Ten Ox-Herding

Ten Steps to an Open and Awake Existence

Short Summary

The Ten Ox-Herding Images are an ingenious set of images representing the process of awakening, the complete recognition of the original face of the mind. These images by Rinzai Ch'an priest Kuoan Shiyuan of the 12th century, reproduced by Tensho Shubun (1414 – 1463), have been repainted throughout the centuries. But while varying versions exist, what they convey stands unchanged. Part of the Zen tradition, they show how to train the mind, a process shared by all schools of the Buddha Vehicle. This mind training, in the form of ten stages on the path to enlightenment, is a science of awakening rooted in the Dharma of the Buddha. 

1. Seeking the Ox (Searching for the Truth)
One begins the spiritual journey by seeking the truth, represented by the ox.
Metaphor : A wanderer searching for a hidden treasure,
representing enlightenment.

2. Seeing the Traces (Discovery of the Path)
One discovers signs or traces of the truth, indicating the right path.
 Metaphor : Footprints in the sand symbolize the initial signs of walking the path.

3. Perceiving the Ox (Glimpsing the Truth)
One gets a glimpse of the truth, gaining a clearer understanding.
Metaphor : A distant mountain peak emerges from the clouds,
representing the first clear vision of truth.

4. Catching the Ox (Engaging with the Truth)
One actively engages with the truth, facing challenges and resistance.
Metaphor : A fisherman struggling to reel in a large fish, symbolizing the effort to grasp the truth.

5. Taming the Ox (Discipline and Practice)
One learns to control and harmonize with the truth through discipline and practice.
Metaphor : A gardener cultivating a wild plant, representing the cultivation of the mind.

6. Riding the Ox Home (Harmony and Integration)
One achieves harmony with the truth and integrates it into daily life.
Metaphor : A sailor navigating smoothly with the wind,
symbolizing harmonious integration.

7. The Ox Transcended (Realization of Emptiness)
One realizes the emptiness of all things, transcending dualities.
Metaphor : The Moon reflecting in a clear pond, or the realization of emptiness and clarity.

8. Both Ox and Self Transcended (Unity with the Absolute)
One transcends self and truth, achieving unity with the absolute.
• Metaphor : A river merging into the ocean,
symbolizing the unity of the individual with the absolute.

9. Reaching the Source (Return to the Origin)
One returns, realizing the inherent Buddha-nature in all things.
 Metaphor : A spring flowing from the mountain : the continuous source of enlightenment.

10. In the World (Compassionate Engagement)
The enlightened one compassionately engages with the world, helping others on the path. 
Metaphor: A blooming lotus in the mud, symbolizing purity and compassion
in the midst of the worldly.

Books and  PDF Ebooks

Ten Ox-Herding Images can be purchased
as a Print-On-Demand Book and PDF EBOOK
Mobirise Website Builder

Ten Ox-Herding Images


© 2021 by Wim van den Dungen

86 pages
available in the LULU Bookstore
ISBN : 978-1-365-20617-7

15 $

Mobirise Website Builder
Ten Ox-Herding Images

© 2023 by Wim van den Dungen

available in the LULU Bookstore
Religion / Buddhism / Sacred Writings

2.50 $

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