The case of the missing dog

All Zen students eventually come across the koan/case of Joshu’s dog. So, it goes simply like this:


Monk Joshu was asked by a monk if the dog still had Buddha nature. Joshu said “no-dog”.

In Zen every case and koan has a  Hua Tou or a crux point of where the koan/case hits. Sometimes this is called ‘Turning words’.

In the case of Joshu’s dog, the Hua Tou is the character  無 that is the negative of the subject in question. Sometimes this can be translated as No, or Nay, other times the subject would be applied to the negative as in ‘No-dog’.

Early translations of this koan translated  無 as Mu, not Wu and this stood for a long time as ‘None’. This was a baffling translation that many zen students would just shake their heads at and wonder what it means.

Fortunately, better translations of this koan have surfaced, mostly as we westerners gain a better grasp of the Chinese language and syntax in how Chinese is spoken today, and long ago.

So what do you think? Did Joshu say None, No, or No-dog?


Non-aligned Zen Teacher currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada USA Youtube Channel Website

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