Mu (negative)

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Mu (negative)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese:
Simplified Chinese:
Japanese name
Korean name
The character 無 in cursive script. See also an animation showing the stroke order for calligraphy.
The character 無 in seal script.

Mu (Japanese/Korean), and Wu (Chinese traditional: , simplified: pinyin: Jyutping: mou2) is a word which has been roughly translated as "no", "none", "null", "without", "no meaning". While used in Japanese and Chinese mainly as a prefix to imply the absence of something (e.g., 無線/无线 musen/wúxiàn for "wireless"), in English it is more famously used as a response to certain koans and other questions in Zen Buddhism, intending to indicate that the question itself was wrong.

The Mu koan is as follows: A monk asked Zhaozhou, a Chinese Zen master (known as Jōshū in Japanese): "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?", Zhaozhou answered: "Wú" (in Japanese, Mu).

Some earlier Buddhist thinkers had maintained that creatures such as dogs did have the Buddha-nature; others, that they did not. Therefore, to answer "no" is to deny their wisdom, whereas to say "yes" would appear to blindly follow their teachings. Zhaozhou's answer has subsequently been interpreted to mean that all such categorical thinking is in fact a delusion. In other words, yes and no are both right and wrong. This Koan is traditionally used by students of the Rinzai school of Zen as their initiation into Zen study.


[edit] Cultural references

For example, it's stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for "one" and a voltage for "zero". That's silly! Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu-state.

  • According to the Jargon File, a collection of hacker jargon and culture, mu is considered by Discordians to be the correct answer to the classic logical fallacy of the loaded question "Have you stopped beating your wife?".[1] Assuming that you have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her. As a result, various Discordians proposed mu as the correct answer, alleged by them to mean "Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions" (or, in the original phrasing, "the answer lies outside the context framed by the question/assertion/statement").
  • The film director Yasujirō Ozu has the character written on his gravestone. [1]
  • In the 12th and last book to the popular older teen manga Death Note, there is a rule for the Death Note that states, "All humans will, without exception, eventually die." and below that, "After they die, the place they go is MU (Nothingness)"
  • The concept of mu is a recurring theme in manga by Kazuo Koike, notably Samurai Executioner and the later Lone Wolf and Cub. The protagonists, Yamada Asaemon and Ogami Itto respectively, will both occasionally shout "Mu!" when making a particularly difficult sword cut.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Mu. The Jargon File 4.4.7 (2003).
  • MAN AND MU: The Cradle of Becoming and Unbecoming. Desiderata For Human Science. By Stacey B. Day. Published by Int Foundation for Biosoc. Dev & Human Health, N.Y. 1997. LCCat Card No 97-072905. ISBN 0-934314-00-4.

[edit] External links

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