Case 17 never ends, yet now comes ...
Case 18 - Joshu's Dog
A fundamental Mahayana Teaching is that all sentient beings have (or, as Dogen sang, are) Buddha-nature ... even when hidden from us. That includes man's best friend, most Mahayana philosophers would traditionally agree.
So, when asked, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" Joshu responded "Yes" ... yet when asked again, "No" (Mu).
Yet, this "Mu" is not merely some negative statement, the mirror image of "Yes". Nor is it some hesitancy or ambiguity, like "Yes, but also no too".
"MU!" is the Dance of Emptiness, the Dog's Bark and Bite, where all questions of "yes" or "no" and philosophical debating drop away in the resounding "YES! YES! YES!".
It is to stop search for one's Buddha Nature like a dog chasing its tail ...
It is not the dog chasing the tail ... nor the tail chasing the dog ... but the very Circle that is Buddha, walking running sitting standing, both tail chasing or sitting still, barking or scratching fleas ... MU! nose to tail.
When will you give up the chase, and find What's What all along? Dog backwards is God nature ... maybe also to be found in dropping "Yes" vs. "No"!
The Koan contains a couple of lines which may speak of intentionally living and remaining in this sometimes cuddly and beautiful, sometimes "bitch of a dog eat dog" world ... to live out our Bodhisattva Vow to Save All Sentient Beings. If we have "Buddha-Nature" all along, why lead this "dog of a life" in this "bag of skin"? The Koan references this as to "get into that bag of skin" as a lowly dog, because "knowingly he purposely offends". Even though embodying the purity of Buddha, the Boddhisattva chooses to remain alive in this world of sometime ignorance ... where we cannot help but to knowingly offend again and again, sometimes driven down to our animal nature ... in order to carry out the mission. Likewise, "Karmic Consiousness" traditionally did not have a positive meaning in Mahayana Buddhism, but was the divided, ignorant consciousness of self and our actions arising therefrom. However, "Mu!" exists right in and as this divided consciousness ... form is no other than emptiness, enlightenment is found no where but at the Heart of delusion.
In the "Preface to the Assembly" ... a floating gourd or diamond may have a "yes" side or a "no" side or facet. Yet which facet alone is the Whole Spinning Fruit, the Complete Jewel? Is it not the same for a "deluded" facet and an "enlightened" facet and all other categories?
Don't get "hooked" by words and categories ... yes or no, delusion vs. Buddhas. Thus, in the "Appreciatory verse", we catch this fish not with a hook, but an impossibly straight needle with no place to bite. Don't make debates and arguments ... about whether clouds hold water like a guest, or clouds rain down water, or clouds are water ... and so with debates about you and Buddha-nature. Let it Rain! Likewise, the reference to "King Shin and Shojo Rin" is from an old story about a Jewel that cannot be given away.
What deep, personal issue or question in your life might be resolved not by "yes" ... not by "no" ... but by "MU!" or "YES! YES! YES!" that swallows whole both yes and no? It could be anything from the existence of God to being torn about whether to get married or change jobs and move to another town. HOWEVER, VERY IMPORTANT, I am not talking about merely resolving the question with some "well, yes on the one hand ... but no on the other". I am not talking about some shoulder shrugging "yes and no" or "I don't know" or making a list of "Pros and Cons".
I mean a total toss of the question into "MU! ... into Emptiness ... whereby all plays out and resolves with a resounding "YES! YES! YES!" that might be yes when yes ... and "YES! YES! YES!" even when no ... and "YES! YES! YES!" even when we don't have an answer or know what to do at all.