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  • Please WAIT! Then SCROLL DOWN for TAMING THE WILD OX.    [ Are you in this picture?]
    Taming the Wild Ox Taming the Wild Ox
    Ten Oxherding Pictures, by Zen Master Kakuan, China, 12th C.  A sequence of ten illustrations depicting the levels of realization in Zen, these ancient drawings with Verse and Comments are presented in two new English translations along with contemporary commentary. For zen adepts, dog walkers, and web visitors contemplating a Wilderness Nature Retreat. CLICK & GO! (On this 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 and Sekf forgotten.    9.Returning to the source.    10.Entering the Market Place withg open hands.    Book and Internet Sources.   From my mailbag: I love the 10 ox Herding pictures you have on the web page. Where can I get a nice copy of these for my husband's birthday. A fine example of Zen persistence in "the search."    Searching for the Bull. (A Zen Ox Story from Uncle Tantra.)   (On the next page.)   How to Sit (Meditation tips).   The Zen of Dog Walking.  
    Your Adirondack Guide. Dear Visitor,
    In Buddhist scripture from ancient times sages have compared the human mind with a wild ox. The ox, the most useful beast of burden, had to be captured, tethered and broken to a harness of sorts, a long slow process which eventually made available to man the great power of the beast. Following the example in the story, the Zen initiate is encouraged to directly experience his own mind through zazen (sitting meditation), subdue anxieties and desires, experience oneness with all, and find ultimately great peacefulness (satori).
    You may consider bringing your ox to experience the natural beauty of our Adirondacks. CLICK HERE for more.
    (Please Scroll Down or CLICK on image.)
    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 AND SELF FORGOTTEN 9. RETURNING TO THE SOURCE 10. ENTERING THE MARKET PLACE WITH HELPING HANDS INTRODUCTION. Among the various formulations of the levels of realization in Zen, none is more widely known than the Oxherding Pictures, a sequence of ten illustrations annotated with comments in prose and verse. It is probably because of the sacred nature of the ox in ancient India that this animal came to be used to symbolize man's primal nature or Buddha-mind. The original drawings and the commentary that accompanies them are both attributed to Kakuan Shien (Kuo-an Shih-yuan), a Chinese Zen master of the twelfth century, but he was not the first to illustrate the developing stages of Zen realization through pictures. Earlier versions of five and eight pictures exist in which the ox becomes progressively whiter, the last painting being a circle.

    This implied,that the realization of Oneness (i.e., the effacement of every conception of self and other) was the ultimate goal of Zen. But Kakuan, feeling this to be incomplete, added two more pictures beyond the circle to make it clear that the Zen man of the highest spiritual development lives in the mundane world of form and diversity and mingles with the utmost freedom among ordinary men, whom he inspires with his compassion and radiance to walk in the Way of the Buddha. It is this version that has gained the widest acceptance in Japan, has proved itself over the years to be a source of instruction and unfailing inspiration to Zen students, and is presented here [in new English translation]

    This Introduction by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information for this webpage.

    1. SEEKING THE OX 1. SEEKING THE OX
    Desolate through forests and fearful in jungles,
    he is seeking an Ox which he does not find.
    Up and down dark, nameless, wide-flowing rivers,
    in deep mountain thickets he treads many bypaths.
    Bone-tired, heart-weary , he carries on his search
    for this something which he yet cannot find.
    At evening he hears cicadas chirping in the trees.

    The Ox has never really gone astray, so why search for it? Having turned his back on his True- nature, the man cannot see it. Because of his defilements he has lost sight of the Ox. Suddenly he finds himself confronted by a maze of crisscrossing roads. Greed for worldly gain and dread of loss spring up like searing flames, ideas of right and wrong dart out like daggers.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau.
    CLICK HERE  for source information.


    1. The Search for the Bull

    In the pasture of this world,
    I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the bull.
    Following unnamed rivers,
    lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains,
    My strength failing and my vitality exhausted,
    I cannot find the bull.
    I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night.

