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Thread: What is the meaning of Mu

  1. #1

    What is the meaning of Mu

    Have been reading Robert Aitkin's The Mind of Clover, which is very good. However, he frequently talks about "Mu", as in, e.g. "... focus only on Mu, and become Mu." (p. 74)

    Excellent advice I'm sure, but what's Mu?

    It's in the glossary as "No; does not have". That doesn't help me at all.

  2. #2

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Have been reading Robert Aitkin's The Mind of Clover, which is very good. However, he frequently talks about "Mu", as in, e.g. "... focus only on Mu, and become Mu." (p. 74)

    Excellent advice I'm sure, but what's Mu?

    It's in the glossary as "No; does not have". That doesn't help me at all.
    Hi Adrian,

    Here is a famous Koan. To see a bit of what's up, please understand that the standard Buddhist answer of the time would have been that, yes, a dog does have Buddha Nature (the ultimate nature of being Buddha, or perhaps, the potential to become a Buddha).

    A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: `Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?'
    Joshu answered: `Mu.' (No, or "does not)


    In another version of the Koan I like, Joshu one time tells one monk "yes", but then one time "mu" ... to the very same question.

    Now, this can be taken in a number of ways. One is "Hey, fella, don't get caught up in philosophical non-questions like that, like 'how many angels fit on the head of a pin' The other (which really is not all so different) is that "MU" represents "Emptiness" ... and in the beautiful dance of Emptiness, such questions become non-issues. Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not? JUST DANCE!

    Now, Aitken Roshi was a Koan-Zazen teacher. In that style, this "Joshu's Dog" Koan is one of the first Koan's assigned. Traditionally, folks will sit Zazen and focus intently on the phrase "MU" ... until they become MU! Sometimes at Sesshin where folks are working on MU, they will wrap themselves into MU, lose their self in MU, from morning until night ... maybe even in their dreams. MU MU MU!

    We just sit Shikantaza ... which is MU realized too, the Dance of Mu!

    There is a new book on the MU Koan, I have not read it. It is probably from a more Koan Zazen perspective. I will find the link. Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Does a horse have Buddha nature?
    Neigh!

  4. #4

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Hi Adrian,

    Here is a famous Koan. To see a bit of what's up, please understand that the standard Buddhist answer of the time would have been that, yes, a dog does have Buddha Nature (the ultimate nature of being Buddha, or perhaps, the potential to become a Buddha).

    A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: `Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?'
    Joshu answered: `Mu.' (No, or "does not)


    In another version of the Koan I like, Joshu one time tells one monk "yes", but then one time "mu" ... to the very same question.

    Now, this can be taken in a number of ways. One is "Hey, fella, don't get caught up in philosophical non-questions like that, like 'how many angels fit on the head of a pin' The other (which really is not all so different) is the "MU" represents "Emptiness" ... and in the beautiful dance of Emptiness, such questions become non-issues. Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not? JUST DANCE!

    Now, Aitken Roshi was a Koan-Zazen teacher. In that style, this "Joshu's Dog" Koan is one of the first Koan's assigned. Traditionally, folks will sit Zazen and focus intently on the phrase "MU" ... until they become MU! Sometimes at Sesshin where folks are working on MU, they will wrap themselves into MU, lose their self in MU, from morning until night ... maybe even in their dreams. MU MU MU!

    We just sit Shikantaza ... which is MU realized too, the Dance of Mu!

    There is a new book on the MU Koan, I have not read it. It is probably from a more Koan Zazen perspective. I will find the link. Gassho, Jundo
    So can Mu mean either "No/does not/has not" or "I hear your words but they don't carry any meaning"??

    Is it something like a theological non-cognitivist's response to the question: "Do you believe in God?" He has no answer because the final term is not cognitively meaningful. Either he sets off a train of "What do you mean by ...." questions or he just smiles.

    Just sitting Shikantaza sounds better.

    Gassho
    Adrian

  5. #5

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by soendoshin
    Does a horse have Buddha nature?
    Neigh!
    :lol:

  6. #6

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    So can Mu mean either "No/does not/has not" or "I hear your words but they don't carry any meaning"??

    Is it something like a theological non-cognitivist's response to the question: "Do you believe in God?" He has no answer because the final term is not cognitively meaningful. Either he sets off a train of "What do you mean by ...." questions or he just smiles.
    Sounds too up in your head.

