In the ancient lands of Zen, there was a renowned master named Hakuin. He was known far and wide for his wisdom and enlightenment. People from all walks of life traveled from distant villages to seek his guidance and understanding of the mysteries of life. One day, a skeptical young scholar, eager to challenge Hakuin’s reputation, arrived at the master’s humble abode.

Upon entering, the young scholar found Hakuin sitting peacefully, seemingly unaffected by the world’s concerns. The scholar said, “Master Hakuin, I have heard of your great wisdom, but I doubt the truth in such tales. Prove your enlightenment to me by answering a riddle. If you succeed, I shall accept your teachings and become your disciple.”

Hakuin, serene and composed, replied, “Of course, young one. I am ready to hear your riddle.”

The scholar, with a sly grin, presented his conundrum, “Tell me, Master, does a dog have Buddha-nature?”

Hakuin’s face softened, and he gazed thoughtfully into the distance. The question was a classic Zen koan, a riddle meant to challenge the mind and push it beyond ordinary logic. For a moment, the room was silent as the master contemplated the essence of the question.

Finally, he spoke, “No, a dog does not have Buddha-nature.”

The scholar, smug with satisfaction, proclaimed, “Ah, you see! I knew you were a fraud! How can you call yourself a wise master if you cannot see that everything possesses Buddha-nature?”

Hakuin remained unperturbed and gently retorted, “Indeed, my young friend, you have understood the true nature of the question. But now, allow me to answer you again.”

Perplexed, the scholar nodded, and Hakuin spoke once more, “Yes, a dog does have Buddha-nature.”

The scholar was bewildered and frustrated by the apparent contradiction in Hakuin’s responses. He exclaimed, “But Master, you said ‘no’ earlier! How can it be both ‘yes’ and ‘no’?”

Hakuin smiled warmly and explained, “When I said ‘no,’ I meant that I, like many people, see the dog as an ordinary being, separate from enlightenment. But when I said ‘yes,’ I meant that in the grand scheme of things, everything, even a dog, is interconnected with the universal truth – the Buddha-nature.”

The young scholar was struck by the depth of Hakuin’s wisdom. He realized that the answer was not a mere binary conclusion but a profound realization of the interdependence of all existence. In that moment, the scholar’s skepticism melted away, replaced by a newfound respect for the master’s teachings.

From that day forward, the young scholar became Hakuin’s devoted disciple, and they would often contemplate the mysteries of life together. And in time, the scholar too would become a renowned Zen master, sharing Hakuin’s timeless wisdom and the paradoxical nature of existence with seekers from all corners of the world. The enigmatic koan of the dog and Buddha-nature lived on, guiding countless souls on their path to enlightenment.


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