    Comment: The bull never has been lost.
    What need is there to search?
    Only because of separation from my true nature,
    I fail to find him.
    In the confusion of the senses I lose even his tracks.
    Far from home, I see many crossroads,
    but which way is the right one I know not.
    Greed and fear, good and bad, entangle me.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.
    Searching for the Bull   (Zen Story)
    Commentary by
    Alfonso Carrasco, (Chile). (Translated [from the Spanish] by M. Gallardo)

    The drawings that are shown here represent the steps that lead to spiritual illumination. The original drawings [are] by Chinese Master Chino Kukuan, from the XII century; and these from previous Taoist stories.
    They symbolize the combination of the sacred and the profane. The bull represents the animal nature in every human being, it is united to the spiritual nature. The struggle to harmonize the physical impulses and appetites is equivalent to also integrating those of the spirit. The student can use the images to evaluate his advancement or discover in which stage of the spiritual path he is at.

    First image : The Search for the Bull
    This stage represents man when he still doesn't know his true nature, but one way or another, has already started his search. He wishes to find it, though he doesn't even know what it is, nor is he sure of recognizing it when he finds it. Sometimes he experiments with the search as an escape from his present circumstances, that in general are not pleasant. Life as it is, is a heavy load and - he thinks - surely there must be a better way of living. Most of those that have started the "search" are at this stage.


    Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.
    Ruminations on Zen's Cows
    by Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY, Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun
    The set of pictures we will display, that of Guo-an Shih Yuan [Kaku-an] - the one that unfortunately became popular in Japan - is clearly . . . unsatisfactory. The animal is presented in contradictory terms - first as the desired Buddha Self and then as the undesirable ego. Such information as it conveys is either banal or incomprehensible.

    1. SEEKING THE OX #1. Searching for the Ox.

    The series opens in a standard straightforward manner. The Oxherder is searching for his ox which clearly represents his Buddha Self. The text assures us that the Ox has never really gone anywhere, it is the boy who is lost in his own egoism.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    2. FINDING THE TRACKS 2. FINDING THE TRACKS
    Innumerable footprints has he seen
    in the forest and along the water's edge.
    Over yonder does he see the trampled grass?
    Even the deepest gorges of the topmost mountains
    can't hide this Ox's nose which reaches right to heaven.

    Through the sutras and teachings he discerns the tracks of the Ox. (He has been informed that just as different-shaped golden vessels are all basically of the same gold, so each and every thing is a manifestation of the Self. But he is unable to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsity. He has not actually entered the gate, but he sees in a tentative way the tracks of the Ox.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    2. Discovering the footprints

    Along the riverbank under the trees,
    I discover footprints!
    Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints.
    Deep in remote mountains they are found.
    These traces no more can be hidden than one's nose,
    looking heavenward.

    Comment: Understanding the teaching,
    I see the footprints of the bull.
    Then I learn that,
    just as many utensils are made from one metal,
    so too are myriad entities made of the fabric of self.
    Unless I discriminate,
    how will I perceive the true from the untrue?
    Not yet having entered the gate, nevertheless I have discerned the path.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Second image: Finding the path

    At this stage, the searcher finds indications, clues in one or more spiritual traditions, he is attracted by books of wisdom, he assists to conferences on the subject, he meets masters and notices that there are others that have followed the same path, he is not the first person to have noticed that there is something subtle to attain. This stage, generally, starts with yoga practice, meditation or other disciplines. Through these he experiences sensations related to the spirit. In the first image the farmer searches all over, without a specific order, whereas in the second image his search is more focussed and better oriented. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #2. Seeing the Traces.

    This picture also conveys a truth. After study and reflection the boy begins to understand the Dharma.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #2. Seeing the Traces.


    3. FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE OX 3. FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE OX
    A nightingale warbles on a twig,
    the sun shines on undulating willows.
    There stands the Ox, where could he hide?
    That splendid head, those stately horns,
    what artist could portray them?

    If he will but listen intently to everyday sounds, he will come to realization and at that instant see the very Source. The six senses are no different from this true Source. In every activity the Source is manifestly present. It is analogous to the salt in water or the binder in paint. when the inner vision is properly focused, one comes to realize that that which is seen is identical with the true Source.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    3. 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?


    Comment: 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.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Third image: The first glimpse.

    This would be considered the first spiritual experience, the student gets to see his true self and feel the kundalai energy that awakens within him. It is equivalent to the first contact with the master that initiates him or transmits him his energy. Kundalai energy is both physical and spiritual in nature. The searcher's objective will be to elevate this energy towards his consciousness instead of repressing or eliminating the animal within. This first insight can also originate from religious experiences in the form of celestial visions. As a summary, the first sight is any kind of vision or unusual experience that stimulates the individual to follow the path towards that which is transcendental. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #3. Seeing the Ox.

    Again, this is conceptually valid. Through contemplation, through sound and other sensory control, the Oxherder recognizes the Buddha Self within himself.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #3. Seeing the Ox.


    4. CATCHING THE OX 4. CATCHING THE OX
    He must tightly grasp the rope and not let it go,
    for the Ox still has unhealthy tendencics.
    Now he charges up to the highlands,
    now he loiters in a misty ravine.

    Today he encountered the Ox, which had long been cavorting in the wild fields, and ac- tually grasped it. For so long a time has it reveled in these surroundings that breaking it 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.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    4. Catching the bull

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


    Comment: 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 still is stubborn and unbridled.
    If I wish him to submit,
    I must raise my whip.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Fourth image: Capturing the bull

    The farmer has caught the animal but it is still stubborn and does not follow him. He has finally caught it but it is obstinate and uncontrolled. Its energy and decision are relentless, at times it runs toward the hills, at other times it stays unmovable in deep impenetrable valleys. It symbolizes our struggle with our basic nature, something that can last a whole lifetime. At this stage a person must analyse if he is advancing and attaining a clearer understanding or he is simply stuck and protecting himself behind certain doctrines or ideas related to spiritual practice. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #4. Catching the Ox.

    Here we have a radical departure from the sense of the text. The Ox is no longer the desirable Buddha Self but is instead wild and unruly and "refuses to be broken". The Oxherder must use the whip on the animal. We have often heard, "If while meditating you see a vision of the Buddha, spit in its face and it will go away." The same sort of blasphemous ignorance informs the commentary.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #4. Catching the Ox.


    5. TAMING THE OX 5. TAMING THE OX
    He must hold the nose-rope tight and not allow the Ox to roam,
    lest off to muddy haunts it should stray.
    Properly tended, it becomes clean and gentle.
    Untethered, it willingly follows its master.

    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 to be unreal. This state of delusion does not originate in the objective world but in our own minds.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    5.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.


    Comment: When one thought arises,
    another thought follows.
    When the first thought springs from enlightenment,
    all subsequent thoughts are true.
    Through delusion, one makes everything 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.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Fifth image: Taming the bull

    This represents the control of our physical or animal nature, this is attained by knowing it, in other words, listening and dialoging with it. The farmer is now directing the bull with the reins and controls it to the extent that the bull lets himself be guided. Little by little the man becomes the master. What he does at this stage is unite his conciousness with the animal nature (basic nature). For example, a professional animal trainer knows that using force you do not tame the animal, only harmonizing his conciousness with the animal conscience can he attain that. This is why many of the effective spiritual development formulas do not try to conquer, dominate, destroy or eliminate the ego, rather they teach you to live in harmony with it. Actually, it is the ego or the mind itself, that promotes the search of one's Self and it must go through all the stages. Thus to talk about eliminating it is absurd. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #5. Herding the Ox.

    Again, the text refers to the animal as the enemy which must be controlled with tether and whip.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #5. Herding the Ox.


    6.  RIDING THE OX HOME! 6. RIDING THE OX HOME!
    Riding free as air he buoyantly comes home
    through evening mists in wide straw-hat and cape.
    Wherever he may go he creates a fresh breeze,
    while in his heart profound tranquility prevails.
    This Ox requires not a blade of grass.

    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. His head does not turn [in the direction of temptations] .Try though one may to upset him, he remains undisturbed.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    6. Riding the Bull Home

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


    Comment: 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.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Sixth image: Riding the bull home

    In the Hindu culture, Gods and Goddesses are represented riding on animals as their vehicle. The animal symbolizes the inferior nature that the man dominates and with which he has a good relationship. One must feed and take care of the biological part of our being, without abusing nor relaxing too much. This way the physical vital force becomes an ally. In the drawing we can see how the man is riding the bull without reins, the bull knows where to go and that's where it goes without being directed. He is playing the flute placidly on the back of the bull. The struggle is over, the man has attained the state of enlightment. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #6. Coming Home on the Ox’s Back.

