The Ten Bulls | The 10 Bulls of Zen or Ten Ox Herding Pictures
There are ten very special spiritual poems from Zen Buddhism that our ancestor have shared and passed down to us that are over 1,000 years old, known as The Ten Bulls, or The 10 Bulls of Zen, or the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, as they are also known, and their meaning is both deep and relevant for every one of us still to this day.
Truth does not go out of date, after all.
The Ten Bulls of Zen are a series of ten short poems and drawings which are used to describe the stages a spiritual seeker progresses through to reach enlightenment.
Each poem offers us a unique, deep, spiritual insight into what is required to reach enlightenment, to find God, and to return home to The Source.
In the following 10 videos in this mini-series, I’m going to share my interpretation of these poems which is based upon my direct experience of the path towards enlightenment.
The first poem from the ten bulls series is called ‘In Search of The Bull’.
The Ten Bulls | In Search of the Bull | Poem 1
Which is written as follows:
“In the pasture of the world,
I endlessly push aside the tall
grasses in search of the Ox.
Following unnamed rivers,
lost upon the interpenetrating
paths of distant mountains,
My strength failing and my vitality exhausted,
I cannot find the Ox.
I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night.”
So what’s the deeper meaning of this passage?
The first thing to be aware of is that these poems are describing your relationship with The Source.
So when the poem speaks of ‘I’, it’s referring to you. When the poem speaks of the bull, or the Ox as the poem is traditionally written, it’s referring to God, The Source.
I’ll explain the poem line by line.
The title of this poem, “In search of the Bull”, is, of course, referring to your search for The Source.
The first line of the poem is written, “In the pastures of the world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the Ox.”
This is referring to your search for The Source within the material world.
It hints to you that your search for The Source will be an endless one, as long as you have your mind and energy focused upon the world of materialism.
It hints to you that no matter what you do, or where you look, The Source will not be realized by focusing your mind and energy on the material world.
The poem continues:
“Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains,
My strength failing and my vitality exhausted,
I cannot find the Ox.”
What this means, is that in your quest to find The Source, you will follow unnamed rivers, this is hinting to you that you will be walking the wrong path to find The Source because these rivers are unnamed, they have not been walked before, and they are not the path your ancestors took that leads to The Source.
And you cannot reach the distant mountain you are intent on reaching because there are too many paths, too many options, and too many directions for you to choose from.
Even if you think you know the direction you are heading in is correct you may spend a lifetime travelling that path only to realize the path you were on had led you to a different mountain, and away from your goal of finding The Source.
Contemplate the Meaning of the Ten Bulls Poems as One
Just before I move on, I’d like to explain that there are lines of text written in the first few poems which can be difficult to interpret when you only read the one poem by itself.
Once you’ve read all the poems, you realize they all integrate, and the meaning of the earlier poems becomes clear. So I would keep that in mind until you’ve discovered the meaning of all ten poems.
The meaning of later poems makes the meaning of the earlier poems clear.
The poem continues, “My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the Ox.”
When you are searching for The Source by keeping your mind and energy focused on the material world around you, you are unbalanced.
When your mind is focused upon anything other than The Source, you will be lost within the infinite labyrinth of the physical world.
And when your energy, and your heart, is not opened and connected to The Source, you are not fully connected to your Higher Self and the root source of your power.
The root source of your power is The Source, and when your heart is open and connected with The Source, you allow abundant love, energy, and vitality to flow into your heart and being.
But of course, if you do not intend to open and connect your heart to The Source, you will not have found The Source, because you haven’t intended to connect your heart with it.
And you will not be able to fully access the love, strength, energy, and vitality that The Source provides to you, as long as your heart remains closed to The Source.
Join me again in part two of The Ten Bulls.
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The Ten Bulls Series
- The Ten Bulls – In Search of the Bull – Poem 1
- The Ten Bulls – Discovery of the Footprints – Poem 2
- The Ten Bulls – Perceiving the Bull – Poem 3
- The Ten Bulls – Catching the Bull – Poem 4
- The Ten Bulls – Taming the Bull – Poem 5
- The Ten Bulls – Riding the Bull Home – Poem 6
- The Ten Bulls – The Bull Transcended – Poem 7
- The Ten Bulls – Both Bull and Self Transcended – Poem 8
- The Ten Bulls – Reaching The Source – Poem 9
- The Ten Bulls – Return to Society – Poem 10