Ox Herding at Morgan's Bay 1


In the spring of 1987, I held a retreat at Morgan's Bay, a Zen community in Surry, Maine. For four evenings I talked about the path of Zen, or Ch'an, practice, using the Ten Ox Herding Pictures as a model. My talks were informal and spontaneous, geared primarily to help the retreat participants overcome obstacles they faced in their practice. Four evenings is not a long time to spend discussing such an important work, but the participants told me that they found the talks to be valuable. They wished for the lectures to be transcribed and edited, and since they offered to do it, I gladly agreed.

The ox herding pictures provide an analogy to help explain the process of Ch'an practice. The ever-watchful, ever-patient ox herder is a model for Ch'an practitioners, who should constantly watch their minds of vexation, and who should not be influenced by the external environment.