The Ten Bulls: A Zen Practice Illustrating the Ten Stages Leading to Enlightenment
1. In Search of the Bull In the pasture of the world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the Ox. Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains, My strength failing and my vitality exhausted,
I cannot find the Ox.
2. Discovery of the Footprints Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints. Even under the fragrant grass, I see his prints. Deep in remote mountains they are found. These traces can no more be hidden than one's nose, looking heavenward
3. Perceiving the Bull I hear the song of the nightingale. The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore - Here no Ox can hide! What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?
4. Catching the Bull I seize him with a terrific struggle. His great will and power are inexhaustible. He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists, Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.
5. Taming the Bull
The whip and rope are necessary,
Else he might stray off down
some dusty road.
Being well-trained, he becomes
Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.
6. Riding the Bull Home Mounting the Ox, slowly I return homeward. The voice of my flute intones through the evening. Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me.
7. The Bull Transcended Astride the Ox, I reach home. I am serene. The Ox too can rest. The dawn has come. In blissful repose, Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and ropes.
8. Both Bull and Self Transcended Whip, rope, person, and Ox - all merge in No Thing. This heaven is so vast, no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire. Here are the footprints of the Ancestors.
9. Reaching the Source Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Dwelling in one's true abode,
unconcerned with and without - The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.
10. Return to Society Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.
Illustrations by: Tenshō Shūbun - Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2365640