Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/11/2017

Does a Cat Have Buddha-nature?

I’ve begun practicing with a teacher in the Korean Seon tradition and the use of kong-ans (koans) is one of their methods. During my interview with him yesterday I was quite quickly stumped by the following kong-an:

Does a cat have Buddha-nature?

Even if I put aside my own conceptual difficulties with the idea of Buddha-nature and just say that I’ve made an agreement with myself to provisionally understand it as the potential to become liberated I find myself stuck already outside of the kong-an and in the thicket of views. The teacher recounted the following joke as an example of how we might approach these kong-ans:

Why do firemen wear red suspenders? To keep their pants up.

The mind immediately goes to red and fails to see the obvious right in front of it; i.e., that suspenders are meant to keep pants up. Only in this case, I fail to see the obvious answer. We’ve scheduled our next interview for the 1st of December so I have some time to work with this but I have to say I feel completely unmoored and out of my depth. And as scary as that that is I suspect it’s a good thing.

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