Footprints of the Ox

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?
Ordinary knowledge
and mistaking the desires of the body for your true essence
will surely lead to missteps
and disaster.
 
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.)

8 thoughts on “Footprints of the Ox”

  1. strange.. my first thought was, “maybe the hoof prints are backwards…” but when i looked I didn’t even see it… haha (and I grew up next to a cow field!) I must have been looking at them as deer tracks.

    Luckily, he found his ox in the end, there’s hope for me yet!! ^^

  2. 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.

    —————

    Fabulous. But whose words are they?
    Thank you anyway!

  3. So true. Hakuin painted so many variations of the blind men on a log that one can’t help but think he was adamant about trusting the inherent Buddha – post-satori especially. I love the poem!

  4. Well, this explains a lot!

    Like, why I always seem to go in circles (in my mind)!

    Dang, if only I had grown up on a farm, I’m sure I wouldn’t be suffering like this.

    Probably the young man in the image is simply trying to get back to the barn and notify the farmer that his ox is missing!

    1. Of course! He’s being a bodhisattva – putting off enlightenment (aka finding the ox) until all beings get to tromp around chasing this crazy beast! I love it! 🙂

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