CASE 1: Jôshû’s Dog
The monk asked Jôshû in all earnestness,
“Does a dog have Buddha nature or not?”
Mumon’s Commentary: For the practice of Zen, you must pass the barrier set up by the ancient masters of Zen. To attain to marvelous enlightenment, you must completely extinguish all thoughts of the ordinary mind. If you have not passed the barrier and have not extinguished all thoughts, you are a phantom haunting the weeds and trees.
Now just tell me, what is the barrier by the patriarchs? Merely this Mu – the one barrier of our sect. So it has come to be called “the Gateless barrier of the Zen Sect.”
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 concentrate 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 concentrate on 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 alter is lit by one touch of fire.
The dog! The Buddha-Nature!
The perfect manifestation, the command of truth.
If, for a moment, you fall into relativity,
You are a dead man!
Artwork by Mark T. Morse
Originally excerpts from: Koun Yamada, The Gateless Gate, Boston 2004