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Mu?

Max Habibi
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This follows from Paul's thread.

a famous monk(Chou-Chou? Bow Wow?) was asked
"Does a Dog have a Buddha Nature?"
to which he replied
mu.

mu is generally considered to mean, 'your question is wrong; unask the question;', etc. For example, the answer to
have you beaten your wife lately
might be mu.

It's actually a very elegant language construct, and doesn't have a parallel in English (unless you consider flipping someone the bird to be a part of English).

Initially, the question seems valid. Buddhism teaches immersion in experience, and reaction without thought( which is why so many martial artists are drawn to it). A dog does both of these things. OTOH, I think I'm starting to understand the monk's point of view.

I think what the monk was saying was this.

you cannot appreciate the Buddha nature by thinking about it. Simply the attempt to intellectualize Buddha's nature( by comparing it to a dog) undermine's your immersion in it.

Any thoughts?


Java Regular Expressions
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Posts: 13974
Douglas Hofstadter goes into the topic in his book, Godel, Escher, Bach. You haven't read it yet!!!


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Max Habibi
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No, I'm still struggling with Javascipt for Dummies . What are his thoughts? and what are yours?

M
Mapraputa Is
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Posts: 10065
Max just openly admitted that he didn't read Godel, Escher, Bach. What a nerve!

No wonder he lost his "one law to get them all" argument.


Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Max Habibi
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Joined: Jun 27, 2002
Posts: 4118
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

No wonder he lost his "one law to get them all" argument.


Lost? Au Contraire, Mon Frere. I'm just getting warmed up

M
John Smith
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Posts: 2937
Initially, the question seems valid. Buddhism teaches immersion in experience, and reaction without thought( which is why so many martial artists are drawn to it). A dog does both of these things. OTOH, I think I'm starting to understand the monk's point of view.

I think what the monk was saying was this.


Yes, you got it. The answer to the question "Does a dog have a Buddha nature" is both "Yes" and "No", depending on what was meant by a question. If what was meant is whether a dog has a fundamental Buddha basis as any other sentient being, the answer is "yes". If what was meant is whether it is enlightened, the answer is "No" -- the dog still thinks and rationalizes. Thus, the answer to the original question becomes "Mu". In this context, it is best translated as "depends what you mean".

Here is a the dialog that makes it a little more clear:

"A monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have a buddha nature or not?"
"Zhaozhou said, "Yes."
"The monk said, "Since it has, why is it then in this skin bag?"
"Zhaozhou said, "Because he knows yet deliberately transgresses."
"Another monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have a buddha-nature or not?"
"Zhaozhou said, "No."
"The monk said, "All sentient beings have buddha-nature - why does a dog
have none then?"
"Zhaozhou said, "Because he still has impulsive consciousness."
Scrivener Scrivener
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Joined: Aug 14, 2004
Posts: 1
I came across this topic while Google searching.

Forgive me for butting in.

"Mu" means "No" in English.

In Chinese there are various ways of saying "no". This particular character 無 means that something is not present.

If you don't understand this, you don't have the first hope of getting to grips with this koan.

Hofstader is great, but he does not have a very deep understanding of this koan.
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Ha, this is interesting. I just re-read Max's first post, and reading about "have you beaten your wife lately" question, I also though about Chinese. There is an essays in this book "The Genius of Language: Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongues" about Chinese, and the author explain that contrary to the popular myth (she heard it anyway) that there is no way to say "no" in Chinese, there are several different ways to say no, and she uses "have you beaten your wife lately" (or its variant) to explain these ways. None of them introduces ambiguity like English "no" does. I'll try to get the exact quote, and meanwhile maybe some of our Chinese drivelers can help...
[ August 14, 2004: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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Posts: 10065
Here is this quote:

"So how does one say 'yes' and 'no' in Chinese?" my friend asks a bit warily. And here I do agree in part with the New York Times Magazine article. There is no one word for 'yes' or 'no' -- but not out of necessity to be discreet. If anything, I would say the Chinese equivalent of answering "yes" or "no" is discrete, that is, specific to what is asked.

Ask a Chinese person if he or she has eaten, and he or she might say chrle (eaten already) or perhaps meiyou (have not).

Ask, "So you had insurance at the time of the accident?" and the response would be dwei (correct) or meiyou (did not have).

Ask, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" and the answer refers directly to the proposition being asserted or denied: stopped already, still have not, never beat, have no wife.

What could be clearer?"
Ellen Zhao
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Joined: Sep 17, 2002
Posts: 581
I haven't read the famous book "G�del, Escher, Bach" but for western people who are interested in Buddhism, here's a book to recommend:

The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts

originally posted by Max: you cannot appreciate the Buddha nature by thinking about it.


I guess that's not true. The Buddhism is a very huge philosophy system. The Chinese Buddhism was imported from India, but due to many historical disasters the original Buddhism was not very well protected/maintained in India and today only the Xiao3 Cheng2(don't know how to say it in Indian language, little Cheng, maybe??) Buddhism is popular in India, same in countries like Thailand. However there's another very important part of Buddhism Da4 Cheng2, has been maintained and developed in China, and maybe in Japan, Korean too. ( big Cheng?? )Xiao3 Cheng2 Buddhism emphasizes on sublimating the buddhist himself, while Da4 Cheng2 Buddhism believes in "pu3 du4 zhong4 sheng1" (redemption of the mundane world?) Zen is a subset of Da4 Cheng2 buddhism.

In song dynasty of China(11th - 13th century), there were two very famous monks in Zen in China.Master Shen2 Xiu4 and Master Hui4 Neng2. Shen2 Xiu4's method to achieve religious sublimation is to think about the logic of Buddhism over and over, tried his best to be logical and convincing, while Hui4 Neng2's conclusion, which is really popular worldwide today, is "you cannot appreciate the Buddha nature by thinking about it." Shen2 Xiu4 lived in northern China and Hui4 Neng2 lived in southern China. So since then there have been two main streams of Zen in China, some people like to call them "Nothern Zen" and "Southern Zen"... However it's obvious the southern zen appears more mysterious I guess it's one of the reasons why it's more popular than northen zen today. I'm not a buddhist but had interest in buddhism since little. There are many books full of interesting dialogs to illustrate zen. I haven't seen many English books though. The western people around me have stereotypes on buddhism. It's a really rich thinking system, cannot be told or described in two or three words.

Map I'm happy to see you again! Greetings!



Regards,
Ellen
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Hi Ellen,

I am glad to see you too!

I have a question: What numbers in the names mean? Like in "Hui4 Neng2"?
Max Habibi
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Joined: Jun 27, 2002
Posts: 4118
Originally posted by Ellen Zhao:
I haven't read the famous book "G�del, Escher, Bach" but for western people who are interested in Buddhism, here's a book to recommend:

The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts



I guess that's not true. Ellen


Hi Ellen,

Thanks for the explanation: I wasn't aware of how multifaceted the philosophy is. My exposure to such has only been thorough the martial artist I know. I guess it makes some sense that these same people would tend to embrace a more, um, mysterious philosophy.

The books I've read about are along the lines of Zen in the Art of Archery and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.
John Smith
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Posts: 2937
I found that the books about Zen are not much enlightening, compared to Zen books themselves. It's like the difference between the iterpretations of the Bible and the Bible itself. My favorite piece that clearly belongs to the latter category is Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which is a collection of koans and other classic texts.
Max Habibi
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Joined: Jun 27, 2002
Posts: 4118
Hi John,

I noticed your contribution to Idea. Nice!

M
Michael Ernest
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Originally posted by Scrivener Scrivener:

If you don't understand this, you don't have the first hope of getting to grips with this koan.

Hofstader is great, but he does not have a very deep understanding of this koan.

Judging the understanding of others isn't particularly Zen, either.


Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
 
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