Zhaozhou’s Mu

Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

Zen Mountain Monastery, 6/29/2019

Gateless Gate, Case 1

A student asked the master, “Does even a dog have buddha nature or not?”
The master replied, “Not.”
For a thousand years or so, this exchange between two practitioners of ancient China has been a perplexing poison/medicine to Zen students—shriveling the ego’s defenses and uncovering the fertile ground below. In many schools, it is the first koan one is assigned. In some schools, it is the only koan to be ever assigned. It is “the great barrier gate of wise ones and sages.” And despite all the mythologizing and cultural/historical distance, as Shugen Roshi points out in this talk from Summer Solstice Sesshin, for each person who takes it up, it always boils down to one intimate moment.

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