What does a Zen cow say?
In Zen circles, there is a famous koan about mu. Mu is Chinese for Nothingness or no. When a disciple asked the master Joshu if a dog has a Buddha Nature, Joshu said ‘Mu’. This was a confounding answer, because every Buddhist understands that everything has a Buddha Nature, including dogs. The answer was intended to awaken the disciple to his own Buddha Nature. That story has been used since that time to awaken countless seekers to their own Buddha Natures. Today certain Zen practitioners will sit in meditation and contemplate mu until they awaken. Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu. They try not to think about anything else while they think about nothing. Just like a cow.
The joke of this joke is Zen. There is no such thing as a Zen cow. Cows are just cows. They say moo. People are also just people. As people, we suffer. We suffer from our thoughts. We think we are things that we are not. We think we are good cows, or bad cows, or Christian cows, or Buddhist cows, or Muslim cows, or Hindu cows, or Jewish cows, or atheist cows, or black cows or white cows, or milk cows or beef cows. We’re not even cows. Mu.