三 Sighting the Ox
This is the continuation of a lecture by Nakamura Tempū on the meaning of the “Ten Ox Herding Pictures” of Zen Buddhism. To go to the beginning of the lecture, click here.
Next is picture three. The third picture is “Sighting the Ox.”
In the last picture, the ox herder discovered the ox’ tracks; in this picture, he catches his first glimpse of the ox itself.
Beckoned by the unruly ox’s bellows, he sees its partially hidden outline.
At last, after trials and hardships, the young ox herder sees the hind quarters of his ox. Look at the picture; all that’s visible is the ox’s hind quarters. He only notices because the ox bellows.
So, after studying the sutras and sayings—or perhaps after meditating on a kōan (公案、a Zen riddle, to be solved through contemplation) or the meaning of a sermon—the young seeker has, even if ever-so-faintly, gotten a first glimpse of the innate luminosity of mind. And, at the same time, a beginning understanding of the natural law of universal dispensation, or providence. The ox herder has crossed over into safer territory—that is what this picture is showing us.
So, in terms of the shin-shin tōitsu method, maybe you have been absorbing my teachings for some time now and you notice that something is different, that you are more cheerful now than you used to be, and you think, “Maybe this is the way life is supposed to be.” If ever-so-faintly, you have begun to appreciate what constitutes a proper outlook on human life, on society, and on the universe, and this makes you happy.
You can think of this picture as portraying such a state of mind; perhaps, explained in this way, it resonates with you.