An aspirant’s lesson in a monastery
A monk asked the Abbot a Chinese Zen master: “Has a cow Buddha-nature or not?” The Abbot answered: “Mu.” (Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning “No thing” or “Nay.”Nete, Nada…..)
Commentary: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch? This one word, Mu, is it.
This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see the Abbot face to face. If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.
When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:
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.
The Abbot directs the other monks to take the new aspirant to a secluded cell and not to disturb him.
Days passed and no aspirant. The Abbott inquired as to the young seekers state and when checking on him the monks reported he was in his cell.The Abbot directed the monks to release him and bring him to the Abbot. The monks returned with out the seeker and reported he could not leave his cell.
The Abbot again directed the monks to retrieve the aspirant and again nothing and was told the young seeker could not leave his cell.
Has a MU Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
So here is the tale.
The Abbot himself visits the cell and understands the situation after calling out the monk to no avail. Again the Abbot calls out saying this time MOOOOO and the young aspirant responds with a MOOOOOOO in return . The Abbot infers the MOOOOOO to mean the young Aspirant had indeed embodied the consciousness of the MOOOOO. The Abbot then finding the inner key to the aspirants state asks the aspirant his condition to which the Aspirant responds with his being stuck inside the cell because his horns were to big. Where upon the Abbot crosses over the threshold into the cell and with his cane whips the aspirant. With a final MOOOOOO the aspirant has Buddha-nature and the cell vanishes leaving only the horns.
DEATH LITERACY and tales of the crypt as thresholds are as liminal in their spacial invitations into sacred passage ways into the mystery.