J. Marvin Spiegelman, Ph.D.
Mokusen Miyuki, Ph.D.
PHOENIX, ARIZONA, U.S.A.
Copyright @ 1985 by J. Marvin Spiegelman and Mokusen Miyuki
J. Marvin Spiegelman (1926-) has a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. and is a Diplomate in clinical psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology. He is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. He has taught at U.C.L.A., U.S.C. and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has a private practice as a Jungian analyst in Studio City, California.
Mokusen Miyuki holds a B.A. degree in Eastern Religions from the University of Tokyo, an M.A. degree in Western Philosophy from U.C.L.A. and a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from Claremont Colleges. He is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. He is a professor at California State University at Northridge, practices as a Jungian analyst in the Los Angeles area and is a Buddhist Priest.
THE OXHERDING PICTURES
OF ZEN BUDDHISM
Self-Realization in the Ten Oxherding Pictures
- by Mokusen Miyuki,
The Ten Oxherding Pictures of Zen Buddhism: A Commentary
- by J. Marvin Spiegelman,
THE RONIN: A Fictional Portrayal of the Oxherding Series
- by J. Marvin Spiegelman,
IN THE TEN
By Mokusen Miyuki
In my paper entitled, "A Jungian Approach to the Pure Land
Practice of Nien-fo." I challenged the prevailing psychological view
of Eastern religions as aiming at the "dissolution," or at the least
the "depotentiation," of the ego.1 I argued that the Pure Land
Buddhist practice of nien-fo (the mental andlor verbal recitation of
Amitabha's name), for example, aids the individual to strengthen,
rather than dissolve, the ego through the integration of unconscious
contents. In this paper, I would like to further support this point
by examining the Zen tradition's Oxherding Pictures.2 These pictures
are products of the Zen "mind" and express in an art form the
experience of satori or Zen enlightenment. Since enlightenment is
a psychological reality par excellence, these pictures can be analyzed
by employing Jungian methodology and his conceptual framework,
and by viewing them as portraying what C.G. Jung calls "the
Although only a few sets of the Oxherding Pictures exist today, in
the past there must have been several sets of pictures - and those
of various numbers. The variety of sets can be inferred from the
fact that there are records of differing "verses" which accompany
such pictures.3 The Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki has made two sets of
the Ten Oxherding Pictures which are well known in the West:
namely, the set whose accompanying ten Prefaces and Verses were
written by the twelfth century Zen master Kuo-an (Kaku-an in
Japanese) and another earlier version to which the Zen master
Pu-ming wrote the ten accompanying Verses.4 The version by
Kuo-an has enjoyed wide acceptance in Japan while the one by
Pu-ming was popular in China.5
Pu-ming's Ten Oxherding Pictures portray a wild, black ox that
becomes increasingly white as the pictures proceed. These pictures
are entitled: (1) Undisciplined, (2) Discipline Begun, (3) In Harness,
(4) Faced Round, (5) Tamed, (6) Unimpeded, (7) Laissez Faire, (8) All
forgotten, (9) The Solitary Moon, and (10) Both Vanished.
Evidently, the emphasis in these pictures is placed upon the
gradual achievement of satori (Zen enlightenment), which is
shown by the progressive whitening of the black ox. The concept
of whitening that which is black is based on the Buddhist doctrine
of tathagatagarbha, the realization of the Buddha-nature, or the
genuine self, which is obscured by the dark side of the personality.
According to Ts'u-yuan, who wrote the Preface to Kuo-an's
version, Kuo-an was not satisfied with the idea of a gradual
whitening of the ox, nor with the gradual, progressive liberation
of the Buddha-nature; thus, he presented his experience of satori in
a different manner. His pictures are entitled: (1) Searching for the
Ox, (2) Seeing the Traces, (3) Seeing the Ox, (4) Catching the Ox,
(5) Herding the Ox, (6) Coming Home on the Ox's Back, (7) The
Ox Forgotten, (8) The Ox and the Man Both Forgotten, (9)
Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source, and (10) Entering the
City with Bliss-bestowing Hands. The notion expressed in these
pictures is the sudden gain or loss of one's genuine self, as
symbolized by the ox.6
The Oxherding Pictures have also been referred to as the Mind-ox
Pictures, thus indicating that the ox, or the genuine self, in the
represents the Zen concept of "mind."
Buddhism, the term "hsin," "mind," which also refers to the
"heart" or essence, has been used interchangeably with the term
II hsing," which means nature or essence. Accordingly, in Zen the
psychic reality connected with the word"mind is that of satori in
the sense of "seeing one's own natureJ'(chien-hsing). A famous Zen
tenet illustrates this connection:
A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not depending upon letters,
Pointing directly to the Mind (literally "human mind")
See into Nature itself and attain Buddhahood.8
In this tenet the words"mind," "nature," and "Buddhahood are
all used to express different aspects of one and the same reality;
The view of satori implied in the pictures of both Pu-ming and
Kuo-an is to be understood in terms of the doctrine of tathagatagarbha,
or realization of the Buddha-nature. This doctrine assures the
possibility of universal enlightenment and has become basic to the
so-called "sinified Buddhism," such as Hua-yen, T'ien-tai, Ch'an
(Zen in Japanese), or Ch'ing-t'u (Pure Land). For instance, Chihyen
viewed the Buddha-nature as having a tripartite character: (1) the
Buddha-nature itself, the genuine essence which is universally
ever-present in all beings, although it is in a state of dark
ignorance and passion, obscured and defiled; (2) the Buddhanature
as the driving force, (yin-chu) or the fundamental urge to
realize itself through the practice of prajna (wisdom) and samadhi
(concentration); and (3) the Buddha-nature as perfectly realized
through practice.9 In Zen, as mentioned above, both terms,
"mind" and "nature" are used interchangeably in designating the
Buddha-nature. Hence, the Zen concept of "mind refers to
something quite different from the Western concept of the word.
Jung was well aware of the fact that the Eastern concept of
"mind" is radically different from that in the West. He states; "In
the West, 'mind' is more or less equated with consciousness,
whereas in the East the word 'mind' is closer to what the West
refers to as the unconscious."10 Jung seems to imply here that in
the East the word "mind" designates what he means by the
"psyche," or the psychological process which includes both conscious
and unconscious. Were this so, the Zen concept of mind could be
taken as equivalent to Jung's concept of the total psyche, or the
Jung explains the relationship of consciousness to the unconscious
Consciousness, no matter how extensive it may be, must
always remain the smaller circle within the greater circle of
the unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea; and like the
sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self-replenishing
abundance of living creatures, a wealth beyond our fathoming.11
From this viewpoint, then, the Oxherding Pictures can be understood
as depicting the attempt of the oxherd, or the ego, to creatively
relate itself to the inexhaustible treasure of the "mind-ox," or the
unconscious. In Kuo-an's version, however, this confrontation of
the ego with the unconscious ceases with the seventh picture
wherein an "individuated man" is portrayed. Accordingly, the last
three pictures by Kuo-an can be taken as describing the life of the
genuine man, or the individuated ego, working in the service of
the Self in and through common, daily activities.
In writing about individuation, Jung states: "Individuation
means becoming a single, homogeneous being, and, in so far as
'individuality' embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable
uniqueness, it also implies becoming one's own self. We could
translate individuation as 'coming to selfhood' or 'Self-
realization.' "12 The German term Selbstverwirklichung, which is
translated here as "self-realization" in English, indicates the
psychological urge of the Self to realize itself - the Self being the
center and the whole circumference embracing both conscious
and unconscious psyche. This point is clarified by Edward F.
Edinger when he states: "Individuation seems to be the innate
urge of life to realize itself consciously. The transpersonal life
energy in the process of self-unfolding uses human consciousness,
a product of itself, as an instrument for its own self realization."13
According to Jung, therefore, individuation begins with the
innate urge of the Self for realization, regardless of the conscious
will or external situation. To become "a single, homogenous
being" is not something the ego can create at will. Being driven by
the Self's urge, it becomes possible for the ego, the center of the
conscious personality, to evolve. Jung states:
"The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover, or as
object to subject, because the determining factors which
radiate out from the self surround the ego on all sides and are
therefore supraordinate to it. The self, like the unconscious, is
an a priori existent out of which the ego evolves. It is, so to
speak, an unconscious prefiguation of the ego. It is not I who
create myself, rdther I happen to myself."14
This fundamental urge of self realization is basic to the creative
life of the individual as well exemplified in Jung's Memories, Dreams,
Reflections which begins with the following statement:
"My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious.
Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation,
and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious
condition and to experience itself as a whole."15
The innate urge for self-realization has been designated in
Buddhism as that aspect of the Buddha-nature which, to use
Chih-yen's conception, is manifested as the driving force to realize
itself. The Buddha-nature is always present as Kuo-an states in
his Preface to the first picture: "The beast has never gone away, and
what is the use of searching for him" (p. 129). In Kuo-an's version,
the eternal presence of the Buddha-nature as the Self's urge to
realize itself is symbolized by the circle in which each of the ten
pictures are depicted. For, the circle, which conveys the idea of the
non-beginning and non-ending quality of eternity, represents the
ever-presence of the Buddha-nature in which Zen practice takes
Once the innate urge of the Self to realize itself is activated, the
Self relentlessly imposes on the ego the task of integrating the
dark side of the psyche, or the unconscious. For as "the smaller
circle within the greater circle of the unconscious,"16 the ego is
constantly conditioned by the Self as the determining factor for its
existence and development. Since the Self is the paradoxical
totality in which the opposites such as conscious and unconscious,
light and darkness, good and evil, are united, there is no conscious
realization of totality without integration of the opposites. Jung
states: "Whenever the archetype of the self predominates, the
inevitable psychological consequence is a state of conflict . . . and
man must suffer from the opposite of his intention for the sake of
completeness."17 The ego, thus endangered by the demand of the
Self's urge to realize itself, is depicted in Pu-ming's version of the
Oxherding Pictures by the gradual process of whitening, that is, the
depotentiating and integrating the wild black ox as the symbol of
the overwhelming energy of the unconscious.
Self-realization, or the ego's encounter of the archetype of the
Self, is not a neutral experience. As a numinous experience, it
exercises a powerful influence on the shaping or reshaping of
conscious contents. Jung states:
. . .the archetypes have, when they appear, a distinctly
numinous character which can only be described as "spiritual,"
if "magical" is too strong a word. Consequently this phenomenon
is of the utmost significance for the psychology of religion. In
its effects it is anything but unambiguous. It can be healing or
destructive, but never indifferent, provided of course that it
has attained a certain degree of clarity.18
Edward F. Edinger characterized the development of the ego in
its confrontation with the Self as a circular process of alternating
ego-Self separation and ego-Self union. He states: "Indeed, this
cyclic (or better, spiral) formula seems to express the basic process
psychological development from birth to death."
manner, the progressive differentiation of the conscious life takes
place continually throughout life as the result of conscious
assimilation of the unconscious contents, or the enrichment of
consciousness by the integration of the unconscious. The idea of
the progressive enrichment of the conscious life is evidently
depicted by Pu-ming, as mentioned above, by the gradual process
of whitening, or integrating, the wild black ox, or the unconscious.
It is also indicated by Kuo-an in the tenth picture of his version of
the Oxherding Pictures. In this picture"Entering the City with Blissbestowing
Hands," the scene of an old man meeting a young boy in
the market place is portrayed, showing thus that enrichment of
conscious life in and through common activities, such as meeting
or greeting people on the street. With this last picture, the
development of the ego reverts to ordinary life depicted in the first
picture but on a richer level of consciousness.
Psychologically speaking, the circle symbolizes the temenos, the
magic circle, or the protective function of the Self. The ego
consciousness, as mentioned above, constantly faces the danger of
being assimilated by the menacing energy of the unconscious. If it
is to resist assimilation and be protected from the danger of
fragmentation or disintegration, it is of prime importance for the
ego to be strengthened by integrating the unconscious contents.
In self-realization, the Self, which is the paradoxical totality,
provides the ego with the strength and stability for its development
while it simultaneously imposes on the ego the task of integrating
the dark side of the personality. The protective function of the
Self is indicated, in Kuo-an's version of the Oxherding Pictures, by the
circle in which each of the ten pictures are depicted, representing
thus the ever-presence of the Buddha-nature, or the Self, which
provides the practitioner with strength and stability. The square
in which Pu-ming portrayed each of the ten pictures in his version
can also be taken as showing the utmost importance of the
integration of the unconscious into consciouness, being supported
by the Self's protective function.
In Zen practice, the archetype of the Self is projected onto the
master as the ideal self-image; hence, the encounter of the ego
with the Self takes place, as projected on the master-disciple
relationship. Accordingly, Zen emphasizes the importance of
meeting the "right" master for the disciple in seeking for a genuine
realization of satori. The encouragement as well as the admonition
of the master provides the disciple with the temenos within which
the latter's psychological security is gained. Being thus protected
from an unconscious outburst and disintegration, the disciple can
attempt to creatively relate himself to the treasure house of the
Buddha-nature or the unconscious.
Jung has observed that in the numinous experience, or the
confrontation with the Self, mandala symbolism often emerges in
the manifested unconscious materials, such as dreams, fantasies,
psychic episodes, myths, fairytales, and such religious depictions
as the Oxherding Pictures.
According to Jung, a mandala is a symmetrical structure
consisting of ternary or quaternary combinations which are
concentrically arranged. The ternary combinations symbolize the
dynamic process of development or growth, whereas the quaternay
configurations represent a static structual wholeness, or completion.
20 Jung's observation about the combination of the numbers
three and four can be seen in the first seven pictures in Kuo-an's
Ten Oxherding Pictures. Were it possible for us to understand the
third picture, "Seeing the Ox," as representing the Zen "goal" of
"seeing into Nature itself,"2' then, the fourth picture, "Catching
the Ox," can be taken as representing attained wholeness or
completion. Since self-realization is cyclic or spiral, as symbolized
by the empty circle, the achieved totality is both the end and the
beginning. Thus, as soon as the fourth state is realized, a new
struggle begins on a higher level of consciousness. The new
process thus initiated in the fourth picture reaches its culmination
in the sixth picture, with the seventh picture, as the fourth of this
second series, depicting the completion of the second ternary
process. Therefore, in the first seven pictures, we can observe two
sets of processes: the process from the first to the third picture
with the fourth as the completion, and the process from the
fourth to the sixth picture with the seventh as a second completion.
Since the number seven comprises the union and totality of the
ternary process and the quaternary completion, the seventh
picture can be taken as portraying a final accomplishment.
The view that the seventh picture of Kuo-an's version is
symbolic of the completion of the process is supported by the title,
"The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone." In the preceding
pictures, individuation or self-realization - in terms of the
dialectical confrontation of the ego (the oxherd) and the Self (the
ox) - has led the individual to experience a transformation of
personality symbolized as "the Man." Kuo-an states in his Verse:
"Where Lo! the ox is no more [in Sanskrit, literally"emptied1; the
man alone sits serenely" (p. 132). Thus, the ox, the Self, has
"emptied itself to become the "man." With this seventh picture,
the oxherding scenes cease and the "man" is depicted instead of
the ox. In Pu-ming's version, this individuated man is portrayed in
the ninth picture, entitled "The Solitary Moon."
In Kuo-an's Ten Oxherding Pictures, therefore, satori as the ongoing
process is depicted as three sets of processes; namely, the
initial process from the first to the third picture with the fourth as
the completion; the continuing process from the fourth to the
sixth picture with the seventh as a second completion, which is
followed by the life of the "individuated ego," or the "Selfcentered
ego," the ego which functions in the service of the Self,
portrayed from the eighth to the tenth pictures. This third process
reverts to the first picture as a third completion, returning thus to
the "beginning" on a different level of consciousness.
The genuine "man" in the seventh stage must face, and struggle
with another serious problem, or duhkha ("dis-ease"), precisely
because this is the final state of achievement for the ego that has
attempted conscious assimilation of unconscious contents. At this
stage, individuation as the confrontation of the ego with the Self
ceases as such; for, as far as the ego is concerned, there are no
resources to draw upon in order to affect any change regarding
the realization of the next stage. This stage can manifest as the
perilous state of psychic stagnation against which it is said that the
ego has no means to cope. This danger of psychic stagnation has
been recognized in Buddhism and designated ast'the danger of the
Bodhisattva, or [of] the seeker for the ultimate enlightenment
sinking into sunyata, or "emptiness."
According to the Dasabhumi-sutra, the "Sutra of the Ten 'Stages,' "
which describes the ten stages of the Bodhisattva's spiritual
progress, the Bodhissattva faces the danger of "sinking into
sunyata," especially when he arrives at the seventh stage called the
"Far-going" which follows the realization of the truth of "Interdependent
Origination" at the sixth stage.22 Since no means is
available for the ego to overcome this psychic danger, the leap from
this state to the next is no longer felt as an activity of the ego. Thus
the Dasabhumi-sutra metaphorically speaks of the transition from
the seventh stage, "Far-going," to the eighth, "Immovable," as
follows: A sleeping man sees himself in a dream trying desperately
to cross a raging torrent and to reach the yonder shore. His
hopeless attempt awakens him. Once awakened, he finds himself
free from all dis-ease (duhkhas) of worry, despair, frustration, or
agony. The sutra describes this experience of satori, or awakening as
"without merits" (anabhogatas).2~T he phrase "without merits"
refers to the psychological condition wherein self-realization
takes place so as the ego comes to function in an "ex-centric''
manner in the service of the Self. Jung refers to this psychological
state as"an ego-less mental condition," "consciousness without an
ego," or the like, which is also expressed by St. Paul as the state in
which "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me"
(Galatians 2:20).24 The Dasabhumi-sutra maintains, therefore, that
the practice of the ten paramitas, or "perfections," in this eighth
stage - as well as the last two stages - is carried out in and
through the realization of the Buddha's wisdom and compassion.