    We return to a plausible explanation of the picture. There is harmony between the Oxherder (the ego) and the Ox (the Buddha Self.)

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #6. Coming Home on the Ox’s Back.


    7. OX FORGOTTEN, SELF ALONE 7. OX FORGOTTEN, SELF ALONE
    Only on the Ox was he able to come Home,
    But lo, the Ox is now vanished, and alone and serene sits the man.
    The red sun rides high in the sky as he dreams on placidly.
    Yonder beneath the thatched roof
    his idle whip and idle rope are lying.

    In the Dharma there is no two-ness. The Ox is his Primal-nature: this he has now recognized. A trap is no longer needed when a rabbit has been caught, a net becomes useless when a fish has been snared. Like gold which has been separated from dross, like the moon which has broken through the clouds, one ray of luminous light shines eternally.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    7. 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.


    Comment: All is one law, not two.
    We only make the bull a temporary subject.
    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.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Seventh image: The trascended bull

    The farmer is alone and happy, sitting by his house, the bull is no longer visible. The man has become one with the Being. Instead of the former efforts, a state of peace and happiness reigns.

    Trancendence is a recurring or temporal experience of unity, beyond dualities. It is an exceptional state of conscience. When we live in a dual world, we always experience the opposites: inside - out, happiness - saddness, success - failure, etc. Duality starts with birth and ends with death. Actually, we live not only in duality, but rather multiplicity. Whereas transcendence implies a unity experience, not duality, not multiplicity, that shows us our true nature. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #7. The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone.

    The man is at one with the world, he no longer sees a distinction between himself and his surroundings, i.e., his sense of ego-separation has vanished.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #7.  The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone.


    8. BOTH OX AND SELF FORGOTTEN 8. BOTH OX AND SELF FORGOTTEN
    Whip, rope, Ox and man alike belong to Emptiness.
    So vast and infinite the azure sky
    that no concept of any sort can reach it.
    Over a blazing fire a snowflake cannot survive.
    When this state of mind is realized
    comes at last comprehension
    of the spirit of the ancient Patriarchs.

    All delusive feelings have perished and ideas of holiness too have vanished. He lingers not in [the state of "I am a] Buddha," and he passes quickly I on through [the stage of "And now I have purged myself of the proud feeling 'I am] not Buddha.' " Even the thousand eyes [of five hundred Buddhas and Patriarchs] can discern in him no specific quality. If hundreds of birds were now to strew flowers about his room, he could not but feel ashamed ofhimself.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.



    8. Both Bull and 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 patriarchs.


    Comment: 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 condition, eyes cannot see me.
    If hundreds of birds strew my path with flowers,
    such praise would be meaningless.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Eighth image: The bull and Self trascended

    All has fused itself into nothingness. We can only observe a circle, with nothing inside, which means all opposites have disappeared. At this stage the man can't even say "I'm illuminated" or "I'm not illuminated", they don't exist for him, Unity is all that exists. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #8. The Ox and the Man both Gone out of Sight.

    This, too, is a statement of attaining Union. "... there exists no form of dualism.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #8. The Ox and the Man both Gone out of Sight.


    9. RETURNING TO THE SOURCE 9. RETURNING TO THE SOURCE
    He has returned to the Origin, come back to the Source,
    but his steps have been taken in vain.
    It is as though he were now blind and deaf.
    Seated in his hut, he hankers not for things outside.
    Streams meander on of themselves,
    red flowers naturally bloom red.

    From the very beginning there has not been so much as a speck of dust [to mar the intrinsic Purity]. He observes the waxing and waning of life in the world while abiding unassertively in a state of unshakable serenity. This [waxing and waning] is no phantom or illusion [but a manifestation of the Source ]. Why then is there need to strive for anything? The waters are blue, the mountains are green. Alone with himself, he observes things endlessly changing.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    9. Reaching the Source

    Too many steps have been taken
    returning to the root and the source.
    Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning!
    Dwelling in one's true abode,
    unconcerned with that without --
    The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.


    Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear.
    Poised in silence,
    I observe the forms of integration and disintegration.
    One who is not attached to "form" need not be "reformed." The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo,
    and I see that which is creating
    and that which is destroying.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Ninth image: Back to the origin

    In this image we can see nature in all its splendour, flowers, birds, the river, mountains. It represents what happens after the trascendental experience. Outside the illuminated man, nothing has changed, only man himself has been transformed. He reenters life with different eyes, a new center with another focus guides him. Each time he so wishes he can go within himself and see life through it. All is in peace. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #9. Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source.

    This is redundant, the state indicated being completely covered in the 8th picture.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #9. Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source.


    10. ENTERING THE MARKET PLACE WITH HELPING HANDS 10. ENTERING THE MARKET PLACE WITH HELPING HANDS
    Barechested, barefooted, he comes into the market place.
    Muddied and dust-covered, how broadly he grins!
    Without recourse to mystic powers,
    withered trees he swiftly brings to bloom!

    The gate of his cottage is closed and even the wisest cannot find him. His mental panorama has fmally disappeared. He goes his own way, making no attempt to follow the steps of earlier sages. Carrying a gourd, he strolls into the market; leaning on his staff, he returns home. He leads innkeepers and fleshmongers in the Way of the Buddha.

    Translation by Philip Kapleau. CLICK HERE  for source information.


    10. In the world

    Barefooted and naked of breast,
    I mingle with the people of the world.
    My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,
    and I am ever blissful.
    I use no magic to extend my life;
    Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.


    Comment:
    Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me.
    The beauty of my garden is invisible.
    Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs?
    I go to the market place with my wine bottle
    and return home with my staff.
    I visit the wineshop and the market,
    and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.


    Translation by Paul Reps. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    Tenth image: In the world

    Buddha, after attaining the state of illumination, almost didn't come out again and return to the world. His compassion for all beings finally took hold and the rest of his life he dedicated to intense social work that transformed culture and society in his time. In this drawing the illuminated man now directs himself to other beings to help them. He puts all his wisdom at their service. Commentary by Alfonso Carrasco. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #10.Entering the City with Bliss-bestowing Hands.

    This picture is the worst offender of the series. It is invariably misread. As we’ve previously noted, despite the fact that the Oxherder, himself, is one of the two figures (the smaller one), most commentaries assume that the fat, disheveled man is the subject of the illustration. He clearly is not. He is one of the drunks that the Oxherder, in his Bodhisattva role, is preaching to and converting. Needless to say, this mis-identification is the cause of considerable modern mischief. Many commentaries which eliminate the Oxherder from the picture identify the slovenly but happy drunk as the fully-enlightened "Bodhisattva." The entire work of spiritual discipline is thus reduced to justifying a return to human society as a wine-drinker and carouser. When the work began, the Oxherder was thin, neat, thoughtful and sober. When the work ended, he was fat, slovenly, insouciant and drunk. The message simply conveys the antinomian idea that the liberated person is at liberty to be a libertine, which, of course, is patently absurd. A man does not become a true Zen master and then become a drunk. It can be, and often is, the other way around.

    Commentary by Ming Zhen Shakya. CLICK HERE  for source information.

    #10.Entering the City with Bliss-bestowing Hands.
    Book, Internet and Other Sources for this page.
    Zen Master Kakuan, artist and author of verse and comments known as Taming the Wild Ox, 10 Zen Oxherding Pictures, China, 12th C.
    Philip Kapleau, Zen teacher in Syracuse, NY. His book, The Three Pillars of Zen (Beacon Press, 1965) was a seminal compilation of Zen teachings ancient and modern, with the true experiences of a number of Western Zen adepts, including Kapleau himself, in their strivings for "realization."
    Paul Reps in Zen Flesh Zen Bones, Tuttle Publishing, Boston, 1989.
    Alfonso Carrasco, Director, International Technology Development Group, from Shotokai Encyclopedia on Karate-do Japanese Martial Arts, Chile, 2001.
    Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY, Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, 1998. Ming Zhen Shakya (formerly Chuan Yuan Shakya), is a priest of Nan Hua Si, Shao Guan, Guang Dong Province in Southern China, and contributes essays and other literature to the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun Web. Ming Zhen is the official editor for the ZBOHY. CLICK HERE for photo.
    Martin Schwalbaum, Your Adirondack Guide, former NYC book printer, owner-operator of Fourpeaks Adirondack Backcountry Camps. CLICK HERE for photo and more.


