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One day, a monk went to his Teacher, and asked him a question. Does a cow have the Buddha nature?
The Teacher hit the monk over the head with his stick, and shouted MU!!!

The question, "does X have the buddha nature?" is, in a word, touchy.

In my opinion, it can only be properly used in a mention context, not a use context. That is to say, you can talk about it, but you shouldn't ask it. Why?

Because the whole point of buddha nature is that it transcends labels, among other things, and to label something as having the buddha nature is to defeat it.

What should one do if a foolish acolyte asks this question?


This thought also applies to other questions, such as, does X have the funny nature?

The act of labelling something as funny takes away from its humor - although humor is sometimes twisted, making this very labelling funny...

But to take a complete joke, and then, as an outside label, not part of the joke, apply "funny" to it, weakens the joke. Therefore, when a foolish, young acolyte asks, "Is this funny?", the proper response is:


This short, metaphorical fugue courtesy of HandyDandy co.
A monk asked Joshu: `Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?'
Joshu answered: "Mu"

(Myrmidion's note, Mu, or Wu in Chinese is a character that means nothing, non-being, not, negation)

Mumon's comments: To come to enlightenment, you have to pass the barrier of the patriarchs. It always comes after your way is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier, you are entangled, clinging to grass. You ask, what is a barrier? It is this word: Mu.

This is barrier of meditation. If you pass it, you will see Joushu, and work with all the patriarchs. The hair of your eyebrows entangled with theirs, and see with the same eyes, and hear with the same ears. Is this not good? Wouldn't you like to pass the barrier?

To pass the barrier, you must work with every bone, with every hair follicle, to answer this question. What is Mu? Think on it all day and all night. It is not the word meaning nothing. Do not think of existence. To pass this barrier, it will be like eating a hot iron, that you cannot spit out. When you reach enlightenment, your previous thoughts disappear. As the ripening of fruit, your knowledge of things, and external knowledge come together. It is like mute who has dreamt a dream, because he knows it, but cannot speak of it.

When you know this, your self is crushed, and you can move heaven and earth. You are like a warrior (General Guan) with a sharpened sword. If Buddha stands in your way, cut him down, and if a patriarch obstructs your way, kill him. Thus will you be free of samsara, and enter any world.

Does a dog have Buddha nature?
This is the greatest question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.

I think that perhaps a better question is: Can a dog not have Buddha nature? To me, Buddha nature is a feeling, or perhaps knowledge, of oneness, of unity with everything, with aeon. A thing closer to nature, that doesn't seek to rule nature, cannot lose that feeling. Only a human, or similar-level sentience, can.

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