In other words, in these three last stages, the Bodhisattva is in the
service of, and in perfect unison with, the spontaneous manifestation
of the activity of the Buddha's wisdom and compassion. The
expression"without merits"designates this Self-centric"functioning
of the psyche in self-realization.25
In the eigth picture, ther'Self-centric" functioning of the psyche
is symbolized by the empty circle. As mentioned above, the circle
in which each of the ten pictures is portrayed represents the
ever-present activity of the Buddha-nature, or the Self in which
Zen practice is pursued. Therefore, ther'empty circ1e"of the eighth
picture can be taken as depicting the fully manifested activity of
the Buddha-nature, or the Self, in the conscious life of the
practitioner whose ego functions in the service of the Self. This is
to say, in this "Self-centric" condition of the psyche, the individual
experiences the paradoxical state-process of simultaneous occurrence
of emptying-fulfilling, or negating-affirming, in regard to the
psychological life. The ego is emptied by the very act of the Self
realizing, or fulfilling, its urge. To put it differently, in facing the
emptying activity of the Self's urge, the ego is forced endlessly and
relentlessly to sacrifice whatever it has achieved. Yet this sacrifice
of the ego is, at the same time, the fulfillment of the urge of the
Self, or the genuine man.
Accordingly, this ego-sacrifice in the sense of Self-fulfillment
must not be confused with ego-dissolution or ego-depotentiation.
On the contrary, the integrated ego is strong and flexible enough
to develop the attitude of listening in order to function harmoniously
with the Self. The ego thus strengthened can function in unison
with, and in the service of the Self. Therefore, the word
"forgotten" used in Kuo-an's title, "The Ox and the Man both
Forgotten," designates the emptying activity of the Buddhanature,
or the Self, which is supraordinate to the function of the
ego. Hence, once the "Self-centric" functioning of the psyche
takes place, thenego-centric" functioning of the psyche is"forgotten"
or has disappeared. What is overcome is not the ego itself but the
function of the ego which is to be characterised as "ego-centric." In
Buddhism the term "ego-centric" is used to describe the ego's
appropriating orientation which is conditioned by the darkness or
ignorance and the egoistic passion of defilement and which,
accordingly, obscures the genuine activity of the Buddha-nature.
In the Taoist tradition, the word"forgotten"(wang) has been used
synonymously with wu-wei, "non-doing" or "letting something
be," or tsu-jan, "naturalness" or "being through itself." Therefore,
the word "forgotten" indicates the psychological condition of
"being emptied (kung, sunyata) wherein the ego is opened to the
service of the activity of the Self, the matrix of life.
The last two pictures of Kuo-an's version continue to describe
the "Self-centric" functioning of the psyche. For the individuated
ego, or the ego functioning in the service of the Self, neither the
human world nor the natural world are experienced as alien to
itself. Both nature and human activity become authentic to the
genuine man. He experiences both as the Buddha-nature realizing
itself in different modalities. Psychologically viewed, the experience
of the Buddha-nature, or the Self, in nature and human relationships
can be understood as paralleling the archetype of the Self which is
sometimes associated with synchronistic or parapsychological
events. In the Preface to the ninth picture, "Returning to the
Origin, Back to the Source," Kuo-an states: "From the very
beginning, pure and immaculate, the man has never been affected
by defilement" (p. 133). This "original so-ness" refers to the
universal presence of the activity of the Buddha-nature, or the
Self, which realizes itself in and through the receptive, flexible
ego. The same idea of "natura1ness"is also referred to in the last
line of Kuo-an's Verse: "Behold the streams flowing whither
nobody knows; and the flowers vividly red - for whom are they?"
(p. 134). This verse can be translated literally as follows: "The
stream flows on its own accord, and the flower is red on its own
accord." The Chinese term tsu, "of its own accord," is used as a
compound, tsu-jan, in Taoist thought, meaning "naturalness,"
occurring as the creative spontaneity of nature, within and
without. In other words, tsu-jan can be taken psychologically as the
living reality of self-realization, or the creative urge of the Self
manifesting itself in nature.
The living reality of the Self is also experienced in human affairs
as interpersonal relationships. This is the theme of the last
picture, in Kuo-an's version entitledr'Entering the City with Blissbestowing
Hands." A common, everyday occurrence is portrayed
in which a young man is meeting an old man in the market place. In
his Preface, Kuo-an states: "Carrying a gourd he [the old man] goes
into the market, leaning against a staff he comes home. He is
found in company with wine-bibbers and butchers, he and they
are all converted into Buddhas" (p. 134).
It should be noted here that the old man depicted in the picture
has a belly protruding like that of the so-called laughing Buddha.
D.T. Suzuki interprets this emphasis on the belly as showing the
significance of "diaphragmatic thinking," or "a sort of 'thinking'
which is done with the whole body or the whole 'person."'26 This
man embodies what Lin-chi (d. 866) calls "the total action of total
makes all sorts of friends as a manifested activity of sunyata, which
is symbolized by the gourd he carries. In other words, this man is
the genuine man in and through whom self-realization or
emptyinglfulfilling activity of the Buddha-nature, takes place.
Tsu-te, the author of the Six Oxherding Pictures, depicts in the last,
sixth, picture the life of the genuine man, or the Self, as a person
who can function as a total being, or the Self, by playfully
assuming any samsaric form of existence, depending on the
circumstances in which he finds himself.28 This playfulness is,
psychologicalIy understood, "an ego-less" or the "Self-centric"
condition of the psyche wherein self-realization takes place. In
Buddhism, it is the play of the Bodhisattva who, out of selfless
compassion, mingles with sentient beings in suffering in order to
liberate them. In this manner, this last picture merges with the
first picture on a different level of consciousness.
Psychologically, the Oxherding Pictures can be taken as portraying
in an art form what Jung calls individuation. Our study, employing
Jung's concepts and methodology, has afforded us a psychological
understanding of Zen satori (enlightenment) in terms of selfrealization,
or the urge of the Self to realize itself. The essential
feature of satori does not consist in ego-transcendence or egonegation,
but rather in a life-long process which demands that the
ego make ceaseless efforts towards the integration of the unconscious
contents. The ego thus enriched and strengthened through
the assimilation of the unconscious is freed from "egocentric"
ways of functioning, which are conditioned by the darkness of
ignorance and passion. Consequently, the ego can attain an
attitude which allows it to function in an "ex-centric" manner in
perfect unison with, and in the service of, the Self. This state can
be designated as "Self-centric." Lin chi calls it "the total action of
the total being," or the Self realizing itself in its totality.
1. J. Jacobi, The Way of Individuation, trans. R.F.C. Hull (New
York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1967), p. 72. J. Henderson,
"The Jungian Orientation to Eastern Religionr'(taped lecture. Los
Angeles: C.G. Jung Institute, 1975). See M. Miyuki, "A Jungian
Approach to the Pure Land Practice of Nien-fo," The Journal of
Analytical Psychology (London: The Society of Analytical Psychology),
Vol. 24, no. 3 (July 1980), pp. 265-274.
2. This article is a further elaboration of the paper entitled
"Selbstverwirklichung in the Ten Oxherding Pictures," presented at
the Eighth International Congress of International Association
for Analytical Psychology. San Francisco. September, 1980.
3. Various numbers of the Verses which accompany The
Oxherding Pictures are found in the Zoku zokyo as follows: Kuo-an's
Prefaces and Verses to The Ten Oxherding Pictures (1. 2, 113, pp. 459a-
406band 1.2.116, pp. 489a-b); Pu-ming's Verses to The Ten Oxherding
Pictures (1. 2. 113, pp. 461a-462a), which are followed by those of
many other masters who also wrote their Verses to accompany the
pictures used by Pu-ming. Hence, the popularity of Pu-ming's
version is undeniable. The last of these masters is Chu-che, who
also wrote the ten verses to The White O x Pictures (1. 2. 113, pp.
470b-471a). There are also two other masters' Verses to The
Oxherding Pictures; namely, the Verses for The Six Oxherding Pictures,
composed by Tsu-te Hui-hui of the twelfth century (1.2.116, pp.
489b-490a) and the Verses for The Four Oxherding Pictures (1. 2. 137,
pp. 210a-b) by Hsueh-ting, a contemporary of Kuo-an. These
different Verses, composed by the five Zen Masters, to The
Oxherding Pictures of various numbers are translated into English by
Zenkei Shibayama. See The Zen Oxherding Pictures. Commentaries
by Zenkei Shibayama and Paintings by Gyokusei Jikihara (Osaka:
Sogensha, 1975). For an English translation and exposition of The
Six Oxherding Pictures, see Z. Shibayama, The Six Oxherding Pictures,
trans. Sumiko Kudo (Kyoto?): The Nissha Printing Co., Ltd. No Date).
4. For the English translation of Kuo-an's and Pu-ming's texts,
I have used D.T. Suzuki's translation in his Manual of Zen Buddhism
(London: Rider and Company, 1950), pp. 127-144. Suzuki's
translation of Kuo-an's text with his discussion is also found in his
article, "The Awakening of a New Consciousness in Zen," in Man
and Transformation. Bollingen Series xxx 5 (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1964), pp. 179-202. For another translation and discussion
of Kuo-an's version, see M.H. Treavor, tr. The Ox and His Herdsman:
A Chinese Zen Text (Tokyo: Hoduseido Press, 1969).
5. Yanagida Seizan,"Ni-hon Zen no toku-shoku" (Characteristics
of Japanese Zen), in Ogisu Jundo, ed., Zen to ni-hon buk-ka no sho
mon-dui (Problems of Zen and Japanese Culture) (Kyoto, Heirakuji
shoten, 1969), pp. 79-84.
6. Zoku zokyo 1. 2. 113, p. 459a.
7. Z. Shibayama, The Six Oxherding Pictures, pp. 3-4.
8. See D.T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen (London: Rider and Company,
1955)~p . 48.
9. Chih-yen, Hua-yen ching K'ung-mu chang (The Essentials of the
Hua-yen Sutra), Taisho 45, p. 549b-c.
Psychology and Religion: West and East. The Collected Works of C. G. lung
(hereafter abridged as CW) 11 (New York: Pantheon Books, Inc.,
1958), par. 774.
13. E.F. Edinger, Ego and Archetype (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin
Books, Inc., 1973), p. 104.
11, par. 391.
by Aniela Jaffe: Trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1961), p. 3.
16. See footnote 11 above.
Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 405.
19. Edward F. Edinger, Ego and Archetype, p. 5.
20. Ibid., p. 188. For a discussion on the mandala symbolism of
the ternary process and quaternary completion in the major
teachings of Buddhism, see M. Miyuki, "The Ideational Content of
the Buddha's Enlightenment as Selbstverwirklichung" (see present
21. See D.T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen, p. 48.
22. The Dasabhumisvaro nama mahayanasutram, Edited Pyuko Kindo
(Tokyo: The Daijyo Bukkyo Kenkyu-kai, 1936), p. 119. The first
seven stages are the stages in which the Bodhisattva is said not to
be completely free from klesa or defilement. The finality of the
Bodhisattva's realization in the eighth stage is also suggested by
its name, i.e., "Immovable (acala), which indicates that the Bodhisattva
firmly establishes himself in Buddha's wisdom and compassion.
23. Ibid., p. 135.
24. See C.G. Jung, "On 'The Tibetan Book of the Great
Liberation'." CW 11, par 744. Also see C.G. Jung's "Foreword to
'Introduction to Zen Buddhism'." CW, par. 890.
25. The ninth stage is called "Excellent Wisdom" (sadhumati). At
this stage the Bodhisattva attains the four wisdoms of nonhinderances
by which he can preach the profound dharma of the
Buddha. The tenth stage is called "Dharma-Cloud" (dharma-magha).
At this stage of the final realization, the Bodhisattva bestows
Buddha's wisdom and compassion, or an abundance of dharma like
rain on all sentient beings in order to liberate them from the
samsaric existence of suffering and sorrow.
26. D.T. Suzuki, "The Awakening of a New Consciousness in
Zen," in Man and Transformation, p. 201.
27. Lin-chi, Chen-chou Lin-chi Hui-chao ch'an-shih y-lu (The Dialogues
of the Zen Master Lin-chi Hui-chao), Taisho 47, p. 501b.
28. See Z. Shibayama, The Six Oxherding Pictures, pp. 44.
THE OXHERDING PICTURES
OF ZEN BUDDHISM:
By J. Marvin Spiegelman
When I first happened upon the Ten Oxherding Pictures, in
Manual of Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki (1960), it was as if I had
found a great treasure, a visual representation of the process of
individuation in succinct, powerful form. I immediately thought
of the series of pictures from the Rosarium Philosophorum, the
German alchemical pictures which Jung (1946) had used so
brilliantly and profoundly to illustrate the transference. He
showed, thereby, that the underlying meaning of the transference
was the individuation process.
It was 1960, and I was back in the United States, in the midst of
the hurly-burly of earning a living, being a husband and father,
trying to maintain the deep inner connection with the soul which
was so nourished by my years of training at the C.G. Jung
Institute in Zurich. Sometimes I felt that I was not at all doing
what I had been trained to do and found it beyond my powers to
connect the introverted existence I had grown used to with the
requirements of adaptation to work and life in extraverted
America. The Oxherding Pictures were like a stream opening up
in the midst of the dry Southern California desert. I recalled my
dream of my psyche opening to the orient (see East and West: A
Personal Statement) and once more felt a continuity of process.
My own individuation was now proceding onward, despite the
appearance of blockage and wrong-turning. Synchronistically, I
met my first analysand from the Orient, and my link with the
East, particularly with Japan, has not been seriously interrupted
Some years later, in a seminar, I attempted to present a
commentary on these pictures, along with my friend and colleague,
Mokusen Miyuki, but found that I could in no way satisfactorily
convey my understanding and appreciation of the series, despite
my strong desire and an apparently receptive audience. Once
more I experienced the gap between a charged and meaningful
inner connection and my capacity to link this up with the outer
world. This time, however, it was not only my own inner life that
was involved, it was the larger interior life of the whole cultural
experience of Buddhism which was hard to convey. Within a short
time, however, Buddhism burst into California like a great flood,
along with the spiritual revolution of the sixties, and soon its
general attitudes, tenets and techniques became a part of the
general consciousness of spiritually inclined people. A deeper
sense of reconciliation of inner and outer, of connection with "the
face before you were born," with the Self and its unity, were just
as evanescent as ever.
At that time, there appeared a paper by the same great scholar
of Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki (1964),"Awakening of a New Consciousness
in Zen," which included the Oxherding Pictures, along with a
brief commentary. When I saw how even the great Suzuki
struggled to convey his comprehension of Enlightenment and the
difficulties with it, I was consoled. I was startled to discover,
however, that my own understanding of the pictures differed in
some measure from his. Who was I to have a view about such a
work at all? I realized, then, that I was using the pictures as a
guideline, a source, and from a psychological point of view and not as
a scholar, a religious partisan (Buddhist), nor one thoroughly
steeped spiritually and culturally in such matters. I shall have
occasion, in what follows, to mention these differences of interpretation,
but mainly I shall be continuing the process of my own use of
these treasures from China and Japan. I shall, therefore, be
thinking of individuation, rather than Enlightenment, will be experiential
rather than scholarly, Californian and personal, rather than Oriental
and transpersonal. I do attempt, however, to be comparative and
to establish links with the scholarly and transpersonal.
Before I turn to the pictures themselves, I wish to continue this
explanation of how I arrived at even the possibility of such an
endeavor. In 1967, while at work on a fictional account of the
individuation process in various cultures and climes, I was inspired
to write a story of such a process using those same Oxherding
Pictures. In April 1967, on Buddha's birthday, I began such a story,
called The Ronin, which was my best attempt to both live through
and convey the individuation theme as shown in the pictures.
That story became part of a larger work, The Tree: Tales in Psycho-
Mythology, (1982, Falcon Press, Phoenix Az.) as I mention in East
and West: A Personal Statement. The Ronin is included in this book
as another way of communicating what it is that we are about in
the individuation process or the journey towards Enlightenment.
This fictional account was followed up by another story of
individuation seen from pictures, this time from those almost-asfascinating
images in Kundalini Yoga, commented upon by
Arthur Avalon (1918) in The Serpent Power. This story, in contrast to
the Buddhist spiritual warrior in The Ronin, is from a Hindu
woman's point of view. It is called Maya, the Yogini. These two tales,
plus the use of the Rosarium pictures of alchemy (in the story of The
African) in that same book, The Tree, began to satisfy my quest for a
kind of ecumenical individuation and spiritual journey with the use
of pictures. Finally, it took three volumes to truly bring together
the many-fold stories and variations into one larger Kabbalistic,
Taoistic, Buddhistic, Christian, Pagan whole (1975,1982,1984 ff).
So continued my desire to explicate or communicate this hardto-
describe process to a larger public. I grew to realize that this
same effort at communication was still part of my own process of
linking up this strange inner unity and multiplicity to the outer
world with its equally strange unity and multiplicity. I thought
that my efforts could come to rest, but this was not to be the case.
The vicissitudes of publishing (rejection, then acceptance but the
publisher going bankrupt), continued the same adventure but
now in the outer world. So the same conflict of inner and outer,
East and West, introversion and extraversion, spirit and body,
continued, now embodied in my"childn (the three books of fiction)
being able to walk around on its own in the world.
It was not until 1982 that this long-term repeat of the blockage
of 1959-60 was opened up once more. Again, the opening came
from the East, from Japan. My colleague, Dr. Mokusen Miyuki,
and I were invited to be principal speakers in an East-West
Conference taking place in Tokyo and Kyoto. I thus wrote my
East-West paper for that conference, speaking around the time,
once more, of Buddha's birthday, and enjoyed a totally heartwarming
reception from Japanese people. Among my many East-
West experiences was contact with a Swiss Catholic Priest who
was a scholar of Japanese Buddhism, and a Japanese Protestant
Minister who was about to become a Jungian Analyst! I felt at
That same period brought my re-connection with a friend, who
had now become a publisher and was interested in bringing out
my work, both fiction and non-fiction. And so, the circle (as in
Oxherding picture VIII) comes around to its starting point and I
once more have the opportunity to sum up and convey what those
pictures mean to me. For the last three or four years, I have also
lectured on these pictures to candidates in Jungian training, to
give them another view of the individuation process, in addition to
that shown by Jung's alchemical portrayal. Here ends the apologia,
that a Westerner might be so audacious as to write a commentary
Suzuki (1960 p. 127) tells us that the originals of the pictures we
are using were painted by a Zen Master of the Sung dynasty in
China, called Kaku-an Shi-en. This same master also authored the
remarkable poems and introductory comments which are attached
to the pictures. The ones in general use in Japan, however, were
painted by Shubun, a contemporary Japanese Zen priest of the
fifteenth century. There are other sets of pictures with the same
or similar theme, notably those by Seikyo (a contemporary of
Kaku-an) and by Jitoku. These latter are notable in that the
process ends with the circle, rather than the human reconnection
in life as in Kaku-an's and that there is a longer sequence in which
the ox undergoes notable whitening. These pictures will be
commented upon later on, but here we can only note that the
Kaku-an pictures are both more profound, in that they include
stages beyond that attainment of wholeness shown by the circle,
and that his pictures are more delicate, refined and differentiated.
It is particularly remarkable of Kaku-an to have completed such a
full task when his contemporaries, and the even later (1585) work
of Chu-hung with poems by Pu-ming, are clearly more primitive
in conception and execution.
When we compare both sets of pictures with those of the
Rosarium, we see at once that the Chu-hung and the alchemical
series are of similar rough quality, so that Kaku-an's achievement
stands out even more. What is suggested by this particula~
refinement and differentiation of the Zen Master is uncertain
Clearly, he is an inheritor of an already old and revealed tradition
with highly differentiated concepts, stages and achievements,
whereas the alchemical tradition was usually a hidden one
Alchemy was in a very different relation to the socially accepted
religion of Christianity than the Oxherding pictures was to
Buddhism. Whereas the latter explicated the basic tenets and
revealed them, alchemy compensated the prevailing religion by
describing a work in nature and in man, as Jung so eloquently
demonstrates. So we have, as we shall see, a remarkably modern
and clear presentation of the developmental process in the older
commentary by Kaku-an, in contrast to the alchemical work
which is abstruse and seemingly more distant to our modern ear,
though closer to us in time and culture. Thanks to Jung, however,
we can connect these two works, arising in roughly similar times
but continents away in space. I believe, however, they are
complementary in spirit.
Both series have ten pictures, just as do the Kundalini series,
and those of Tarot (at least for the ten Sephiroth of the Kabbalistic
Tree of Life; there are additional pictures of course, for their
interconnections). Jung informs us (Vol. 16,1946, paragraph 525
and footnote) that ten, the denarius, is considered to be a perfect
number. The Axiom of Maria, an alchemical formula of wholeness,
runs 4,3,2,1, in sequence. The sum of these numbers is ten, which
stands for unity on a higher level. This same unity, as Jung
explains from the alchemical sources, stands for the res simplex,
God as an indivisible unity and the monad. God is ten, therefore
the beginning and end of all numbers. The archetypal significance
of this -- which probably holds for the Oriental psyche as well as
the West -- is that of the Self, in Jung's sense, the symbolic
representation of that totality. The presentation of exactly ten
pictures on both continents, then, portrays and unfolds the nature
of that wholeness, which we in the West call God and the East calls
As we look at the structure of the pictures themselves, we
immediately note that the Rosarium images have no outer frame at
all, in contrast to those of the Oxherding series. Those of Chuhung
have a very clear square to contain the series, while Kaku-an
uses both an outer square for each picture and an inner circle to
contain the content and action. Does this perhaps also reflect that
the Oriental way is "contained" and part of the prevailing religious
collective, whereas the alchemical images are, indeed, outside the
pale, not contained in the prevalent religious structure? I think
that this is true, since the very beginning of the alchemical series
shows the problem and presentation of the "vessel" itself: a
Mercurial fountain and a basin into which the waters flow and
from which they arise. The framing is provided by symbols such as
the snakes spitting smoke, the stars, sun and moon and not simply
lines. We are faced with the problem of the vessel, the container,
right away. Where does the transformation take place? In matter,
in chemicals, in people, in nature? No person is shown in the
Rosarium at the outset, only the attempt at discovering the basis of
the transformation process itself. In the Oxherding series, we are
immediately confronted with a person, the young man, and know
at once that his dilemma and search is at the core of the issue. He is
the one to be transformed. So, then, the structure or frame --
Buddhism and meditation -- is already known. How different
from the "experiments" of alchemy!
As we consider, next, this issue of the appearance of people in
the pictures, we again perceive a central difference. The human
being is presented at the outset, and continually in the Eastern
series, with his absence being particularly notable and significant
in the last-but-one picture and its predecessor. In the Rosarium
series, after the initial image which is concerned with the vessel,
all pictures portray the vicissitudes of the person, but as a pair,
male and female, king and queen. In the latter, the entire series is
concerned with the differentiation and union of these two
alchemical figures, resulting in a oneness, a hermaphrodite, at the
end. With the Oxherding series, however, we are involved with
one person, an ordinary young man, until he vanishes temporarily,
with good reason, only to emerge at the end, changed, transformed,
old, but full of the life and vitality of the Enlightened person.
We can clearly see the complementary nature of the process as
grasped by the two world-views. In the one, contained and
understood in the religious collective of the day, there is the task
of the ordinary person to achieve Enlightenment. In the other --
secret, apart and even unknowing of what one is about -- there
gradually emerges a knowledge that the person is a vessel for the
union of opposites, and that, finally, individuation is a process
which requires human relationship. Jung makes much of this
relationship requirement in his commentary, so that it is particularly
notable how the two sets end. In the West there is a unity, one
androgynous creature. In the East there is the lonely man, after a
long work with himself, finally joining other people in ordinary
life (the wine-bibbers, etc.) At the end, he even meets someone
who looks remarkably like he, himself, looked at the outset.
One gets images from such presentations. In the East, the
seeker meditates, alone. He seeks advice from a Master, may even
live in a monastery, but ultimately he meditates alone. In the
West, one seeks psychotherapy, and the process of individuation is
very much felt in the context of the analytical relationship.
Indeed, the very content of this individuation process in psycho-
therapy reveals itself -- unexpectedly from the point of view of the
founders of this discipline -- in the relationship itself, the
So man alone transforms himself and comes back into the
world; and man finds himself in relation with another and thus
unifies the fragmentation of his soul. Complementary, indeed! It
seems particularly striking that the psyche, East and West, was
presenting itself in this complementary fashion around the same
time in the fifteenth century in China and Japan, and in the
sixteenth century in Europe. Was there a similar "renaissance" of
the spirit being worked on in both areas of the world? And now,
more than four hundred years later, when we compare, unite and
further develop the spirits of the East and West, are we in the
midst of another "renaissance," presaging world unity?
If we look a little further into this role of the personlpersons in
the two sets of pictures, we see that in the East there is no female.
In the West, the feminine is present from the outset, in the
symbolic form of vessel, of moon, etc., and then quite literally
throughout in the form of the queen. In the East, no woman at all.
How many women meditated, visited gurus, sought enlightenment?
Some, of course, since there have been Zen priestesses, for
example, for a very long time. It was mostly a man's work,
however. But was alchemy so different? There was Maria
Prophetissa, of course, and the profound influence of her "axiom,"
but were there female alchemists? One doesn't know, but Jung
intuits and I think rightly, that there must have been some form of
soror mystica, a feminine partner who was something additional to
the projection of the male alchemist's own anima. But we know
nothing of this. In the pictures, however, the feminine is clearly
personified in the West, but in the East, it is all background. It is a
circle, it is nature, it is the animal, it is both the source and goal of
In the East it is assumed, but not personified. In the West it is
personified and consciously united with. Perhaps it is part of the
West's gift to have the feminine as an equal, participatory partner
and that a future set of pictures, East and West, will have the
personal feminine and her process as much a part of the work as is
archetypally portrayed in these two sets.
It would be a mistake, however, to simply call both sets just a
part of the masculine individuation process or search for Enlightenment.
They are, rather, portraits of the "masculine," not men,
just as the portrayal of nature, circle, etc. are of the"femininer'and
not women. We are witness to the growth and differentiation of
the archetypal opposites, of king and queen, and not just those of
our ordinary egos. Both sets give us Enlightenment about
ourselves, male and female, masculine and feminine, and their
We can turn, now, to the individual pictures of the Eastern
series, to concentrate on their sequence, and only occasionally
remark on the comparison with the West. Before we do so,
however, one should note that another Eastern series, that of the
Kundalini, shares characteristics of the West, in that the male and
female, god and goddess, are part of almost every picture,
ultimately leading to a genderless union at the highest level. In
this, it is like the West. But in Kundalini, male, as form, only
gradually grows in power and signficance, whereas female, as
energy and power, gradually differentiates and becomes civilized
and spiritualized. In East and West, we have glimpses of the need
to civilize and differentiate, as well as to redeem and recover our
origins in nature and instinct. But the Oxherding series departs
from Kundalini, just as Buddhism did from Hinduism.
We shall present Kaku-an's commentary and poem, for each
picture, followed by a discussion of their meaning to us.
Picture One: Searching for the Ox
The beast has never gone astray, and what is the use of
searching for him? The reason the oxherd is not on intimate
terms with him is that the oxherd himself has violated his
own inmost nature. The beast is lost, for the oxherd has
himself been led out of the way, through his deluding senses.
His home is receding farther away from him, and byways and
crossways are ever confused. Desire for gain and fear of loss
burn like fire; ideas of right and wrong spring up like a
Alone in the wilderness, lost in the jungle,
the boy is searching, searching!
The swollen waters, the faraway mountains,
and the unending path;
Exhausted and in despair, he knows not
where to go,
He only hears the evening cicadas singing
in the maple woods.
How modern sound these words of Kaku-an! How strange that
our ear can hear the plaint of the contemporary person who has
lost his soul and is in search of it, here and there and everywhere.
No longer believing in God, nor man, nor "isms," the person
described in Jung's works as "A Modern Man in Search of a Soul"
is cut off from himself, estranged from his own depths, not
knowing where to turn. So, too, is the oxherd, of four hundred
years ago, lost.
But what is this ox that he is searching for? Suzuki tells us that
it is the mind, or heart, or better yet, the Self. It is that Self of the
Buddhist, or that Self of the Jungians, which is the center and
higher authority within, or the totality of his being, which is
portrayed here as an animal. Suzuki also tell us (1964, p. 198) that
the ox comes from the niu in Chinese, or ushi in Japanese, which
designates the bovine family generally; it is ox and cow and bull, of
no specific gender. It is the sacred animal in India and this
compared to the Self, or, as we in the West might say, the God
What Suzuki does not say, but perhaps those who are more
familiar with the symbolism in other cultures can realize, is that the
Self here appears as an animal, just as the Divine appears
represented as an animal in many traditions, even Christianity
(Jesus as the Lamb, for instance, and the evangelists with animal
symbols as representative of them). When we come to discuss
pictures IV to V1 we shall see how it is that we can have adifferent
view than Suzuki of this matter, but here we are in agreement: the
ox equals Self.
How can it be that the young man (ourselves) is estranged from
the Self, himself. "The beast has never gone astray,"says the text,
and Suzuki agrees. The original Self, or home, is one that we have
never left, but "owing to our intellectual delusions, we are led to
imagine (the Self) has disappeared from our sight. Searching for
the lost is a great initial error we all commit, which makes us think
we are finally awakened to a new consciousness.~~
Our psychological consciousness may help us understand this
paradox. The original Self, of course, is always there. It is ther'face
before we were born,"it is the potential wholeness from which we
come at the outset of existence and to which we both return and
achieve. But it is also something from which we can be estranged,
just as we, in the modern day, can be estranged from our animal
nature, as is implied by the Oxherding pictures. Full of our
modern rationalist delusions, the belief that reason and external
evidence provide the only truth, we are cut off from our animal
wisdom, our instincts. We thus endure a kind of deadness, cut off
from vitality and spontaneity, or else we are split and experience
mind and body as apart, separated.
The wonder is that this dilemma can be expressed with such
poetry and accuracy in the pictures and words of an alien culture
of more than 400 years ago! Can it be that the Chinese and
Japanese of the fifteenth century, whom we usually believe to be
more whole and united than we of the scientific present day, were
also afflicted with our disease? It seems to be. Not only that, but
there is indication that such a struggle comes from an older
tradition, that these poems and pictures are already part of the
institution of healing, just as is modern psychotherapy. This tells
us that our perceived understanding of the predicament of
modern man is not exclusively modern at all. In every age,
perhaps, there is the tendency of the psyche to dissociate itself, to
spontaneously produce "neurosis," not as a consequence of
external events alone, but as a result of the need of the soul itself
to differentiate further, to acquire more consciousness. Von
Franz describes just such a condition in her introduction to the
interpretation of Fairy Tales (1970). Splitting and fragmentation can
occur in the larger culture, just as it can in the individual, as the
need to develop further, to fulfil1 that same potential of greater
consciousness which was there in the beginning.
Is it not also possible that the China and Japan of the fifteenth
century were also in a condition similar to that of Europe,
undergoing an upheaval, in which the order of the middle ages
was breaking up?
In any case, the words here speak to our modern condition very
well. Nowadays, we have more than ever "gone astray" and we are
not on good terms with our inmost nature. Kaku-an tells us that
we are lost because of our "deluding senses." What deludes us is
the act of giving total authority to what our five senses present to
us from without, or even from within, and we do not open
ourselves to mystery, imagination, to the images which embellish
and enrich and even go beyond the information presented from
those same senses. So we are ever further away from the
experience of wholeness and aliveness, the sense of wonder
without which life is a meaningless round of drudgery.
Kaku-an tells us the psychic content of such a soul who is
confused on the way, knows he is lost, but has no sense of where
to find the path. "Desire for gain and fear of loss burn like fire,
ideas of right and wrong spring up like a phalanx." Again what an
insight! Desire, and competition and yearning for material gain is
our plague. We are a wild, undisciplined animal who lives in an
urban jungle, far from home. Along with the plague of desire
comes a judge with rigid views of right and wrong, ever evaluating
and condemning. Self and others are found wanting, we receive
no compassion, enjoy no rest. Is this not a poetic rendering of what
the first modern psychologist diagnosed? Id versus Superego, said
Freud; wish and desire versus guilt and judgment. Such is the
kingdom of our discontent, such is the pessimistic struggle for
which there is only consciousness as a valued outcome, a sweet
reason of awareness in the midst of pain.
But the Oxherding pictures and Zen promise more than a
diagnosis of despair and hopelessness, even here in the first
picture. The"moreJ'is found in the poem, the soft words of which
picture for us the condition and the hope as well. The poet tells us
of the lostness, and the searching, the unending searching. He
tells us of the exhaustion and despair and the not knowing where
to go. But he also tells us that the lost boy hears "the evening
cicadas singing in the maple woods."
What is this cicada if not the voice of nature herself, chirping her
age-old tune of joy and happiness, of oneness and harmony with
herself. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that the cicada is a"homopterous
insect," which means that its wings are of uniform texture,
patterned and harmonious. Our western version of the cicada is
the cricket, which the Standard Dictionary of Folklore (1949) tells us
was "much esteemed in antiquity," and had the quality of bringing
good and bad fortune, depending upon one's attitude toward it. It
was a prophet (of rain, death, or the approach of an absent lover), a
nostrum in healing, and a personification of the spirit of the
house, especially at the hearth. Thus the cicada is a symbol for
potential order, for harmony, for the oneness or union of animal
and man (insect and warming center of civilized condition).
Depending upon one's attitude, we are thereby in tune with time
(prophecy), love, renewal and even healed. Our suffering youth,
then, in hearing the cicada, is given an intuition, a promise of
wholeness in tiny, hardly visible form. His suffering is not just
that of endless despair, but he can perceive the possiblity of hope
We must not forget the other imagery of the poem and what our
modern psychology can tell us about it. "Swollen waters": a
symbol of the filled unconscious, ready to disgorge its contents,
frightening, but promising renewal. "Faraway mountains": a
symbol of the individuation process, that struggle to reach the
higher vision, to master oneself and touch the place where God
lives, atop mountains; for where God lives, there is higher
consciousness and greater vision. And finally, the "unending
path": the ancient symbol of the "way," the process of moving
Godward, of the seeking of the treasure hard to obtain.
All this does the poet tell us and all this does he convey in that
oriental fashion, with an image, with a word, a kind of haiku of the
Picture II: Seeing the Traces
By the aid of the sutras and by inquiring into the doctrines, he
has come to understand something, he has found the traces.
He now knows that vessels, however varied, are all of gold,
and that the objective world is a reflection of the Self. Yet, he
is unable to distinguish what is good from what is not, his
mind is still confused as to truth and falsehood. As he has not
yet entered the gate, he is provisionally said to have noticed
By the stream and under the trees, scattered
are the traces of the lost;
The sweet-scented grasses are growing thick--
did he find the way?
However remote over the hills and faraway
the beast may wander,
His nose reaches the heavens and none can
Kaku-an now tells us how one can procede on the path to
spiritual growth, to Enlightenment, to one's reconciliation with
one's self when one is confused and tormented. Given one's
ignorance, one studies the sutras and enquires into the doctrines.
We must then, in our modern dilemma, which seeks the psychotherapeutic
route to Enlightenment or individuation, read the
Bible -- Jewish and Christian -- the Koran, as well as the true
sutras of the East. Thereby, says Kaku-an, will we come to
"understand something," we will find the traces. "The traces of
what," we may ask? Why the traces of the ox, the divine spirit, the
Self which has been apprehended by many in the past, and has left
its deposits in the great books, the holy texts, the commentaries.
There, at least, we may begin to get a glimpse of how others saw it,
of how the divine has manifested itself in the cultures and peoples
of other times and places, as well as the culture into which were
born, and of whose mysteries and truths we have grown tired and
can not abide. Seen another way, the mysteries of all of these are
unfathomable to us because we have not yet, or can no longer,
grasp them as a living experience.
Still, says Kaku-an, the sutras, the texts, can help us find the
traces. Through such study and intellectual attention we can at
least come to comparative truths. We can discover that "vessels,
however varied, are all of gold." That is to say, we can realize that
all religions, all systems which pursue the manifestation of the
numinous, of God or the Self, contain a seed or expression of that
divine spark which touched the writers and seekers. All containers,
all theories, are valuable and holy. And, are we but wise enough to
grasp it, we can see that no vessel is the only one made of gold. No
religion or creed can rightly claim to be the true and exclusive
carrier of the divine. If all vessels are of gold, then no vessel is
particularly golden. Yet each vessel, when one is inside it, contains
the golden, and sometimes, when that Self speaks through its
imagery, through its words and experience, it would seem to be
the only olie, the particular and amazing. When God speaks to me,
I feel that my soul is His beloved, that He speaks only to me, and it
is hard for me to know that He does, indeed, speak only to me
when He talks to me, but that He has many bther lovers as well!
