Sunday, May 20, 2012

Do Dogs have "Buddha Nature"?

Jeff Albrizze, Mara Schaeffer, Dhr. Seven, PasaDharma Koan Study Group, Case 18
Poke a floating gourd on the water and it turns.
A diamond in the sun has no fixed color.
No-mindedness cannot understand.
Yes-mindedness [can understand but] cannot perceive.
Even a great person can be turned about by words.
Is there any way to escape that?

A monk asked Zen Master Joshu: "Does a dog have Buddha Nature [the potential for enlightenment]?"
Master Joshu replied: "Yes."
Then the monk said: "Since it has, how did it get into that bag of skin?"
Master Joshu answered: "Because knowingly, he intentionally offends."
On another occasion a monk asked Master Joshu: "Does a dog have Buddha Nature?"
Master Joshu answered: "No!" [Mu, which means "no-thing" in Chinese, non-thing-ness, non-identity, impersonal.]
Then the monk asked: "If all beings have Buddha Nature, why doesn't the dog have it?"
Master Joshu answered: "It is because of his having karmic consciousness."

A dog's Buddha Nature, yes.
A dog's Buddha Nature, no.
From the first a straight hook [spear] seeks fish with abandon.
Chasing the breeze, seeking the fragrance -- a cloud and water mingle.
Pattering and chattering to make debates and excuses, it is evenly revealed, grandly displayed.
Don't worry that he is not careful at the start.
Pointing to the fault, he snatched the jewel away.
King Shin did not know Shojo Rin.

Wisdom Quarterly
Inside Shrodinger's box (
What does it mean? Who can say for sure? Koans are meant to provoke satori, a sudden insight or epiphany.

They do this by showing up the futility of thinking, logic, and mere reasoning. But if Buddha Nature means "the potential for enlightenment," then of course even a dog has it.
It does not have it, for the time being, when it is clinging to identity (its dogness), clinging to karma and its results, clinging to manifest appearances.

The first part introduces the concepts. The second is interested in the koan itself. The final appreciatory verse corresponds to the literal riddle or anecdote as a sort of check. So who were King Shin and Shojo Rin? They were two warring lords. The king offered his adversary a great jewel in exchange for peace.

The adversary wanted the jewel with no intention of offering peace. The king, realizing this, suggested there was a flaw in the gem, which pulled his adversary out of his greedy reverie. The king then snatched back the jewel.

Just so, even a dog has within it a precious jewel, unbounded potential. When it realizes this, it will know it had always been. But so long as it is wrapped up in appearances, in karmic consciousness and its results, it sees itself only as a dog. It is little better than a dry gourd whisked away wherever the current takes it, susceptible to words and thinking.

Like an inexperienced fisherman's spear, it pokes at everything. But with experience, it begins to discriminate and conserve energy. It does not act out impulsively. It discerns and becomes like a legendarily wise ruler of his domain.
Another answer as to the meaning of this koan might be: *Place sandal on head, walk away.*

The Diamond Self
Mara Shaeffer
The jewel imagery starting and ending this koan illustrates how our inner-jewel lost is and regained. In Western psychological dream work, the jewel often symbolizes the higher self.

The Self is often confused with the ego. As the ego is only a temporal structure that gives us an identity in this life, the Self is from a higher order than the ego. The Self is that what we are in essence [according to Brahmanism and Mahayana thinking]. In psychological terms, it encompasses the conscious, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is the central archetype in the collective unconscious, like the Sun is the center of the solar system. The Self is the archetype of order, organization and unity. It unifies the personality. The Self is our goal of life, because it is the most complete expression of the highest unity that we call individuality" (

The image here of Buddha mind being compared to a dazzling diamond sparkling in the Sun -- clear like a flashing light with no fixed color but brilliantly embodying all colors. The koan then ends with a then familiar story; the clever monk regains his precious jewel from unworthy hands.

Another reference to the "sandals on the head" motif comes from the Ramayana (a revered story to the Brahmins). This is a myth the Buddha and his contemporaries would have been familiar with. It may have inspired his life's journey. In the earlier myth Lord Rama's makes a journey, fails, and finds something better.
Mumon's Comments
...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. More
Joshu's Dog
Joshu's dog meditating (
Mumon’s comment: For the pursuit of Zen, we must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain  enlightenment one must completely uproot all of the normal workings of one’s mind. If we do not go through the gateless gate, nor deliver ourselves from the normal workings of our minds, whatever we do and whatever we think will be a product of histories. Now what are the barriers? This one word “Mu” is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears, and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. More

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