These koans are for meditation: to help you to go beyond the mind, beyond mentation, beyond minding – the continuous fuss in the mind. The mind goes on thinking, thinking, thinking. These koans are so that you can stop thinking. They are impossible to solve so you cannot think about them. Finally, you have to stop thinking. It may take time, but you are only wasting energy. Sometimes years pass, and you have not come to the end of thinking.
When you come to the end of thinking, a gap is created, an interval. In that interval, you realize yourself – not the answer to the koan. But thinking has stopped because of the koan, the device. You are bored with it; you cannot think anymore, you simply cease to think. You remain silent. The puzzle has stopped puzzling you. In that silent moment, you realize yourself.
Now, this question is a koan. Someone has asked:
Does a dog have buddha nature?
And this is a very important question! If you answer yes or no, you lose your own buddha nature. This is a Zen koan. It has been continuously used for two thousand years. The teacher, the master, gives this koan to his disciple: “Go and find out whether a dog has buddha nature or not.” It is not yet a puzzle, because you can answer yes or no. Then it immediately… This is a very significant thing. If you answer yes, or if you say no, in both ways you miss your own buddha nature. So what to do?
If you say yes you lose your own buddha nature; if you say no you lose your own buddha nature.
One of the greatest Zen masters, Rinzai, used to use this koan. He would say, “If you say yes, I will beat you. If you say no, I will beat you. Go and find the answer – find out whether a dog has a buddha nature or not. And whatever answer you come back with, I am going to beat you!” It became puzzling. But the puzzle was purposeful, because no answer was needed.
If you say yes, why do you miss your own buddha nature? If you say no, why do you miss your own buddha nature? If you say “Yes, a dog has it,” you miss, because how can a dog have buddha nature when even Gautam Buddha had to struggle for lives to attain it? If a dog already has it, then Gautam Buddha was just stupid. What was he struggling for? He was struggling and struggling for lives to find his buddha nature, to find the ultimate soul within – and even a dog has it? Then Buddha falls lower than a dog!