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  • The Book of Rinzai Roku
  • Joan Stambaugh
The Book of Rinzai Roku. Translated by Eido Shimano. New York: Zen Studies Society, 2005. Pp. 167. Hardcover. $30.00.

The Book of Rinzai (Linji) contains the recorded sayings of Zen Master Rinzai, translated and presented here by Eido Shimano Roshi. The text proper consists of a series of predictions: Ascending the High Seat (Shangtang), Teaching the Assembly (Shi-zhong), Cross-examinations of Linji with his students (Kamben), and Records of Pilgrimages (Xinglu).

According to Eido Shimano, the main theme of Rinzai's teaching is buji. This he translates variously as "nothing to do," "to be free from contrivances," "to be all done [according to context]." "Bu" is negation; "ji" is the events, problems, and suffering of daily life. But what seems to be ji is nothing other than buji. In other words, what we take to be saṃsāra is at bottom nirvāṇa. What does this mean?

It means that things are as they are and cannot be otherwise. There is nothing lacking, nothing superfluous (Sartre's de trop). This lands us in Suchness, as-it-is-ness (tathatā), or in nowness, the now (nikon).

This raises two momentous questions. The first plagued Dōgen: if we are already enlightened (hongaku), why practice to acquire enlightenment (shokaku)? Another question might be: what are we to do after enlightenment?

To respond to the second question first: "enlightenment" is just a beginning; after prajñā comes compassion (karuṇā). Compassion is not passive, as is pity when one feels oneself elevated above the poor wretch pitied (what Trungpa, following Gurdjieff, called idiot compassion). Karuṇā has the same root (kr) as karma and is thus something active.

As for the first question: if we will strive to attain enlightenment, we are doomed to failure. But if we do nothing at all, nothing at all will happen. Instead of striving to will, we need to be willing—to accept, respond, and go along with whatever happens. Again, this being willing is nothing passive; it requires from us the practice of sustained exertion, which is nothing that we do but something we stick through, wait out, perdure (gyoji, gujin).

Minor editing improvements: sometimes skandha is misspelled as skanda. "Ono-matopia" should read onomatopoeia. "Existance" (p. 164) should read existence.

With the following splendid translation Eido Shimano Roshi has demonstrated his encrasy, the fact that he is the master of circumstances:

All things that are in time have a 'Why?'. Ask a man why he eats: "For strength." "Why do you sleep?"—"For the same reason." And so on with all things that are in time. But if you should ask a good man, "Why do you love God"?—"I don't know—for God's sake." "Why do you love truth"?—"For truth's sake."—"Why do you love righteousness?"—"For righteousness' sake." "Why do you live?"—"Indeed I don't know—I like living!"1

Beyond words and phrases he has poured water from one vessel into another. [End Page 156]


1. - Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, trans. and ed. M.O.C. Walshe (New York: Lilian Barber Press, 1987). Pp. 184. Paperback. $15.95 vol. 1, p. 98.



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