Monday, November 22, 2004

The 10 Bulls

I could write about my frantic day, trying to complete a myriad of tasks, mostly budget an personnel before the holidays. But it seems more appropriate to share "The Ten Bulls". This translation is a 12th century rendering of an earlier Taoist parable. It is from a book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which was given to me many years ago and is a frequent travel companion.

I spoke with my father together and he is looking forward to our Thanksgiving Holidays together.

All of us have 'issues' with our parents and mostly, they die before we are able to complete them. Often this means that we carry them around with us, like rocks on our back, for our lifetimes. This when one is able to 'complete' a relationship what a parent is still living, it is a gift of grace.

Here is the 10 Bulls.

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.

Along the riverbank 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 than be hidden than one’s nose, looking heavenward.

I hear the song of the nightingale.
The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore.
Here no bull can hide!
What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?

I seize him with a terrific struggle.
His great will and power are inexhaustible.
He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud mists,
Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

The whip and rope are necessary,
Else he might stray off down some dusty road.
Being well trained, he becomes naturally gentle.
Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will join me.

Astride the bull, I reach home.
I am serene. The bull too can rest.
The dawn has come.
In blissful repose, within my thatched dwelling
I have abandoned the whip and rope.

Whip, rope, person, and bull – all merge in No-Thing.
This heaven is so vast no message can stain it.
How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire?
Here are the footprints of the patriarchs.

Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with that without –
The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, dead trees become alive.


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