A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: “Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?”
Joshu answered: “Mu.” [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning “No thing” or “Nay.”]
Mumon’s comment: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch? This one word, Mu, is it.
This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?
If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.
When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:
Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.
Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
Once when Hyakujo delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them, unseen by the monks. At the end of each talk when the monks left so did he. But one day he remained after they had gone, and Hyakujo asked him: “Who are you?”
The old man replied: “I am not a human being, but I was a human being when the Kashapa Buddha preached in this world. I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether or not the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation. I answered him: ‘The enlightened man is not subject to the law of causation.’ For this answer evidencing a clinging to absoluteness I became a fox for five hundred rebirths, and I am still a fox. Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a fox’s body? Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation?”
Hyakujo said: “The enlightened man is one with the law of causation.”
At the words of Hyakujo the old man was enlightened. “I am emancipated,” he said, paying homage with a deep bow. “I am no more a fox, but I have to leave my body in my dwelling place behind this mountain. Please perform my funeral as a monk.” Then he disappeared.
The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare to attend the funeral of a monk. “No one was sick in the infirmary,” wondered the monks. “What does our teacher mean?”
After dinner Hyakujo led the monks out and around the mountain. In a cave, with his staff he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation.
That evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told them this story about the law of causation.
Obaku, upon hearing the story, asked Hyakujo: “I understand that a long time ago because a certain person gave a wrong Zen answer he became a fox for five hundred rebirths. Now I want to ask: If some modern master is asked many questions and he always gives the right answer, what will become of him?”
Hyakujo said: “You come here near me and I will tell you.”
Obaku went near Hyakujo and slapped the teacher’s face with his hand, for he knew this was the answer his teacher intended to give him.
Hyakujo clapped his hands and laughed at this discernment. “I thought a Persian had a red beard,” he said, “and now I know a Persian who has a red beard.”
Mumon’s comment: “The enlightened man is not subject.” How can this answer make the monk a fox?
“The enlightened man is one with the law of causation.” How can this answer make the fox emancipated?
To understand this clearly one has to have just one eye.
Controlled or not controlled?
The same dice shows two faces.
Not controlled or controlled,
Both are a grievous error.
Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When anyone asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy would raise his finger.
Gutei heard about the boy’s mischief. He seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and ran away. Gutei called and stopped him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.
When Gutei was about to pass from this world he gathered his monks around him. “I attained my finger-Zen,” he said, “from my teacher Tenryu, and in my whole life I could not exhaust it.” Then he passed away.
Mumon’s comment: Enlightenment, which Gutei and the boy attained, has nothing to do with a finger. If anyone clings to a finger, Tenryu will be so disappointed that he will annihilate Gutei, the boy, and the clinger all together.
Gutei cheapens the teaching of Tenryu,
Emancipating the boy with a knife.
Compared to the Chinese god who pushed aside a mountain with one hand
Old Gutei is a poor imitator.
Wakuan complained when he saw a picture of bearded Bodhidharma: “Why hasn’t that fellow a beard?”
Mumon’s comment: If you want to study Zen, you must study it with your heart. When you attain realization, it must be true realization. You yourself must have the face of the great Bodhidharma to see him. Just one such glimpse will be enough. But if you say you met him, you never saw him at all.
One should not discuss a dream
In front of a simpleton.
Why has Bodhidharma no beard?
What an absurd question!
Kyogen said: “Zen is like a man hanging in a tree by his teeth over a precipice. His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and under the tree another person asks him: ‘Why did Bodhidharma come to China from India?’
“If the man in the tree does not answer, he fails; and if he does answer, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?”
Mumon’s comment: In such a predicament the most talented eloquence is of no use. If you have memorized all the sutras, you cannot use them. When you can give the right answer, even though your past road was one of death, you open up a new road of life. But if you cannot answer, you should live ages hence and ask the future Buddha, Maitreya.
Kyogen is truly a fool
Spreading that ego-killing poison
That closes his pupils’ mouths
And lets their tears stream from their dead eyes.
When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held it before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.
Buddha said: “I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.”
Mumon’s comment: Golden-faced Gautama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?
At the turning of a flower
His disguise was exposed.
No one in heaven or earth can surpass
Maha-Kashapa’s wrinkled face.
A monk told Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”
The monk replied: “I have eaten.”
Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.
Mumon’s comment: Joshu is the man who opens his mouth and shows his heart. I doubt if this monk really saw Joshu’s heart. I hope he did not mistake the bell for a pitcher.
It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.