The 10 Ox Herding Pictures

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Taming The Ox

Taming the Bull

The whip and rope are necessary.
Else he might stray off down
some dusty road.
Being well trained, he becomes
naturally gentle.
Then unfettered he obeys his master.

When one thought arises, another
thought follows. When the first
thought springs from enlightenment,
all subsequent thoughts are true.
Through delusion ...
one makes every thing untrue.
Delusion is not caused by objectivity;
it is the result of subjectivity.
Hold the nose-ring tight and do
not allow even a doubt.
Taming The Ox
With the rising of one thought, another and another are born. Enlightenment brings the realization that such thoughts are not unreal, since even they arise from our True Nature. It is only because delusion still remains
that they are imagined as unreal.
Properly tended it becomes clean and gentle. Untethered it willingly follows its master.

In this picture, the oxherder is gently tending the ox and the ox is not wild anymore. After having held on tight and sustained the practice for a while, it becomes easier. We are more comfortable with the sitting posture. We can sit still without feeling restless. We are not fighting with our body and mind any more. We are more present and we can concentrate for a certain period of time. We have gained some quietness and clarity which helps us in our daily life.

The oxherder is still holding on to the rope loosely because he knows that although the fight is over, he must remain vigilant. The ox seems subdued but it could jump off at any moment. To practise Zen we have to be confident but aware of not becoming arrogant. We might feel that we know all about Zen but we still need determination and discipline as the powers of distractions are strong. This picture represents a stage of maturation and ripening accompanied by care.

~ commentary from Zen, by Martine Batchelor.

Riding The Ox Home

Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the bull ...
slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones
throughout the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the
pulsating harmony ...
I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will
join me.

This struggle is over; gain and loss
are assimilated. I sing the song of
the village woodsman, and play the
tunes of the children.
Astride the bull, I observe the clouds
above. Onward I go, no matter who may
wish to call me back.
Riding The Ox Home
The struggle is over. Gain and loss no longer affect him. He hums the rustic tune of the woodsman and plays
the simple songs of the village children. Astride the Ox's back, he gazes serenely at the clouds above.
Riding free as air, he buoyantly comes home through evening mists.
Wherever he may go, he creates a fresh breeze, while in his heart profound tranquility prevails.

In this picture, the rope has gone. The oxherder is sitting leisurely on the ox. The ox knows where to go without being told. This is an image of ease, leisure and freedom. Some people believe that Zen is very strict and serious or that to be spiritual one has to be gloomy or indifferent. On the contrary, as we advance in the practice we find it is about joy and creativity. As we slowly release the attachment and grasping which used to create so much tension, laughter bubbles within us. We begin to take ourselves less seriously and enjoy life so much more as we open to its changing and ever-fluctuating nature. We dance and sing with life. We have become friends with our body and mind.

This picture also shows us that there is a place for creativity in Zen. As we accept ourselves and the world our potential unfolds, fears and insecurities dissolve and we can express ourselves creatively. It might be through music, painting, poetry, cooking, gardening, being with children or old people. Everything we do can become an art, it is not a duty anymore, it is a way to express our true nature.

~ 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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