And He speaks to them in strange tongues, and sometimes in ways
which seem anathema to me. So, if God speaks in Sanskrit and
Chinese and Japanese, as well as Hebrew and Greek, Latin and
Arabic, German and English, well then, the many tongues are
relative. But that is for the most modernday, the day that Suzuki,
too, speaks of (1964, p. 198), that time when the world is
"becoming one, as it should, and the distinction of East and West is
disappearing, though slowly." This day, our day, is not that of
Kaku-an, yet he is like us when he knows that all vessels are of
Kaku-an also knows, in this second picture, that the seeker will
discover thro~gh the sutras, that the "objective world is a
reflection of the Self." Yes, we can discover that the same world
which deceived us with its multiplicity and variety, with its
unnourishing prescriptions, with its facts which offended us, is
also a representation of that Self which we are seeking. God's
body is "out there" in the world for all to see. The divine is all that
mess and confusion, hatred and division, as well as the wonder and
love and harmony. What, now; is that all we have found through
our study? No, says Kaku-an, no, indeed. For we still cannot
distinguish "what is good from what is not," what is true and what
is false. We have learned something, but we still do not know the
truth of thinking and the values of feeling. We are not yet, in
short, in touch with our own truth, our own values, our own Self. We
know the languages that God has spokenin the past, but we do not
yet know His own to us. We have seen traces but have not yet
experienced the Being itself. And now when we speak of God as
"He," we think, most modernly, that ushi and niu are oxes in the
sense of gender-free, not castrated; that the divine transcends role
and sex, even animal and human! But, as we have not yet entered
the gate, have not yet had our own experience of the divine, we
can only say that we have "noticed the traces."
The poem leads us in a somewhat different direction. Suzuki
tells us that there is nowhere that the kokoro is not. "We are always
in it, we are it." There is nowhere to seek, nowhere to hide,
because "all our running can never be outside the kokoro itself."
Thus the Self is everywhere we look, and everywhere we do not
look, for we are in the Self, and are the Self, and as a later picture
advises us, it was silly for us to seek in the first place. But seek we
must, because we are unhappy, and because, (and here is where,
perhaps, we part from the wisdom of Suzuki and rely on
psychological knowledge) this same Self wanted us to do so.
Perhaps God Himself, without even being aware of it, cast us out
so that we could bring Him back information about Himself. He
had everything, it seems, except a partner He could talk to. The
Angels only echoed (except for the Devil) and maybe He got bored.
The paradox of the Fortunate Fall is one instance; without our fall
there would have been no great mystery of redemption. Another
is that perhaps there is a natural tendency, i.e. the division within
Nature itself, seeking, as we noted from von Franz earlier on, to
enhance its own knowledge, to increase consciousness for its own
sake. In any event, as Suzuki insists, "there is nothing that can
hide him." All that hides him is that we have not yet experienced
Perhaps we have to wander by the stream and under the trees,
lose ourselves in the sweet palm-grasses of the swamps of our
desire and fantasy, in order to begin to reach him. No matter
where we go, to whatever theory or belief, or to every abstruse
and deviant sect, however wrong-headed we find it, the ox is
there. Suzuki, once more, says that when nothing can hide the ox,
"It is we who shut our own eyes and pitifully bemoan that we
cannot see anything (1964, p. 199)." This is surely true, because
the nose reaches the heavens and none can conceal it. And yet,
how is it that this same beast eludes us in our own experience?
How is it that we must make great effort, even despair at length,
before we can go beyond the traces? Is it not because this selfsame
ox wants us to do so? Does he not require us to pursue, to
sweat and to struggle, so that our finding will make the grasses
even sweeter, the hills even grander? In the reaching of the nose
into the heavens, does the ox not show us the way to search?
And now, indeed, we know that the ox not only is hard to find,
but is everywhere, and not only is he beyond our reach, but he
wants us to reach him, and without our attempt there is nothing.
For even if we had it all along, perhaps there was no one there to
know that we had it, and this, indeed, is what the ox desires. Yes,
we have desire and ignorance, and perhaps the ox, too, has desire
and ignorance? Suzuki would say no, and so would the religions
of the West, but perhaps one can conjecture the psychological
possibility without disrespect.
But we are only at Picture I1 and to speculate so is merely to
argue with the sutras, merely to note the vessels without actually
experiencing the ox. We are still in the state of "Seeing the
Picture III: Seeing the Ox
The boy finds the way by the sound he hears: he sees thereby
into the origin of things, and his senses are in harmonious
order. In all his activites, it is manfestly present. It is like the
salt in water and the glue in color. (It is there though not
distinguishable as an individual entity.) When the eye is
properly directed, he will find that it is no other than himself.
On a yonder branch perches a nightingale
The sun is warm, and a soothing breeze
flows, on the bank the willows are green;
The Ox is there all by himself, nowhere
is he to hide himself;
The splendid head decorated with stately
horns -- what painter can reproduce him?
Now, at last, after wandering and not knowing, after reading
and studying and reflecting, we go beyond the traces, we come to
the experience itself. This, says Suzuki (1964 p. 199), is "the
awakening of 'a new consciousness'; it is the finding of the
precious animal which is no other than the man himself." But this
is not a new finding, it was there all along. It is there in all his
activities, everything the seeker does. It is not distinguishable (the
salt in water and glue in color) from the surroundings, it is that
quality which is inherent in all.
Well, our oxherd knew this from his reading and studying, how
is it different now? It is different in that he knows it is himself, or
better, his Self, and he knows it through experience. Now he
knows it by theUsound he hears," not by what he reads. He listens,
it seems. Does he hear the voice of God? Does the Self speak to
him personally now, just to him and to no other? Does he now
begin to hear his own language, the words of his own being,
calling him from within, just as he was seeking, seeking without? I
think so, particularly when Kaku-an tells us: "When the eye is
properly directed, he will find that it is no other than himself."
So, Kaku-an sheds the light that the eye must look in the proper
place. Is that not into one's being, one's own fantasies and dreams,
affects and strivings? Was it not the ox itself that was driving him
to the ox? Once more we think so, for how else can one know the
Self unless one knows the self? How can we learn the nature of
the totality unless we know our own? And there he is, in the
What is it that is revealed? The poet speaks of the "splendid head
decorated with stately horns." Indeed "what painter can reproduce
him?" He wears the beautiful crown of the divine, the horns of
grandeur, and there is no way to show his image. This reminds us
of the Hebrew word of Torah, enjoining us to produce no graven
image of the divine. We are commanded not to, nor to utter His
name, for there is no image, there is no word that can encompass
this grandeur and wonder and totality. Can the part truly grasp
the whole, or render it? Certainly not -- but we must try.
What is it, then, that is revealed here in the picture? No grand
head, but a homely behind! No kingly spiritual crown nor
impressive sound of the voice, but the vulnerable place of man and
beast, our hind-end from which come our excreta, our rejected
and unused, that of which we are unconscious. It is our shadow, as
Jung says, our own dark side. Is this not so when we truly
undertake the voyage of discovery of ourselves? Is it not our own
shadows and darkness that is first revealed? This is the wisdom
that the artist sees, when the poet looks elsewhere. One voice
knows what the other does not.
The rear end we discover, however, is not only our own, which
we apprehend all too painfully and sorrowfully, but that of the
Self itself. This ox, after all, is not only our own personal ox, but
the collective ox, the common content of the soul of us all. And
here the Master Kaku-an shows us truly and intuitively that it is
the dark side of God that reveals itself to us. All the sutras, all the
books, all the commandments, products of many minds, many
years, many devotions, show us the whole story, but they cleanse,
too, their own darkness, and it is hidden from us. It is only in our
own struggle, our own pain of dry meditation, of anger at pain and
discomfort, of bleak dreams and disgusting images that we come
to our darkness and, at last, the darkness of the divine as well.
"The dark night of the soul," another seeker tells us, is essential
before we can find the light. So suggests this picture, too.
All the same, however, we have at last found the ox. Once
seeing him, once knowing that he arises from our inner search,
our reflection and meditation, our fantasy and dream, we can then
know that the "sun is warm, and a soothing breeze blows." The
willows are green and the nightingale sings, cheerfully, for nature is
in harmony with the divine, indeed is the divine. We, at last, see
our nature, understand that what we share with all the animals
and plants is a cleansing process, that we all partake in materiality
and unknowingness. This realization, a gift to humans alone, is
the source of our spiritual struggle and path. No body, no true
spirit; no shadow, no true light; no dark side of God, no light side
either. Hard to understand, hard to accept (as we shall see even
with Suzuki presently), but there for us to see. The artist and the
poet, inspired, tells us the truth.
Picture IV: Catching the Ox
Long lost in the wilderness, the boy has at last found the ox
and his hands are on him. But, owing to the overwhelming
pressure of the outside world, the ox is hard to keep under
control. He constantly longs for the old sweet-scented field.
The wild nature is still unruly, and altogether refuses to be
broken. If the oxherd wishes to see the ox completely in
harmony with himself, he has surely to use the whip freely.
With the energy of his whole being, the boy
has at last taken hold of the ox:
But how wild his will, how ungovernable
At times he struts up a plateau,
When lo! he is lost again in a misty unpenetrable
The hands of the youth are now upon the ox and the task of
training and discipline is upon us. Oh, how our desires are
primitive and unruly! Oh, how our laziness and the hugging of our
primitivity captures us. Our wild nature is unruly and refuses to
be broken, indeed. But, is this only our own nature that is so
resistive? Suzuki thinks so. He thinks that "Pictures IV, V, and V1
are misleading. It is really not the animal but the man himself that
needs training and whipping." This is surely true. It is our own
animal nature that must be tamed and trained, taught and
civilized. But is the picture truly misleading? I think not. The thing
that the youth (and we) have gotten our hands upon is the Self,
after all, and it is the Self, as well as our Self. What we have gotten
our hands on is the unconscious animal nature of God Himself! It
is that in Him which is also unruly, primitive, unconscious, as Jung
has shown so powerfully in his work, particularly in Answer to Job
(1952). We face the paradox that the Self, God, is in all nature, is
nature, and partakes both of its great beauty and harmony, and
also of its horror, disharmony, and wild disregard. It is the divine
in us, indeed, that needs transforming, but it is, at last, the divine
itself. This penetrating insight of Jung is the one that is most
difficult for many followers of a particular religious system to
harmonize for themselves. This is so, whether it is the profound
and appreciative Catholic view of a Father White (1961) or even, as
here, the view of the great D.T. Suzuki himself.
Why should this perspective be so difficult? I think it is because
Jung hit on the peculiarly alchemical character of the work with
the psyche, as he found it among those who had lost their belief in
the received religious tradition. For them, and for many of the
moderns who are "in search of the soul," (See also, A Modern Jew in
Search a Soul, Falcon Press, winter 1985) the work becomes the
redemption of the divine spark in nature, in their own nature, and
thus they are in the hidden and mysterious alchemical tradition.
So, even here, in a work which is in the heart of the Zen tradition,
a leading exponent sees the apparent clarity of the taming of the
animal as misleading. It is surely we who need the taming, but as
the pictures show, it is the divine itself. So, just as in the Rosarium
pictures, which Jung used to illustrate individuation and transference,
there is the dark power to be reckoned with, larger than ourselves,
yet abiding in ourselves. Here, too, there is the dark power to be
struggled with, tamed and even whipped, but we must also
remember that it is the other half of the longed-for totality.
How remarkable that this hint of the alchemical work (which is
even more apparent in the next picture) should reveal itself here,
in those times where the same struggle was going on in Europe!
There is, one thinks, a synchronicity of the spirit world-wide,
when, by dint of meaningful moment or development on a grand
plan, an Isaiah and Buddha and a Socrates are contemporaneous,
or when an alchemy of the soul occurs in East and West as well.
Kaku-an tells us more about this uncanny ox. He tells us that
the animal longs for the old sweet-scented field, that the divine
nature and our nature, too, longs to remain unconscious and
"natural." Our very attempt at consciousness, at the development
of the soul, goes against the grain. Yet, as Jung tells us from
alchemy, the work is both against nature, contra naturam, and with
nature, for it is our own nature itself that drives us to higher
consciousness. It is the hidden desire of the ox itself to push us, to
seek us, to tame us, and we tame him. This insight is what gives us
the permission, allows our audacity to "use the whip freely."
Without this insight, without knowing that we are both the one
who whips and is whipped, the one who commands and obeys, and
in so doing, a pupil and servant of the divine itself -- without this
awareness we are lost. Only then can we contain the overweening
pride, the hubris of such an act.
How wild the will, how ungovernable the power of this ox! At
times, he struts up a plateau. He struts, does he not? He does not
walk or run, but he struts. Like some proud and vainglorious cock,
he ascends. Here is the source of our own to-be-tamed pride and
inflation: it is contained in the divine itself. It is in our nature and
HislHer nature. We are chosen ones, or as Suzuki puts it
commenting on the previous picture: "Heaven above, heaven
below, I alone am the honored one." I am honored because I am
addressed, and I can only continue because I honor that which
In my struggle, it must be "with the energy of his (my) whole
being," it must command all of me. Do I seek my totality? Then I
must give my totality. Even when I do, the ox is lost again in the
misty, unpenetrable mountain pass. On the path of individuation,
upon the ascent to my own highest vision, I lose that divine spark,
that source of nature and vitality both within myself and beyond
myself. It is gone again, and not to be found. And yet, it appears
once more as I start at the beginning, at the perception of that
nether end, that bit of untamed nature which is overlooked. Even
when I don't look, the ox appears, for once I have glimpsed him, he
feels affronted if I neglect him; he comes seeking me, too.
The work is hard, though, and now we lose that initial
experience, when we first saw himlher (as in Picture 111) and felt
the serenity of nature, the nightingale cheerfully singing. The sun
may be warm, and the breeze blows, but in this condition we know
only struggle and agony and defeat, and achievement and victory
and surrender, too.
The work is hard not only because of us and of him, but, says
Kaku-an, "owing to the overwhelming pressure of the outside
world." What a modern, Enlightened thought is this! How much
of our time is spent in adapting, in coping, in facing and struggling
with the forces that present themselves in the outer world, when
we are oh so eager to struggle within! The God we seek and
struggle with within, we sometimes forget, is also there outside.
We learned already in the previous pictures that God is in the
sutras of tradition and there everywhere, the salt in water. It is
outside as well as inside, and when we have discovered the one, we
are hounded by the other. So does our work become doubly
But, no matter, we know, now, the place to look, the place to
struggle. For even when the outside world disturbs us, we can
look at our own reactions, struggle to be at one with ourselves in
relation to these disturbances, so there is always work to be done,
something to be tamed, a harmony to seek. We now at last have
what we have been looking for.
Picture V: Herding the Ox
When a thought moves, another follows, and then another --
an endless train of thoughts is thus awakened. Through
enlightenment all this turns into truth; but falsehood asserts
itself when confusion prevails. Things oppress us not because
of an objective world, but because of a self-deceiving mind. Do
not let the nose string loose, hold it tight, and allow no
The boy is not to separate himself with his
whip and tether,
Lest the animal should wander away into a
world of defilements;
When the ox is properly tended to, he will
grow pure and docile;
Without a chain, nothing binding, he will by
himself follow the oxherd.
Our picture shows the ox, tamed and tempered, dociley
followillg the youth on his tether. The picture shows success, but
the words reveal continuing struggle. The thoughts move,
falsehood asserts, confusion prevails, the animal wanders away
into a world of defilements. No easy task this. Why, we wonder?
Suzuki gives an answer. He says that the "habit of intellectualization,
or conceptualization which has been going on ever since
his 'loss of innocence,' is extremely difficult to get rid of. The
identification is something altogether new in his life. The adjustment
will naturally take time." This is helpful and enlightening. It is
intellectualization and conceptualization that has cut us off from
our own nature. This has resulted in a loss of innocence, a loss of
connection with our own nature, which is so difficult to overcome.
So, again a paradox emerges: we developed intellectually and
conceptually to advance consciousness; but to advance once more
in consciousness we must return to our non-thinking nature!
That is to say that we no longer identify ourselves solely with our
thinking nature. It is this which is problematical. It is not difficult,
perhaps, to merely regress and be an animal (though this, too,
becomes repugnant to our differentiated functioning), but it is
very hard to both return and advance, to recover our nature and
The difficulty and complexity of this struggle may be the reason
why, in Kaku-an's series, six of the ten pictures, sixty per cent of
the process, portrays the image of dealing with the animal. Indeed,
the name of the series itself, Oxherding Pictures, tells us that the
central problem in our individuation is the recovery and taming of
our lost natures. Without this -- and this first -- there will be no
individuation. Without this, we may perhaps have a bodiless and
false spirituality, fit only for those who have no stomach (hara!) for
the real thing. Later on, in discussing the final picture, we shall
take up this issue of belly and what it means. Here, as we confront
the overwhelming importance of the ox, we understand that the
main chakra, or orientation of the Zen-Master and those of
similar consciousness, is at the belly, the hara where we touch life.
It is even where we approach death itself (hara-kiri).
We notice something more about this ox, now, that commands
our attention: it has undergone a whitening. From its dark initial
condition, it shows itself in a lightened state. That this is not just
an accident of printing is shown by the fact that a related series of
pictures, that of Seikyo and Jitoku (see Manual ofZen Buddhism, 1960
pp. 127-129 and the subsequent pictures), clearly and explicitly
expresses the process of the whitening of the ox. In that series, the
whole process ends with an empty circle, the emptiness which
Kaku-an (as we shall see) found insufficient to describe the
process of Enlightenment. In the Seikyo series, eight out of ten, or
eighty percent of the pictures, focus upon this cleansing, differentiating
It is from this fact that we can clearly and unequivocally link up
the Zen Enlightenment process with the alchemical work as
described by Jung. That transformation of nigredo (darkening,
unconsciousness) to albedo (whitening, cleansing) is described by
him in detail (in Psychology and Alchemy, Vol. 12, 1943, Mysferium
Conjuncfionis, Vol. 14, 1954, and in other writings). This long
process, that via longissima is also seen as the bulk of the work, to be
followed by the rubedo (the reddening with new life), the cifrinifas
(yellowing) and finally the cauda pavonis, the achievement of the
peacock's tail with the entire rainbow of colors which signify the
In our present series, the colors are not included. We have,
instead, the austere, black and white presentation of the process,
suitable for that equally austere yet life-filled process of zazen, of
sitting and meditating. There are, indeed, series which are in
color, but I am not familiar enough with them to contrast those
with the original set. The same austerity and side-wise reference
sitting, zazen, is probably contained in the comment, "when a
thought moves, another follows. . ." When we sit and focus upon
our breathing, our emptiness, it is indeed the thoughts which
come to disturb us, to push us away from our concentration. And
it is our mind that we are trying to tame, that unruly freeassociative
mind which takes us away from that moment of true
nothingness, in which there are no more thoughts, only the
stillness, which brings Enlightenment.
