Monday, June 6, 2011

Laurence & Kat's Dog and Buddha-nature

There is a famous koan about a dog and Buddha-nature.  In the Book of Serenity the story goes like this:

A monk asks Zhaozhou, "Does the dog have Buddha Nature?"
Zhaozhou says, "Yes."
The monk says, "Since it has, why is it then in this skin bag?"
Zhaozhou replies, "Although he knows better he deliberately transgresses."
Another monk comes along: "Does the dog have Buddha Nature?"
"Mu," Zhaozhou says. (The Japanese word "Mu" means " no.")
The monk says, "All beings have Buddha Nature, why not this dog?"
"Because he still has a mind," Zhaozhou answers.

My son and his fiancée are temporarily living with us.  They recently bought a tiny puppy, who now runs laps around the coffee table and then desperately tries to jump into your lap. [It is interesting that spell check on my computer wants to replace “who” with “which,” somehow denying her being-ness.]

I have never had a pet and would not have described myself as a pet lover until “puppy” entered my life.  Puppy is a two pound “teddy bear dog”.  She is a cross between a Shih Tzu, which means “The Lion Dog” in Chinese and Bichon Frise, which means a “Curly Lap Dog'” in French.  The French definitely prevailed, because it is difficult to see the lion in her.  There is a picture below, because no words could capture her essence of absolute adorableness.

So this morning I was transcribing my Zen teacher’s talk on the Dog and Buddha-nature koan, Zhaozhou’s Dog.  Although there are thousands of words that have been written about Buddha-nature, everyone agrees that no-one could possibly describe it.  [Of course, this irony is always very funny.]  It is beyond the conceptual mind.  Buddha-nature is not a separate soul, or some kind of divine consciousness, as would be found in the theistic traditions.  And yet, for me, in my sense of things, it is sacred.  It is that sacred nature of being found in people and dogs and trees and rivers.  And although we can never name it or describe it, we want to.

After I transcribed the talk, I took Puppy onto my lap.  She looked up at me with her round, shining, brown eyes. 

“Do you have Buddha-nature?” I asked her, looking deeply into her eyes.

She made a tiny yelp and looked into my eyes and said, “Of course I have Buddha-nature.  I am a little hurt that you would have to ask.”

So there you have it.  Buddha-nature is right there, seen without seeing.  Known in a flash, and then the knowledge is gone in an instant – because we have a mind, observing that we have observed Buddha-nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment