and a central source of material for Zen koan practice. Scholars study the text for its importance in understanding both Zen thought and East Asian Mahayana doctrine, while Zen practitioners cherish it for its unusual simplicity, directness, and ability to inspire. One of the earliest attempts to translate this important work into English was by Sasaki Shigetsu (1882–1945), a pioneer Zen master in the U.S. and the founder of the First Zen Institute of America. At the time of his death, he entrusted the project to his wife, Ruth Fuller Sasaki, who in 1949 moved to Japan and there founded a branch of the First Zen Institute at Daitoku-ji. Mrs. Sasaki, determined to produce a definitive translation, assembled a team of talented young scholars, both Japanese and Western, who in the following years retranslated the text in accordance with modern research on Tang-dynasty colloquial Chinese. As they worked on the translation, they compiled hundreds of detailed notes explaining every technical term, vernacular expression, and literary reference. One of the team, Yanagida Seizan (later Japan’s preeminent Zen historian), produced a lengthy introduction that outlined the emergence of Chinese Zen, presented a biography of Linji, and traced the textual development of the Linji lu. The sudden death of Mrs. Sasaki in 1967 brought the nearly completed project to a halt. An abbreviated version of the book was published in 1975, but neither this nor any other English translations that subsequently appeared contain the type of detailed historical, linguistic, and doctrinal annotation that was central to Mrs. Sasaki’s plan. The materials assembled by Mrs. Sasaki and her team are finally available in the present edition of the Record of Linji. Chinese readings have been changed to Pinyin and the translation itself has been revised in line with subsequent research by Iriya Yoshitaka and Yanagida Seizan, the scholars who advised Mrs. Sasaki. The notes, nearly six hundred in all, are almost entirely based on primary sources and thus retain their value despite the nearly forty years since their preparation. They provide a rich context for Linji’s teachings, supplying a wealth of information on Tang colloquial expressions, Buddhist thought, and Zen history, much of which is unavailable anywhere else in English. This revised edition of the Record of Linji is certain to be of great value to Buddhist scholars, Zen practitioners, and readers interested in Asian Buddhism.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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Foreword by Yamada Mumon

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pp. vii

Indian Buddhism is distinctly contemplative, quietistic, and inclined to speculative thought. By contrast, Chinese Buddhism is practical and down-to-earth, active, and in a sense transcendental at the same time. This difference reflects, I believe, the national characters of the two peoples. Zen, the name given to the Buddhism the first Zen patriarch...

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Preface to the 1975 Edition by Furuta Kazuhiro

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pp. ix-xii

The Linji lu (J. Rinzai roku) consists of the recorded sayings of Linji Yixuan (d. 866), the founder of the Linji school of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, which emerged toward the end of the Tang dynasty (618–907). Linji’s lifetime coincided with the declining years of the mighty Tang empire, when...

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Editor’s Prologue

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pp. xiii-xxx

Ruth Fuller Sasaki’s translation of the Linji lu was one of the first Zen texts I encountered after starting Zen practice in Japan in the early 1970s. Even prior to the publication of the Institute for Zen Studies’ 1975 edition (see Furuta Kazuhiro’s Preface), typescripts of the translation, minus the notes, had found their...


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pp. xxxi-xxxii

The Record of Linji, translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki

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pp. 3-33

“Today, I, this mountain monk, having no choice in the matter, have perforce yielded to customary etiquette and taken this seat. If I were to demonstrate the Great Matter in strict keeping with the teaching of the ancestral school, I simply couldn’t open my mouth and there wouldn’t be any place for...

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Critical Examinations

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pp. 34-41

The master asked a monk, “Where do you come from?” The monk shouted. The master saluted him and motioned him to sit down. The monk hesitated. The master hit him. Seeing another monk coming, the master raised his whisk. The monk bowed low. The master hit him. Seeing still another monk coming, the master again...

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Record of Pilgrimages

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pp. 42-53

When Linji was one of the assembly of monks under Huangbo, he was plain and direct in his behavior. The head monk praised him saying, “Though he’s a youngster, he’s different from the other monks.” So he asked, “Honorable monk, how long have you been...

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Preface to the Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Linji Huizhao of Zhenzhou

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pp. 54-55

Compiled by Ma Fang, Scholar of the Yankang Hall; Gentleman of the Gold and Purple Rank in attendance at Imperial Banquets; Emissary in Charge of Keeping Order in Zhending Circuit; concurrently Chief Commandant of Cavalry and Infantry Forces; concurrently Administrator of Chengde Military...

Historical Introduction and Commentary

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Historical Introduction to The Record of Linji

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pp. 59-115

The Linji lu (Record of Linji), a compilation of the recorded sermons, statements, and actions of the Tang-dynasty Chan priest Linji Yixuan (d. 866),¹ forms the central text of the Linji school of Chan. This school rose to prominence within a century of Linji’s death, owing not only to the stature of Linji himself but also to the contributions...

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pp. 117-346

Huizhao Chanshi 慧照禪師,“Meditation Master of Illuminating Wisdom,” is the imperially conferred posthumous title of the master usually known as Linji Yi xuan 臨濟義玄. The name Linji derives from Linji yuan 臨濟院, the master’s temple on...

Chinese Text

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The Linji lu in Chinese

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pp. 349-364

府主王常侍、與諸官請師升座。師上堂云、山僧今日事不獲已、曲順人 情、方登此座。若約祖宗門下、稱揚大事、直是開口不得、無爾措足處。 山僧此日以常侍堅請、那隱綱宗。還有作家戰將、直下展陣開旗麼。對眾 證據看。僧問、如何是佛法大意。師便喝。僧禮拜。師云、這箇師僧、卻 堪持論。問、師唱誰家曲、宗風嗣阿誰。師云、我在黃檗處、三度發問、...


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pp. 365-436

List of Personal Names

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pp. 437-450

Cumulative Index

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pp. 451-485

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864972
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824828219

Publication Year: 2009