Ox Herding at Morgan's Bay 2

Many versions of the ox herding pictures exist. During the T'ang dynasty (618-906), Master Pai-chang used the ox herding analogy, and later, Master Nan-ch'uan P'u-yuan and Shih-kung Hui-tsan, who were disciples of Master Ma-tzu, used similar analogies with buffaloes in place of oxen. The most popular version, however, is attributed to K'uo-an Shih-yuan, who was a Lin-chi (Rinzai) master during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). His version can be found in chapters forty-six and forty-seven of the Extended Arguments. The ox herding analogy is also found in volume two of the sastra of the Great Wisdom of the Paramitas. Furthermore, in the Bequeathed Teachings of the Buddha, there is a saying that one should not be lax in one's effort. One should be like the person who herds an ox: always vigilant.

Other versions of the ox herding pictures exist. There is a version with five pictures, another with six, still another with eight. I will use the most common and popular version ─ Master K'uo-an Shih-yuan's Ten Ox Herding Pictures. In the original version, four lines of verse accompany each of the ten pictures. I will not discuss the meaning of the words. Instead, I will comment directly on the meaning of the pictures.

The numerous versions of the ox herding pictures are highly regarded by practitioners in China and Japan, and more recently, in the West. Renditions in English can be found in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps, and in The Three Pillars of Zen, compiled and edited by Roshi Philip Kapleau. Two versions appear in D.T. Suzuki's Manual of Zen Buddhism. In the latter version, which is by an unknown author, the ox gradually whitens until it completely disappears, ending with a blank circle. There is also a book on the teachings of Zen master Dogen, in which the author, Francis Dojun Cook, adopts the analogy for his book's title: How to Raise an Ox.