Events 2017



Non Collaboration


MU KORABO, Non Collaboration, is a different way to engage MU through art. Although MU is at the very heart of Buddhism, Western philosophers have also grappled with the concept of “nothingness.” Poking into MU has led me into fascinating ontological thickets. Several of the calligraphers and artists who are part of this project have mentioned similar experiences.

   There will be a dozen MUs in different styles and scripts. They will be mounted with silk on which other artists will have depicted dogs and moons. The full moon has long been a Buddhist symbol for enlightenment. The dog, while plucked from this original kōan, in this project stands for the searching self.

I have a persimmon tree. When the fruits ripen, the squirrels knock them off the branches, and the persimmons fall to the ground, where my dachshund finds them and gobbles them up. I go out early and pick them up before she can gorge. But somehow, she sniffs the hidden ones out and comes trotting into the house with a squishy orange orb in her mouth. Persimmons are her kōan, she has found her enlightenment.

趙州狗子  Joshu’s Dog

Does a Dog Have Buddha Nature?

This phrase comes from the first kōan in the Zen collection Mumonkan, “The Gateless Gate,” in which the monk Jōshū is asked whether a dog has buddha nature or not. His famous answer was MU—“nothing!” This is the well-known Japanese version and the first kōan usually given Zen students to cut their teeth on. The character for MU is a favorite of calligraphers. It can be written in any number of calligraphic styles, and is often seen on hanging scrolls in temples and homes.

   Jōshū (Chinese Zhaozhou) was an eighth-century Chinese Zen master. Although Japanese Zen doesn’t mention it much, there is another encounter where, when asked the same question, he answered YU—“has!”

   So…does a dog have buddha nature or not? MU or YU--or is it a ridiculous question?

The point of meditating on these kōans with their non-sensensical, non-logical, sometimes surrealistic phrasings is to jog our word-obsessed minds into a different way of experiencing the world (sometimes called “enlightenment.”) In other words, going through words to get beyond words.