Monday, 4 March 2013

What is 'Mu'?

What is 'Mu'? What is 'Mu'? What is 'Mu'?

I know it deep down I know it!
As though, in a forgotten dream,
In a forgotten time,
I had known it very dearly.

In fact, only just now have I placed it somewhere.
I am all wrong in grammar!

Can I say,
It is shaped somewhat like this...
But I cannot tell you its shape...

The day's mail,
This month's telephone bill:
Is it 'Mu'? Is it 'Mu'? Is it 'Mu'?

Is 'Mu' me or you,
Or a combination of both?

Is it negative, affirmative,
Or just an adjective, a colour, a smell?

Or, is it the ticking of the clock?
The clock, the clock?..

Or, is it the Hindustani Raga
Chaliye Kunjanumo,
Soft on the DVD player,
Honey flowing over each note?

Or, is it,
By any chance,
A black mole under the left ear,
Slightly to the back side of the neck?

(I am flabbergasted by the wondrous coincidence:
It is something from my SSLC book!)

"What is 'Mu'?" is a koan Zen masters usually assign to monks at a particular stage in Zen training.

A monk one day asked Zen master Chao-chou (Joshu), wanting earnestly to know: "Master, tell me. Has a dog the Buddha-nature, or not?"

Joshu retorted: "Mu"!

This is the background. Training in koan involves asking the novice to think over this answer day and night, as though their very life depended on finding its meaning.

There are other koans also that are assigned to the novice during Zen training. One such koan is: "How did your face look like before your father and mother were born?"

Solving koans is seen by the masters as a way to break you out of your habit of seeing things only from within the limitations of logic and reason. It is about transcending the realms of thinking.


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