DarkHorse Ministries

Buddha's Best Friend : A Zen Experience of Quasi-Enlightenment

In 2001, I had a short color dream clip of a modern businessman approaching my dog, Keesha outside a business. He held a ten or twenty-dollar bill in front of her, to which she responded with a dull, blank stare.

For a week or two, I attempted to interpret this dream. I tried the theme of 'can't serve two masters,' and so on, but nothing clicked. Then one morning in meditation, I realized the dream's possible connection to a famous Zen buddhist riddle, or koan, that I had chanced upon in my spiritual search, namely, "Does a dog have a Buddha nature?" Now, a koan is a metaphysical puzzle given from master to student in the Rinzai Zen tradition, as a spiritual exercise intended to assist the goal of enlightenment. In general, a koan has no rational or logical answer, but only an answer from beyond the student's rational or dualistic mind. Said differently, the only correct answer comes from the non-dual realm of unity lying beneath the realm of opposites that comprise the world as normally perceived by human beings. The purpose of a koan is to drive the student crazy in attempting a solution through human reason, until finally, after the dualistic mind is completely exhausted, the student's non-dual or 'Original Mind' rebounds by delivering the obvious solution in an intuitive flash of mental enlightenment (from the collective unconscious). This is an instantaneous inner experience of certainty, involving the student's whole being --- and a powerful conscious response, as if to say, "Well YES of course! That's it! How could it be otherwise?"

So, after recognizing that my dream seemed to fit this famous Eastern mind puzzle, I began to consciously ask: "What is the Buddha nature" or "What did the Buddha do?" After some thought, I recalled that the Buddha and his followers went from house to house with a begging bowl. In other words, since they were completely concentrated on spiritual matters, money meant virtually nothing to them. In a flash, I then realized that, as my dream suggested, money also means nothing to a dog. Therefore the answer to "Does a dog have a Buddha nature?" must be "YES! A DOG CERTAINLY HAS A BUDDHA NATURE!"

I was flabbergasted at the intuitive answer from within that came with the speed of a cracking whip, as well as my recognition that my own collective unconscious had actually tossed my conscious mind an ancient spiritual puzzle in dream form, several weeks prior. I was further amazed since this was the only Zen koan that I had ever consciously seen prior to the time of the dream.

I finally recalled that the word 'Buddha' actually means 'the Awakened One.' I gasped and became very serious and quiet, as I secretly wondered:


I then fell to the ground in hysterical laughter.