Mumokan, Case 1: Jôshû’s Mu

Teisho presented by Arno Hess on 20/05/2024 at the first day of the 2024 Pathway Zen Sesshin at Bodhi Chan Meditation Centre, Springwood, QLD, Australia.


A monk asked Jôshû in all earnestness, “Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?”. Jôshû said,

Mumon’s Commentary

For the practice of Zen, you must pass the barriers set up by the ancient masters of Zen. To
attain to marvelous realization, you must completely extinguish all thoughts of the ordinary
mind. If you have not passed the barriers and have not extinguished all thoughts, you are a
phantom haunting the weeds and trees. Now just tell me, what are the barriers by the
patriarchs? Merely this Mu – the one barrier of our school. So it has come to be called “the
barrier of MU-gate of the Zen School.”
Those who have passed the barrier are able not only to see Jôshû face to face but also to walk
hand in hand with the whole descending line of patriarchs and be eyebrow to eyebrow with
them. You will see with the same eye that they see with, hear with the same ear that they
hear with. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful joy! Isn’t there anyone who wants to pass this barrier?
Then throw your whole self into this Mu, making your whole body with its 360 bones and
joints and 84,000 pores into a solid lump of doubt. Day and night, without ceasing, keep
digging into it, but don’t take it as “nothingness” or as “being” or “non-being”. It must be like
a red-hot iron ball which you have gulped down and which you try to vomit but cannot. You
must extinguish all delusive thoughts and beliefs which you have cherished up to the present.
After a certain period of such efforts, Mu will come to fruition, and inside and out will become
one naturally. You will then be like a dumb man who has had a dream. You will know yourself
and for yourself only.
Then, all of a sudden, Mu will break open. It will astonish the heavens and shake the earth. It
will be just as if you had snatched the great sword of General Kan: If you meet a Buddha,
you will kill him. If you meet a patriarch, you will kill him. Though you may stand on the
brink of life and death, you will enjoy the great freedom. In the six realms and the four
modes of birth, you will live in the samadhi of innocent play.
Now, how should you work with Mu? Exhaust every ounce of energy you have in doing it. And
if you do not give up on the way, you will be enlightened the way a candle in front of the altar
is lighted by one touch of fire.


Dog – Buddha nature:
The complete manifestation of the true command.
A little “has” or “has not”
Body is lost, life is gone.

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