Ta Hui started his journey as an intellectual. Although he was part of a tradition that was created by Bodhidharma in China in the name of Gautam Buddha, somewhere in his unconscious there was a vengefulness which was coming up again and again in sarcastic remarks like, “the old pale face,” “the barbarian.” To call Gautam Buddha a barbarian is such nonsense, and in time he must have realized what he had done. Now he wants to put things right, but he is in such a hurry to put things right that he starts misreading things – with all good intentions. Remembering this, you have to understand what he is saying:
A monk asked Chao Chou, “Does a dog have buddha-nature or not?”
It is an ancient strategy. It is not only Chao Chou who has been asked; thousands of other masters since Gautam Buddha have been asked the same question, and the disciples have been receiving the same answer. The answer has always been “Yes,” because Gautam Buddha had answered “Yes.” The same question was asked to him: “Does a dog have buddha-nature or not?” – because he was teaching that all beings have buddha-nature. It is very natural to ask, “All beings…? You mean dogs and donkeys and buffaloes? Do you really mean all beings?”
If he was saying all human beings, then too it would be questionable. What about Adolf Hitler? What about Ronald Reagan? But he is saying all living beings, and so naturally the question arises – it is not only about dogs, but simply about the lower categories of animals. And how can Gautam Buddha say, “No”? It will contradict his whole fundamental attitude about life, it will contradict his reverence for life.
Whether life exists in the form of a dog or in the form of a Gautam Buddha, it does not matter. It is life. Just the form is constantly changing; the life inside, which is absolute and eternal, is exactly the same as it is in Gautam Buddha. His “Yes” accords with his reverence for life. To him, there is no God except life.
So when you ask such a question as “Does a dog have buddha-nature or not?”, without even asking Gautam Buddha I can answer on his behalf: Yes! A dog has a buddha-nature. That is the very essence of his philosophy. And this master Chao Chou is an enlightened master; he cannot say “No.”
But it seems Ta Hui cannot say “Yes,” because again that will remind him, “I am doing the same thing again. I have called him ‘pale face’, I have called him ‘the barbarian’, and now I am doing even worse. I am calling him equal to a dog!”
It is because of his past utterances that he reads “No,” where there is “Yes.” This should be a great lesson to you: you can read things which are not there. Just because you want to read them, you can read them. You can go on missing things which are there if you don’t want to see them. Your mind is not only a receptacle, not only a vehicle to receive information, it is also a continuous censor.