The question of Mu

In Zen here is a famous koan known as Mu. A koan is sort of a riddle that a teacher gives a student to work on. These riddles have no definite answers as regular questions have. The purpous of a koan is to break conventional though patterns and, in a way, short circuit mind in order to access knowledge behind reasoning. It is a way of studying reality as it is when not reasoned about or understood by a human observer.

A monk asked Master Chao-chou, “Has a dog the Buddha Nature or not?” Chao-chou said, “Mu!”

That’s it. One question, one answer. Case closed.

There are of course numerous interpretations of what Mu really means. I suggest the point made by the master is this – mind will never stop asking questions, and the sooner you realize this, the sooner you know the mind, and knowing mind opens the door to knowing Everything. So why say Mu? Mu is not an answer to the monks question. Mu is a negation of the questioning itself. It doesn’t answer that particular question. Instead it answers the natural function of mind to persistently put reality into question. Mu is just another way of saying “God did it”. It is the end of further questioning. Now, the Master, being a Master, didn’t Believe in God or any other diety. Knowing mind fully, he didn’t Believe in anything mind told him. Neither did he reject anything of minds content. To the Master of Reality, there is ultimately nothing being wrong or right. There is just what is. Instead of saying God or Buddhanature is Everything, including dogs, he says “There is no definite answer to any of your questions, so stop asking”. The message is this – if you stop asking questions that require an answer where reality is reduced to separate parts with inherent properties, you might just realize that there’s a whole reality that includes all seemingly subjective and unique phenomena. You may be enlightened by the fact that reality is conceptual and understandable only to mind itself, but unknowable when absent minded.

But there’s trap in this, waiting to catch mind red handed. The reflexive response of mind when “understanding” Mu is to, yet again, trying to understand it. Mind cannot help itself from repeating the act of questioning. Mind Thinks – Oh, so reality is something else than how it appears to my mind. My experience is not of reality but of illusion.

No you don’t. You will never “get it”. You missed the point of Mu. Mu said “Beware of questioning reality because that habit of mind will keep it from knowing the essence of it”. Instead of “getting it”, you immediately questioned the reality of minds experience. You stupid fool!

Mu is relentlessly wrecking everything you believe to be important aspects of knowledge. If you ask “What mind”, you miss the point.
If you ask “What is real”, you miss the point.
If you ask “What is the point”, you miss the point.

You see, mind has to keep asking questions, never accepting a definite answer. That’s the very function of human mind. It is not wrong or “illusory” at all. It is perfectly normal and fully functional. You need not do anything about this response/function of mind. But if you want to know reality in its most ultimate sense, you must realize this mind function first hand. You must learn the essence of mind in order to understand how it “knows” reality. Mind gains knowledge by not accepting input as experienced, but by questioning reality as it presents itself in the experience of mind.

This is why a Theory of Everything can never be accepted by anyone else than s/he who puts it on the table. Imagine gravity being the cause of vortices in condensed matter. Let’s say that is essentially the creative force behind Everything. Whatever it is, someone will inevitably respond – Ok, but what causes that to happen? If reality is such that the ultimate cause cannot be caused itself, mind will never settle for that kind of Everything. It will keep asking – Has a dog Buddhanature?