The 10 Ox Herding Pictures

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First Glimpse Of The Ox


Perceiving the Bull
I hear the song of the nightingale.
The sun is warm, the wind is mild,
willows are green along the shore.
Here no bull can hide!
What artist can draw that massive
head, those majestic horns?

When one hears the voice,
one can sense its source.
As soon as the six senses
merge, the gate is entered.
Wherever one enters one sees
the head of the bull!
This unity is like salt in
water, like color in dyestuff.
The slightest thing is not
apart from self.
First Glimpse of the Ox.
If he will but listen intently to everyday sounds, he will come to reach realization and at the instant see the very Source. The six senses are no different from this true Source. In everyday activity; the Source is manifestly present. When the inner vision is focused, one comes to realize that which is seen as identical with the true Source. The nightingale warbles on a twig, the sun shines on undulating willows.
There stands the Ox. Where could he hide?

In this picture, the oxherder finally sees the ox half-hidden among the trees. This image represents the stage where finally we decide to really do something. We are not totally sure yet what is the best method and what exactly we need to do. So we try various things. One week we visit a temple, another week we talk with a teacher. We continue to read books to find a good way to practise.

Finally, we might try Zen meditation and as soon as we sit down for a while we experience some peace. We realize that this is something we can do ourselves and it is beneficial. We might also try to cultivate the precepts and be more harmless, generous, disciplined, honest and clear. Again we see the point, we become familiar with the ideas not only at an intellectual level but also at an experiential level. We think that we have found something and we get very excited about it.

~ commentary from Zen, by Martine Batchelor.

Catching The Ox

Catching the Bull

I seize him with a terrific
struggle. His great will and
power are inexhaustable.
He charges to the high plateau
far above the cloud-mists ...
Or in an impenetrable ravine
he stands.

He dwelt in the forest a long time,
but I caught him today!
Infatuation for scenery interferes
with his direction. Longing for
sweeter grass, he wanders away.
His mind is still stubborn and
unbridled. If I wish him to submit,
I must raise my whip.
Catching The Ox
Today he encountered the Ox which has long been cavorting in the wild fields, and actually grasped it. For so
long a time has it reveled in these surroundings that the breaking of its old habits is not easy. It continues to
yearn for sweet-scented grasses, it is still stubborn and unbridled. If he would tame it completely the man
must use his whip. He must tightly grasp the rope and not let it go, for the Ox still has unhealthy tendencies.

In this picture, the oxherder has finally caught the ox with a rope. But the ox does not want to be caught. The oxherder has to hang on tightly as the ox jumps fiercely and drags him hither and thither. We feel very much like the oxherder when we start to meditate. As soon as we sit down with the aim of concentrating on the question or the breath or just being aware, our mind is flooded with thoughts, memories and plans and our body is not comfortable. We start to have pain in the back, then in the knees, then our cheeks start itching. We try various postures. Like the oxherder we have to be firm and hold on tightly. There are many obstacles: restlessness, sleepiness, daydreaming, etc. We have to realize that for the last twenty, thirty years we have cultivated many habits which promoted distractions and when we meditate we go against all these habits. It is going to take some time before we dissolve the power of these tendencies.

Sometimes meditation goes well and we have to be careful not to be attached to that ease because that too is impermanent — even though as we continue to practise the sense of ease lasts longer and happens more often. Sometimes the practice is difficult; thoughts seem intractable and sleepiness so heavy, but that too passes a little faster as time goes by.

~ commentary from Zen, by Martine Batchelor.

Next Page

Introduction ... 1. Seeking The Ox ... 2. Finding The Tracks ... 3. First Glimpse Of The Ox
4. Catching The Ox ... 5. Taming The Ox ... 6. Riding The Ox Home ... 7. Ox Forgotten, Self Alone
8. Both Ox & Self Forgotten ... 9. Return To The Source ... 10. Entering The Marketplace

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