How different is sitting, the zazen, and its aim, from our modern
psychotherapy! Overcome the free-association, says our Zen-
Master. Go with the free-association, says our Freudian analyst.
Ignore the fantasies which arise, and let them go by, says the
Buddhist teacher. Focus upon the fantasies and ultimately dialogue
with them, says the Jungian analyst.
Does such instruction produce different results? It seems to.
For the Freudian, we find the face just after we were born, the
childhood desires and terrors which are father to the man. Our
consciousness is to overcome these, to arrive at the maturity of
full capacity to love and to work, to know the world and the psyche
as it is without illusion. For the Buddhist, it is the face before we
were born, and to discover our unity with nature, and our oneness
with all life. For the Jungian, it is both of these, the link with
collective, inner and outer, and the discovery of our Selves. So, the
Jungian might be the intermediary between the two; the psychotherapy
which aims at healing, love and work, and freeing from
illusion, but at Enlightenment, too. This theme will occupy us
once more at the end.
Let us consider, again, the words of Kaku-an, for the words, as
we have said, continue with the consideration of the process and
not, as the picture suggests, its conclusion.
Kaku-an tells us first that even the endless stream of associations
"turns into truth" when Enlightenment prevails, but this is not
the case when we are confused, uncentered, unknowing. So, it is
not the content, he informs us, or its flow that deludes us but the
place from which we relate to it. When we are centered, all is in
harmony and understandable; when we are not, confusion makes
it mere falsehood. Kaku-an is the great psychologist here. He is a
combination behaviorist of the cognitive variety, a Jungian, and,
of course, a Buddhist. Would that we could achieve now what he
saw four hundred years ago!
He also tells us that we are oppressed not by the outside world,
the objective world which we noted to be troublesome when we
discussed the previous picture, but because of our own selfdeceiving
mind. Again it is our attitude, our center from which the
confusion and trouble arises. These are hard words and wrong
from an extraverted point-of-view (it is the social order, capitalism,
communism, the environment, etc. which causes our problems),
but right for the introvert. But Kaku-an is right all the same, at
least when we are trying to deal with our own attitude, our own
contribution to the oppression which falls upon us from without.
If we can center, find the right relationship to it, then we are all
right. The secret is that we can only find the right attitude to "it"
and to "ourselves" when we include both, and just in the
proportion that each "it" and "us" demands -- no more, no less. It is
this, perhaps, that Kaku-an is referring to when he says, "Do not
let the string loose, hold it tight, and allow no vacillation." I read
this not only as an instruction in how to meditate efficiently, but a
statement of the psychological condition: hold tight to the Self as
it manifests, within and without; keep the event and the reaction
in its particularity and do not let go until the resolution, the
harmony, results. In either case, the advice is right, the medicine is
strong, and hard to swallow.
This is the theme of the poem, as well, expressed more
beautifully. Do not separate yourself from the Self, he advises,
lest the animal wander away into defilement. When properly
attended, the ox grows pure and docile, and finally -- and here,
with more of an intuition than an achievement, as we saw in the
first picture -- the animal, "without a chain, nothing binding, he
ill by himself follow the oxherd." What a promise this, and what
a task: struggle and hold tight, relax and let go! No wonder we
drive ourselves crazy in the search for Enlightenment and
wholeness! But a hint is presented once more. The ox will come by
himself when the time is right. He ultimately needs no chain, no
discipline, only a relationship. And, though it is only hinted at and
not expressed, we can guess that he will join us in this way because
he wants to himself and not only because of our urgings and
efforts. So, once more, Kaku-an holds out hope and direction.
Picture VI: Coming Home on the Ox's Back
The struggle is over: the man is no more concerned with gain
and loss. He hums a rustic tune of the woodman, he sings
simple songs of the village boy. Saddling himself on the ox's
back, his eyes are fixed on things not of the earth, earthy. Even
if he is called, he will not turn his head; however enticed, he
will no more be kept back.
Riding on the animal, he leisurely wends his
Enveloped in the evening mist, how tunefully
the flute vanishes away!
Singing a ditty, beating time, his heart is
filled with a joy indescribable!
That he is now one of those who know, need
it be told?
"The struggle is over, the man is no more concerned. . ." Now
suddenly, we find that the boy has become a man. It is as if one is a
youth when beginning the struggle with the instincts, and is a
man when one has satisfactorily adjusted to them and to the
world. That is certainly how it is in society and culture: the
initiation into adulthood has indeed to do with the relation to our
animal nature. But here the process of initiation is also made clear
in the non-societal struggle in the spiritual world. Maturity of the
soul requires an inner struggle with our animal nature as a way to
Selfhood, and is concluded only when that is achieved. Is this true
also for women? Is one a girl until one has related fully to the
instinct? Maybe the imagery is different. Perhaps here the
Rosarium pictures and their implied qualities of relationship and
union is more germane. For girls to become women, in many
societies, happens only with marriage. It is the conjunctio in the
world which brings maturity. But then, again, perhaps it is not so
different for women in the spiritual realm. The great individuation
pictures illustrated in the Villa of Mysteries, and as described by
Linda Fierz-David (1957) suggest that it is the self-same struggle
with passion and the animal world which enables the woman of
spirit to come to maturity of soul. So, perhaps these pictures of
Zen transcend not only culture, East and West, but the malelfemale
polarity as well. That is for women themselves to decide.
Here we can view the maturation of the spirit in its apparent
finality: the struggle is over. The seeker is no longer concerned
with gain and loss. What an achievement this is! When can any of
us, in the West, transcend our endless striving for this and that,
our bottomless pit of desire, our mad mind, which our host the
American Indian finds as crazy? When do we. find our heart, our
earthy and rustic heart, our feeling for life and nature? Only when
we do so are we grown up enough to sing the songs of the village
boy, to feel free to express that youthful joy and optimism without
being identified with it. Then are we simple, once more, and
things are simple once again. The old Buddhist adage is here
proved: in the beginning of the path to Enlightenment houses are
houses, trees are trees; in the middle of the way, houses are no
longer houses and trees are no longer trees; in the end, houses are
once again houses and trees, trees. But they are simple again in a
new way, redemption has occurred.
The man is saddled on the ox's back, he is firmly riding, feeling
in contact with his instinctual life and that of the divine itself. His
eyes are not fixed on earth however. He is free. He is free to follow
heaven or earth. He is not just focussed on "gain and loss" as are
the rest of us. Connected with the nature of the divine itself, he
will no longer be enticed.
The poem tells us that he rides the animal and finds his way
home. Is it not the animal itself which leads the way? This is the
special wonder of this picture and these words. After all the
struggle, the bridling and taming and disciplining of the animal, it
is the ox itself which leads the way. The boy might say, "Look, Ma,
no hands!" The man now rides the ox, but is led by him. He only
plays his tuneful flute, he stays in touch with his feeling life and
expresses it as best he can; direction is left to the Self, to the nature
that he spent so much time relating to and taming.
Why are we so awed by this picture of "no hands?" Because we
in the West have had a very different tradition of dealing with the
animal, of coping with and expressing our animal natures. Think
of our tradition of bull-fighting. True, it is a spectacle and a ritual,
not a sport -- as some misguided souls see it. True also that the
entire performance has the passion of self-discipline and relationship,
just as we see here in the oxherding pictures. Most importantly
true is the fact that the Matador and the bull are in such intimate
relationship that at the final moment, when the bull is being killed,
we know that deep secret shared only by the sincere participators
therein: that man and animal are one, that Matador and bull share
the same reality, that as the one kills the other, he also is
killinglsacrificing himself. In this, therefore, and in the bullfight
whose repeated presentation is the last great ritual having its
roots in the Mediterranean past, we hear the echo of self-mastery
and self-sacrifice, the virtues of the taming of Western passion.
We may recall the religion of Mithraism, that great spiritual
direction embraced by the Roman soldiers of antiquity and the
nearly successful rival of Christianity in the early part of the aeon.
Mithra, the hero, as Cumont tells us in The Mysteries of Mithra,
(1956) sacrifices the bull of his own nature and carries a cornucopia
of its riches upon his back. Deep and meaningful is this, but how
different from the Zen portrayal! In our Western tradition The
King Must Die (Renault, 1962) and the bull must die, but in the East,
the bull lives, he guides us and is the basis of our being.
Perhaps this difference is an enlightening one for us all, in the
East and West. Until the modern age, China and Japan turned
within, sought perfection and differentiation in their own culture
and time, valuing the taming of their own nature. We in the West,
with our predatory birds (eagles) and our sacrificed gods and
animals, turned our captured energy into conquest, victory over
others and the world, and into subduing nature itself. Knowledge
of the world is our achievement, not knowledge of the Self. World
conversion is our success, not a transformation of Self. But, in the
most modern day, all this, too, is over. There is a cry to end the
bull-sacrifice in the West, an end to missionarizing, an end to
conquest, and a turning toward Self-transformation. And, in the
East, there is a dying of the tradition of Self-mastery and a turning
to the outer achievements and "isms" of the West. They are even
beginning to defeat the West at its own power game. So it is that a
Westerner turns to oxherding pictures in awe and appreciation.
Christianity may have failed to missionarize the world, but
science has succeeded in doing so. Some say that Buddhism may be
dying in the Orient, but it is alive and well in California and
Europe. In the end, we learn from each other, and perhaps the
synthesis is now building.
But let us return to the picture and the words. The heart of the
man is filled with a joy indescribable and, if we look at the ox, do
we not also see a smile, a head tilted upward, as if listening to the
ditty being sung, the tune being played? The joy of the ox, in
harmony with the man, is as great as the latter feels. In this is the
true union, in this relationship is the reconciliation, the resolution
of all our conflicts, all our disharmony. Would that we could know,
as the seeker now knows.
Picture VII: The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone
The dharmas are one and the ox is symbolic. When you know
that what you need is not the snare or set net but the hare or
fish, it is like gold separated from the dross, it is like the moon
rising out of the clouds. The one ray of light serene and
penetrating shines even before days of creation.
Riding on the animal, he is at last back in his
Where lo! the ox is no more; the man alone
Thought the red sun is high up in the sky, he
is still quietly dreaming.
Under a straw-thatched roof are his whip
and rope idly lying.
The poem here both carries us onward, and links us back with
picture VI, whereas poems of earlier pictures carried us beyond
the image at hand. After the fulfillment of "coming home on the
ox's back," the picture shows us where his true home is, atop the
mountain. The mountain is a symbol of his aloneness, having
achieved a "high-point" in his individuationlenlightenment. He
has "attained," as the Hindus are fond of saying.
The poem tells us, "lo! the ox is no more." What does it mean
that the ox is no more? Is he dead, vanished, or gone out of sight?
None of these, since he is now integrated into the man, or
transformed into the red sun or moon rising out of the clouds. The
ox is "forgotten."
Kaku-an's words tell us that the ox is symbolic (and this known
in the fifteenth century!) and that the dharmas (justice, law,
practice) are one, namely unified. We thus learn that our struggle
with instinct, with desire, with passion, with gain and loss was all a
vehicle, a method, perhaps even a"snareU or "set net." All this was
so real when we were struggling, but it is just illusion now, as we
sit peacefully, contentedly, serenely upon the mountain top. We
know, now, that theories, techniques, even images, are but
vehicles and what we want is the "hare" or the "fish," the reality of
the experience in its definiteness, concreteness. When we know
this, it is gold from dross, alchemical transformation of the valued
part from all the surround. East meets West in transformation and
Suzuki tells us that "picture V11 completes the process of selfdiscipline;
it marks the culmination of a struggle that has been
going on even after the awakening of a new consciousness." Now
we understand that "coming home" was not enough; "being
home" was necessary.
Our man sits in meditation, even prayer, perhaps with his
clasped hands before him, as he gazes up, at that "moon rising out
of the clouds." What meditative joy in his reveries! What peace
emerges in that mountain eyrie! His view is immense from that
mountain, from that paper-thin walled cottage, in that deliciously
sensitive oriental landscape. He sits alone, serenely. No more whip
nor rope, no more discipline and effort and struggle. He has
forgotten the ox, forgotten his struggle, forgotten even what he
was searching for. Here it is.
But still, the red sun is high up in the sky, consciousness shines
brightly around him. He is still quietly dreaming; he is still at one
with the dream world, the inner world, as a friend, not a foe. The
consciousness that now obtains is like theUone ray of light serene
and penetrating"; it is the consciousness that was there always,
"even before creation." He once more connects us with the Selfpotential,
the face before we were born, and we knoiv it now as a
Self-actual, as a presence. The Self is no longer projected on the
ox, as we would say. Neither is there a need for the animal kind of
awareness. This has its counterpart in the Kundalini picture series,
(Avalon, 1958). In each of the lower chakra representations, there
is an animal quality: an elephant, a kind of crocodile-devourer, a
ram, a gazelle-like creature. Finally, at the level of the throat, the
elephant which began at the muladhara (tail end first as happens
also in the oxherding series), becomes transformed into a white
elephant, and then at the forehead, where the one-eyed Ajna
reins, there is no animal at all! I think it was Jung who somewhere
remarked that this would mean that this level of consciousness
does not require a bodily basis at all, it is psyche transcending. So it
Sun and moon are also present, those polar twins of the
alchemical series, and the mountain, too. Individuation continues.
The process is not yet over.
Picture VIII: The Ox and Man Both Gone Out of Sight
All confusion is set aside, and serenity alone prevails: even the
idea of holiness does not obtain. He does not linger about
where the Buddha is, and as to where there is no Buddha he
speedily passes by. When there exists no form of dualism,
even a thousand-eyed one fails to detect a loophole. A holiness
before which birds offer flowers is but a farce.
All is empty -- the whip, the rope, the man,
and the ox:
Who can ever survey the vastness of heaven?
Over the furnace burning ablaze, not a flake
of snow can fall:
When this state of things obtains, manifest
is the spirit of the ancient master.
What more might we in the West expect from such a process? In
Picture VI, we found serenity and oneness with our animal nature
and union with the longed-for God-head itself. In picture V11 we
went even beyond the wonder of instinct and found serenity and
stillness. But now, "serenity alone prevails; even the idea of
holiness does not obtain." A truly Eastern notion this: there is
development beyond the holy, a condition in which there is no
longer any worship nor seeking at all, not even after the divine!
We no longer seek the Buddha, and quickly move away from
where there is no Buddha. A true selflessness is to be found there,
in our Western sense, where even desire for the divine is
Suzuki quotes for us in connection with this picture, a Western
mystic, Meister Eckhart, in which the latter says (p. 202, 1964),
"He alone hath true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows
nothing, desires nothing." Even the desire to fulfil1 the will of God
is an obstacle here. Now we understand the statement: "serenity
alone prevails." When not even I am serene, then "serenity alone
prevails." The ego is gone. Not only the ox, but now the man, too,
has "gone out of sight."
It is this condition that Suzuki refers to when he states that a
second awakening has taken place. What now obtains is absolute
nothingness, symbolized by a empty circle. But this circle is not an
ordinary one. It has no limits, because it is not circumscribed; it has
no boundaries, and no actual center. Its center, really, is everywhere.
At this point, we are informed, we enter ontology and find the
mystery of the inward way (p. 200): "In spite of its eternally being
empty (sunya), [it is] in possession of infinite values. It never
exhausts itself." For us in the West, that definition is the mystic
one of God. God is a circle whose center is everywhere and
circumference nowhere, the mystic informs us. So here East and
West meet, not in the definition of the divine, but in the
experience of it. All numbers meet in the number beyond number:
zero, the circle.
How are we to understand this from a psychological point of
view? Jung was fond of commenting that the Eastern way of
saying that the ego is totally obliterated made no sense to him.
Who was it, he asked, that experienced this divine, if not the ego?
If Jung seems to be right, how can we reply to the statement that
when there is no form of dualism, no one, not even a thousandeyed
one, can find a loophole? There needs to be some observing
consciousness, someone to report the experience, or else it does
not happen. The resolution of this apparent paradox, it seems to
me, comes from the poem itself.
"All is empty," says the poet, "the whip, the rope, the man and
the ox." All partake of sunya emptiness, and none is more or less
important than the other. All, in short, are part of a whole. This
whole itself is nothing and everything, as is the sunya which is an
ever-replenishing source and is also empty in itself. Without all
the parts, the whole is nothing; without the whole, the part is
nothing. Together, then, the part and whole are everything and
nothing. Truly. Translated into psychological thought, we can say
that the symbol of wholeness, the Self, is the mandala, the circle as
here. This Self contains the ego, as well as the rest. There is,
therefore, no distinction between Self and ego, between whole
and part, and that here, at last, as Suzuki says, comes the "second
awakening," where the relativization of the ego -- and the
individual Self, too! -- occurs in such a way as to say that all are
part of the larger and largest whole.
"Who can ever survey the vastness of heaven?" the poet says,
and this the largest whole. Who, indeed, except heaven itself.
Psychologically, we would say that heaven, or the Self, is doing the
surveying, and the ego is its vehicle. When there is no distinction
between ego and Self, not even holiness occurs. That power of
creativity of the blazing furnace melts any possibility of its
dimming. And when the ego is truly in service of that wholeness,
"manifest is the spirit of the ancient master." One might say that
at this point the original spirit of the process of Enlightenment
shows itself: ego and Self are one.
What is not shown in this picture, and what perhaps is the most
difficult part of the process, is the way to the dethronement of
that ego, that changing of the center of consciousness -- as Jung
would say, from ego to Self. That process would entail another
series of pictures with the ox now representing the ego, rather
than the instincts. That battle is a much more crucial one for
Westerners than Easterners, as Jung has shown us, since the
Orient has tended, in the past, to hold a less distinct consciousness
and to connect with the Self at the expense of the development of
individuality -- at least in our Western sense. Kawai, the Japanese
Jungian analyst (1981), has validated this understanding.
