True Nature

TEN OXHERDING PICTURES originated in China(12th century)
Poems by Chinese Zen Master Kuoan
English translation by Urs App

Looking for the ox
Pushing aside the weeds of illusion
He looks for the ox in the wild
Through swollen rivers and distant mountains
His path leads far and farther
His strenght exhausted, he's in despair
There's no more place to search
Yet hear that lonely autumn song:
Cicada in a maple tree.
Finding the footprints
By a river, among the trees
Footprints here and there!
Wild thickets, weeds - or did he now
Just catch a glimpse of it?
Deep into the mountains
His path leads far astray.
Its nose may reach the heavens
Yet would it leave no trace?
Perceiving the ox
The song of a nightingale, listen!
It's perching on a branch
Warm sunrays and a soothing breeze
Green willows on the bank
Ah, there!
No way to overlook it,
Majestic horns, a stately head:
A challenge for a painter.
Catching the ox
Everything and all he gives,
And get to catch the ox
What strenght of will, what power-
Too tough to shed at once
At times it suddenly struts
Up, up to higher plains
To hide in mist and clouds
And rest in deep ravines.
Taming the ox
No letting go of tether and whip
Not even for a moment
He's careful to not lose his way
In the dirt and dust of the world.
Well tended and domesticated
The ox grows pure and gentle;
Without a chain and bridles
It trails its master just so.
Riding the ox home
Riding high on the ox
He leisurely turns toward home
The sing-song of his flute
Vanishing in the evening glow
Each beat, each note
Full of infinite meaning
When one is in tune with the other
No need for chat and blabber.
The ox transcended
Astride his ox at last he reaches
The mountains and hills of home.
No more ox!
The man is serene.
Yet though the sun stands high above
He still is dreaming the dream
While whip and tether lie idle
In that thatched - roofed abode or his
Both ox and herdsman transcended
Whip, tether, person, ox:
Blue sky, all and all around:
What is there to convey?
How to keep a flake of snow
Atop a red - hot oven?
Get there and you do accord
With the founders of our school.
Reaching the source
Returning to the root and source:
Oh what a waste of effort!
Much better to turn blind and deaf
Right at this very moment!
Inside his hut, he does not see
Any object, nothing, outside:
Rivers flow onward by themselves
And blossoms turn crimson like that.
Returning to the world
Bare - chested and with naked feet
He bursts into the market
Full of dirt and ashes
His face one big wide grin.
No need for magic potions
From adepts and immortals:
He simply lets a withered tree
Erupt in blazing bloom