Welcome!

To our collaborators: Our first challenge is

Does a dog have a Buddha nature?

Write, move, paint, talk—respond to the "start" however you wish.

Your entries will be posted as the come in into the next Just This (http://justthis.austinzencenter.org).

You may send your entry to either
Kim at [email protected]
or Sarah at [email protected]

We would appreciate suggestions for future challenges.

Thanks for being part of it.

Sarah
Kim

All the dogs
(Susan Longenecker)

All the dogs I've ever known were enlightened, and had let go of it ...
How about starting a poem? Just a short, haiku-like poem:
In the stillness of an empty fountain ...

Outside the zendo
(Michael Uebel)

Outside the zendo, a dog barks.

Inside the zendo
(Heather Bayles)

Inside the zendo, a dog barks.

Puppy Training
(Quandra T. McGrue)

I shit on her carpet again.
She sent me to my crate again.
Rolled over at command again.
Got my favorite treat again.
All the while,
wide-open to her wishes
with wags and wet kisses.
My openness outlasts hers.
This is how I train my master.

In the stillness
(A.J. Bunyard)

In the stillness of an empty fountain
she sees ripples formed by her panting
then
she feels the water's coolness on her tongue
is she enlightened
she is trained not to care

In the stillness
(Nancy Webber)

In the stillness of an empty fountain
no grackles
no birdshit
no pump using electricity
no water

Does a Dog Have Buddha Nature?
(Emma Skogstad)

Does a Dog Have Buddha Nature?
Why do you ask?
Are you really just curious, or
have you, too, discovered the heartrending
ease with which one can love a dog,
the innocent scent of a puppy’s soft paws?
Have you wrapped your arms around
your dog, held him closer and closer
until there was nothing
between you, until you were immersed
in a soft boundless love that belonged
to neither of you?
Did you, too, embrace the lie
that it is easier to love dogs?
That they won’t break your heart?
Until they do--until your ex-husband drives away
with them in the back of his pick-up truck,
their chocolate faces pressed against the back window;
they watch you as you cry and cry and cry.

Buddog
(submitted by AJ Bunyard)


The growling dog hates
(Katherine Freeman-Moore)

Plastic grocery bag
Clings tightly to the tree limb
In the wind it roars
The growling dog hates the sack
Fearless ghost-like tree creature

Does a dog have Buddha nature?
(Kim Mosley)

Click on image to enlarge!
I asked that question to my teacher one day. That was certainly beginner's mind. I can't remember what he said, but he was kind not to tell me that it wasn't an original question. He did (and still does) gives me a guilt trip whenever I try to understand life with my too discursive mind.

Barbara Kohn, the Austin Zen Center head teacher who proceeded Kosho McCall, taught a koan class that I took. There we read the koan. Mark Bykoski, a fellow zen student who reads Chinese, translated the koan from the Chinese for JustThis. I thought it was particularily revealing that the various answers the elder monk gives is predicated on him being asked the question. Here's a funny twist on the koan which ends with a similar "Because you have to ask."

I was greatly relieved one day to learn that Buddha Nature is not the goodie two-shoes in us, but rather who we really are. Perhaps it is an onion with all its skin removed, or maybe, rather than removing the skins, we merely have to polish the skins so that the nature of the onion is revealed.

In any case, I'm stuck with some preliminary questions before I can answer this age-old canine question: is there a dog, and is there me?

Does a dog have Buddha nature?
(Peter Einhorn)

An interesting question,
or a distraction for the mind?
A way for my ego to attach
Human nature to a dog?
For what is sentience?
Can one suffer without awareness?
Can Yin exist without Yang?
Can the Way exist without Ego?
What is the purpose of practice
without the suffering
of essential Humanity?
Does the Way exist not in spite of
but because of our Humanity?
Does a dog have Buddha nature?
I know not. It matters not.
I have Buddha nature, and
I sit here in silent morning
wondering how, wondering if
I can relieve
the suffering of
the World
including dogs.

In the stillness
(Emma Skogstad)

In the stillness of an empty fountain,
In the silence of a snowy green,
In the shadow of a vacant owl house,
In the rhizome of a dying tree,
Life whispers, I am here. I am here:
Always pulsing with possibility.
Always making room for more life.
Eternal. Shifting. Perfect.

