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Linji Quotes for Travel

Linji (trad. Chinese: 臨濟義玄) lived in China during the 800s, was a student of Huangbo’s, and founded an eponymous school of Chan Buddhism (known as the Rinzai School in Japanese Zen Buddhism) which remains one of the most influential and iconoclastic schools of Buddhist thought. Although you may not have known it, likely what you think of as “Zen” and how that branch of Buddhism is perceived in popular culture, comes through the Linji tradition. Most of the Linji quotes below come from a collection of his teachings known as the Linji Yulu (The Linji Record). The writing can sound like a koan, a seemingly confusing or contradictory statement used in meditation practice to pierce the limitations of language. The use of koans is popular in the Linji School. The school emphasizes insight and sudden realization to pierce the delusions of our minds. So Linji wasn’t always a big fan of studying. If you wanted to read his book in the hope of finding enlightenment, he’d probably help you out by throwing it at your head.

Ancient scroll painting of Linji. Dressed in robes, with a beard and his famous furrowed brow. His head is tilted forward and his eyes looking up like he is so dissatisfied with your understanding of a koan

If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.

Let’s start with one of the most famous Linji quotes, although it’s unclear where it was originally written down. It’s been passed along for centuries as an emblematic Linji statement. And it is about travel! If you chase a magical epiphany on your journey, or seek a special perfect solution to all of your problems, Linji would probably whack you in the head with a bamboo stick.

When it's time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Just be your ordinary self in ordinary life, unconcerned in seeking for enlightenment. When you're tired, lie down. The fool will laugh at you but the wise man will understand.

This is the practice. This is enough. Why do all of that extra work we always try to do in our heads, just making ourselves miserable! If you want to find enlightenment, pour your cereal in a bowl.

If you love the sacred and hate the ordinary, you’ll float and sink in the sea of birth-and-death.

As you may have guessed from the previous quote: Linji found the way in the simple practices of life. You can find treasures in the ordinary moments on your journey: the wait in a line, the late night visit to a convenience store, a conversation with a stranger, a tree you walked under. There. There is a special moment.

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on earth.

This exact quote isn’t in the Record of Linji, but this is what he meant, if perhaps it wasn’t something he said. In one section, he equates walking on water and walking on land. In another passage, he refers to the “supernatural power of walking upon the earth”. He wants his students to marvel at the miracles present in this moment. As you move about the world, be amazed by that miracle you create!

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3 thoughts on “Linji Quotes for Travel”

  1. the being enough is so powerful.

    “The fool will laugh at you but the wise man will understand.”
    – this can be for compulsions as well. let ocd feel crappy.

    1. That is an excellent Linji quote, too! And it’s very true that this can all apply to learning how to cut out compulsions and not chase after some special feeling or solution.

  2. Pingback: What's the difference between Soto Zen and Rinzai Zen? • The Mindful Field Guide

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