Rinzai: The Master of the Shouts

There are two major Zen Buddhist sects in Japan – Sōtō and Rinzai. The dominant Sōtō Zen school advocates quiet sitting and meditation (zazen) as a means to reveal the innate Buddha nature. The Rinzai Zen school focuses on abrupt awakening or sudden enlightenment using shouts or blows by the Master as a means. It also relies on meditation on paradoxical statements (koan). Both are intended to accelerate a breakthrough of the normal boundaries of consciousness. Historically, the Rinzai School has been closely linked to various martial arts traditions in Japan.

Osho has spoken on the great Zen Master Rinzai in His discourses. Osho says Rinzai, also known as Lin-chi, was born in the early 9th century and was to become the founder of one of the most significant schools of Zen. Brilliant as a child, later, when Rinzai became a priest, he studied the sutras and scriptures. Realizing the answer did not lie within them, he went on a pilgrimage, visiting Obaku and Daigu, two great masters. After his enlightenment, Rinzai became priest of a small temple on the banks of the Hu-t’o river.

Maneesha, this silent and beautiful evening we are going to start a new series of meditations on the sutras of Rinzai. Rinzai is one of the most loved masters in the tradition of Zen. The first Transmission of the Light happened between Gautam Buddha and Mahakashyapa. The second great Transmission happened between Bodhidharma and his successor. Bodhidharma took the ultimate experience of consciousness from India to China; Rinzai introduced the same consciousness, the same path of entering into oneself, from China to Japan. These 3 names – Mahakashyapa, Bodhidharma and Rinzai – stand like great peaks of the Himalayas. Rinzai comes after a few more patriarchs. And just as Bodhidharma was sent by his master, Rinzai’s master sent him to Japan. It was again the same difficult task, but just as Mahakashyapa succeeded and Bodhidharma succeeded, Rinzai also succeeded in creating silence, in turning people inwards. The message is not linguistic. The message is existential…

Rinzai managed to transform the whole fabric of the Japanese consciousness. He did more than anybody else. He brought new dimensions into meditation. It is unbelievable but he managed to transform everything into meditation. For example archery… Now, nobody can think that archery can be a meditative act; but Rinzai maintained that every act, if you do it with full awareness, just as a witness, not as a doer, becomes meditation…

Maneesha has asked: OUR BELOVED MASTER,

RINZAI BECAME KNOWN AS THE MASTER OF THE SHOUTS. His speciality consists… he used shouts as a method to silence you — a sudden shout. You are asking about God, you are asking about heaven, you are asking about great philosophical or theological problems and the master immediately shouts. Your mind gets a shock, almost an electric shock. For a moment you are not, only the shout is. For a moment the mind stops, time stops — and that is the whole secret of meditation.

Many mystics around the world have used sounds, but in a very superficial way. Rinzai used shouts in a tremendously deep way. His shouts would become just like a sword entering in you, piercing to the very center.

You can understand… when you shout Yaa-Hoo! your mind disappears. Yaa-Hoo! has no meaning, but shouting it you get suddenly thrown to your own center, and once you have touched your own center, even for a simple glimpse, your life has started changing.

Rinzai would shout at the disciples to give them a first experience of their centering. You are both a circumference and a center. You live on the circumference; the shout simply pushes you to the center. Once you experience being at the center you suddenly see the whole world changing. Your eyes are no more the same; your clarity and transparency are absolute. You see the same green leaves greener, the same roses rosier, the same life as a festival, as a ceremony.

You would love to dance. And then the disciples, once they learned that the shout can help them to reach to their very center… It was a strange sight when Rinzai started accepting disciples near the river. The disciples would be shouting around the whole valley, and the valley would resound with shouts. You could tell from miles away that you were somewhere close to Rinzai. It was not only that he was shouting, but that shouting was a method to throw you from the circumference to the center. There are many ways to throw you to the center. Every way is valid if you reach to your center, because your center is the only immortal part in you. Everything else is going to die.

Today Professor Barks is here. He has done a tremendous job in translating Rumi. He has come as close as possible, but I don’t think he knows that Rumi’s whole effort by whirling is to find the center. If you whirl for hours, you will see slowly that something at the very center is not moving at all, and that is you. Your body is whirling, but your consciousness is a pillar of light.

