The only right answer: A Zen story

Acharya Prashant
6 min readAug 13, 2020

A monk asked Joshu, “Has the dog Buddha nature?”

Joshu replied, “Moo”

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Acharya Prashant: Moo stands for nothing. Everything about the dog and the Buddha is different. As long as you compare a thing about the dog and the Buddha, you’ll only find differences. As long as the dog is something or anything, as long as the Buddha is seen as something or anything, all you will see is differences. The dog and the Buddha are alike only in their nothingness. Has dog the Buddha nature? Yes, of course! The dog is Buddha when the dog is nothing.

Of course, the dog has Buddha nature but not as long as it is a dog. As long as it is a dog, it is just a dog. The dog is a Buddha when it has lost its dog-hood. You are Buddha when you have lost your person-hood. The Buddha is nothing, but the one who has lost himself. That great emptiness, that great nothingness is the Buddha. Has dog Buddha nature? Moo. Do I have Buddha nature? Moo. Do you have Buddha nature? Moo. As long as I am myself, as long as I am what I appear to be and what I think myself to be, of course there is no possibility of Buddha nature, for Buddha nature is that vast emptiness that we all are.

That vast emptiness in which even ‘we’ appears like an absurdity, for there is no diversity, no difference. So, what to talk of ‘me’ and ‘we’? When you are not, then the Buddha is. Surely, the Buddha is even when you are! But what to do if you believe yourself to be non-Buddha as long as you are? Hence you are the Buddha only when you are gone. “Gatey gatey paraagatey, swaaha”, when you gone, gone, totally gone and disappeared, that is Buddha. When the dog is gone, gone, totally gone and disappeared, that is Buddha-hood. Do you now see what Joshu is saying?

Yes of course, the dog has Buddha nature, but not the dog.

The dog and the Buddha are one but not as long as the dog insists on being a dog. As long as you insist on being what you stand for, what you are attached to, what you are identified with, of course there is no possibility of Buddha nature. The Buddha nature will remain present but yet appear absent, and that is the great Maya.

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