Dàhuì’s Second List of Don’ts for the Dog Kōan

Dàhuì’s Second List of Don’ts for the Dog Kōan June 23, 2020

Bodhi, the late, great blog dog

One aspect of Dàhuì’s teachings, probably best-known today among keyword students, are his instructions on what NOT to do, especially in regard to working with the keyword mu. There are actually three overlapping lists of what not to do in The Letters (letters #10.5, #14.8, and #58.2). (1)

In this post, I will translate the list from #14.8. You can find my translation of the list in #10.5, as well as more context, here.

Broughton and Watanabe’s translation is below. You’ll notice quite a few differences, especially when you include their many brackets. They consider the second sentence, by the way, to be a preface to the list, but in my view, it seems like another “Don’t”. So there are seven “Don’ts” in my list and six in their list.”

Please use the mind just only in-this-what? way.

  1. Everyday, within the twelve hours, do not grasp life-death Buddha Way as presence. 
  2. Do not push away life-death Buddha Way returning to Mu. But only look: “A monk asked Zhàozhōu, ‘Even a dog has the Buddha Nature, no?’ Zhàozhōu said, ‘Mu.’” 
  3. Do not engage the faculty of thinking conjecturing about the stuff of thought. (2)
  4. Do not turn to making something up on the path of words. (3)
  5. Also, do not turn to opening your mouth in the place of accepting reality as it is. 
  6. Also, do not turn to the place of a spark struck from a flint stone or a flash of lightning to understand. “A monk asked Zhàozhōu, ‘Even a dog has the Buddha Nature, no?’ Zhàozhōu said, ‘Mu.’” Only practice in this way. 
  7. Also, do not use the mind to wait for enlightenment. Staying with spiritual peace you have attained is like using the mind to wait for enlightenment. If you are staying with the spiritual peace you have attained, change direction and don’t continue this relationship.

Broughton and Watanabe translation:

14.8: Again urges correct gongfu

Please just exert your mind in the following way: In your daily activities twenty-four hours a day you must not grasp samsara or the Buddha Way as really existent. 

  1. You must not deny samsara or the Buddha Way, reverting to the non-existence of annihilationism. Just keep an eye on [wu 無]: Does even a dog have buddha-nature? Zhaozhou said: “Wu 無!”
  2. You should not, during the operation of the mind sense-organ, engage in conjecture [concerning wu 無]. 
  3. You should not make a “lifestyle” out of the word [wu 無].
  4. Also, you must not, while [the Chan master] is speaking [of wu 無], understand and “own” it.
  5. Also, you must not understand [wu 無 in the mode of “Chan suddenness” that is] like a spark from two stones or a lightning bolt. Does even a dog have buddha-nature? Wu 無! Just practice in that way.
  6. Also, you must not have your mind wait for awakening or wait for stopping-to-rest. If you have your mind wait for awakening or wait for stopping-to-rest, you’ll end up having nothing whatsoever to do with [awakening].

(1) The Letters of Chan Master Dàhuì Pǔjué, “14.8: Again urges correct gongfu,” trans. Jeffrey L. Broughton and Elise Yoko Watanabe.

(2) This “Don’t” is also #3 in the #10.5 list.

(3) Modified, Thursday, June 25, thanks to feedback from Guo Gu Laoshi on the Facebook Rinzai Zen Discussion Group.


Dōshō Port began practicing Zen in 1977 and now co-teaches at the Nebraska Zen Center with his wife, Tetsugan Zummach Ōshō. Dōshō also teaches with the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training, an internet-based Zen community. Dōshō received dharma transmission from Dainin Katagiri Rōshi and inka shōmei from James Myōun Ford Rōshi in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. Dōshō’s translation and commentary on The Record of Empty Hall is due out in early 2021 (Shambhala). He is also the author of Keep Me In Your Heart a While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri.


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