The 10 Ox Herding Pictures

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Ox Forgotten Self Alone

The Bull Transcended

Astride the bull, I reach home.
I am serene. The bull too can rest.
The dawn has come. In blissful repose,
Within my thatched dwelling I have
abandoned the whip and rope.

All is one law, not two.
We only make the bull a temporary
It is as the relation of rabbit and trap,
of fish and net. It is as gold and dross,
or the moon emerging from a cloud.
One path of clear light travels on
throughout endless time.
Ox Forgotten, Self Alone
There is no twoness. The Ox is his Primal Nature: this he has acknowledged ... Only on the Ox was he able to come Home. But lo! ... the Ox has vanished, and alone and serene sits the man ...
Yonder, beneath the thatched roof, his idle whip and idle rope are lying.

The ox has disappeared and the oxherder is resting alone at home. Until now there was this idea that there was something to do, something to practice. There was a separation between ourselves and the practice. There was a dualism between what was spiritual and not spiritual, what was Zen and not Zen. At this stage, we become united with the practice. It does not happen just when we sit on a cushion in a special room. Everything becomes meditation. Awareness becomes as natural as breathing. This is Zen in daily life. We take one thing at a time, fully present to it, and when we move we let it go without residue. We are at peace with ourselves, our mind, body and heart, with the whole world. We do not even need to try, to discipline ourselves, because now the practice and the cultivation of the precepts come unheeded. We do not have to do it, it does itself. As Master Kusan used to say: "You are one with the question. It is the question that walks, goes to the toilet, looks at the countryside". Harmlessness and generosity come naturally. In this state, you cannot even think of being unkind or telling lies, those kind of thoughts do not arise.

~ commentary from Zen, by Martine Batchelor.

Both Ox and Self Forgotten

Both Bull & Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and bull ...
all merge in No-Thing.
This heaven is so vast no message
can stain it.
How may a snowflake exist in a
raging fire?
Here are the footprints of the

Mediocrity is gone.
Mind is clear of limitation.
I seek no state of enlightenment.
Neither do I remain where no
enlightenment exists.
Since I linger in neither condidtion,
eyes cannot see me.
If hundreds of birds strew my path
with flowers ...
such praise would be meaningless.
Both Ox and Self Forgotten
All delusive feelings have perished, and ideas of holiness, too, have vanished. He lingers not in Buddha and passes quickly on through not-Buddha.

Now the oxherder and the ox are both gone. There is only a black circle. It represents emptiness. Earlier, when we became united with the practice, there was this idea that it is 'me, I' that was practising. Until now there were strong notions of me, mine. Now this has gone too. We realize that nothing belongs to us truly, we can only care for it while it lasts. We also experience that we do not have a solid, separate identity. We are a flow of conditions. We cannot identify with our feelings, our thoughts, our possessions. They all come and go. They rise upon certain circumstances, stay a while and disappear.

Everything is made up of conditions which are ever-changing. There is nowhere to go, nothing to stick to. We realize that we are more than any of the parts that constitute us. The recognition that we cannot hold onto anything is a great liberation. A great burden is let go of. We feel so light. We realize that everything comes out of emptiness. Only because of emptiness can things change and flow. Emptiness is not a vacuum, a black hole, but the possibility of endless transformations. There is no more grasping, or self-created barriers and limitations. The Buddha-nature can shine through and express itself fully.

~ 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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