When the Zen monk Joshu was asked whether a dog had Buddha nature Josh replied, ‘Mu.’ Mu (wú in Chinese) means ‘no’ but not exactly no. You see, mu is used when a question is incapable of being answered with a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ that is, when both of those ‘answers’ would be erroneous or otherwise inadequate.
The middle way seeks to afford the practitioner with an understanding of life that transcends seemingly opposite statements about existence, and with insight into life and, in particular, into the the true nature of things. Seemingly opposite statements as to such matters as belief and disbelief, existence and non-existence, self and non-self, and all other positive and negative statements and assertions) are all part and parcel of a single continuous spectrum with affirmation at one end and negation at the other. For example, both belief and disbelief in God are in fact the exercise of the one and the same function, that is, mental faculty or mindset. Truth---that is, life, reality and meaning---lies beyond both affirmation and negation. All such thinking is conditioned. It is never the truth. That is why it is written in the Zen writings:
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
So, what exactly is the true nature of things? It is this---all things are ‘empty,’ meaning that every thing lacks a permanent and unchanging identity. All is impermanent, inconstant, transient, identityless and conditioned. Nothing is independent of all other things. Things arise dependent on conditions and cease when those same conditions cease. That is all of life. And how does one know that to be the case? Through the practice of mindfulness. That is certainly one way of coming to both know and understand the emptiness of all things. Yes, mu is indeed the answer---and the sensible alternative to all dualistic thinking.
Above all, be neither too taut nor too slack. Let there be both an alert relaxation and a relaxed alertness as respects both your body and your mind.
Acknowledgment. Joshu's Dog illustration courtesy and copyright Mark T Morse and The Gateless Gate. All rights reserved.