Do you notice anything wrong with this painting?
If you grew up on a farm, chances are you noticed that he’s following the hoof prints in the wrong direction!
The painter may have been a city boy, but, this also may have been deliberately painted like this.
As a warning.
In the Tex Ox Herding pictures, the hoof prints are the traces of our fundamental mind. These are the deeper, transcendent experiences that arise as we make efforts to put our understanding into practice.
The danger is that if we aren’t careful, these experiences can become footholds for ‘me’ and ‘I’. Look what I experienced. Now I know…. Not to let go of these is to put our neck in the noose.
The antidote is not to cling to even the magnificent and sublime experiences we have. We have to step forward, letting go of everything we think we know, and even the things we are worried we don’t know. We have to go forward with empty hands, trusting in the inherent Buddha essence within us all.
Genju, over at 108 Zen Books, posted a great painting by Hakuin that really speaks to this.
It’s called “Blind Men Crossing a Log.”
Walking in the dark,
on this narrow and dangerous path,
what would you depend on to guide you?
and mistaking the desires of the body for your true essence
will surely lead to missteps
Carefully, carefully now.
Though stepping forward into darkness,
the light of this fundamental mind,
this divinity, this Buddha essence,
guides each step
and shows the way.
(Thanks to Jack for the photo of the ox herding image.)