    "I love the 10 ox Herding pictures you have on the web page. Where can I get a nice copy of these for my husband's birthday." (An Email Exchange.)

    From: Elizabeth W***** bauhaus@****.com
    Date: 4/2/2004 3:38 PM
    To: frmemail@4peaks.com
    I love the 10 ox Herding pictures you have on the web page. Where can I get a nice copy of these for my husband's birthday.
    Thanks. I have tried the zen mountain monastery store - not what I was looking for.
    Thanks

    From: "Your Adirondack Guide"
    To: Elizabeth W***** bauhaus@****.com
    Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 7:56 PM
    Subject: oxherding pictures in poster perfect for framing.
    Google says I can find oxherding pictures in poster perfect for framing.
    Books by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche titles MZ from Ziji
    ... commentary on the ten traditional Zen oxherding pictures. ... poster is perfect for framing and display ... www.ziji.com/books/t_trungpa2.html - 81k - Cached - Similar pages
    Early Poems and Songs
    Chogyam Trungpa
    Much more than a poetry book, this deceptively simple volume delivers profound teachings from the mind of realization. Mudra is a naked proclamation of devotion and fearlessness, couched in the straightforward language for which Rinpoche was famous. Embellished with his translations of Jigme Lingpa and Patrül Rinpoche, the book also features Rinpoche's uniquely Tibetan-flavored commentary on the ten traditional Zen oxherding pictures. 105 pages $11.95 paper"
    Martin
    Subject: Re: oxherding pictures in poster perfect for framing.
    From: bauhaus@***.com Date: 4/3/2004 12:24 PM
    To: VisitUs@4peaks.com
    I really don't want a book but rather 10 very nice pictures to hang in our dining room as a gift for my husband. Please advise where I can find this in the world.
    Thank you
    Elizabeth

    Subject: Re: oxherding pictures in poster perfect for framing.
    From: "Your Adirondack Guide"
    Date: 4/4/2004 9:31 PM
    To: bauhaus@********.com
    Lizabeth--
    Here's another suggestion. Copy the pictures off the web. They're black and white and the copy will be very good quality if you set your printer for B&W only. Then frame them together, all in one big frame matted. Or frame them individually.
    Hope this helps.
    Martin

    6 years later. A fine example of Zen persistence in "the search."
    Subject: Fourpeaks Email Inquiry
    From: Elizabeth info@bauhaus***.com>
    Date: 3/29/2012 2:22 PM
    To: martin@4peaks.com
    Your_Message: Where can I purchase the 10 Oxherding pictures?
    Thanks
    Elizabeth

    Subject: Where can I purchase the 10 Oxherding pictures?
    From: "Martin (Your Adirondack Guide)"
    Date: 3/29/2012 6:34 PM
    To: info@bauhaus*****.com Elizabeth-
    Suggest you google '10 Oxherding pictures "prints"'
    I found http://www.dharma.net/monstore/product_info.php?products_id=249
    Portfolio of Japanese National Treasure Jikihara Roshi’s striking zenga ink paintings, with accompanying verse commentaries illustrating the successive stages of the spiritual journey. Ten 8.5” x 11” reproductions in an ivory presentation folder, on archival card stock suitable for framing.
    Price: $25.00
    Very nice. I may buy this myself!
    Martin

    From: "Info Bauhaus"
    Date: 3/30/2012 3:05 PM
    To: "'Martin \(Your Adirondack Guide\)'"
    You are wonderful....thank you so much for your response!


    More about Taming the Wild Ox:  "Searching for the Bull." (A Zen Ox Story from Uncle Tantra.)
    Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2007 03:16:14 -0700
    From: Uncle Tantra@****.com
    To: martin@4peaks.com
    For your amusement, A little story I wrote today, citing your
    Website, and springboarding off of the Ox series. Enjoy, Unc.

    Searching for the Bull

    I was away from Sauve yesterday, on a kind of mini-Road
    Trip, and didn't get back home until late. I parked my car
    down by the river and, hearing the unmistakable sounds of
    Bad French Disco music booming from the Place Stivell,
    decided not to take that stairway but to go the long way
    around and back to my house. After a day hiking in the
    Cevennes, searching for stillness and finding it, I just
    wasn't up for loud music and partying.

