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Lions Roar : September 2019
PHOTOCOURTESYOFTHEAUTHOR base for buddhanature, then surely our humanness makes us too base as well. Not in the business of debate or philosophizing, Zen master Joshu gave the monk a stripped-down response: “Mu,” meaning, literally, no thing, nay, or no. Linguistically, a complete negative. But that doesn’t make sense! The response was contrary to the Buddha’s teachings: we all have buddhanature. So how to make sense of it? Don’t use intellect; forget that big human brain. “If,” said the late American Zen teacher Robert Aitken, “you are preoccupied with ‘has’ and ‘has not,’ that is, if you cultivate thoughts about attaining something, you cut off your head, or rather you cut off your body. You cut off the whole world. Pre- occupied with brooding, fantasy, memory, or whatever, you are unable to hear the thrush in the avocado tree.” Rinzai master Koryu Osaka (1901–1987) put it another way: “Mu itself is the buddhanature, and when you thoroughly make this your own, in that moment, you realize what you are. If you fall into the sphere of dualism, even just a little bit, then you lose sight of it, you completely lose the total of this koan.” But Raffy did not grapple with koans. He had no need. He had already realized his true doggy nature. My mother would dedicate Saturday afternoon to bath- ing him with blueing shampoo and blowing him dry. Then, almost immediately, he’d slip into the backyard where there was a lake—a cool inviting mirror of water—and he would plunge right in, ruining his freshly clean coat. Raffy lived in the moment. When chasing a ball, just chase. When barking at the TV, just bark. And moment by moment, Raffy changed. That was his final lesson: everything is of the nature to change. Impermanence, according to the Buddha, is one of the marks of existence, and dogs don’t generally live as long as humans, so loving them is a teaching. When he came into my life, Raffy could fit in my hands and his nose was pure pink. Over time, he went from very small to not as small, and his nose went from pink to marbled pink and brown, and then finally to pure brown. He got liver spots. He lost an eye to cancer, and eventually he was diagnosed with a cancer that couldn’t be cured. When I was twenty-three and about to move to Japan for a year, I took my time one day holding and petting Raffy. I knew that he was old and might not be alive by the time I got back. As it turned out, I was right. Raffy was put down while I was away. My mother snipped off a lock of his fur for me to keep and then she buried him in the far corner of her property. Later, she realized that she didn’t actually own that land; a neighbor did. Briefly, she considered digging Raffy up and moving him, but then she decided that he was exactly where he was sup- posed to be. In life, Raffy loved bolting off and exploring every yard and road and wild space. It’s fitting that, even now, he still cannot be fenced in. ♦ Raffy LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 67