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What does Zen have to do with Bulls?

This is a question that we get asked on occasion, in fact more than occasionally, and for those who have had limited exposure to Zen, it is a very valid one.

Zen is famous for its stories and metaphors, among those told are what is known as the Ox-Herding pictures which were found throughout China from the very earliest centuries.

In the 12 century the renowned Zen master Kakuan added two more bulls to the traditional 8 bringing the total to 10.

The Zen Bulls are a metaphor for the journey to self realization and the evolution of awakening, a journey that is possible for all of us.
The Zen Bull
 10. Return to Society
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, the dead trees
become alive.

 
The Zen Bull

Empty Your Cup

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.

The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

"It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted.

"You are like this cup," the master replied, How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup."

Do we need really to say anything?


The Zen Bull
A Family of Burglars
 
Noticing that his father was growing old, the son of a burglar asked his father to teach him the trade so that he could carry on the family business after his father had retired.

The father agreed, and that night they broke into a house together.

Opening a large chest the father told his son to go in and pick out the clothing. As soon as the boy was inside, the father locked the chest and then made a lot of noise so that the whole house was aroused. Then he slipped quietly away.
 
Locked inside the chest the boy was angry, terrified, and puzzled as to how he was going to get out. Then an idea flashed to him- he made a noise like a cat. The family told a maid to take a candle and examine the chest. When the lid was unlocked the boy jumped out, blew the candle, pushed his way past the astonished maid, and ran out.
 
The people ran after him. Noticing a well by the side of the road the boy threw in a large stone, then hid in the darkness. The pursuers gathered around the well trying to see the burglar drowning himself.
 
When the boy got home he was very angry at his father and he tried to tell him the story; but the father said: 'Don't bother to tell me the details, you are here- you have learned the art.'
 
The essence of the story is simple and not as confusing as most Zen Stories. 'There is no substitute for direct experience'. The best way to learn a thing is to do that thing.... not that we suggest you take up burglary as a profession.



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