For us, in the West, we are continually taken over by one
archetype after another when we undertake the journey, and
often when we do not even start. Inflation is a natural consequence,
Jung tells us (in the Two Essays, 1953) but it is our peculiar suffering
all the same. Therefore, to come to this condition of wholeness, of
the mandala in which ego and Self are one, is a great achievement
indeed! Many may draw mandalas and copy gurus, but this
activity, like the holiness before which birds offer flowers, is but a
farce. The achievement requires a lifetime (lifetimes, in the
If we try to go deeper into this difference of East and West in the
process of seeking Enlightenment, we can do no better than
examine the vehicles. For the East, the method is meditation and
the achievement of mindlessness, no content, nothingness. For
the West, the method is prayer, or in psychotherapy, active
imagination, the passion of relationship and union, as we have said
Going back one picture, to number VII, may give us a clue. The
poem therein speaks of no longer needing theUsnare" but the hare
itself. One can look upon this from the methodological point of
view and understand the snare or set-net as the technique of
meditation itself. Once one has had the experience of Self, then
meditation -- even the great and wonderful vehicle of the way -- is
itself no longer necessary. When you have the animal, when you
have the reality, then the method for achieving it is no longer
It is at the point of the experience, as we have mentioned earlier,
that East and West meet. Meditation is the Eastern way, and
particularly the meditation of one-pointedness; whereas imagination
is the Western way. Both lead to union, and when this is achieved,
differences vanish. But the methods also include the goal: meditation
with mind-lessness and ego-lessness on the way makes it easier
for union at the end; imagination with consciousness and discrimination
on the way makes union more difficult at the end.
The wonder is that what emerges is so much alike: clarity,
serenity, joy, ego-lessness (in the sense of non ego-centric). Yet
we know that Enlightenment, however vast, is always only partial
when one remains in the mortal body. There is always a new ox to
find and to tame, a new circle to come to. As long as we are alive,
our wholeness is relative, and it is only for moments or periods
where "not a flake of snow can fall." The via longisima is life-long.
This means that the ego is always once more working, acting and
being acted upon. The ox and man, though gone out of sight,
generally come back in another process or path, brief or long. But
once the process is undergone, one is never quite the same, the
memory is always there. The "face before you were born," when
experienced in this life, can always recall us, remind us, even when
everything else is empty.
Picture IX: Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source
From the very beginning, pure and immaculate, the man has
never been affected by defilement. He watches the growth of
things, while himself abiding in the immovable serenity of
nonassertion. He does not identify himself with the maya-like
transformations (that are going on about him), nor has he any
use of himself (which is artificiality). The waters are blue, the
mountains are green; sitting alone, he observes things undergoing
The return to the Origin, to be back at the
Source -- already a false step this!
Far better is it to stay at home, blind and
deaf, and without much ado;
Sitting in the hut, he takes no cognizance of
Behold the streams flowing -- whither nobody
knows; and the flowers vividly red -- for
whom are they?
How can one go beyond the mandala, the condition where ego
and Self are one? Indeed, there are oxherding series, as we have
seen (and as is shown in this book), where the process ends in just
such a condtion; sunyata prevails, emptiness and fullness in the
circle is the end of all. Yet Kaku-an, and not he alone, shows us
that there is more to the process, that the condition of emptiness
and even fullness, does not end the cycle.
What do we see in this next stage? An image of nature itself, a
tree in its blossoming and its twisted trunk, almost racked. In it,
however, are two more circles, now embedded in the very trunk of
that tree. Could this be the sequel, intended or not? That Nature is
beyond the abstraction of the circle? In any event, that is how I
read this further stage in the development of the process. I see the
fullness and life in the blossoms, the deadness and emptiness in
the circles of the trunk. The opposites are once more united in the
life of the tree.
This symbol of the tree is also one that transcends East and West.
For us, in the West, there is, most importantly, the Tree of Life in
our own main sutra, the Bible, reaching a differentiation and
elaboration in the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah. That same
Tree of Life was cut off from us, "in the beginning," when we fell
out of paradise. A sword of fire separated us from it. But
mysticism tells us that we can come once again to that tree when
we discover, as Jesus also tells us in the later book, that "ye are
Gods," that God and person are one. So, we have the techniques of
the climbing of the Tree of Life, in Western mysticism and the
occult (Regardie, 1969, 1984).
But the tree is also a world tree, and the tree of Hinduism, thus
transcending East and West. That tree, with its roots going deeply
into the earth and reaching up into heaven is a symbol for our own
individuation as well. Heroes are born from it; gods die on it; we all
live in it. So, perhaps, the tree is an even higher form than the
circle. We reach that circle like the sun and moon themselves,
paradoxically. We rise in consciousness, yet we fall onto the earth
and into the play of life in that seamless whole of the tree. The tree
has blossoms and dead wood, beauty and emptiness; it is a living
symbol for wholeness.
This is not the view of Suzuki, however. Once again he thinks
that we may get a distorted idea from the view of the tree as
Origin or Source. We might take it as another dualistic statement,
with the man unattached and watching the maya-like transformations
going around him. This might be true (p. 200, 1964) in
Sankhya philosophy, "in which the Purusha quietly sits unmoved
and unconcerned with the Prakrit going through an infinite series
of antics."This is far from the case in Zen, Suzuki assures us. In a
very beautiful and world-loving way, might I say, he asserts the
value of action:
For the man will never be found "sitting in his hut." Not only
does he take cognizance of things going on outside, but he is
the things, he is the outside and the inside. Nor is he deaf and
blind. He sees perfectly well even into the interior of an atom
and explodes with it wherever it may fall regardless of its
effects. But at the same time he sheds tears over human
ignorance, over human follies and infirmities; he hastens to
repair all the damages he produced, he contrives every
possible method to prevent the recurrence. He is forever kept
busy doing this, undoing that.
What a heartfelt commitment to human action! What a profound
realization that even the Enlightened one is endlessly making
blunders, causing damage, and must spend half of his time
repairing the evil he has done personally, as well as mourning and
having compassion for human folly. One thinks of when and
where Suzuki said these words. It was in the Switzerland of 1954,
not so long after the terrible events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Could not this have been in the backof his mind when he spoke of
not being deaf and blind, and seeing perfectly well "even into the
interior of an atom"? I think that Suzuki was quite aware of the
paradox of human good and evil, in a very personal way, when he
added that with the explosion of this atom, that the Enlightened
man "explodes with it wherever it may fall regardless of its
effects." That he can rise above this experience of evil done to his
people, yet not be blind to mankind's follies on all sides is great
enough. To take on his own charge of repairing the damage he has
himself done puts him into a deep brotherly relationship with the
best that the West has to offer. Jung, particulary in his profound
vision of the evil in the divine situation and man's place in it (e.g.
Answer to Job Vol, 11 1952), is similarly grasped and made aware.
But perhaps SuzukiJs passion is really less connected with this
picture, despite its stillness and the non-assertion recommeded by
the remarks. It seems as if his words are more relevant to picture
X. Indeed, at the end of his passionate statement, Suzuki says that
the Enlightened one is "forever kept busy doing this, undoing
that," and that this is just what "daubed with mud and ashes"
means. This "daubedness" belongs to Picture X, to which we shall
turn shortly. First, however, we should look more kindly at the
words of Kaku-an in this picture.
Kaku-an tells us that the man has never been affected by
defilement, from the very beginning. Here we learn that even the
process itself may be an illusion. We were never out of harmony at
all, we never left "home."Not only is it better to be blind and deaf,
and to stay home and not complain and not have the audacity to
start on the path to Enlightenment, but even if we think so, we
have never even left. It is a false step, an illusion to even think so.
What then, does this mean? Have we not struggled with the
sutras, found the ox, disciplined him, given him up, sacrificed our
ego, done all those wonderful and terrible things that have shown
us the truth?
Apparently not. The waters are blue, the mountains are green.
"Things undergo change." Maybe that is the point: changes are
just happening, even those we think that we are accomplishing.
Even those changes and efforts perhaps are an illusion of ours: we
think that we are doing them, accomplishing them, but it is Nature
itself that is doing them. It is Nature, here shown in the wonderful
tree, that is expressing itself and we are foolish to think that we
did it, to chalk up to ourselves such special achievement, egocentric
or not. The poet hints that the whole process is one of
Nature itself. Does not this strike at the same wisdom that
alchemy tells us when it says that it is nature that battles nature, it
is nature that overcomes nature? Are we not part of that natural
process of life finding itself, becoming conscious of itself? So that
beyond the abstraction of the circle and its fulness and emptiness,
a circle which is not found in nature, is the reality of Nature itself,
in which that process manifests. In Picture V111 we are told that in
the circle, "manifest is the spirit of the ancient master." In Picture
IX, perhaps, we can say "manifest is the spirit of nature, Herself."
In this, I would think, is the recognition of the feminine
principle at a deeper level, an appreciation of which must be fully
apprehended before this process is completed. The circle, indeed,
is a feminine symbol, showing wholeness at an abstract level; the
tree brings us into Nature Herself in all Her complexity, and the
seeker must stay here, in his inwardness until helshe knows this.
Sitting in the hut, he takes no cognizance of
the streams flowing -- whither
knows; and the flowers vividly red -- for
whom are they?
I would venture to say that he remains sitting and inward until
he can behold the streams and the red flowers, without knowing
for whom or where they go. In so doing, he sees that Nature -- and
he as a part of Nature -- has its own Being and aims that he can not
fathom. In this day before the creation of the theory of evolution,
he can grasp the wonder of nature, in himself and in life, and find
that he can not be other than himself, that from the beginning and
in the middle and in the end, he is himself within the totality of
existence. It is Nature who is expressing Herself. And that is the
answer to the koan, for whom are the flowers vividly red? It is for
One thing remains to be addressed in this picture. It is the
puzzling statement which follows the understandable, "He does
not identify himself with the maya-like transformations (that are
going on around him). . ."After this comes, "nor has he any use of
himself (which is artificiality)." What does this mean, to have no
use of one's self? Is it a repeat of the notion that the ego itself is
valueless, just a part, like all other parts of the whole? Or is
something else intended?
A possible answer may be found in the Zen story of the tree
which remained in a forest when all others were cut down. When
this tree was queried as to how it was able to survive when the rest
were cut down, it replied that it "had no use for itself." All the
other trees were beautiful, had good wood in them, were needed
for houses, etc., but this tree was neither beautiful nor valuable. It
was "unworthy" the tale says. It was of no value to anyone, no
threat to anyone, unworthy, and so it survived. The deeper
meaning we can guess was that it was of value only to itself. Thus
does this tree coincide perhaps with the tree of our picture, it is
worthy only to itself. So does the man have no use of himself. Is he
of value only to himself?
This reminds one of the statementJnWhat others thinkof me is
none of my business," -- another variation of this paradox of being
of no use and full of value at the same time. Such truths are
relative to time and person: balm or poison, depending upon the
That such a paradox can be true in the transpersonal dimension,
larger than that of the personal existence, is suggested, once
more, by the fact that it is a tree here that is portrayed at the
highest level, higher even than the circle. The whole transpersonal
character of the transformation process is thereby portrayed, just
as it is in the Rosarium pictures, where the entire series begins with
symbols of nature -- sun, moon, snake, etc. -- along with a well or
fountain. Somewhere we learn through these two portrayals of
the EnlightenmentlIndividuation process that it is not for ourselves
("no use") but for nature (God), that we undertake it. The paradox
unravelled, of course, is that when we are a conscious part of this
wholeness, sharing that work of transformation, we are blessed.
When East and West meet in this experience, therefore, we can
understand even the highest paradox of all: God and no-God, is
Picture X: Entering the City with Bliss-Bestowing Hands
His thatched cottage gate is closed, and even the wisest know
him not. No glimpses of his inner life are to be caught; for he
goes on his own way without following the steps of the
Carrying a gourd he goes out into the market, leaning against
a staff he comes home. He is found in company with
winebibbers and butchers, he and they are all converted into
Bare-chested and barefooted, he comes out
into the market place;
Daubed with mud and ashes, how broadly he
There is no need for the miraculous power
of the gods,
For he touches, and lo! the dead trees are
in full bloom.
We come now, as Suzuki says (p. 201,1964), to "the final stage
of the drama." For Suzuki, the final stage is that the cottage is not
only shut, but cottage and gate are gone. No one can locate where
the Enlightened one is. "Yet he is ubiquitous; he is seen in the
market place, he is seen on farms, he is seen with the children,
with men and women, he is seen with the birds and animals,
among the rocks and mountains. Anything he touches grows into
full bloom, even the dead are awakened."
In short, the final stage of the drama for Suzuki is one in which
the Enlightened one returns to the world and ordinary man, but
has bliss-bestowing hands. He contrasts this bare-chested and
barefooted figure of our picture with that of Christ in the Last
Judgment painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. The
latter, says Suzuki, is almost impossible to approach, much less
touch, for he is majestically and vigorously passing out judgments.
"If you come near him, you would surely be torn to pieces and
thrown into eternal fire." This is not the case with the Bodhisattva,
in Picture X, who is so genial. What a difference, it seems, in the
two images of the Enlightened One in the world! Perhaps Suzuki
does not understand (or understands too well!) our Western
struggle with duality, since that same Christ, full of judgment in
the Apocalypse of John (like his Father in the Old Testament!), is
also the Lamb. We, too, have our variety of images of Enlightenment
and service of the Holy One. And we can understand very well this
Easterner contrasting the Zen image of the Enlightened figure
with our Western version, in which our version comes out rather
The difference, perhaps, is in the degree and quality of
humanity which emerges. Our usual Western image of the God-
Man may be all too kind, redemptive, and far from ordinary man.
He is not subject to the the passions that plague us. He longs to be
with the ordinary man, but one has the feeling that even though
he seeks the company of "winebibers and butchers" he is unlikely
to get drunk or enjoy women in a carnal way. The center of the
Eastern Enlightened one, as Suzuki tells us, is in the belly, he is a
belly-man. Our Jesus, on the other hand, centers in the heart; He
is a God-man of love. Belly-centerdness is quite instinctive, as
tells us, and grounds itself in the earth, in life. Our Christ-
consciousness, on the other hand, as manifested in Jesus and in
love, is in life, but looks toward heaven, toward the transcendence
of life and death. Both images have "bliss-bestowing," healing
hands, but our Zen figure is almost fat, whereas Christ is usually
portrayed as lean, even'gaunt. No cross of the suffering of the
opposites prevails in the Enlightened one -- the sine qua non of the
God-man. Instead he carries a big cornucopia on his back, an
unending source of bliss. Does this carrying of the cornucopia
hearken back to the Mithra figure of Western antiquity, who also
carried the sacrificed bull upon his back, equally laden with riches?
This may be the brother of our Christ figure, who remained more
with the symbol of conflict and resolution, and thus has less of
Eastern wholeness than he might. After all, He must unite being
God and Man, whereas our Zen hero, has "no need for the
miraculous power of the gods," nor, we might add, is he a god,
Other differences are apparent in the carrying of the gourd, a
symbol of sunyata, emptiness. Yet Suzuki quotes the great Christian
Mystic, Meister Eckhart, in saying (p. 202, 1964):
A man shall become truly poor and as free from his creature
will as he was when he was born. And I say unto you, by the
eternal truth, that as long as ye desire to fulfil1 the will of God,
and have any desire after eternity and God, so long are ye not
truly poor. He alone hath true spiritual poverty-who- wills
nothing, knows nothing, desires nothing.
Eckhart's Enlightened man is close to the Zen man in this. The
figure here carries only a staff which, according to Suzuki,
indicates that he carries no extra property at all, for he "knows
that the desire to possess is the curse of human life." So, our two
figures are alike, yet different, as like and different as the
experience of East and West.
From the psychological point-of-view, we see two ways of
viewing and experiencing the Self. In the West we have much to
learn from this Eastern representation. When we are with our
smallness, we can see ourselves serving the Self-within as our
larger totality, like Christ, the God-within. When we are with our
"bigness” (or ”smallness in another way) we can see ourselves in
the undivided totality of the Buddha-man here represented.
Luckily, we need not choose, only experience.
Let us look a bit more at other aspects of this tenth picture. We
note, first all, that the figure shown here is no longer the youth of
the early pictures. Neither is he the "man" who looked the same
but was transformed into spiritual manhood by picture VI. We
now see an old man, and realize that this ten-picture process is a
life-time path, not a single event. To finally arrive at this
destination (and we should not even have started out or thought
to leave, as we are reminded in Picture IX), apparently requires not
only meditation, study, and life-experience, but also just takes a
long time! This surely can be attested to by the poor souls (all of
US), East and West, who have been on that path for lifetimes!
Why should it take so long?-It just does, one is inclined to
answer, in a Zen way, perhaps. But another answer comes from
the realization that the resolution of such profound opposites
entails work not only in the complex nature of the human being,
but, as we have said before, in the paradoxical nature of the divine
principle itself. It is this principle -- as we experience it in image,
thought and deed -- that is going through evolution and slow
change. As if to underline this fact, our final picture once more
gives us the symbol of the tree, as it did in Picture IX. Now the tree
frames the Enlightened one, and its blossoms go forward to the
other person in the picture, the young man.
Much can be made about this new appearance. All through
these pictures there has been either one boy or man, or no-one.
Now we suddenly find two figures, the Enlightened one of age,
and this youth meeting him in pleasure and joy. Is it not close to
the truth to conjecture that this young man is another version of
our original seeker, as he looked in the first picture? And that a
function of our Enlightened one is, indeed, to help just such
creatures as he was in the beginning to advance on their way? So it
seems to me. The student becomes Master, and instructs new
students. Thus is the process carried onwards.
