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Because of his profound understanding, Zhao Zhou could use the word “mu.”
The word mu ? (nothing) refers to the fundamental Buddhist teaching that “all is nothingness.” Zen practitioners seek to realize this experientially rather than conceptually. Questions, or koan, posed by a master play a vital role in the process.
The calligraphy here refers to the first of the koan compiled in China by Wumen Huikai (1183–1260) in a collection called the Gateless Gate. A monk asked the Zen master Zhao Zhou (8th century) if a dog possesses Buddha-nature. Zhao Zhou answered, “Mu.”
Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1986.