The only right answer to all real questions || Acharya Prashant (2016)

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A monk asked Joshu, “Has the dog Buddha nature?”

Joshu replied, “Moo”

Acharya Prashant: Moo stands for nothing. Everything about the dog and the Buddha is different. As long as you compare a thing about the dog and the Buddha, you’ll only find differences. As long as the dog is something or anything, as long as the Buddha is seen as something or anything, all you will see is differences. The dog and the Buddha are alike only in their nothingness. Has dog the Buddha nature? Yes, of course! The dog is Buddha when the dog is nothing.

Of course, the dog has Buddha nature but not as long as it is a dog. As long as it is a dog, it is just a dog. The dog is a Buddha when it has lost its dog-hood. You are Buddha when you have lost your person-hood. The Buddha is nothing, but the one who has lost himself. That great emptiness, that great nothingness is the Buddha. Has dog Buddha nature? Moo. Do I have Buddha nature? Moo. Do you have Buddha nature? Moo. As long as I am myself, as long as I am what I appear to be and what I think myself to be, of course there is no possibility of Buddha nature, for Buddha nature is that vast emptiness that we all are.

That vast emptiness in which even ‘we’ appears like an absurdity, for there is no diversity, no difference. So, what to talk of ‘me’ and ‘we’? When you are not, then the Buddha is. Surely, the Buddha is even when you are! But what to do if you believe yourself to be non-Buddha as long as you are? Hence you are the Buddha only when you are gone. “Gatey gatey paraagatey, swaaha”, when you gone, gone, totally gone and disappeared, that is Buddha. When the dog is gone, gone, totally gone and disappeared, that is Buddha-hood. Do you now see what Joshu is saying?

Yes of course, the dog has Buddha nature, but not the dog.

The dog and the Buddha are one but not as long as the dog insists on being a dog. As long as you insist on being what you stand for, what you are attached to, what you are identified with, of course there is no possibility of Buddha nature. The Buddha nature will remain present but yet appear absent, and that is the great Maya.

You know what Maya is? That which prevents the present from being seen. And that which makes you see that which is not! These are the two things that Maya does. You start looking at yourself as someone who is not. And you start forgetting the one that you really are, that is Maya.

Seeing a little differently, Joshu also means that this question itself is a barrier against Buddha-hood. So, when the question is posed, Joshu presents a nothing to the question. Drop this question and there lies Buddha-hood. As long as there is a question, there is a questioner. Who are we? The ones who are full of questions. When the questions are gone, we are gone and what remains is the Buddha. Drop this question! And that’s what the Buddha also used to do, he would not entertain several questions that pertain directly to Buddha. His response would be, “Drop the question and you are home!” The answer would keep you believing in the validity of question. So I’ll not present any answer. Answer will reinforce you to believe in the question. You are already distracted, why should I confuse you even more? So, I’ll not give you an answer.

Do you have Buddha nature? Moo. Neither “Yes” nor “No”. If you say, “Yes”, then you mean that you, as you are, you as you think you are, have a Buddha nature. No, no way! The way we have built ourselves up, the way we have conceptualized ourselves, there is no possibility of Buddha nature. There is only the force of habit, conditioning, biology and evolution. All of them are ‘something’, none of them is ‘nothing’. All of them are space-time, none of them are beyond the mind.

So, saying “Yes”, would not be proper. When asked, “Do you have Buddha nature?” Saying, “Yes” would not be proper. This question is the same as you say, “Are you Brahm? Are you Atman?” Saying “Yes” would not be proper! Asking, “Do you have Buddha nature?” is the same as asking, “Are you the Atman?” Saying, “Yes”, would not be proper. Saying, “No” would also not be proper. If you don’t have Buddha nature, if you are not the Atman then you must be something other than the Atman? Which means something other than the Atman exist? Which means there is multiplicity of Truths?

Because, the Atman, the Buddha nature is the sole Truth. By saying that you exist and are yet not the Atman, you are saying, something besides the Atman exists. And thereby you are raising parallel rods! Parallel Truths. And if truths are parallel, they are just false. The Truth, by definition, is the one that has no end, no substitute, no parallel. So, neither can you say, “Yes, nor can you say, “No”, all you can say is, “Moo”. This moo is such a beautiful word, language does not normally have it. But spirituality stretches language. It forces language to do things which language normally cannot do. That’s what saints do, that’s what seers do, that’s what Zen does – Moo is a classical example.

So, that is the reason why you’ll find me admonishing you when you say, “Aham Brahmasmi.” I say, “What rubbish are you talking? Are you Brahm?” and you’ll find me equally elate when you say, “Naaham Brahmasmi.” I’ll say if you are not Brahm, what else are you? I will still confuse you. You will feel, “Yesterday, he kept on saying, ‘I am That’. Today when I am saying, ‘I am That’, he is saying, ‘Are you That? Look at your face!”

(Audience chuckles)

Because your ‘yes’ is as dangerous as your ‘no’. The answer is Moo. Do you see now why yesterday I kept insisting, you are That, you are That! And today when you want to dance, “I am That”, I say, “Shut up!”. Do you see this? Saying anything regarding your Brahm nature or your Buddha nature, is a disgrace. So, don’t say anything. When you don’t say anything then you are That. But who says, by saying anything you’ll be displaced from being That? But try saying and let’s see what happens. That’s the absurdity if Zen, that’s the beauty of Zen, that’s the truth of Zen.

It’s everywhere but it’s not in the beginning, not in the end, neither in the middle. Yet nothing apart from it exists. But go and find it! And all you get is crumbs. Nothing apart from it exists, but try finding it, you’ll fail. Could you find it? Saying “Yes”, is arrogance. Saying, “No”, is blindness. So the answer is?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo.

AP: Moo! Moo, is the only befitting answer to all real questions, all real questions. Do you love me?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo.

AP: If I say, “Yes”, I am accepting that you and I exist, and if you and I exist, when we are separate, where is the question of love? If I say, “No” then I am saying that I too exist and I have nothing for you. In either case I am damned. So the right answer is?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo!

AP: Moo. Do you exist?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo!

AP: Were you born?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo!

AP: Would you die?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo!

AP: Should I hit you hard?

(Audience laughs)

Listeners: (In repeated unison) Yes.

AP: Zen does not hesitate in…?

Listeners: (In unison) Hitting.

AP: Are you getting it?

Listeners: (In laughing unison) Moo!

AP: Clear?

Listeners: (In unison) Moo!

-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session video: Acharya Prashant on Zen: The only right answer to all real questions

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