    Remember, in the Zen world, we don't philosophize so much on "why is water wet?" ... we just jump in and become soaked through and through. We don't philosophize so much on "what is dancing" ... we just dance, losing our separate self-ness in the dancing. Same here.

    MU is Emptiness. What is Emptiness? MU!

    Just sitting Shikantaza sounds better.
    Not better. Just MU!

    Here is the book I mentioned. I have not read it. However, the various contributors seem very very heavily weighted to a Koan-Zazen approach (almost all the names I see), which probably entails a grappling with MU in Zazen rather of a different feel from the Shikantaza approach.

    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Mu-Essential ... 0861716434

    By the way, I think our next book in the Book Club, after Zen Seeds, will be a coarse in Koans from a Soto approach. I think this is included.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    I use to think that Mu was the world before we start thinking about it. Like Jundo said, as children before we start thinking about what is water or why it is wet, we jump in and enjoy the moment of it.
    Philosophizing about such things is a good mental exercise, but in the end the only way to truly get at the meaning of MU is to experience it directly. Just like the only way to truly know what swimming is, you have to jump in the pool. Then what you will have will not be an idea of Mu, or a belief about MU, you will have something that cannot be taken away, you will have a direct understanding of the nature of the universe.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  8. #8

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Thank you for your responses Jundo and Seiryu, but I don't know that intellectual reflection or curiosity is a denial of experience. I have a cold shower every morning and the first hit of the cold water on the skin is a pretty basic experience. To reflect on whether it would be better to turn on the water heater is not a denial of that. It is a form of intellectualizing nonetheless, though based on an experience that is not itself a cognitive one.

    To say that we'll only know what Mu is by experiencing it is a bit like saying we'll only know what God's presence is like by having an experience of it. But how do we know if we've experienced it if we don't know what it is?

    Being told to stop thinking and just smell the roses is something I've come across in other Buddhist forums, and maybe it's the best advice. I'm not so naive as to think I can think my way to enlightenment. However, could it be said that in Zen we must leave our brains at the door of the Zendo? If so, why are there so many books clarifying what Zen is all about? And why Koans, which, even if they're to be approached from a perspective of Mu, are then clarified in terms of a systematic Zen philosophy?

    I have just had a book added to my Kindle called Realizing Genjokoan. On the very first page, the author says: "An old Zen slogan denigrates dependence on words and letters, instead emphasizing direct pointing to mind and awareness. So it is ironic that Zen has produced extensive libraries of writings, often composed of commentaries on previous writings like this one." Well, it may be ironic, but it's perfectly natural. Once you start experiencing things, especially the movements of the "mind", then you're going to start doing things "up in your head".

    Metta thoughts to you
    Adrian

  9. #9

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Wow... that was a deep post. My take is that something is what it is whether we have a name for it or not. Let's say some object is "blue". Now describe blue to someone who hasn't seen color before. The only way we have words, and naming and definitions is because all of our knowledge is based on a reference system. We can't really say one thing exists without saying something else exists. Everything we use to describe things inevitably comes down to a duality, or reference to something else. I can't say this is 15 centimeters without knowing what a centimeter is, and what is a centimeter? It's a unit of measurement that is based on measurements of like size. But what is it? Or what's money? It's an agreement we have that this is what this thing will be. And we accept it as "real", but what is it beyond all of that?

    And more importantly who are you and who am I beyond what people call me (which is probably not appropriate for this forum :mrgreen: )? what am I when I'm not a software developer, neer do well, husband, son, etc? Who am I really? Who are you?

    What we know is all based on comparison to other things, and that comparison is very, very useful and necessary in the world. At the same time we need to know when to use a tool and when that tool can be harmful, e.g. pidgeonholing people into our neat compartments of how we "know" them to be.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  10. #10

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Thank you for your responses Jundo and Seiryu, but I don't know that intellectual reflection or curiosity is a denial of experience. I have a cold shower every morning and the first hit of the cold water on the skin is a pretty basic experience. To reflect on whether it would be better to turn on the water heater is not a denial of that. It is a form of intellectualizing nonetheless, though based on an experience that is not itself a cognitive one.

