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Buddhadharma : Winter 2007
winter 2007| 28 |buddhadharma Master Linji wasn’t trying to defeat his students in these battles; he was trying to defeat their ten- dency to engage in excessive thinking and rational- izing. For Master Linji, thinking was not awakened understanding. So these weren’t long battles. The Zen master didn’t need to sit and talk for a long time. The student had to say only one thing and the Zen master would know his mind. The student needed to give rise to only one thought to go in the wrong direction. Whether or not he understood would be determined in that very instant. If he went in the wrong direction and then made an effort, he would lose. In school, when we want to ask a question, we remain seated and put up our hand. We use our head, our intellect, to ask a question in order to get a bit of knowledge in return. But Zen isn’t like that. Here our aim isn’t to find out and store up knowledge about Buddhism; it’s to ask the right question, the question that has the capacity to destroy our obstacles. If we don’t have that ques- tion, it’s better not to come forward. Our question should be something that can tear apart the veil of ignorance and liberate us. Maybe it can teach our teacher and the whole community, too. This is what Master Linji is looking for when he asks, “Is there any warrior who is willing to step out onto the battlefield?” Dharma Battle: Where does the weakness lie? The master (Linji) had just come into the dharma hall and a monk came out and prostrated. The master yelled. The monk said, “Please, Upadhy- aya,2 do not test me.” The master asked, “Tell me, monk, where did the sound of that shout fall?” The monk shouted forthwith. Another monk came up and asked, “What is the essential teaching of the buddhadharma?” The master yelled. The monk prostrated. The master asked, “Where does the weakness lie?” The monk said, “If one offends again, it will not be forgiven.” The master immediately shouted. The person who has nothing to do is sovereign over herself. She doesn’t need to put on airs or leave any trace behind. The true person is an active participant, engaged in her environment while remaining unoppressed by it. 2 Upadhyaya means “teacher” in Sanskrit. The upadhyaya is traditionally responsible for training students in the rites, rules, and discipline of a monastic community. A Needle Woman – Kitakyushu, 1999 kiMsooja