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Buddhadharma : Fall 2018
80 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY responds, “mu,” meaning “has not.” But if you’re asked if a dog has buddhanature and you say no, you’ll be wrong. If you say yes, you’ll be wrong. If you say both yes and no, you’ll be wrong. If you say neither yes nor no, you’ll be wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. You have to cut through your thinking, cut through language. You have to touch something much more fundamental, much deeper, and your answer has to come from there. Your life has to come from there. Does this seem mystical and mystifying? Actually, it is incredibly down-to-earth. I remember my teacher holding up a glass of water during talks, asking if it was a glass of water, then drinking from it. I would think, “He didn’t answer the question!” But oh yes, he did, much better than if he’d said yes or no. Answering kong-ans is not only not special but in fact completely ordinary, as ordinary as drinking a glass of water. Getting to that ordinariness is hard work— we are so conditioned to screen everything through our frontal lobes. The simplicity, the ordinariness of it, can come as a great relief. Sometimes it cuts through so much bullshit that a whole universe seems to open up—whoa!—that’s the mystical business. But it only seems mystical—that particular universe has been there all along. We just didn’t notice it, distracted as we are by our language world, our world of nouns (things!) and verbs (actions!), as if a thing could exist in itself and be separate from what it actually does—and also by our thought world, our world of opinions and judgments and theories that take us further and further away from what is actually happening, like a boat drifting away from the shore. photo | Ruth Friedrich