Buddha nature
(Liana E. Dawson)

Buddha nature – the essence of Buddha is in all things, all life. It is our “nature” that can recognize Buddha nature in some things and not in others. A glimpse we “see” of the truth of all things. So, quickly we see the Buddha nature in dogs. Why is that? That is the deeper question.

Susan Longenecker's Gauntlet
(Liana E. Dawson)

In the stillness of an empty fountain
Birth,death
Rising falling
Coming, going
I lost and
Became

When a dog
(Vickie Schubert)

When a dog chases squirrels
He becomes chasing squirrels.
There is no concern about Buddha nature,
Only about being DOG.
It is the same when he goes for a walk.
Sniffing deeply of the messages left
By other dogs long gone,
A communication system
Far beyond human comprehension.
Or when he eats,
Single-minded,
Nothing but him and food.
He also becomes rolling in animal poop,
Barking at the mailman and
Snuggling on the sofa at night.
There is no space between him
And his present moment.
He is breathe, chase, breathe, sniff,
Breathe, eat, breathe, roll,
Breathe, bark (multiple times)
Breathe, snuggle,
Breathe, sleep,
Breathe,
Breathe.

doggie
(Chris McCoy)

a dog sits
i bark
the buddha laughs

Dogly Nature
(Sarah Webb)

Click on photo to enlarge!
We smell and know. We move and play.
Dogly nature. Buddha nature.

Yes and ....
(Eric Travis)

Yes and I have no idea what that's like for a dog.

The dog and I sit
(Katherine Freeman-Moore)

The dog and I sit
The loud train rushes past us
We wait patiently
That which blocks our path will pass
Train sounds fade as we walk on

Riley
(Sharon Meloy)



That which is Unnamed
(Elizabeth Stein)

Sarah Webb
talk of it
and it disappears
like silence.

“how can being true
to one's nature be hard?”

try to grasp
its meaning; it slips quickly
out of reach.

“what's the point of having
that which you cannot hold?”

stop seeking.
sit with legs folded,
eyes half-closed.

In zazen you hold it till
you realize you hold it.

you are Buddha
unless you set your mind
to being like Buddha.


“Zhaozhou’s Dog” from the Congronglu
(Mark Bykoski)

The Chinese text is given in the top row. Below that is the modern Mandarin pronunciation spelled in the Pinyin system, and then English meanings for each word.




十八







[indicates ordinal
number]


shíbā

eighteen


rule, law, case


Zhào

name of an ancient state in China


Zhōu

state, region


gŏu

dog


[suffix for nouns]


趙州-
name of a Zen ancestor; Japanese pronunciation:
Joshu


狗子
- dog

The Eighteenth Case: Zhaozhou’s Dog






趙州


sēng

monk (from sangha)


wèn

ask


Zhào Zhōu

A monk asked Zhaozhou,




狗子








gŏuzi

dog


hái

even, also


yŏu

have, there is


Buddha


xìng

nature


[word separating
clauses], also


not
have, there is not

(Japanese
pronunciation:
mu)

Does even a dog have Buddha nature, or not?”







Zhōu


yún

say


yŏu

have (Japanese
pronunciation:
u)

Zhaozhou said, “It has.”








sēng

monk


yún

say


since


yŏu

have

The monk said, “If it has,





甚麼








袋。


wèi

for, because


shénme

what


què

but, still


zhuàng

knock against,
collide


enter, into


zhèi

this


ge

[counting word],
this


skin


dài

bag, sack


why


this


bag of skin, the
body

Why, then, does it fall into this bag of skin?”











犯。


Zhōu


yún

say


wèi

for, because


he, she, it


zhī

know


ěr

but, and


reason,

purpose


fàn

transgress, offend

Zhaozhou said, “Because it knows, but purposefully transgresses.”








yòu

again, additionally


yŏu

there is, have


sēng

monk


wèn

ask

There was another monk who asked,




狗子








gŏuzi

dog


hái

even, also


yŏu

have


Buddha


xìng

nature


[word separating
clauses], also


not have

Does even a dog have Buddha nature, or not?”





曰。


無。


Zhōu


yūe

say


not have (Japanese
pronunciation:
mu)

Zhaozhou said, “It does not.”














sēng

monk


yún

say


one


qiè

all, entire


zhòng

mass, crowd


shēng

life, live, born,
produce


jiē

all


yŏu

have


Buddha


xìng

nature


all


living beings,
sentient beings

The monk said, “All living beings have Buddha nature;




狗子


為甚麼



無。


gŏuzi

dog


wèishénme

why


què

but, still


not have

Why, then, doesn’t a dog?”