    This morning, waking up early and finding that I had run
    out of coffee, I grabbed the book I've been reading, a
    translation of Zen Master Kakuan's "Searching for the Ox"
    series ( http://www.4peaks.com/ppox.htm ), and walked down
    the Grand Rue towards Le Commerce, the only cafe open at
    this hour. And to my surprise I found the Grand Rue (liter-
    ally "Main Street," kind of a joke when you realize that
    the two-way street is wide enough to allow two cars to pass
    each other only in two or three places along its entire
    length), and found it covered with bullshit.

    Not metaphorical bullshit, real bullshit. "Aha," said I to
    myself, realizing belatedly what all the festivities had
    been about the night before, "It's that time of year again.
    They had the running of the bulls yesterday, and I missed it."

    I saw it last year, and it was a hoot. It's not nearly as
    dangerous and challenging as its counterpart in Pamplona.
    They fence off a closed course in the village and let loose
    about half a dozen bulls, who proceed to run from one end of
    the narrow street to the other, chased by young bucks full
    of beer and machismo, anxious to prove their worth to the
    young women watching from the sidelines. The young women,
    playing their part in this testosterone drama, do their part
    by acting impressed.

    Most of the time the young bucks end up behind the bulls,
    chasing animals that are considerably faster than they are,
    and whose ability to run is not impaired by alcohol and
    testosterone poisoning. If they're lucky, a few of the guys
    get close enough to grab onto one of the bulls' tails, and
    then get pulled along behind them, their machismo suddenly
    transformed into a desperate attempt to not lose their foot-
    ing and thus get dragged down the street through piles of
    bullshit. But last year I managed to catch a wonderful moment,
    one that makes me smile this morning as I walk along avoiding
    the piles of bullshit myself, clutching a book that is more
    than a little related to yesterday's ritual, and is related
    in my all-too-associative mind to a great deal more.

    Five of these young bucks managed to get ahold of one of the
    bulls. One had hold of his tail, two others had one horn each,
    and the other two had grabbed the hair on the bull's back.
    For a few moments they were dragged along like this, the much
    stronger bull barely noticing them. But then the bull stopped
    dead in its tracks, and just stood there.

    And the young bucks clinging to the bull shouted triumphantly,
    and the young women who knew that they might actually get some
    action later that night from these guys shouted encouragingly,
    and the crowds clapped politely. The bull didn't shout; it just
    stood there snorting and puffing, taking its time, waiting for
    the reality of the situation to sink in to five guys holding
    onto it and enjoying their fifteen seconds of fame.

    Finally, it did. The young bucks' smiles started to fade, as
    the same thought hit all of them at the same time: "Ok. Now
    we have caught the bull. What now?"

    I mean, they're standing there holding on to 1000 pounds of
    muscle, sinew and horn, and their smiles of triumph are start-
    ing to slide into frowns of consternation as all of them
    ponder the same Zen koan, "Now that I've *caught* the bull,
    how do I let go and get away without getting gored?"

    The memory of that moment, and that look on all their faces,
    made me laugh out loud at the time, and does again this
    morning as I make my Way cautiously through the bullshit
    minefield. In my all-too-associative mind, I relate the
    memory to the quest for mystical experience itself, and
    that makes me laugh even more.

    I mean, think about it. Most spiritual seekers start out as
    young bucks themselves, setting out on the path all full of
    hope and dreams, their minds full of tales of power told by
    seekers and finders from the past. They're hoping to grab a
    little of this "mystical experience" stuff for themselves,
    and thus share some of the glory that they project onto
    those who had mystical experiences in the past and who
    recorded them in their tales of power.


    And, after years -- possibly decades -- of searching for
    the bull, of questing for a genuine, Class A mystical
    experience, they *have* one. And it's real, and it's Here
    And Now, and it's really mindblowing, and for a moment all

    the questing and all of the pursuit of the mystical is
    worth it. And then the reality of the situation hits them.
    What now?