    To say that we'll only know what Mu is by experiencing it is a bit like saying we'll only know what God's presence is like by having an experience of it. But how do we know if we've experienced it if we don't know what it is?
    Hi Adrian,

    It is not that there is anything wrong with philosophizing. It is that it can truly interfere with the seeing/piercing/experiencing.

    Let me give a quick example:

    It is okay to read books about ocean sailing, chat with fellow sailors about the best kinds of anchor, and debate about the currents and about what the map means etc. before setting sail and while still tied up to the dock.

    But now let's head out to sea ... boat, water, wind, sun ... sailing along ... AHHHHH!

    BUT, some guy on the crew keeps yammering ... won't be quiet for a minute. He keeps on talking loudly about anchors and maps, how little wind there is and how hot the sun is today! He all up in his head, won't be quiet, yammer yammer yammer! He's missing the sailing. He does not know that there is a place and time to talk some about sailing ... but mostly what is to do is go out and sail! More than that, close the mouth, open the eyes ... and experience sailing.

    That is kind of like it.

    The only thing special about "Zen sailing", by the way, is that you, me, the boat, the sails, the currents and water, the sun and sky, the whole damn trip ... are experienced as One Great Thing Dancing All Together! ... i.e., MU!

    Something like that.

    So, you can talk a little tiny bit about MU! ... but kinda miss MU! when we talk about it.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    I'm curious about the *literal* meaning of "mu" in Chinese. I read once in a book - I can't remenber the title anymore- that "mu" was more like a negative particle than a negation adverb. According to that position, "mu" should be better translated like "in-", when we say "in-visible" ---> "not visible". However, most fellows argue that "mu" and "no" are equivalent.
    So according to that interpretation, Joshu makes an abuse of grammar to state a point about not being attached to language:

    Monk: Does a dog has Buddha nature?
    Joshu: in-

    Which I'm sure would let the monk more puzzled than just a plain "no".

    Does anyone know for sure? Is Mu more like "in-" or like "no"?

    Mu=No?
    Mu=In?
    Mu=Mu?
    Mu is not Mu?

    Sorry for becoming philosophical, but sometimes, that's my way of dancing

    Gassho

    Rimon

  12. #12

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Somewhere I read a take on the "Mu" koan that supports Jundo's point about language, philosophizing and logic -- namely, that the "Mu" was not a response to the content of the question but to the act of the questioning. So, "Mu" translates roughly into a sort of katsu-esque "Wrong question, idiot!"

  13. #13
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    This is a tough one!
    My understanding(if logical understanding of this is even possible) on Mu is that it is a response to a question which sort of un-asks it. Thus leaveing the question in the void in an attempt for the questioner, rather, to reflect upon themselves.

    Gassho,
    John

  14. #14

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Ask the dog.

  15. #15

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    I heard of a question being asked to a student, "What is MU"? The student slapped the Roshi in the face......Enlightment attained!!!

    Gassho,

    Matt

  16. #16

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Hi Adrian,

    It is not that there is anything wrong with philosophizing. It is that it can truly interfere with the seeing/piercing/experiencing.

    Let me give a quick example:

    It is okay to read books about ocean sailing, chat with fellow sailors about the best kinds of anchor, and debate about the currents and about what the map means etc. before setting sail and while still tied up to the dock.

    But now let's head out to sea ... boat, water, wind, sun ... sailing along ... AHHHHH!

    BUT, some guy on the crew keeps yammering ... won't be quiet for a minute. He keeps on talking loudly about anchors and maps, how little wind there is and how hot the sun is today! He all up in his head, won't be quiet, yammer yammer yammer! He's missing the sailing. He does not know that there is a place and time to talk some about sailing ... but mostly what is to do is go out and sail! More than that, close the mouth, open the eyes ... and experience sailing.

    That is kind of like it.

    The only thing special about "Zen sailing", by the way, is that you, me, the boat, the sails, the currents and water, the sun and sky, the whole damn trip ... are experienced as One Great Thing Dancing All Together! ... i.e., MU!

    Something like that.

