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The Ten Bulls Parable


The Ten Oxherding pictures are an early teaching in the Ch'an/Zen tradition. Oxherding was a useful metaphor for training the mind. There is the story of a monk working in the kitchen when his master came in and asked what he was doing. He replied 'Just herding the ox'.

The master responded 'How are you herding it?'.

The monk replied 'Every time the ox tries to wander off the way to eat grass, I rein it in and put it back to work'.

The ox, of course, is our mind. It must be trained not to wander off into distracting, discursive thoughts. It must be trained to align with the Dharma and so become pure.

Many versions of the oxherding pictures were created. They varied in number and in the content of the pictures. Eventually ten pictures or stages were developed. The most famous set is by K'uo-an Shih-yuan. Many artists have drawn these pictures and many poets have added commentaries. This version is reconfigured from The Buddhist Door webzine (publication suspended but see current link on Maya Project page) and is just one of many variations - EF)

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