These beautiful Zen Buddhist
wood prints reflect on the ten stages of personal growth and discovery that we
experience as we embark upon the journey of self-awareness.
(As a note,
those Cat Stevens fans who recognize the album title "Catch a Bull at Four" may
find it interesting to know that the name heralds from this source.)
by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps
The enlightenment for which Zen aims, for which Zen
exists, comes of itself. As consciousness, one moment it does not exist, the
next it does. But physical man walks in the element of time even as he walks in
mud, dragging his feet and his true nature. So even Zen must compromise and
recognize progressive steps of awareness leading closer to the ever instant of
That is what this book is about. In the twelfth century
the Chinese master Kakuan drew the pictures of the ten bulls, basing them on
earlier Taoist bulls, and wrote the comments in prose and verse translated here.
His version was pure Zen, going deeper than earlier versions, which had ended
with the nothingness of the eighth picture. It has been a constant source of
inspiration to students ever since, and many illustrations of Kakuan's bulls
have been made through the centuries.
The illustrations reproduced here are modern versions
by the noted Kyoto woodblock artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki, descendant of a long
line of artists and proprietor of the Daruma-do teashop (Daruma is the Japanese
name for Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch). His oxherding pictures are as
delightfully direct and timelessly meaningful as Kakuan's original pictures must
The following is adapted from the preface by Nyogen
Senzaki and Paul Reps to the first edition of their translation.
The bull is the eternal principle of life, truth in
action. The ten bulls represent sequent steps in the realization of one's true
This sequence is as potent today as it was when Kakuan
(1100-1200) developed it from earlier works and made his paintings of the bull.
Here in America we perform a similar work eight centuries later to keep the bull
invigorated. [There in Kyoto, Tokuriki has done the same.]
An understanding of the creative principle transcends
any time or place. The 10 Bulls is more than poetry, more than pictures. It is a
revelation of spiritual unfoldment paralleled in every bible of human
experience. May the reader, like the Chinese patriarch, discover the footprints
of his potential self and, carrying the staff of his purpose and the wine jug of
his true desire, frequent the market place and there enlighten others.
The Search for the
In the pasture of this world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search
of the bull.
Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant
My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull.
I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night.
Comment: The bull never has been lost. What need is there to search? Only
because of separation from my true nature, I fail to find him. In the confusion
of the senses I lose even his tracks. Far from home, I see many crossroads, but
which way is the right one I know not. Greed and fear, good and bad, entangle
Discovering the Footprints
Along the riverbank under the trees, I
Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints.
Deep in remote mountains they are found.
These traces no more can be hidden than one's nose, looking heavenward.
Comment: Understanding the teaching, I see the footprints of the bull. Then I
learn that, just as many utensils are made from one metal, so too are myriad
entities made of the fabric of self. Unless I discriminate, how will I perceive
the true from the untrue? Not yet having entered the gate, nevertheless I have
discerned the path.
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 bull can hide!
What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?
Comment: When one hears the voice, one can sense its source. As soon as the six
senses merge, the gate is entered. Wherever one enters one sees the head of the
bull! This unity is like salt in water, like color in dyestuff. The slightest
not apart from self.
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.
Comment: He dwelt in the forest a long time, but I caught him today! Infatuation
for scenery interferes with his direction. Longing for sweeter grass, he wanders
away. His mind still is stubborn and unbridled. If I wish him to submit, I must
raise my whip.
Taming the Bull
The whip and rope are necessary,
Else he might stray off down some dusty road.
Being well trained, he becomes naturally gentle.
Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.
Comment: When one thought arises, another thought follows. When the first
thought springs from enlightenment, all subsequent thoughts are true. Through
delusion, one makes everything untrue. Delusion is not caused by objectivity; it
is the result of subjectivity. Hold the nose-ring tight and do not allow even a
Riding the Bull
Mounting the bull, 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.
Comment: This struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song
of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children. Astride the bull, I
observe the clouds above. Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.
The Bull Transcended
Astride the bull, I reach home.
I am serene. The bull too can rest.
The dawn has come. In blissful repose,
Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope.
Comment: All is one law, not two. We only make the bull a temporary subject. It
is as the relation of rabbit and trap, of fish and net. It is as gold and dross,
or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout
Both Bull and Self
Whip, rope, person, and bull -- 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 patriarchs.
Comment: Mediocrity is gone. Mind is clear of limitation. I seek no state of
enlightenment. Neither do I remain where no enlightenment exists. Since I linger
in neither condition, eyes cannot see me. If hundreds of birds strew my path
with flowers, such praise would be meaningless.
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 that without --
The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.
Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear. Poised in silence, I observe the
forms of integration and disintegration. One who is not attached to "form" need
not be "reformed." The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo, and I see that
which is creating and that which is destroying.
In the World
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.
Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my
garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs?
I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I
visit the wine shop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes
Translated by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps
Illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki
HTML version by Jamie Andrews (jamie (at) cs.sfu.ca)
Excerpt from "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen
Copyright by Charles Tuttle and Co.
The book is available in hardcover from Tuttle and Co.
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