    So, you can talk a little tiny bit about MU! ... but kinda miss MU! when we talk about it.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    Thanks Jundo
    I'm sure we're agreed that sterile and untimely philosophizing is a waste of time.
    My question was "What is the meaning of Mu?" Perhaps I should have asked simply "What is Mu?". And I think bringing in long words like "T...N...C...." probably sounded a bit pretentious (but I like T...N...C...ism).
    Anyway, for now I think I can live with or without the word Mu, as I've lived without it for all my life until Aitken Roshi brought it up. And he uses it lots.
    The book you referred to and gave the link for looks interesting. In my own pointy-headed way I'll get to it before long. Better get through Aitken's book first, and then there's the one on Dogen's Shobogenzo ... And then there's the sitting, of course.

  17. #17

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    Somewhere I read a take on the "Mu" koan that supports Jundo's point about language, philosophizing and logic -- namely, that the "Mu" was not a response to the content of the question but to the act of the questioning. So, "Mu" translates roughly into a sort of katsu-esque "Wrong question, idiot!"
    That's how I see it, too, Chris.

  18. #18

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Mu is like when you breath out and there is nothing else.

  19. #19

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Risho
    Wow... that was a deep post. My take is that something is what it is whether we have a name for it or not. Let's say some object is "blue". Now describe blue to someone who hasn't seen color before. The only way we have words, and naming and definitions is because all of our knowledge is based on a reference system. We can't really say one thing exists without saying something else exists. Everything we use to describe things inevitably comes down to a duality, or reference to something else. I can't say this is 15 centimeters without knowing what a centimeter is, and what is a centimeter? It's a unit of measurement that is based on measurements of like size. But what is it? Or what's money? It's an agreement we have that this is what this thing will be. And we accept it as "real", but what is it beyond all of that?

    And more importantly who are you and who am I beyond what people call me (which is probably not appropriate for this forum :mrgreen: )? what am I when I'm not a software developer, neer do well, husband, son, etc? Who am I really? Who are you?

    What we know is all based on comparison to other things, and that comparison is very, very useful and necessary in the world. At the same time we need to know when to use a tool and when that tool can be harmful, e.g. pidgeonholing people into our neat compartments of how we "know" them to be.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    Thanks Risho.

    Yes, definitions imply duality. And to go beyond duality we have to go beyond definitions and naming, as you've suggested, at least as far as I understand language and phenomena. That's why we sit, isn't it? (Please note, I'm a beginner!)

    However, in addition to just sitting, if we're really going to transcend duality and not just kid ourselves or go gaga, we need guidance - teachers like Jundo and Taegu, who use language to make things clear.

    Maybe definitional and propositional language is inadequate, but I don't think we can escape it. We have to work with it and let it take us as far as it can. We'll know when it can't take us any further.

    Gassho
    Adrian

  20. #20

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Where are you going?

  21. #21

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Risho
    Where are you going?
    To "the limits of my world" and then beyond, if there is anything.

    "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world".
    Here and elsewhere in the Tractatus Wittgenstein seems to be saying that the essence of the world and of life is: This is how things are. One is tempted to add “–deal with it.”... but he says that the propositions of the Tractatus are meaningless, not profound insights, ethical or otherwise. What are we to make of this?
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/wittgens/

  22. #22
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Mu is like when you breath out and there is nothing else
    Very well put, Rich.

    If you allow me...Mu is (not like) breathing out, nobody left.

    Some nothing, some non body like that... :wink:


    gassho


    Taigu

  23. #23

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    ...what dog?

  24. #24

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Mu is like when you breath out and there is nothing else
    Very well put, Rich.

    If you allow me...Mu is (not like) breathing out, nobody left.

    Some nothing, some non body like that... :wink:


    gassho


    Taigu
    Thanks taigu. Hope that non body is doing better.

    Actually I think the original koa n was
    Does a cow have buddha nature?


    Moo
    -)

  25. #25
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Un-
    Dis-
    Non-

    Where am I not going with this?

  26. #26

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Well, I live in Alabama, and every cow here is a zen master, "MOO, MOO," while chewing the grass or swating flies with their tails...just living their own moment of reality. I think of MU as a signpost on a road that has no beginning and no end. You can stop and let that sign capture your attention and you won't get very far. Or you can keep going along a road that ends where it began, and begins again. There is no such thing as buddha nature...to me, that is the point of this koan.

    gassho
    Greg

  27. #27
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    The great Yamada Mumon (gate of mu) in dokusan about Mu, the rinzai way.


    [youtube] [/youtube]


    He used to teach round the corner in Kobe and was the abbot of Myoshinji .
    Of course, it is not our dokusan style...

    gassho

    Taigu

  28. #28
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Thank you Taigu Sensei for the link. I was struck by Yamada Mumon Roshi's words:
    Zen in Japan is dead and ought to be re-imported from America.
    I like the idea of this cyclical pattern where the Dharma boomerangs out from Japan only to return even stronger.

    Gassho,
    John

  29. #29

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Thank you, Sensei.
    I am without words (stunned actually).
    Gassho
    Adrian

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The great Yamada Mumon (gate of mu) in dokusan about Mu, the rinzai way.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2vF0dGNGmA[/video]]


    He used to teach round the corner in Kobe and was the abbot of Myoshinji .
    Of course, it is not our dokusan style...

    gassho

    Taigu

  30. #30

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    ...what dog?
    why are you asking about a dog's Buddha nature then?

    ahhhh...it's like religious vaudeville.

  31. #31

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Thank you for your responses Jundo and Seiryu, but I don't know that intellectual reflection or curiosity is a denial of experience. I have a cold shower every morning and the first hit of the cold water on the skin is a pretty basic experience. To reflect on whether it would be better to turn on the water heater is not a denial of that. It is a form of intellectualizing nonetheless, though based on an experience that is not itself a cognitive one.

    To say that we'll only know what Mu is by experiencing it is a bit like saying we'll only know what God's presence is like by having an experience of it. But how do we know if we've experienced it if we don't know what it is?

    Being told to stop thinking and just smell the roses is something I've come across in other Buddhist forums, and maybe it's the best advice. I'm not so naive as to think I can think my way to enlightenment. However, could it be said that in Zen we must leave our brains at the door of the Zendo? If so, why are there so many books clarifying what Zen is all about? And why Koans, which, even if they're to be approached from a perspective of Mu, are then clarified in terms of a systematic Zen philosophy?

    I have just had a book added to my Kindle called Realizing Genjokoan. On the very first page, the author says: "An old Zen slogan denigrates dependence on words and letters, instead emphasizing direct pointing to mind and awareness. So it is ironic that Zen has produced extensive libraries of writings, often composed of commentaries on previous writings like this one." Well, it may be ironic, but it's perfectly natural. Once you start experiencing things, especially the movements of the "mind", then you're going to start doing things "up in your head".

    Metta thoughts to you
    Adrian

    Essentially, this is the great quandary. It isn't that intellectualizing is a denial of experience but rather that the need to intellectualize is let go of, allowed to go on it's way and what we are left with is the MU! of the koan. We all start off much like children, as mentioned above, first we get into the water, because we trust in those around us to help us if we need it, and when we are young we purely enjoy the feeling of the water. We loose our sense of where the water ends and we begin, and simply ARE the great time in the water ourselves. Only when we get older, and more mired in the maze of ideas that demands that we have a meaning to every single thing in our lives, do we try to figure out the water, its depth, its qualities, its make up. You are right, you will start doing things up in your head, but with Zen you are more likely to remember that it is up in your head and not out in the world.

  32. #32

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    Somewhere I read a take on the "Mu" koan that supports Jundo's point about language, philosophizing and logic -- namely, that the "Mu" was not a response to the content of the question but to the act of the questioning. So, "Mu" translates roughly into a sort of katsu-esque "Wrong question, idiot!"
    That's how I see it, too, Chris.
    Not sure that's how I see it, I should add. Not sure I see it. :wink:

  33. #33

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Essentially, this is the great quandary. It isn't that intellectualizing is a denial of experience but rather that the need to intellectualize is let go of, allowed to go on it's way and what we are left with is the MU! of the koan. We all start off much like children, as mentioned above, first we get into the water, because we trust in those around us to help us if we need it, and when we are young we purely enjoy the feeling of the water. We loose our sense of where the water ends and we begin, and simply ARE the great time in the water ourselves. Only when we get older, and more mired in the maze of ideas that demands that we have a meaning to every single thing in our lives, do we try to figure out the water, its depth, its qualities, its make up. You are right, you will start doing things up in your head, but with Zen you are more likely to remember that it is up in your head and not out in the world.
    Thank you, Heitetsu, and thanks to Chris A, too, for reminding me that how we "see things" is perhaps always tentative. Philosophically I'm never sure either, but it seems that way at the time.

