136. All Existence is Buddha Nature

At our retreat in November we talked about the Mu Koan. You may recall in that Koan story a monk asked Joshu, “Does a dog have Buddha Nature?”

Joshu says, “Mu (No).”

The basis for the monk’s question is a passage in the Nirvana Sutra where it says that ‘all living beings without exception have Buddha Nature’.

Joshu’s reply was not denying Buddha Nature. He was denying the ‘have,’ that is, that it is a property of the individual.

It is a very common idea in Buddhism that buried within us, like a jewel in mud, is compassion, wisdom, enlightenment and so on; and if our karmic mind would just shut up, these qualities would manifest.

This is a catastrophically mistaken view of practice. It ensures that we continue to suffer.

Master Dogen re-wrote the passage in the Nirvana Sutra, re-rendering it as ‘all existence is Buddha Nature’. Not denying Buddha Nature, but locating it somewhere other than the self.

That being so, the activity of the karmic mind is not a barrier, is not an obstacle. And so our practice does not need to be a continual exercise in disappointment.