Translated by the Chung Tai Translation Committee
From the Chinese
by Chan Master Kuo An 廓庵禪師, 12th Century
The “Ten Ox Herding Pictures” originated in China in the 12th century. It is a series of short poems, each accompanied by a picture; together they illustrate the different stages of enlightenment on the Mahayana Chan (Zen) practice. They provide valuable guidance and reference for serious Buddhists to assess where they are on the bodhisattva path. >> Dowmload PDF Version
(一) 尋牛：茫茫撥草去追尋，水闊山遙路更深，力盡神疲無處覓，但聞楓樹晚蟬吟。1. Searching for the Ox
Brushing aside thick grasses I pursue him,
In wide rivers, distant mountains, and paths without end.
Exhausted, unable to find him anywhere,
I only hear evening cicadas in the maple trees.
(二) 見跡：水邊林下跡偏多，芳草離披見也麼？縱是深山更深處，遼天鼻孔怎藏他？2. Discovering the Footprints
Scores of footprints in the forests and by the streams,
Do you see them scattered amid the fragrant grass?
Even deep in the remote mountains,
How can he conceal his enormous snout?
(三) 見牛：黃鸝枝上一聲聲，日暖風和岸柳青，只此更無回避處，森森頭角畫難成。3. Sighting the Ox
A golden oriole trills on the branch,
The sun is warm, the wind mild, and the lakeside willow green.
Now there is nowhere for the ox to escape!
Yet what artist can paint his majestic head and horns?
(四) 得牛：竭盡神通獲得渠，心強力壯卒難除，有時纔到高原上，又入煙雲深處居。4. Catching the Ox
With extraordinary effort I catch the ox,
Strong of body and spirit, he is not easily subdued.
At times, he scales the lofty plains,
Then hides deep within the cloud-like mist.
(五) 牧牛：鞭索時時不離身，恐伊縱步入埃塵，相將牧得純和也，羈鎖無抑自逐人。5. Taming the Ox
I must never let go of the whip and rein,
Lest he strides down the dusty trail.
Having been well trained, the ox is docile;
He freely follows the master without the leash.
6. Riding the Ox Home
Mounting the ox I meander home;
The sound of my flute rides with the evening clouds.
Each beat and tune holds meaning profound;
No need for words if you understand this song.
(七) 忘牛存人：騎牛已得到家山，牛也空兮人也閑，紅日三竿猶作夢，鞭繩空頓草堂間。7. The Ox Transcended
Astride the ox I reach my native hill,
The ox has vanished, and I am free.
I dream until the sun is high;
The rein and whip lie idle in the barn.
(八) 人牛俱忘：鞭索人牛盡屬空，碧天寥闊信難通，紅爐焰上爭容雪，到此方能合祖宗。8. Both Ox and Self Transcended
Whip, rein, person, and ox merge into emptiness,
No words can reach across this vast blue sky.
How can snow accrue on a burning stove?
Here finally, I walk with the Patriarchs.
(九) 返本還源：返本還源已費功，爭如直下似盲聾，庵中不見庵前物，水自茫茫花自紅。9. Returning to the Source
Returning to one’s root has taken much effort,
Better to have acted blind and deaf from the start!
Dwelling in my hut, I see nothing without,
Rivers flow, flowers are red.
(十) 入廛垂手：露胸跣足入廛來，抹土塗灰笑滿腮，不用神仙真秘訣，直教枯木放花開。 10. Entering the World
Barefoot and bare-chested, I mingle with the world;
Though covered with dirt, I beam with joy.
Without the need for secret miraculous powers,
I make flowers bloom from withered wood.
畫家陳朝寶 為太谷精舍禪堂 作於台灣，2007
Artist: Chen, Chao Bao, Taiwan, 2007, for the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale