Sunday, June 01, 2003

Audio Koans: Zhàozhōu's Dog

Zen Monk Zhao Zhou (778–897) was asked by one of his students if even a dog possessed Buddha nature. In western terms, the question might’ve been: Does a dog possess a soul? Or: Is a dog a sentient being?

To which the monk reportedly replied, “Wu.”

“Wu,” is translated as ‘No’, but through the abstract prism of Zen logic the answer is universally accepted as ‘Yes’.

Personally, I don’t think Zhao Zhou said ‘Wu’, –not at all.

Why do I believe that?

Because ‘Wu’ is a very un-Zen like response; not because of what it means, but because of what it is: A straight answer.

I believe Zhao Zhou’s real answer has been corrupted over the years by chains of brains too brittle to belong to Zen masters.

So what did Zhao Zhou say when asked: "Does a dog possess Buddha nature?"

I think the old monk answered as though he were a dog, imitating its sound on behalf of all canines everywhere: He didn’t cry back ‘Wu’; he howled back ‘Ah-woo’, or simply 'Woo!'

As anyone who’s ever been to a zoo or wolf preserve knows, when wild dogs or wolves howl, it in fact sounds just like ‘Ah-woo’ (pitch ascends on ‘woo’), or 'Woo'.


Makes a little more sense, no?

Or you can scoff, grasshopper, but I'm still going with ‘Ah woo’.

* * *

Click on any link below to read all the articles in the three-part Spring/Summer 2003 AUDIO KOANS series exploring the relationship between zen wisdom and sound:

1. If a Tree Falls In The Forest...
2. Sound of One Hand Clapping?
3. Zhàozhōu's Dog

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