    They look around, and unlike the Grand Rue in Sauve, there
    are no cheering crowds. There are no babes to be impressed
    out of their panties by their achievement. There is no one
    there but them, still holding onto to the memory of the
    experience, but *just* like the young bucks in Sauve,
    wondering what to *do* with it.

    Should they tell someone about it? No one experienced it
    but them. And, because the mystical experience was...uh...
    mystical, and beyond the experience of most of the people
    they *could* tell about it, would anyone they told *believe*
    them if they did? The people they tell might even laugh at
    them, and consider them delusional or liars.

    So what's a mystic to do?

    You've captured the bull. You've even tamed the bull and
    ridden it. But unlike Zen Master Kakuan, you can't ride
    the mystical bull back home and show it to your friends.
    It's *your* bull, *your* experience, and you can never
    prove to anyone else that such a thing as a bull even
    *exists*, much less that you tracked one and caught one
    and rode it. There's not even any bullshit on the streets
    to prove that the bull ever existed.

    So what do you *do* with the bull experience?

    That's the quandary that every mystic in human history
    has faced. Do I *talk* about this extraordinary experience
    that has so changed my life, or do I keep it to myself?
    *If* I talk about it, I risk ridicule and disbelief and
    claims that I am deluded or a liar. Do I share this
    experience with others, or do I go to my grave never
    having told anyone else about the extraordinary thing
    that has happened to me, and that thus could potentially
    happen to them?

    IMO, this is the question that determines whether the
    seeker is really a mystic or merely a seeker of mystical
    experience. The mere seeker probably wisely keeps his
    mouth shut, and goes back to his day-to-day existence,
    never mentioning the bull to his friends and co-workers.
    The mystic talks about it. He tries to find some way to
    convey something of the experience to others, in an
    attempt to share some of its wonder with those he meets.

    And he *is* laughed at. And he *is* called delusional.
    And he *is* called a liar. And none of that matters,
    because he once rode a bull, and those who are laughing
    at him and calling him deluded and a liar have not. If
    someday one of the people he talks to about the bull
    finds his own bull, and rides it, the two of them can
    talk about their respective experiences of bull riding
    over a cup of coffee at the local cafe, and smile. The
    other people at the cafe, overhearing two idiots talking
    and smiling about experiences that all of them *know*
    are impossible, can believe that the two are just idiots
    talking bullshit. But the idiots themselves still smile,
    because they know that if you wade your Way through enough
    bullshit, there really is a bull at the end of the trail.


    From: Martin Schwalbaum
    To: Uncle Tantra

    Unc--
    Thanks for your "Searching for the Bull."

    I did enjoy. And followed up with a look at
    your Road Trip Mind and Rama. Being somewhat
    of a recluse at this time in my life, I'm happy
    to learn about the world of Western Buddhism
    outside.

    I liked your ending a lot, but I think for westerners
    "mystics" and "mysticism" are problems in English
    and just sound silly. After all, our Minds are
    thoroughly immersed in this culture of liberal Christianity
    where mysticism has no place and from which there is
    litttle hope of escape. For me, I like "nature" or perhaps
    "naturism" and think of myself as a "naturalist," like
    Thoreau or Ryokan, both role models for me. When I sit I think of life
    in the natural forms around me, trees, grass, bacteria and the
    non-living as well. How just so real it is
    is, not mystical. (Forgive the quibble.)

    Best wishes,
    Martin
    PS I've added you to my list for occasional email musings
    on life here in the Adirondacks.

    More Uncle Tantra?
    Read his "Road Trip Mind" at www.ramalila.net/RoadTripMind/index.html


    Verbatim email exchanges with guests and prospective guests. Verbatim email exchanges with guests and prospective guests.CLICK HERE for more Fourpeaks Email Exchanges. Verbatim email exchanges with guests and prospective guests. Many of them informative. All of them good clean fun, even those about very serious subjects. Great if you like to read other people's mail.

    A Personal Potpourri. A Personal Potpourri.
    Old photos, letters, clippings, greeting cards and other stuff too precious to discard. A Personal Potpourri is your Adirondack Guide's eclectic photo and writing place for stuff that just doesn't fit elsewhere in Fourpeaks Adirondack Backcountry Camps webpages. CLICK HERE for more Personal Potpourri.  CLICK HERE to meet Your Adirondack Guide.



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