The Tree of Life covers both seeker and teacher, and the long
path is like nature itself, slowly growing with concentric rings of
development, showing hardness and softness, resistance and
flexibility, sweet-smellingness and decay. Both seekers, master
and student, carry emblems of that same Tree: the one his staff of
chosen poverty of spirit; the other his ordinary staff carrying his
few possessions, symbol of his actual poverty in the same area. A
happy meeting and a happy union. "He and they are all converted
It remains for us to contrast this last picture of the ten with the
last picture of Jung's Rosarium series. In the latter, there is a
hermaphroditic figure who represents the union of King of
Queen, a single figure combining all that has been achieved. In the
beginning was only the vessel, the bath, the well. All through the
middle there was the pair of King and Queen, opening, uniting,
struggling, dying. At the end, there is the Empress, the union of
male and female, with the accent on the feminine. In the
oxherding series we began with a person. This person was joined
by the animal, in which there was struggle and resolution. Then
the animal was gone, the person was gone, nature remained. At
the end there is achievement (the Enlightened one), and relationship
(the student, the others). It seems to me that again we discover the
contrast of the methods, East and West. In the East, aloneness is
the way, meditation the method, and, in the end, relationship with
others. In the West, the vessel is relationship itself and the
capacity to stand alone is the achievement. There is a useful
complementarity of the two, it seems to me. The same aloneness,
however, ultimately adheres to both. "He goes on his way without
following the steps of the ancient sages," is said of our Master, and
so can it be said of the Western Master. Easy to proclaim, hard to
attain or deserve.
All the same, when the "end" comes, the "dead trees are in full
bloom," and we experience the "bliss-bestowing hands" of such a
person, such a moment, such a relationship. What is not stated
here, but is said by Suzuki in the last picture, as we noted, is that
the Enlightened one still does damage and still tries to repair the
damage that has been done, his own or that of others. "He is
forever kept busy doing this, undoing that."So, then, we are in the
right company when we are with winebibbers and butchers, for
such are we, too.
What remains to be said after this all-too-brief yet "noisy"
Western peregrination through the oxherding series? First of all,
what wants to be said is a statement of thanks to Kaku-an and to
Suzuki for their enormous gifts to us in the West of these
enchanted pictures, poems and commentaries. In these days of
psychic disintegration and breakdown of society, we are deeply
indebted to those ancient representations of Eastern wisdom
which can illuminate our individual paths and give us solace to
know that many of our problems in such a quest were already seen
and known in different climes, cultures and religions. The unique
clarity of Kaku-an's words and pictures are especially Enlightening.
We have seen, more than once, how this series complements the
understanding of individuation as portrayed in the Rosarium series,
interpreted by Jung. The two series together high-light the
wisdom of the one against the other and bring into relief what
each culture or way has achieved. The two are truly complementary
and one hopes that this comparison contributes to the further
marriage between the spirits of East and West.
Secondly, the very portrayal of the individuation process in
both sets has perforce cast some reflection on the surrounding
society and cultural spirit. The question arises as to what this
individuation process means for the culture itself. Jung, in the
epilogue to his discussion of the transference in the Rosarium
series, says: (par. 539, 1946):
The symbols of the circle and the quaternity, the hallmarks of
the individuation process, point back, on the one hand, to the
original and primitive order of human society, and forward on
the other to an inner order of the psyche. It is as though the
psyche were the indispensable instrument in the reorganization
of a civilized community as opposed to the collectivities which
are so much in favour today, with their aggregations of halfbaked
mass-men. This type of organization has a meaning
only if the human material it purports to organize is good for
something. But the mass-man is good for nothing -- he is a
mere particle that has forgotten what it is to be human and has
lost its soul. What our world lacks is the psychic connection; and
no clique, no community of interests, no political party, and
no State will ever be able to replace this. It is therefore small
wonder that it was the doctors and not the sociologists who
were the first to feel more clearly than anybody else the true
needs of man, for, as psychotherapists, they have the most
direct dealings with the sufferings of the soul.
Since Jung's day, a quarter of a century and more ago, the
cultural breakdown has continued and the "isms" and cliques have
increased. There is no indication that his hope for a community
based on the psychic connection has gained ground either. As I
have pointed out elsewhere (Spiegelman 1984), there is no
apparent increase in connectedness among religious communities
or even psychological communities, for that matter. Jungian
societies and clubs, for example, are no more "soul" communities
than any of our traditional groups and societies, and suffer the
same back-biting, gossip, power-struggles, etc. that we are
accustomed to in other groups.
Jung's hope was for the individual dealing with his own soul,
withdrawing the projection of his shadow, and seeing to his own
integration and wholeness. Both of our picture-series show us
how this is done and also show that society is, perforce, involved.
The oxherding series ends in a return to society and a full
participation in ordinary life. The Rosarium pictures not only
suggest that the individuation process requires partners (the
couple), but Jung asserts that this process is not even possible
without it (par. 445 ff, 1946). Kinship libido, (the necessity for
close ties), and endogamous union (the need to integrate the
opposites spiritually and internally), are of equal importance, says
Jung, and neither can happen without the other.
Our pictures, though, show the Western individual being whole
and alone, while our Eastern series show a return to society.
Eastern society, perhaps, has experienced slightly less disintegration
than the West, if we use crime rates, wars, expansionism,
revolution and the like as measures, but they are not very far
behind us. Are we to conclude that only the continual work of the
individual on himself is of value, as some Jungians aver? The fact
that projection continues so forcefully among Jungians suggests
that the unconscious is "trying" indeed to separate people, as well
as connect them, so that the evidence would favor that hypothesis:
we are compelled to differentiate by the thrust of the unconscious
itself, which makes for separation, through misunderstanding,
and through the process of enemy-formation. We would not be
ready, then, from the apparent evidence, for this newer society or
group with "soul-connection."
My own experience would tend to agree with the previous
formulation, however painful it seems. Not only ongoing groups
and societies, but even those formed with the express intention of
building the "new world" of psychological understanding or soulconnection
routinely fail. I would think, then, that it is probably
too soon to even speculate about that society of the future in
which soul-connection would have primacy, along with the value
of individuation and Enlightenment as a path. All that we can do is
tend to our own process, which, perforce, thrusts us back into life,
as Suzuki so beautifully expresses. I would add, however, that
nature, with its deep and powerful instinct of kinship-libido, will
not stand still for this continual disintegration and that She will
experiment with us all, in the form of group-conflicts, and in the
construction of new situations. Else what is the meaning of
picture number X of the oxherding series and number 1 of the
As I write these lines, I sit in Los Angeles in the Summer of 1984
and note that the Olympic Games. held in this city, seem to be just
such an experimental ground. The upsurge of joy and patriotism
experienced by many millions accross this country as the flaming
torch was carried from state to state and passed from hand to
hand, startled almost everyone. No such feeling for this country
had been expressed since World War 11. Yet this patriotism is in
connection with a non-warlike event in which nations of the
world participate and both individual excellence and group pride
are at stake. I think that this event is just such a living symbol of
what the psyche may be trying to produce. By this I mean that the
psyche is trying to form a world-community, which many have
realized for a long time, and which was visually seen in thet'planet
earth" experience when the first astronauts landed on the moon.
This world-community, apparently, is both a whole (of nations)
and separate (glorification of difference, of separation of cultures).
But it also values supremely the performance of the individual,
going beyond all nations, states and groupings. It is a union via the
flesh, (sport), at this point, and successful, despite the politicization
and the withdrawal of nations over the last few Olympics. Yet
those who withdraw suffer, not the participants, and even
terrorism can not kill the event. The arts, too, are included, in the
cultural Olympics and destined, I believe, to have an even greater
role in future celebrations.
It is striking to me that conscious political attempts at unity, e.g.
the United Nations, should be corrupted and almost defeated -- as
was the League of Nations -- by parochialism, selfishness and
narrow-mindedness, whereas the Olympics, begun earlier and
resuming an ancient ritual, should both grow and gain in stature.
It is tending to produce world-brotherhoodlsisterhood itself, as
we can see from the increased participation of all races and both
So there is at least some evidence of the psyche's attempt at
producing social structures in which both the individual and the
group are valued. But the Olympics is no fosterer of consciousness
nor Enlightenment, and we must remain quite alone in that
quest, just as the Masters of East and West have told us. We take
solace in our process, however, and find our kinship libido where it
occurs, as an unexpected and valued meeting of individuals, both
in the concrete world and in the world of the spirit where the inner
temple, church, and synagogue reign, and where the Rosarium and
the Oxherding Pictures have both their origin and their goal.
Avalon, Arthur, The Serpent Power, Ganesh & Co., Madras, 1958
(original edition, 1918), 508 pp. plus approx. 100 Sanskrit pp).
Cumont, Franz, The Mysferies of Mifhra, Dover, New York, 1956
(original French edition 1902), 239 pp.
Doran, Robert M., S.J. Jungian Psychology and Christian
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497-510; Vol. 5, pp. 742-752; Vol. 6 pp. 857-866.
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Mysferies in Pompeii, Kristine Mann Library, A.P.C. of New York,
von Franz, Marie-Louise, Introduction to the Infeprefafion of Fairy
Tales, Spring Publications, 1970. 155 pp.
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Vol. 7, 1953. Original 1918 & sequel editions.
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16. Original, 1946.
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Jung, C.G. Mysferium Conjunctionis. Vol. 14. Original 1954.
Kawai, Hayao. "Violence in the Home." lapan Quarterly. Vol.
XXIII, No. 3, July-September 1981, pp. 370-377
Miyuki, Mokusen. Various articles, passim, in this book. 1985.
Regardie, Israel. The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic. Falcon
Press. 1104 pp. Phoenix Az. 1984.
Regardie, Israel. The Tree of Life. Samuel Weiser, Inc., NY. 1969.
Original 1932. 285 pp.
Renault, Mary. The King Must Die. Pantheon Books, New York,
Standard Dictionary of Folklore, edited by Maria Leach. 2 vols. Funk
and Wagnall, New York, 1949,1196 pp.
Spiegelman, J. Marvin. The Tree: Tales in Psycho-mythology. Falcon
Press. Phoenix Az. 1982. Original 1975. 464 pp.
Spiegelman, J. Marvin. The Quest. Falcon Press. Phoenix Az.
Spiegelman, J. Marvin. The Love. To be published.
Spiegelman, J. Marvin. "Psychotherapy and the Clergy: Fifty
Years Later."]ournal of Religion and Health, 1984, Vol. 23, No.1, pp.
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1960. Original 1935. 192 pp.
Suzuki, D.T. "Awakening of a New Consciousness in Zen," in
Man and Transformation, Papers from Eranos, edited by Joseph
Campbell, Vol 5, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1964.
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1961. Original 1952. 287 pp.
A Fictional Portrayal Of
The oxherdkg Pictures
By J. Marvin Spiegelman
The Ronin, at times addresses himself to the Knight and the
Arab, whom he discovers at the end of his journey, at the Tree of
Life. In this book, it is not essential to know their tales, but for
those who are interested see, The Tree: Tales in Psycho-Mythology
(Falcon Press, 1982).
I am a Ronin -- or rather, I have been a Ronin, and am no more. A
Ronin, my friends, in our language, is a warrior, a samurai who
has no lord. He wanders in search -- because a man without a
master, a warrior without a lord, a disciple without a guru, what is
he? Do not answer, for you two men, Sir Knight and Sir Arab,
already know what I mean. I can tell this by your stories, although
I am puzzled by much of what you say.
I only know that I am here with you now, in that place that is
called Eden for you, Sir Knight, and Paradaizo for you, Sir Arab,
and that, in truth it is the same for me -- although we call it "The
Pure Land."It is indeed a miracle for us all to be here, as you would
call it, Sir Knight. I am loathe to call it that myself because the
miraculous has ilo special place in my view. There is no need for
such a word since all life is miraculous.
My view on the matter is expressed by one of our Masters, who
said, "I do not rely on God; I respect Him." You can see at once, Sir
Knight and Sir Arab, how we differ.
We have come together for a purpose, it seems. We have come
here to understand one another and to embrace one another. This
we can do only after we have told our stories. I am desirous of
telling you my tale, but first I must tell you, Sir Knight, and you,
Sir Arab, some of my reactions to your stories. You, Sir Arab, have
already done this for the Knight, with your first two parables,
which I find most interesting. Thus I must tell you my own
reactions, and then get on with my own tale.
Compared with my experiences, Sir Knight, yours seem more
complex, with emotions and divisions which seem different from
my own. For me, there is only one triangle, not two. My
experience of myself consists of my "self" with all its faults and
sufferings, the saving force of the Buddha, and finally, the
experience or the reality of the Wordless realm: Emptiness
Sunyata, Suchness, Naturalness; whatever the word. Just one
I have a difficult time feeling such symbols as God, Goddesses,
Angels, Snakes. I understand bits and parts which parallel
Buddhistic thoughts. Such as the idea of the incompleteness of
God without man. Amida's Vow, for example. He chose never to
seek absolute perfection while even one sentient being suffered.
Or Amida, too, as a parent (because of its emotional meaning, not
metaphysical), and human beings, his children. But Amida can't be
a parent without children.
Most of all, the union of opposites is a central idea in Buddhism.
Actually, it is the only important idea. There are numerous
opposites which are stated as: This world is, as is, the Pure Land.
The world of Birth, Suffering, and Death is, as is, Nirvana.
Defilement and Ignorance is, as is, the Supreme Understanding.
Man and the Absolute Truth are, as is, One.
In your story, Sir Knight, from the Buddhist standpoint, the
snake, the witch, the goddess, the horse, the forest, the God, the
ocean, the maiden, the flashes of light, and even you, Oh Knight,
are all One.
For you, Sir Arab, I have only compassion. Your way seems
simpler and more direct to me. Maybe you are more Oriental, like
myself. I too have had to deal with the animals, as you will see,
though our solutions are different.
Gentlemen, it is strange. I feel close to you both because our
goal is the same and the intensity of our drive is the same. But I
feel different because you want to know and experience all the
parts and thus bring them into union, while I go from the
standpoint of denying everything, even the denial itself.
You know, I really have nothing to say. Life is like a sword,
glinting in the sun. As simple as that, there is nothing to say. And
we live on the edge of that sword; one slip and one meets death. To
be able to die without fear is all that matters. Until then, just drink
your sake and do what you must. Wander the earth, like a lion. Like
a lion, die when your time comes, leaving no trace. For a man who
had nothing to say, I've said quite a bit! Perhaps I have something
in common with my Western friends, after all. Ha!
Now, to my own story.
As I have said at the outset, I have been a Ronin, a warrior
without a Lord. It was not always so. When I was a youth, I
apprenticed myself to a school of swordsmanship. We were many,
we students, and we served our Lord and teacher devotedly. I was
a reserved type, and accustomed to staying by myself. I was
inclined to be cold and distant, even though my burning heart was
filled with desire and emotion. It is often so with us, a fact which
Westerners are not able to grasp very well.
I trained long and diligently. I struggled so hard, in fact, that I
was often exhausted and in despair at my inability to reach my
goal and master my task. In time, however, I grew very proficient
-- so proficient, indeed, that I was able to defeat all my fellow
pupils. At length, my Master acknowledged that he had nothing
more to teach me. He blessed me and told me to go forth for
further enlightenment. I bowed and went forth in joy and
anticipation. I traveled throughout the land and sought encounters
with swordsmen of every shape and talent. Sometimes I was
defeated and sometimes I was victorious and with every encounter
my skill grew. I was able, in time, to find other Masters who took me
further in my craft. After many years of effort, I was able to
perfect myself to a degree which seemed satisfactory.
It came to pass, however, that when I returned to my ancestral
home, I was honored, but deceived. My skill and talent were
beyond question, but my former Masters grew old and narrow.
They were jealous, it seemed, of what I had accomplished and
were in fear of losing their power. As it is, sometimes, with the old
who cannot bend gracefully, they turned ever more rigid. I
sorrowed, for it is in the nature of my land to respect the old and
do everything possible to avoid the shame of losing face. I tried to
keep my peace and do what I could to advance our common school
of swordsmanship. In time, pupils sought me out as a Master.
They went not to the Elders, and it was for this, I think, that the
Old Ones grew even more jealous and irritated. Gossip increased,
and I know not what was said of me.
When the time came for me to be fully acknowledged as a
Master in my own right, the Elders banded together and looked
piously down their noses at me. They nodded their hoary heads
and said that I was not ready, that I was more a butcher than a
swordsman, and so on. At first, I could not believe my ears, and I
laughed. When I saw that they meant what they said, I became
both furious and disconsolate. What could I do? Thy refused to
reason or discuss. They looked for my submission, without even
being honest enough to openly demand it. They hid in their
pomposity, for they were, no doubt, afraid of my swordsmanship.
There was nothing to do except leave the Masters and the
School and wander alone in the world. A Ronin. A warrior
without a Lord. A disciple without a Master. A Master without
I wandered for a long time. After a year or so, I was no longer
furious at the deception and betrayal by my former teachers, and
was able to realize that what they said had a grain of truth in it. I
was Master of my craft, but not Master of myself. I was, indeed,
still attached to fame, recognition, power -- in short, to desire. I
knew full well that the swordsman's craft was nothing without
Enlightenment, and that I was, in truth, immersed in the illusion
of this world -- bound up with ignorance and desire.
I resolved to retreat into the forest, where I could meet myself
alone, without a Master, without assistance, and without a light.
I retreated into the forest where I remained alone for many days
and nights. At first, I could think of nothing but my own despair. I
was alone and lonely. This was a shock to a man like myself, who
had been very used to thinking of himself as a lone one, who can
wander the world without need of anyone. Ha! I thought, this is
salutary in itself -- I must have been attached to the idea that I am
alone and a lone one. My secret desire for fame and recognition is
no better and no worse than this secret illusion that I can be
utterly non-attached to people.
So, I accepted my loneliness and despair and came running back
to my friends. I acknowledged all this without losing face and thus
could return to my isolation and aloneness in a new way. I
understood that one needed one's aloneness and isolation, along
with one's need for family and friends. My mountain retreat was
no place, but a state of mind, and a condition to which I could go at
With this, I decided to look at the state of my soul. It was clearly
an animal, a kind of ox or bull. I was well aware that my main
preoccupation over many years had been to somehow cope with
that animal inside me which was black as black can be, and wild and
unruly and given to fits and starts and wanderings of all sorts.
That animai of my wildly ignorant and lustful soul! Every desire
that I have ever known was contained therein. Even the desire not
to desire was contained in the hairy beast of that wild and snorting
creature. Yes, I had seen him in every state: asleep, lusting,
chaotic, well-ordered and disciplined, wild and adventuresome,
frightened, joyous and aggressive. I did everything possible to
tame him. I restrained him with ropes. I whipped him with as
many lashes as I could manage. Yes, I had done all these things. I
had even given him his full way. To which he responded with
whims and chaos and hungers which immediately set the rest of
my soul into guilt and despair all over again.