在。


Zhōu


yún

say


wèi

for, because


he, she, it


yŏu

have


business,

work, action
[translates Skt.
karma]


shì

recognize,
consciousness [translates Skt.
vijñana]


zài

exist, present


karmic
consciousness,

consciousness shaped
by past conditioning

Zhaozhou said, “Because it has karmic consciousness.”


The Congronglu (Japanese: Shoyoroku, usually translated into English as Book of Serenity or Book of Equanimity) is a collection of koans with verse and prose commentaries written in China in the thirteenth century of the Common Era. A koan (Chinese: gong’an) is a teaching story in the Zen (Chinese: Chan) tradition of Buddhism. These stories are usually in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and student. While they take the form of language, koans are intended to point to truths that are not readily expressed in discursive language.


Above is the Chinese text of the eighteenth koan in the Congronglu, “Zhaozhou’s Dog.” To limit the scope of this presentation, only the actual story (or “case”) is given here, without the verses and prose commentary. There is a more widely known, shorter version of this koan in another collection called the Wumenguan (Japanese: Mumonkan, usually translated into English as the Gateless Gate). There Zhaozhou is asked once if a dog has Buddha nature, and he simply answers in the negative. In the Congronglu version here, he is asked the same question on two different occasions, and he gives apparently contradictory answers. In this version, the monks also ask follow-up questions and receive subsequent responses.


Zhoazhou’s statements regarding the dog may be more about the monks (and perhaps also the reader) than about the dog. According to standard Mahayana Buddhist doctrine, all sentient beings have Buddha nature, which is said to be our true nature, the interconnected nature of everything. Enlightenment or buddhahood is not a matter of getting something extra that we do not have, but of realizing what is already here.


Zhaozhou indicates to the first monk that yes, the dog has Buddha nature. The monk then asks, “Why, then, does it fall into this bag of skin,” meaning why is it reborn in a material body? A buddha is said to have escaped from the cycle of rebirth. If we are of the same nature as a buddha, why are we apparently caught in the cycle of rebirth? Why do we seem not to be buddhas? Rebirth can be taken literally as an individual’s thirst for selfhood transmigrating from lifetime to lifetime, or more figuratively as the ego arising from moment to moment.


Zhaozhou answers that “it knows, but purposefully transgresses.” It is sometimes said that deep down we know our true nature, and that realizing it is experienced as if it were something we knew all along. But ordinarily it is obscured by thoughts and actions driven by the (often hidden) purposes of the ego that cause suffering for ourselves and for others.


Zhaozhou indicates to the second monk that no, the dog does not have Buddha nature. (As an aside, the “no, it does not” is the famous “mu” / “wu” / “that the Gateless Gate version ends with.) The monk already knows that this is not the standard “correct” answer and asks for elaboration. Zhaozhou replies that it is because “it has karmic consciousness.” Karma is the past conditioning that has shaped those purposes of the ego that are causing our suffering and that cause our true nature not to be apparent to us.


So, does a dog have Buddha nature?


Buddha/Thief Nature
(Shohaku Okumura 奥村 正博)







butsu, buddha


shō, nature


These are the Chinese characters for “Buddha nature.” “Bu [Butsu]” is “Buddha,” and “shō [sshō]” is “nature.” In Mahayana teaching, it is said all beings have Buddha nature. But my teacher’s teacher, Sawaki Kodo Roshi said we all have “thief nature.” Buddha nature and thief nature are both a hundred percent; [we are not partly buddha and partly thief]. Depending on our activity as a practice, we manifest Buddha nature or manifest thief nature. “Thief nature” means we always want to get something and make it my own possession. That is thief nature. Even [with respect to] enlightenment; if we practice in order to gain that desirable thing called “enlightenment,” then we are manifesting thief nature. So Buddha nature is manifested when the only thing we do is just practice without expectation of gaining. So in Dogen Zenji’s teaching, just to practice (“just sit;” that is called “shikantaza”)—just to sit, without even expecting or desiring enlightenment, that is the manifestation of Buddha nature.

(Transcription thanks to Mark Bykoski)


Dog looks at me ...
(Katherine Freeman)

We walk by the lake
Dog looks at me and I nod
She leaps off the bank
She’s been waiting all winter
Today she can swim again