the Ox (심우도)
by Daehaeng Kun Sunim
[대행큰 Dae-haeng Keun; 묘공대행 / 妙空大行 Myogong Daehaeng (1927-2012)]
Translated by Chong Go Sunim, 2010
Korean temple paintings:
The Ten Ox Herding
verses describe the process of uncovering our inherent, enlightened
Buddha-nature, represented here by the ox. Variations of these are popular
throughout East Asia as a way of describing the spiritual path. This
translation is from Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s Korean version.
1. Searching for the Ox
On plains that stretch forward without end,
pushing through the tall grass and brush,
looking for the ox.
Going here and there,
following a nameless river
and unknown paths deep into the mountains.
yet still no trace of the ox,
In the gathering dusk,
only the sounds of the crickets.
2. Finding Tracks of the Ox
on a river bank,
under a tree,
hoof prints of the ox!
under the sweetly flowing water,
an ox print clearly seen.
Stretching out before me
as plain as day,
3. Glimpsing the Ox
Somewhere a bird is
Under the warm sun,
a peaceful breeze.
On the banks of the river,
the willow trees are brilliant green,
how could an ox hide here!
But look at that massive head,
and those wide horns.
What kind of strength will it take
to drag it back to the path?
4. Catching the Ox
It was a difficult
but at last I’ve caught the ox.
So stubborn and willful,
its strength seemed endless,
like it could tear through mountains.
But at last the ox has come to a standstill.
Long accustomed to roaming here and there,
at last it has come to a stop.
5. Taming the ox
To tame this ox
requires a whip and some rope.
I tied the rope through its nose ring,
but still have to use the whip.
Otherwise the ox will rush about,
rolling in the mud,
or getting stuck in the marsh.
But when he’s tamed,
his gentle, true nature will show,
and he’ll follow me,
even without a nose ring.
6. Riding the Ox Home
As I ride the ox,
making my way home,
it turns out he already knows the way.
Sitting on his back
and playing the flute,
its harmonious melody goes far and wide.
Hearing this sound,
the villagers all come out to welcome me.
7. Forgetting the Ox
At last the ox and I
have returned home.
My mind is utterly at peace,
the ox too is resting,
and an auspicious light
fills the entire house.
This small, thatched-roof hut
knows no worry or suffering,
and at last I can lay down the whip and reins.
8. Myself and the Ox both Forgotten
The whip and the rope,
even the ox and myself,
are all empty, gone without a trace.
Oh this sky, so wide and open
so vast and boundless.
There’s no place for even a single dust mote to settle.
How could I ever be ensnared again?
9. Returning to the Source
over so many mountains
in order to return to this root.
Here is my true home
in appearance like the open sky
with nothing hindering it and nothing to be gotten rid of.
The waters of a stream just flowing,
the flowers so beautiful.
10. Returning to the Town
Although I’m wearing old rags,
there’s no sense of lack.
As I mix with the many people
on the streets and markets,
their suffering fades away,
and even dead trees come to life.
Such a deep valley,
yet the turbulent waters
cannot claim me.
The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures from various Korean temples: