e) The Oxherding Pictures
On the outer walls of the Main Hall, along with the paintings depicting the
life of the Buddha Sakyamuni and other pictures, there are often the ten
Oxherding Pictures (called Shim-oo-do in Korean). Coming from the Sung
Dynasty (1126-1279) in China, they were con-ceived by Buddhist masters as a
teaching device. The pictures represent the training of the mind by the
metaphor of tethering an ox; the herder is you, the ox is your mind.
The progressive whitening of the ox indicates the gradual awakening of the
oxherd to his true nature; it is a process of purification. The original
series ended with an empty circle, for it was inherently understood that
the ox herder carried on with life as usual, now an enlightened life. In an
effort to dispel the frequent misunderstanding of Buddhism's
"enlightenment" as mere emptiness, the series was expanded to include the
oxherd's return to the world.
i) Searching for the Ox illustrates the separation of the herder and the
ox, and the former's seeming violation of his true nature. The oxherd is
dissatisfied with his environment, he is subject to passions, and desire
for possessing a satisfactory self-definition and fear of losing that
identity have him in a vulnerable position and a painful predicament.
ii) Seeing the Footprints illustrates the awareness gained by the oxherd
that there is the possibility of transcending his pain. He has a
preliminary under-standing of the origin of his pain. Though he is unable
to see the ox, the ox's presence is known.
iii) Perceiving the Ox illustrates the ox-herd's realization that nothing
exists outside of himself, and, therefore, that "himself" as an individual
entity is non-existent. He is comforted by the loss of objective
perception. The herder is free from the need to defend his objective
iv) Catching the Ox illustrates the struggle which is the result of
incompletely transcending aggression. The oxherd has laid hands on the ox,
but has not developed the energy to keep it under his control. He knows his
ego to be untrue, but the ego (attempting objectification of the self)
struggles to control the herder.
v) Taming the Ox illustrates the oxherd's determined and concentrated
efforts to attain wisdom despite his still prevalent vulnerability to
confusion, for the ox and herder are not yet one. The herder must keep his
whip ready to prevent the ox from wandering, just as the student of Zen
must discipline himself to prevent his mind from wandering.
vi) The properly tended ox is pacified. When the fuel of the passions is
burned up, the fire is forgotten. The oxherd is pictured Riding the Ox
Home. The oxherd's concentration is not subject to the calls of the world.
His mind may no longer be deceived, but instead has begun to engage in
truly creative activity. He may not be led astray. With a joyful heart, he
vii) The Ox Transcended/The Oxherd Alone illustrates that the ox was never
real. Not only has the ego no chance of gaining control, but there is no
longer even a notion of an individual mind to be deluded by the ego. The
light of wisdom shines. The oxherd is no longer born, and no longer dies,
the phenomena that previously caused so much pain. He is unborn.
viii) The Ox and Herder Transcended, illustrated by the empty circle, shows
only the slightest remaining distance, which is yet an infinite separation,
between mind and self. With the nonex-istence of dualism, Buddhism cannot
be exclusive or inclusive. At this point, it is not a path to be followed,
but a truth to be lived. The oxherd no longer follows, but knows the
immediacy of wisdom.
ix) Reaching the Origin, one is not enriched by anything external. It is
apparent that one was never in fact enriched, but was eternally pure and
compassionate. There is only a "source" or "origin" in the sense of
eternally present, inexhaustible, serenity.
x) In the World, the awakened, enlightened being follows no example. He is
what he knows to be true and projects his Buddha-nature to those who need