Ox Herding at Morgan's Bay 10

In the early stages of practice, a person has heard that within him is the Buddha mind ─ pure nature ─ but he has never seen it. Having faith that the pure nature exists, however, the person strives to find it.

Throughout the pictures, the ox herder represents the mind or thought in the process of cultivation. The ox, however, varies in accordance with changes in the states of mind. In the early pictures, the ox is wild and represents the mind that needs training. As the mind becomes clearer and more stable, the ox becomes tamer. Later pictures relate to the stage of practice when Buddha nature, or self-nature, has been revealed. Eventually, the ox disappears altogether.

Are you searching for the ox? Why have you come on a Ch'an retreat? Why shut yourself off from the rest of the world for several days, submitting to rules and regulations, sitting through pain, forfeiting everyday indulgences and comforts, and seemingly gaining nothing for your efforts? Not many people would be willing to put themselves through such hardship in order to see their own nature.

Either you are partially convinced that there is such a thing as seeing into one's own nature, and are willing to give intense practice a try, or you are thoroughly convinced, and you're willing to accept any hardships you may encounter.

Do you believe that if you practice Ch'an you will one day achieve enlightenment, or see into your true nature? What will you do if you do not succeed? If you practice until your dying day and haven't attained enlightenment, how will you feel? Will you think all your effort has been in vain? Think about it.