Like Cats and Dogs: Contesting the Mu Koan in Zen Buddhism

Overview


Koans are dialogues that stand at the center of Zen Buddhist literature and are often used to provoke the "great doubt" in testing a trainee's progress. The Mu Koan consists of a brief conversation in which a monk asks Master Zhaozhou whether or not a dog has Buddha-nature. According to the main version, the reply is "Mu": literally, "No," but implying the philosophical notion of nothingness. This case is widely considered to be the single best- known and most widely circulated koan record of the Zen school that...
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Overview


Koans are dialogues that stand at the center of Zen Buddhist literature and are often used to provoke the "great doubt" in testing a trainee's progress. The Mu Koan consists of a brief conversation in which a monk asks Master Zhaozhou whether or not a dog has Buddha-nature. According to the main version, the reply is "Mu": literally, "No," but implying the philosophical notion of nothingness. This case is widely considered to be the single best- known and most widely circulated koan record of the Zen school that offers existential release from anxiety to attain spiritual illumination.

In a careful analysis of the historical and rhetorical basis of the literature, Steven Heine demonstrates that the Mu version of the case, preferred by advocates of the key-phrase approach, does not by any means constitute the final word concerning the meaning and significance of the Mu Koan. He shows that another canonical version, which gives both "Yes" and "No" responses, must be taken into account. Like Cats and Dogs offers critical insight and a new theoretical perspective on "the koan of koans."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Heine]'s done it again - produced a fine piece of scholarship on a really important topic for Zen practice, provides many juicy historical tidbits and context, a fine sampling of original sources (this time including some material from the Korean tradition - often overlooked in Zen studies, it seems to me) some translated here for the first time, and advances a provocative revisionist theory of the history of Zen while also rolling some inspired Dogen study into the mix." --Wild Fox Zen, Patheos

"Despite the popularity of koan stories in Western Buddhist scholarship, the complexity of their formation and the different ramifications in subsequent developments of the tradition in China, Korea, and Japan have been frequently overlooked. In Like Cats and Dogs, Steven Heine fills this gap by engaging philosophical, soteriological, historical, geographical, and many more layers of the koan tradition with a sustained focus on the famous Mu Koan. His writing is clear and reading this is most enjoyable. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by the transformation that this book brings to their understanding of Zen Buddhism and koan practice." --Jin Y. Park, author of Buddhism and Postmodernity: Zen, Huayan, and the Possibility of Buddhist Postmodern Ethics

"Steven Heine's Like Cats and Dogs examines the history of the famous Mu koan...This classic puzzle becomes even more puzzling when the broader textual record is taken into consideration." --Buddhadharma

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199837304
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/26/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,015,709
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Heine

Steven Heine is an authority on East Asian religion and society, especially the history of Zen Buddhism and its relation to culture in China and Japan. He has published two dozen books.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 More Cats Than Dogs? A Tale of Two Versions
Chapter 2 Would a Dog Lick a Pot of Hot Oil? Reconstructing the Ur Version
Chapter 3 Fightin' Like Cats and Dogs: Methodological Reflections on Deconstructing the Emphatic Mu
Chapter 4 Cats and Cows Know That It Is: Textual and Historical Deconstruction of the Ur Version
Chapter 5 Dogs May Chase, But Lions Tear Apart: Reconstructing the Dual Version of the''Moo Koan''
Chapter 6 When Is a Dog Not Really a Dog? Or, Yes! We Have No Buddha-Nature

Notes
Sino-Japanese Glossary
Bibliography
Index

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