    Perhaps I'm getting the idea about Mu, if that's possible. Taigu's video was a knockout, and everyone's comments were helpful, even when not immediately welcome 8). In Thailand, people often say "Don't think about it" or "You think too much", but it strikes me as a reflection of the average person's social/political powerlessness in this country rather than a plea to free oneself from concepts. Perhaps I react a little for that reason.

    Robert Aitken's book is really very good, I think, and as I got further into it, with our online sangha's comments in mind I felt more comfortable with his frequent reference to Mu. I find myself saying it to my wife now. :lol: Have I internalized it? I haven't actually "Mu'd" at her yet, though.

    A bit more about the Aitken book while I'm here... I can see why it was chosen for people preparing for Jukai. It's the only book on ethics that I can think of that I literally haven't been able to put down. Not that I read it in one sitting, but I'd tell myself that I'd read to the end of the chapter and then do something else, but when I got there, something on the next page would attract my interest and I'd read on. Chapter 18 "The Morning Star" was captivating. He writes beautifully. Thank you Jundo for drawing the book to my attention (in the thread on Jukai).

  34. #34

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    One thought I had following some discussion on "Mu" elsewhere: the Mu koan is, itself, about the teacher/student relationship, and several people have urged that it be studied only in that context (that it be, in effect, assigned by teacher to student). The more I read that koan, the more convinced I am that such urging is appropriate -- for me at least!

  35. #35

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    One thought I had following some discussion on "Mu" elsewhere: the Mu koan is, itself, about the teacher/student relationship, and several people have urged that it be studied only in that context (that it be, in effect, assigned by teacher to student). The more I read that koan, the more convinced I am that such urging is appropriate -- for me at least!
    Hi Chris,

    Such talk of a "Koan being assigned" and only to be bit into in a teacher/student relationship may be more of the flavor of Koan-Zazen and Rinzai style practice.

    Here, in Dogen's world, the Koans are living things which ... like all of life, and all the Buddhist writings and teachings ... are available anywhere and always. What is more, the Koans are constantly changing, much as how a song or poem that one knows by heart, like one's own hand, will completely seem to change in depth or meaning at different times in life.

    I am thinking about how, once we pass through our current book club selection, Zen Seeds, our next book will be one of the main Koan collections cherished in Soto Zen, and we will dance with those in our Soto-ish style.

    Gassho, J

  36. #36

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    This morning, I happened to come across on lovely little comment by Shishin Wick on the Koan of "advancing a step from the 100 foot pole" ... a Koan very much related to the MU we are chewing on here.

    Often it is said that one is to push hard on something like MU, jumping off into the void, thus into KENSHO or some such to TRUTH! That is one way. But Shishin reminds us that TRUTH is all around ...

    [This saying] is encouraging us to take a step forward, from wherever we may be. Each one of us is stranded on a hundred-foot pole. We may have climbed up for the view or we may have fallen to it from another perch. No matter where we are in our Zen practice or our life we're always standing on top of a hundred-foot pole. But we must not rest there. We must step forward into the unknown void in order to experience the boundless life. ...

    ... That hundred foot pole can be any precipice, any difficulty. And when you do step forward, where are you? Are you on top of another hundred-foot pole? ...

    ... Just keep going forward step-by-step from the top of the hundred-foot pole.

    From Shishin Wick's comments on the Book of Serenity
    (the book I am talking with Taigu about as our next book selection)
    Which I take to mean that pivot points and opportunities for practice never end ... endlessly. MU is always dancing around and through and as us ... whether known or not.

    Gassho, J

  37. #37

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev R
    Ask the dog.
    I like this responce Rev, One thing I noticed when researching this Koan is that the chinese pronounciation of "MU" is "WU" wich sounds a bit like "Woo." In some parts of south east asia, when people imitate a dog barking, it sounds much like "Woo, Woo, Woo!"

  38. #38

    Re: What is the meaning of Mu

    Tintin's dog Snowy cries "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" Perhaps that means, "Stop! Shut up! Sit down!" in Belgian dogspeak. :wink:

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