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The Ten Oxherding Pictures of Zen: Series 1



I. Undisciplined

With his horns fiercely projected in
        the air the beast snorts,
Madly running over the mountain
        paths, farther and farther he
        goes astray!
A dark cloud is spread across the
        entrance of the valley,
And who knows how much of the fine
        fresh herb is trampled under his
        wild hoofs!



II. Discipline Begun

I am in posession of a straw rope, and
        I pass it through his nose,
For once he makes a frantic attempt to
        run away, but he is severely whipped
        and whipped;
The beast resists the training with all
        the power there is in a nature wild
        and ungoverned,
But the rustic oxherd never relaxes
        his pulling tother and ever-ready whip.


III. In Harness

Gradually getting into harness the beast
        is now content to be led by the nose,
Crossing the stream, walking along the
        mountain path, he follows every step
        of the leader;
The leader holds the rope tightly in his
        hand never letting it go,
All day long he is on the alert, almost
        unconscious of what fatigue is.


IV. Faced Round

After long days of training the result
        begins to tell and the beast is faced
A nature so wild and ungoverned is
        finally broken, he has become gentler;
But the tender has not yet given him
        his full confidence,
He still keeps his straw rope with which
        the ox is now tied to a tree.


V. Tamed

Under the green willow tree and by
        the ancient mountain stream,
The ox is set at liberty to pursue
        his own pleasures;
At the eventide when a grey mist
        descends on the pasture,
The boy wends his homeward
        way with the animal quietly


VI. Unimpeded

On the verdant field the beast
        contentedly lies idling his time
No whip is needed now, nor any
        kind of restraint;
The boy too sits leisurely under the
        pine tree,
Playing a tune of peace, overflowing
        with joy.


VII. Laissez Faire

The spring stream in the evening
        sun flows languidly along the
        willow-lined bank,
In the hazy atmosphere the meadow
        grass is seen growing thick,
When hungry he grazes, when thirsty
        he quaffs, as time sweetly slides,
While the boy on the rock dozes for
        hours not noticing anything that
        goes on about him.


VIII. All Forgotten

The beast all in white now is
        surrounded by the white clouds,
The man is perfectly at ease and
        care-free, so is his companion;
The white clouds penetrated by the moon-
        light cast their white shadows below,
The white clouds and the bright moon-
        light--each following it's course of

(note the constellation Lyra)


IX. The Solitary Moon

Nowhere is the beast, and the
        oxherd is master of his time,
He is a solitary cloud wafting lightly
        along the mountain peaks;
Clapping his hands he sings
        joyfully in the moon-light,
But remember a last wall is still
        left barring his homeward walk.
(note the constellation Aquila)

X. Both Vanished

Both the man and the animal have
        disappeared, no traces are left,
The bright moon-light is empty and
        shadowless with all the ten-
        thousand objects in it;
If anyone should ask the meaning
        of this,
Behold the lilies of the field and its
        fresh sweet-scented verdure.

Last modified: July 11, 2004
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