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  In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning.... continue...

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JOSHU'S DOG
Visitor:
Hello,

Reading through your zazen_guide at zenguide.com, I read something that seemed unusual.

In the document, it is written that Joshu replied to the question of whether a dog has buddha nature by answering, "No". Prior research had led me to understand that his answer was more along the lines of, "Mu".

As I understand things, "mu" means "nothing" or "your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions". If we consider the answer to actually have been "No", the koan seems to miss it's mark in that it slips too easily into dualism. A non-sensical answer such as "mu" communicates the pointlessness of the original question while revealing an awareness of what the monk was seeking to understand. The incorrect assumptions being made that lead to asking that question seem to lie at the heart of the koan.

Perhaps "No" means the same thing as "Mu"? Not that this matters terribly. The Joshu koan gripped me for some time. At the very least, you have given me a new way to look at it.

Thank you for your effort to communicate that which is most important.

CT:
Here are some questions for you:

-If you were born as a Chinese or you are a French or an American or an English man and come to China to practice the Chan, kung-an "Wu" of Chao-chou under a Chinese Chan master who could only speak Chinese, then what word would you and the mater say? It would be "Wu" (in Chinese pronunciation), wouldn't it?

-If you were born as a Chinese or you are a French or an American or an English and come to Japan to practice the Zen koan "Mu" of Joshu under a Japanese Zen master who could only speak Japanese, then what word would you and the mater say? It would be "Mu" (in Japanese pronunciation), wouldn't it?

-If you were born as a Vietnamese or you are a French or an American or an English and come to Vietnam to practice the cong-an Thien "Vo" of Trieu-Chau under a Vietnamese Thien master who could only speak Vietnamese, then what word would you and the master say? It would be "Vo" (in Vietnamese pronunciation), wouldn't it?

-Otherwise, suppose Joshu were born as an American or an English, what word would he say to answer the monk's question? It would be "No", wouldn't it?

-Furthermore, it seemed you have thought and felt that only the word "Mu" (as in Japanese pronunciation) can point to or lead the practitioner to his Buddha-nature, haven't you?

Visitor:
Chontri,
Thank you for the reply.

With respect to your first 3 questions, I agree with what you say. However, with respect to the fourth question, it is difficult to imagine that Joshu would have answered "No". I suspect it would have been something more along the lines of "...blah"....or some other meaningless word. To say "No" actually answers the question more directly than "Wu", "Mu" or "Vo". Answering "No" is telling the monk that a dog does not have buddha nature. This would mean that the master is answering the question directly instead of encouraging the monk to realize that his question is irrelevant. Perhaps I misunderstand the koan. I've considered that.

In response to your last question: I have thought and felt that there as many paths to realizing one's buddha-nature as there are ones to realize it...very likely more. The reason I questioned your document was to better understand why you would translate the koan like you did. From this perspective, I feel something is lost by having Joshu respond with "No". Alas...this is my understanding...and like "this", is subject to change.

I meant no offense.

Sincerely,

CT:
Hello Mr. Spike!

Visitor:
Mr. Chontri!

CT:
It's all there with you! How could you say something is missing?

Visitor:
It's not about me, Chontri. It is about those that have never read the koan and find themselves, like I did, at your site, reading about Zazen. It is for them that I voiced my concern.

Certainly this occurred to you?

CT:
It's really great of you. You are the representative for the rest of mankind, aren't you. I often talk to someone who'd speak or question me and I'd directly talk to that person only, as I have talked to you and only you for a little while now.

Otherwise, I would not talk to the one who speak to me about or for any third person. The reason is very simple, I do not know anything about that person such as what he knows, what he thinks, what his opinion is. Therefore, I would wait until that person would like to speak directly to me.

In the case of yours, it would be much better if you like to go to the forum of this website and express what you feel and think about the koan or any other topic you like, there are many great persons of Zen will be willing to discuss with you there.

Thanks for interesting in coming and talking with me about what you concern.

Visitor:
Alright. I'll stop bothering you and will take any future concerns to your forum.

And yes, one might say we are all representatives for mankind. But you make an interesting point with that comment which causes me to carefully consider my intentions behind emailing you.

Thank you for taking your time to communicate with me, an unknown appearing from cyberspace.

CT:
What one feels and thinks about something is one thing and the thing itself is another thing.

Visitor & CT 12/30/03


 



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