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Our body feelings and our emotions are just tools to reach the essence...
Harada Roshi

Teaching on Mu part 2

A monk asked master Joshu, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” Joshu said, “Mu!”, no. In studying Zen, one must pass the barriers set up by ancient Zen masters. For attaining incomparable satori, one must cast away his discriminating mind. Those who have not passed the barrier and have not cast away discriminating mind are all phantoms haunting trees and plants.
 
Now tell me, what is the barrier of the Zen masters? Just this Mu – It is the barrier of Zen. It is thus called, “the gateless barrier of Zen.”
 
And this is how far it goes: Where Joshu answers a dog does not have Buddha nature. And here actually the second part of the other koan collection Katosho(?) comes in, where a monk asks again, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” and Joshu's answer is yes. It is followed by the commentary:
 
Those who have passed the barrier will not only see Joshu clearly but will go hand in hand with all the masters of the past and see them face to face. You will see them with the same eyes that they see with and hear with the same ears. Wouldn't it be wonderful? It is not an easy path.
 
Not many go this far – only repeating Mu and negating – and not getting to that place where you can realize and give life to this Mu, that would be a pity.
 
This koan is one that can bring you to awakening. It has the quality to do so. First of all, we need to let go of our ego qualities, our personal character. Letting go of all those special abilities and keep chewing and chewing this koan. If you want to experience this Buddha nature, just like the Buddha said, all beings are endowed with Buddha nature. If you want to experience this, you need to let go of all personal ideas.
 
And when you have gone this far then you are
 
… walking hand in hand with the ancient masters. Don't you want to pass the barrier? Then concentrate yourself into this Mu with your 360 bones and 84,000 pores making your whole body one great inquiry. Day and night work intently at it. Do not attempt nihilistic [absolute] nor dualistic [relative] interpretations. It is like having swallowed a red-hot iron ball which you try to spit out, but you cannot. Put away all illusory discriminating knowledge and consciousness accumulated up until now and keep on working harder. After a while when your efforts come to fruition, all the opposites, such as inside and outside [life and death, form and non-form] will naturally be identified. You will then be like a dumb person who has had a wonderful dream but cannot talk about it: Only he knows it personally for himself.
 
Throwing all of your special characteristic abilities away, all dualistic ideas need to be purified to return to this high quality of mind.
 
The expression when Joshu said that a dog does have Buddha nature, that experience is being described here clearly:
 
Suddenly you break through the barrier, you will astonish heaven and shake the earth.
 
It is as if you have snatched the great sword of general Kan: You kill the Buddha if you meet the Buddha; you kill the ancient masters if you meet the ancient masters. On the brink of life and death, you are utterly free, and in the six realms and the four modes of your life you live with great joy, a genuine life in complete freedom.
 
This purity of mind comes forth from having let go of everything once, and from there the vow to liberate society arises.
 
Why is this koan the base for all the Zen monks? Because this koan brings you to the awakening of your original mind and from there you can work on the 1,700 koans. But first you need to intensely work on this koan. Not in a mental way, not just repeating Mu mentally. That doesn't work. We have our senses and if we close them only by repeating Mu the senses cannot work correctly and eventually we lose the ability to work freely and bring forth wisdom. That is why it said in the Dhammapada: “We are what we think having become what we thought. Like the wheel that follows the cart-pulling ox, sorrow follows an evil thought.” The five senses, if they are not quiet then our mind creates further karma for the ego that follows along. In the second stanza it says: “If we are what we think having become what we thought. Like the shadow that never leaves one, happiness follows a pure thought.” The five senses when they have become purified and that ego confusion has been put aside, then we can awaken to our original huge wisdom.
 
To train without the correct wisdom, to train simply by using an idea of what training is all about, we lose the chance to deepen. That is why it is the Roshi’s great wish that we may listen carefully to this teaching and use this chance to learn how to train correctly.
 
Everyone knows this koan of Joshu, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” well. We need to sit and train in a way that we can touch this source of our true life energy and from there giving life to it in all our expressions. We all are making efforts, but if those efforts are not being done correctly, they might not bring us to this realization of our true source. That is why the Roshi’s words may seem like a mental explanation, but he is talking about this so that we know the whole picture, so we can see all that it encompasses.
 
Putting our ego, our superficial ideas, aside and digging into that root, and from there, from that experience, true faith can arise which shows in all our expressions. There is nothing that we can have faith in in the outside. Only by returning to the root in our own mind: When we can experience that, everything that we encounter in this world is an expression of wisdom. And from there we then know for ourselves how we need to live and how our daily actions should be.
 
Today he wanted to point out how important it is not just to sit zazen but to actually awaken, to actually experience that essence within. That is the Buddha’s wisdom, the teaching of the Buddha, which is that we are being guided by.
 
And tomorrow he would like to talk in more depth about how this actual experience of awaking is.
 

 



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