A Spiritual Biography of Daehaeng Kun Sunim

Although these are traditionally known as the Ox Herding Verses, I think they are also a fairly good spiritual biography of Daehaeng Kun Sunim.


1. Searching for the Ox  On plains that stretch forward without end, pushing through the tall grass and brush, looking for the ox. Going here and there, following a nameless river and unknown paths deep into the mountains. Utterly exhausted, yet still no trace of the ox, In the gathering dusk, only the sounds of the crickets.

  2. Finding Tracks of the Ox

Suddenly, on a river bank, under a tree, hoof prints of the ox! And there, under the sweetly flowing water, an ox print clearly seen. Stretching out before me as plain as day, hoof prints!                                                                                             3. Glimpsing the Ox

Somewhere a bird is singing. Under the warm sun, a peaceful breeze. On the banks of the river, the willow trees are brilliant green, how could an ox hide here! But look at that massive head, and those wide horns. What kind of strength will it take to drag it back to the path?

4. Catching the Ox

It was a difficult fight, but at last I’ve caught the ox. So stubborn and willful, its strength seemed endless, like it could tear through mountains. But at last the ox has come to a standstill. Long accustomed to roaming here and there, at last it has come to a stop.

5. Taming the ox

To tame this ox requires a whip and some rope. I tied the rope through its nose ring, but still have to use the whip. Otherwise the ox will rush about, rolling in the mud, or getting stuck in the marsh. But when he’s tamed, his gentle, true nature will show, and he’ll follow me, even without a nose ring.

6. Riding the Ox Home

As I ride the ox, making my way home, it turns out he already knows the way. Sitting on his back and playing the flute, its harmonious melody goes far and wide. Hearing this sound, the villagers all come out to welcome me.

7.  Forgetting the Ox

At last the ox and I have returned home. My mind is utterly at peace,   the ox too is resting, and an auspicious light fills the entire house. This small, thatched-roof hut knows no worry or suffering, and at last I can lay down the whip and reins.



8. Myself and the Ox both Forgotten  

The whip and the rope, even the ox and myself, are all empty, gone without a trace. Oh this sky, so wide and open so vast and boundless. There’s no place for even a single dust mote to settle. How could I ever be ensnared again?   

  9. Returning to the Source

I’ve crossed over so many mountains in order to return to this root. Here is my true home in appearance like the open sky with nothing hindering it and nothing to be gotten rid of. The waters of a stream just flowing, the flowers so beautiful.   

10. Returning to the Town
Although I’m wearing old rags, there’s no sense of lack. As I mix with the many people on the streets and markets, their suffering fades away, and even dead trees come to life. Such a deep valley, yet the turbulent waters cannot claim me.

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