Chapter 1: The Search for the Bull and Discovering the Footprints
1. The Search for the Bull
In the pasture of this world,
I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the bull.
Following unnamed rivers,
lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains,
my strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull.
I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night.
The bull has never been lost. What need is there to search? Only because of separation from my true nature, I fail to find him. In the confusion of the senses I lose even his tracks. Far from home, I see many crossroads, but which way is the right one, I know not. Greed and fear, good and bad, entangle me.
2. Discovering the Footprints
Along the river bank under the trees,
I discover footprints!
Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints.
Deep in remote mountains they are found.
These traces no more can be hidden
than one's nose looking heavenward.
Understanding the teaching, I see the footprints of the bull. Then I learn that, just as many utensils are made from one metal, so too are myriad entities made of the fabric of self. Unless I discriminate, how will I perceive the true from the untrue? Not yet having entered the gate, nevertheless I have discerned the path.
We enter on a rare pilgrimage. The Ten Bulls of Zen are something unique in the history of human consciousness. Truth has been expressed in many ways, and it has always been found that it remains unexpressed whatsoever you do. Howsoever you express it, it eludes, it is elusive. It simply escapes description. The words that you use for it cannot contain it. And the moment you have expressed, immediately you feel frustrated as if the essential has been left behind and only the nonessential has been expressed. The Ten Bulls of Zen have tried in a single effort to express the inexpressible. So first, something about the history of these ten bulls.
Basically, there were eight pictures, not ten; and they were not Buddhist, they were Taoist. Their beginning is lost. Nobody knows how they started, who painted the first bulls. But in the twelfth century a Chinese Zen master, Kakuan, repainted them; and not only that, he added two more pictures, and eight became ten. The Taoist pictures were ending on the eighth; the eighth is emptiness, nothingness. But Kakuan added two new pictures. That is the very contribution of Zen to religious consciousness.