THE TEN OXHERDING PICTURES
(for more see Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen, pp. 301-313)

1. SEEKING THE OX

The Ox has never really gone astray, so why search for it? Having turned [their} backs on it, humans cannot see it. They are 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.

2.  FINDING THE TRACKS OF THE OX

Through the sutras and teachings the oxherd discerns the tracks of the Ox. Yet the oxherd is unable to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsity. (S)he one has not actually entered the gate.

3.  FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE OX

If the oxherd will listen intently to everyday sounds, (s) he will come to realization and at that instant see the Source. The six senses are no different from this true Source.

4.  CATCHING THE OX

Today, the oxherd encounters the Ox, which has long been cavorting in the wild fields. The oxherd actually grasps the Ox. Breaking out of old habits is not easy.

5.  TAMING THE OX

Even our thoughts are not unreal since they too arise from our true nature. It is only because delusion still remains that they are imagined to be unreal. The state of delusion does not originate in the objective world but in our own minds.

RIDING THE OX HOME     (Oxherd is playing the flute)

The struggle is over, "gain" and "loss" no longer affect the oxherd. The oxherd hums the rustic tunes of the woodsman and plays the simple song of the village children. Astride the Ox's back, (s)he gazes serenely at the clouds above. The oxherd's head does not turn in the direction of temptations. Try though one may to upset this one, (s)he remains undisturbed.

7. OX FORGOTTEN, SELF ALONE (the picture of person in his or her house)

In the Dharma there is no two-ness. The ox is the oxherd's Primal-nature. This is now recognized. "The red sun rides high in the sky as the oxherd dreams on placidly. Yonder beneath the thatched roof the oxherd's whip and idle rope are lying."

8. BOTH OX AND SELF FORGOTTEN
                            (The picture is a simple circle -- brush-drawn in the Zen fashion)

All delusive feelings have perished and ideas of holiness too have vanished. "Over a blazing fire a snowflake cannot survive."

9.  RETURNING TO THE SOURCE
                (The picture is of nature: rocks, plum blossoms, bamboo)

From the very beginning there has not been so much as a speck of dust to mar the purity of things. The oxherd (not seen in the picture) observes the waxing and waning of life in the world while abiding in a state of unshakable serenity. The waters are blue, the mountains are green. "That one has returned to the Origin, come back to the Source.
. . . .   Streams meander on of themselves, red flowers naturally bloom red."

10. ENTERING THE MARKETPLACE WITH HELPING HANDS

The picture shows the oxherd, looking fat like a Buddha, in the marketplace of the world. Even the wise cannot find her or him. That one goes her or his own way, making no attempt to follow the steps of earlier sages. Carrying a gourd, this one strolls into the marketplace. Leaning on a staff, (s)he returns home. This one leads innkeepers and fishmongers in the Way of the Buddha.

The poem proclaims:

"Barechested, barefooted, he comes into the market place.
Muddied and dust-covered, how broadly he grins!
Without recourse to mystic powers,
    Withered trees are swiftly brought to bloom."
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