I was no stranger to the animal of my soul and all his
movements. So this time it was no small surprise to see that he had
whitened considerably! That was extraordinary! After all these
years of taming and fighting and struggling with this passionate
bull of my soul, with all his rages, lusts, disregardings --now I saw
him, indeed, whitening, whitening, whitening. How was this
Now, I had to reflect. All these years of my effort and now when
I simply accepted my needs to be with people, and accepted my
needs to be alone, as well, now my poor bull was whitening. I could
only conclude that he had whitened because I had accepted him!
But I had also to conclude that I could accept him because he had
whitened. Yes, a koan, indeed. The sound of one hand clapping. It is
the same. The bull whitens because you accept him, and you
accept him because he has whitened. So that is what those old
foolish Masters were always talking about? Well, so be it. I will not
challenge it; here in front of my nose is a whitening Bull! Indeed, I
shall have to see how it is that he whitens. Will he wander off
again? Shall I follow him? Shall I let him go? Should I discipline
Oh, there is despair! All the rights and wrongs, all the shoulds
and shouldn'ts. Then my bull is black again, and one must start
from the beginning. How will I ever learn that what is, is what
matters. How will I learn to accept that I cannot accept? Oh, oh!
There he goes, down and around and biting his own tail, and I
whip him and defeat him, and he laughs and is morose, and I am a
fool once more! Ha!
Now I simply stay with him. There he is, white and black, with
the rope tied into his nostrils, but the rope hangs loosely. He looks
at me; I look at he. He smiles, I smile. I go sit upon his back. Will he
accept me? I sit, comfortably. Then he senses my anxiety, and he
throws me. I am back on the ground, and he laughs. I laugh as well,
but I beat him again. He groans, and I laugh. He laughs and I groan.
He is not yet ready. I am not yet ready. I cannot sit upon his back,
but I can walk with him, and by his side. This I can do.
So, we walked together for many days. I held the reins very
loosely -- so loosely at times that it was as if I did not hold them at
all. Often I would look at him to see how he was. Now, when I
smiled, he smiled back. That in itself told me that he was a most
remarkable bull-ox. A smiling bull-ox? Yes, that, too, is like the
sound of one hand clapping, or where your lap goes when you
I rejoiced: the Smile of the Bull-Ox! Now I laughed. I laughed
and laughed and laughed. Everything was becoming very amusing
to me. Was I going mad? No, surely not. The cosmos was a very
great joke: It was the sound of a Bull-ox smiling.
Now I could sit and play my flute. I played at first carefully and
delicately. I did not want to stir up this smiling bull-ox. But no, had
I forgotten? Music can charm the beast, and so it could, and so it
did. I played sad songs and mournful ones, and I wept. I played
happy songs and I laughed. Then I sang. I sang every song I knew,
and many that I did not know, but simply made up. My voice was
first parched and squeaky, and too loud and too soft. It needed an
oiling, or a tempering, just the way that my sword did. I tempered
it, with sweet water and wine, did I temper it. Heated rice-wine,
how softly it goes down the gullet! How delicate it is! How little it
affects you! Until you stand up and are required to sit right down
But such a fuss about my needs! That is too demeaning of the
swordsman! With that, the bull turned black again, and snorted
and ran about, and kicked me and made me very nervous indeed.
You know of such bull-oxes in the West, do you not? Yes, of
course you do. I had forgotten. You, Sir Knight, surely know of
that tradition of the vaulting of the beast, and you Arab-San, you
know full well of the tradition of the slaying of the beast. Yes, that
is how you are, are you not? You master and you slay. Yes, I know
that you understand it as a way to master yourself with grace and
charm and courage. But do you love the animal? No, you love only
to slay it, and eat it, or sacrifice it.
I cannot say you nay, for I, too, have fought this creature and
have longed to slay him. I cannot slay him, for I am slain thereby. I
cannot tame him, unless I am tamed. He and I are one. But being
one is nothing if I cannot mount his back and walk with him
peacefully home, playing the tune upon my flute. That I long to do.
That desire is illusion, too, and down and black he goes, and down
and black I go too.
Will you listen black-white ox?
Will the music calm you?
Does your ear harken to its sound?
Or do you fear I'll harm you!
You are right to fear, you know,
For I am blacker still than you.
You are only a beast,
An animal, fancier than me.
But I have a mind that will not be stilled
Deadlier by far than thee.
But we can not be parted:
Neither you from me, nor me from It.
And if I can not be parted from me.
Then neither You from It.
So fear not, oh ox.
For two are one, and three are one
And the saving force of the Buddha is
Many days we wandered, the bull and I. Of course we wandered
together, for we could no longer be parted. Now I saw him
whitening, whitening, and I was joyous. Then I saw his whitening
was too white, as if all the life and joy were going out of him, and I
grew worried, lest my bull become a cow and just be content to
chew the cud all day. At this, my bull laughed. Yes, he laughed
indeed. To you it might sound like a snort, since it comes from my
bull and not from your own, but to me it was surely a laugh. A
great deep laugh, that began in the belly and worked its way up
and out. As if he were to say, "Oh, my master, you have tried to
tame me and make me good, and now when I am, you grow
irritable and think me too tame. Who is it that must be tamed?
Hunger of a soul? Or power-tyranny of a master?"
Thus it was that I imagined that my animal spoke to me. I,
indeed, could imagine it, could I not? For he was and is the animal
of my own soul and who, if not I, can know his language? I listened
to the animal of my soul and I ruefully agreed with him. The tamer
must be tamed, and if there is no love, there is no point. Thus the
flute. Ah, to play a flute without love is impossible, is it not? I
played once again, but aside and near him, my ox-bull friend, not
I did not know why I did not try and ride him once more, but I
waited. Then I saw. What did I see? I saw a cat leap upon his back. I
saw a man dig a goad into his side. I saw him teased by a cape. All
this I saw. Ashes! said I. I have always thought that the whitening
of my bull, his taming, has always to do with me. Now I see. There
are those others, those cats and goads and people and capes.
My ox-bull does not know what hits him. In a moment, he is
snorting and raging and stuck and does not know who has done
this to him. Then they say. "What a wild bull! What a vicious
fellow! My!" I do not know it either, and lament that it is all my
fault. Oh, precious bull, friend of mine! I have forsaken thee.
"They" have been able to fool me and thee. Whether they have
wanted to or not. Oh, good bull, we must become canny, you and I.
The willow on the bank is green, and can just stay that way, but it,
too, can be crushed by a boot. Bull, you must see and smell and
hear. Ah, now, that is the reason for all those sense organs! Was I
blind? Indeed, I was! I thought that all his sense organs had to do
with inner vision alone! Ah, what a fool, what a foolish fool of a
fool am I! Yes, these senses are to tell him when there are cats and
goads and brutes and capes about. It is enough to know that he
screams because he has been pierced!
Ah, brave bull! Now we dance, you and I! Let us dance, you on all
fours, I on all twos. We dance, for I have discovered it. I have
discovered what every fool in the world has already known! Ah,
congratulations to me, and now, I will listen to thee, friend Bull.
When you snort, I will guess it is because you have been hit!
Ah, brave bull, you do not speak.
And because you do not, I am slow to understand.
And so slow am I, that I am more foolish yet.
And you go down, and I go down, and we neither of us know.
What has happened to us both.
When the ox-bull and I completed our dance, I took him down
into the world again with me. I was ready to test my new insight
and to see if, indeed, I could ride on his back, get off again, and be
aware when he was being stabbed.
We walked peacefully into the city, and no one remarked about
my bull and myself, for we all have ox-bulls, have we not? We all
agree not to pay attention to each other in this regard, do we not?
It is all so that no one will really criticize us for our animal souls, is
that not true? I believe it to be. It must be added that the ones who
criticize most are, in reality, quite unaware of their own animal
souls. These, poor things, are either old and dead, like the elders,
or have masked their animal souls beyond any hope and thus are
resentful that any other animals are alive. Very sad, but painfully
true, I think, don't you?
No matter if you agree or not, my ox-bull and I came into the
marketplace to see if we could be accepted. Sometimes I did it
angrily and badly, sometimes elegantly. Then there were those
who shook their capes at him -- they were hungry for games and
competitive events. I was tempted to bring out my sword, but
realized that that was no longer an issue at all: I had to protect my
bull without provoking another and be cat-like, cape-like or goadlike
in return -- if I could. Sometimes I could and sometimes, I
could not. Ah, was that it? Was I now really so free and detached
that I was free of the desire to be non-attached? With that, my bull
fell down in the mud, I atop him, and muddy, too. Now I laughed
and laughed, and my bull laughed too.
Now see me there, can you? I am walking peacefully in the
marketplace atop my ox-bull. I am playing the flute peacefully, and
I laugh. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. Sometimes I am
angry, sometimes I am peaceful. The bull falls down and the bull
I drink when I am thirsty, I eat when I am hungry. Now and then
I sleep, and am as lazy as can be. Now and then I have desire, and
now and then I hear fear. Fear is what I hear -- or desire is what I
hear. But I hear and do not fear -- or rather, I hear fear and hear
desire, but I no longer fear desire. Do you know what I mean?
Look at the rose! How it grows! Listen to my tune as I walk and sit
on the back of my bull.
Oh! Ox-bull, I love thee.
Oh! I know thee.
To sit sweetly upon thy back --
To quietly walk home --
Or to fear with thee and
follow that --
Your snout turns upward to
My flute turns downward
to your rhythm.
Is it noon, with sun aloft?
Or night, with moon serene?
Ah, ox-bull, what does it matter?
Man and Bull are one.
Now, the animal has gone out of sight, and I sit alone, atop the
mountain, looking at the darkening sun and misty moon. Rainy it
is, and cloudy. Nature is sad and beautiful. Yes, you surely know
how our nature is, for you have seen the paintings of our Masters.
Nature copies the paintings of our Masters, does it not?
It is nice, to sit serenely, with whips put away. Now despair has
taken me over once again. It is not the animal, poor soul of a
bull-ox, who has nagged me and tormented me and driven me and
kept me from my peace. No, it is not he. Well, let me say, in
fairness, that it is no longer He, this bull-soul of mine. No, not He.
Nay, it is me. . .Yes, yes, yes. It is the I, the me, the one who speaks,
in his God-Almightiness. That is the one who puts me in despair.
What a pipsqueak is the little ego, pompously and vainly sitting
atop it all. Thinking that it can, or should, lead the animal at all.
Yes, the animal has gone out of sight, all right. But the Man is still
here, the Man that I am! The vain and stinking man that I am. Ah,
this I saw in the Elders. Their vain, pompous, little pretensions,
lording over their fellow creatures, as if they knew, at all, what is
best for another, or how he should be! Ah, and that awful little
creature is, of course, me, too. It is I that is vain, and ambitious,
and cruel, and it is, save us all, the "I" that wishes to retreat from
Let me fall away from myself. Let me bury my head 'neath the
mat, 'neath the wood of the pillow. But I cannot escape myself.
Wherever I look, I find myself. It is the I who seeks to escape. It is
the I that I find when I do escape. It is the I that I see in thee, no
matter how I disguise it and change it and move it and account for
Oh, give me my sword, for now I know what to do with it! Oh, I
must plunge it within -- take it into my belly and rip and put an end
to this Me -- this bloated little me. Death, you are not to be feared,
you are to be welcomed as the ender of this meaningless and
pompous little kabuki drama of mine. Silence! Even my tongue, as
it speaks, continues the proclamation of the I. Silence, tongue,
Silence! The one who proclaims silence, who demands it, is also
the pompous little tyrant. Oh, oh, oh! The groans come out of my
belly, as if the sword were already within. The groans are not from
pain of the wound, self-inflicted, but are pains that self inflicts
them. Where can I flee from self? Where can I go? I follow me
Has it always been so? Was it this that Gautama endured? Is it
this that leads them to hold up one finger? Or a flower? Or to keep
one's finger to one's lips? Or to slap the other in the face? A
thousand ways of saying, "Do not ask me, for I do not know! Not
only do I not know, but if I were to speak, I would already show
that I do not know, and that this pompous little ego of mine is
already thinking and proclaiming that it knows."Yes, surely these
great and wonderful Masters knew that. The demon of it all is the
"I", the little me. No, not your I, but my I. As I say it, I proclaim the
specialness of My "I". Oh, pain, oh, agony, oh wounds of the soul
much greater than that of the flesh!
Where can I go to escape me? Where can I hide? No use asking
the question. For the questioner is always I.
Let me turn to you. If I look at the you, then, perhaps, I escape
the I. So, I look at you, and what do I see? Ah, it is already finished,
because it is the I that questions what it sees. Even if I were to
question it another way, it could only report that it is the it, is the
it, is the it, is the it, into an eternity of its that are I's.
So then, if it cannot be escaped, then let us love it. Ha! Now I
escape by calling me "us." Like a fancy court. Or a school of
swordsmen, all contained within the One that is Me! Oh, your
Lordship of Myself, must I now address you as a plural, as a school
of Lords? Fine, another way of illusion and self-deception. Oh,
most great and glorious and pompous little ego! I bow down before
you, for who could possibly be great enough to bow before you
and be received by you, than you yourself! It is not enough that I
touch my head to the floor to you, I must be totally flattened.
There, does that please you? . . .No? It does not? Because it is still
only the I that does it? Totally flattened or totally flattered -- it is
Let me run screaming into oblivion!
Will death, then, do it? Will that beloved state dissolve once and
for all this sated samurai self which seeks self and self alone? No,
surely not. For the wheel of samsara will continue. Life after life,
kalpa after kalpa, aeon after aeon, until all karma is dissolved. So,
then, pompous little man, if not this ego, then another, and
another, and another. Until the sands of time are all piled up on the
beach of eternity.
Nothing, then, little Ronin; nothing, then little Samurai;
nothing, then, little nothing, except to accept this pompous little
ego of yourself. Nothing to do but accept it. What was it that the
great Master once said: "One day you will find that the one who
needs all your care and love is yourself." Ah, now I see what it is
that he meant. That is what he meant, he meant -- that is what he
meant. Now, I can sing my song. Shall I sing it? Yes.
The great little "I" shall love
The great little "I" shall love
The great little "I" shall love
The wicked little "I".
The great little "eye" sees the wicked little "I"
The great little "eye" sees the wicked little "I"
The great little "eye" sees the wicked little "I"
It sees and is blind to itself.
The great little "Eye" needs the wicked little "I"
The great little "Eye" needs the wicked little "I"
The wicked great "Eye" sees the good little "I"
The wicked great "Eye" sees the good little "I"
The wicked great "Eye" sees the good little "I"
And stabs itself with the sword.
Weep not, great Eye. Cfy not, little I.
And who is this who says, "Weep not, cry not"?
Is it not another "I"?
No, it is not another "I".
No, it is not. It is not.
Who is it then?
And who is it then, who asks?
It is Nature who asks.
It is Nature who asks.
It is Nature who asks of itself.
I repeat: It is Nature who asks,
It is Nature who asks.
It is Nature who asks
And who is this who says, "I repeat"?
It is "I", of course, it is "I".
Do you understand?
Do you understand?
I do; I do.
Eye do; Eye do.
Aye, do; Aye, do.
And there, way up in the air,
There it is: A circle fair.
And Man has Gone out of Sight.
A tree stands in the forest.
Its trunk arches and bends.
No miracle. All do it.
But see: How one side of trunk
And other side of trunk,
And both meet again,
Making a hole.
A hole, is it?
Or a whole?
An empty nothing of everything,
In the middle of the tree trunk.
And that is what is meant
When we say: The tree is treeing.
A flower sways in the wind.
Its petals hold onto its powder.
Does it love itself?
Like a woman stroking her breasts?
As the roots love the ground.
Little roots: fine flower.
Great root: gross flower.
Root of the flower.
Roots of the tree.
They sway and bend and arch.
And seek their Source.
Up into Heaven, down into Earth.
And that is what is meant,
When we say: The flower is flowering.
The painter sees the tree-hole,
Though he is blind.
The painter hears the flower,
Though he is deaf.
The painter smells his art,
Though he has no nose.
He tells us all,
Though he can not speak.
And man is a painter,
Is he not?
And knows the sound of flowers,
The smell of visions,
The words of pictures.
And that is what is meant,
When we say: The painter is painting.
For man is manning
And trees are treeing
And life seeks its goal;
Which is: to be.
The bee is beeing,
Why can't we?
Where, in the thunder of the Name,
Is the ghost?
The one who speaks without body?
Does he exist?
Apart from Nature?
Nothing, then is supernatural?
No, all is natural.
And the best must be Super-Natural.
What is most natural, is.
Yes. Even anti-natural.
For nature has its opposites,
Nature is its op-o-sits.
Strange word, listen:
Op-look! 0-oh! Sits-be!
And that is what is meant,
When we say: nature is naturing.
So I came down from my mountain, and no one knew that I had
been away. No one knew at all, at all -- no one knew at all. That, Sir
Knight, is a miracle, I grant you. That is the saving force of the
Buddha that is upon us.
For when He is with me and I am He, I have bliss-bestowing
hands, I walk with my laughing face, and paunchy belly, and I am
at home with wine-bibbers, vagabonds, and tramps. As well as
warriors and teachers and geishas. And wives and children and
ants. We and they are all Buddhas, are we not? Yes, we are.
Buddha and his Bo tree, and you and your Tree of Immortality.
And I? Yes, I. Now, I walk without a sword. Now I carry a staff,
and a lamp, and people come to me for bliss and enlightenment.
What do I tell them? I say, "Go away, there is nothing to know!"
For now I know that what the Old Masters have said is true: There
is nothing to know. I also know-and this the sad and wonderful
part-that we all have to find this out for ourselves and in our own
way and in our own time, and many times over, and with many
gurus, and with no gurus.
So, come my friends, Sir Knight and Sir Arab, drink with me and
embrace me, as I embrace me, as I embrace thee. For my tree is as
yours, Sir Knight, and my animal is as yours, Sir Arab. My
triangle, too: My self with all its faults and sufferings, the saving
force of the Buddha, and Sunyata: the suchness of things. My
Look, look, see!: The Great Circle of the Rising Sun, Setting
Moon, and Empty Hole! You see it there in the trunk of the Tree?
It can contain your Star, but need not. It can contain your Crescent,
but need not. It is all one, as I have said, and we have said. So, my
brothers, I salute you as Buddhas!