Rumi attained his first enlightenment by whirling for thirty-six hours continuously. People thought he was mad. Even today a small group of his followers continues. They are called whirling dervishes. But the point is the same:

whirling, your whole body becomes a cyclone; and your witnessing self, becomes the center. Everything moves around you, but the center remains unmoving. To know this unmoving center is to know the very master key of all the mysteries of life.

Rinzai had no idea about Rumi, neither did Rumi have any idea about Rinzai, but both were working on the same strategy – somehow to force you to the center.

As your consciousness becomes deeper, as it becomes an easy thing to go to the center just like you go in your house and come out, you have become a buddha. Then slowly, slowly your center starts changing your circumference. Then you cannot be violent, then you cannot be destructive; then you are love. Not that you love – you are love.

Then you are silence, then you are truth, although the old you has disappeared. That was your circumference, that was the cyclone that is gone. Now, only the center remains. Rinzai’s method is far simpler than Rumi’s. Very few people will be able to whirl for hours, but shouting is a simpler method. Anybody can shout and can shout wholeheartedly, and it can be very intense and urgent. Whirling you will take hours to find out the center; shouting, a split second and you are at the center.

The anecdote…

RINZAI BECAME KNOWN AS THE MASTER OF THE SHOUTS. ON ONE OCCASION A MONK ASKED, “WHAT ABOUT THE CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF THE BUDDHA-DHARMA?”

Now, he is asking something important. What is the cardinal principle of the religion of Buddha?

RINZAI SHOUTED — THE MONK BOWED.

“DO YOU SAY THAT’S A GOOD SHOUT?” RINZAI ASKED.

THE MONK COMMENTED: “THE THIEF IN THE GRASS HAS MET COMPLETE DEFEAT.”

“WHAT IS MY OFFENCE?” RINZAI ASKED.

THE MONK REPLIED, “IT WON’T BE PARDONED A SECOND TIME.”

RINZAI GAVE ANOTHER SHOUT.

The first shout of Rinzai was perfectly good. The monk bowed down because he felt a great relief by moving from the circumference to the center. But Rinzai was a little suspicious. Because everything in this world becomes traditional, it had started becoming traditional that Rinzai will shout and you have to bow down to show that you have understood it, that it has reached to your center. It was becoming a tradition. This is very unfortunate. Everything becomes a habit, a ritual, a tradition, and loses all meaning. Now, his bowing down may be true or may be just a mannerism. That’s why Rinzai asked, “DO YOU SAY THAT’S A GOOD SHOUT?”


THE MONK COMMENTED: “THE THIEF IN THE GRASS HAS MET COMPLETE DEFEAT.”

What does he mean by this? The monk is saying, “You have been found being unsuccessful. Your shout missed.”

THE MONK COMMENTED: “THE THIEF IN THE GRASS HAS MET COMPLETE DEFEAT.”

“WHAT IS MY OFFENSE?” RINZAI ASKED.

THE MONK REPLIED, “IT WON’T BE PARDONED A SECOND TIME.”

The monk is saying, “Your shout missed.” He is not saying that shouting at him a second time will not be pardoned; he is saying, “Your being a failure will not be pardoned – IT WON’T BE PARDONED A SECOND TIME. The first time I forgive you; you missed, you did not reach to my center. I bowed down because you tried, you tried hard. But the second time it will not be pardoned.”

Anybody reading it will think that he is saying, “If you shout a second time it will not be pardoned.” That is not the case. He is saying, “Your failure will not be pardoned a second time.”

RINZAI GAVE A SHOUT – and the anecdote ends suddenly. After the shout there is silence. The second shout succeeded. Now the monk is silent, Rinzai is silent.

There have been long progressions for reaching to yourself, like yoga. But devices like Rinzai’s are very simple, don’t require any discipline as a prerequisite. Anybody… no need of having a certain character; good or bad, sinner or saint, it does not matter. What matters is to reach to the center, because at the center you are neither a sinner nor a saint. Your being a sinner or a saint are all on the periphery. Our whole society lives on the periphery; all our divisions are very superficial.

Source:

This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: Rinzai: Master of the Irrational

Chapter #1

Chapter title: The Master of the shouts

23 October 1988 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium

References:

Osho has also spoken on other Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Hyakujo, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Nan-in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  2. Ancient Music in the Pines
  3. Ah, This!
  4. A Bird on the Wing
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  7. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  8. God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
  9. Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
  10. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  11. Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
  12. The Language of Existence
  13. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  14. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  15. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  16. No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
  17. No Water, No Moon
  18. Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
  19. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
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