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The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/11/08 7:15 AM
Forum: The Ten Oxherding Pictures

All the map enthusiasts: There is now an almost empty page on the oxherding pictures. This map is always mentioned in passing, but it's hard to find enough details to line it up with other maps. I'm sure there are many valuable hints in it.

I don't know much about Zen and have very limited personal experience with the process described by the pictures and comments - I can't even tell whether it's mainly an insight map or a concentration map, it seems to be a mix - so I don't feel qualified to do much beyond setting up the page and asking those so inclined to fill in the details and start and participate in interesting discussion threads.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/11/08 7:27 AM as a reply to Florian.
Yeah, I've heard a really good interpretation of the oxherding pictures from Ken Wilber, so if I come across that I may add it to the page... But I agree, there aren't a ton of details on this map, as it seems far more poetic than technical, and so would probably be harder to correlate to other maps. That being said, there might be some good commentaries available on it somewhere.

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/11/08 8:53 AM as a reply to Florian.
My favorite commentary out there comes from Chogyam Trungpa, not a Zen teacher, but hey... Have a look.

http://www.shambhala.org/dharma/ctr/oxherding/

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/11/08 1:57 PM as a reply to Florian.
the part that always stood out to me is the rough correspondence with the theravadan vipassana map. 1st and 2nd picture are the pre-vipassana stages (2nd pic seeing the tracks of the bull = seeing 3 characteristics), 3rd picture is arising and passing (glimpsing the bull), 4th and 5th (catching and taming) are commentary on the knowledges of suffering (dark night), 6th (riding bull) equanimity, 7th high equanimity (bull disappeared), 8th (no representation) is fruition, 9nd and 10th commentary on life after having completed a cycle or cycles. 8th 9th and 10th also might have something to do with the mahayana concept of the trikaya as i understand it from daniel having touched on it in his mastering book, but maybe a mahayana-wallah should answer about that one.

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/12/08 12:27 AM as a reply to Florian.
Author: AlanChapman

A little while ago I tried to line up the pictures with the Theravada model and my own tradition:

http://www.thebaptistshead.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=214&Itemid=31

It would be interesting to see what you think. Then perhaps I might have a go at the page...

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/12/08 3:16 AM as a reply to Florian.
tarin,

I like that interpretation, and I think it makes a lot of sense. The potential problem with it though is that it's more likely the oxherding pictures are telling the tale of the entire path from novice to arhantship, and not just to after stream-entry. If that's the case then it might be more accurate to use your interpretation, but apply it to the whole path, rather than the 1st insight cycle, as the entire path itself can be seen as an insight cycle. That, or the 9th and 10th represent anagamihood (9th) and arhantship (10th) and then everything you said up to the 8th might be accurate. I'm not sure though...

-Vince

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/12/08 3:20 AM as a reply to Florian.
Yeah, it's interesting. After reading Alan's interpretation I feel like it deals better with the whole path, but I can see the largely interpretive nature of this map. It's so vague and poetic that it would be quite easy to create somewhat arbitrary correlations with other maps. Even the 4-stage model of enlightenment (perhaps excluding the 1st stage) is like that. Mapping always includes some degree of arbitrariness and I'm guessing how we map has a lot to do with where we already are in the path, what are our main obstacles currently, and a whole host of other factors.

-Vince

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/12/08 10:26 PM as a reply to Florian.
the problem with trying to take it to map the whole thing up to total no-centre arahant is that 8 seems to most obviously be about cessation and that doesnt leave a lot of room for the rest of the path. but since it's more clearly doing itself anyway at that point, perhaps the author felt like there wasnt much comment necessary. and i also like your take on 9 and 10 because i see how that could clearly apply.

also, a point to mention is that there were probably several creators of this map who probably never even talked to each other (wikipedia cites taoist roots prior to the pictures' first ch'an appearance). the pictures could have meant totally different things to the different people behind them.. and what with them trying to get their own pet preferences and predilections to fit into 10 sequential symbols..

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/13/08 3:09 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hey tarin,

I see what you're saying about the 8th picture, but I think my points still stand. This map is so wildly unspecific that it's quite easy to have wildly different interpretations of what lines up with what. It might be like trying to correlate apples and oranges.

That being said, I still think that this map is describing the entire path, not just up through stream-entry and a little beyond. If we take the bull as a symbol of the first meaning of nirvana (cessation), as Alan does, then there is a whole new possible interpretation of this map that makes room for the whole path, and not just up to stream-entry (and slightly beyond). I think that's a more elegant solution, though again due to the massively poetic and interpretative nature of this map, it might be a dead-end to try and come up with a conclusive interpretation of how this map lines up with others.

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/13/08 6:27 AM as a reply to Florian.
This is turning out more interesting even than I'd hoped for, thanks everybody!
I'd like to summarize these interpretations on the page above, maybe as a table - is this okay with everybody?
@Alan - can I include an abbreviated version of your interpretation at the Baptist's Head in this table?

Here's an idea I'd like to hear your comments on: Maybe these pictures are not just a linear progression of map nodes, but can be used in other ways, such as in meditation, not unlike the Sephiroth in Qabbalah, or the "major arcana" in tarot?

And what do you make of the sound of the cicadas mentioned in the comments?

Cheers,
Florian

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/13/08 10:47 AM as a reply to Florian.
is that the 'locusts whirring in the night' from the commentary on the first picture you're referring to? if so, i think there's meant to be a bit of smiling irony in there about how the guy's probably looking right at what he's looking for but doesn't see that.

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/15/08 1:38 AM as a reply to Florian.
Author: AlanChapman

Of course you can!

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
12/17/08 12:30 AM as a reply to Florian.
So, I set up a table. I tried to keep it nice and terse, but after adding the pictures, the text looks a bit skimpy in places. Please fill in anything you feel useful, add links, and so on.

Filling in the table, I was struck by the wildly different *scales* of these interpretations. I actually got an improved (intellectual) understanding of the term "enlightenment fractal".

Thanks for all the comments, this has been a very rewarding bit of map-geekery so far.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
3/1/09 11:27 PM as a reply to Florian.
~c4chaos twittered something interesting - Shinzen Young on the Oxherding Pictures!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8aN9O73lgg

Cheers,
Florian

RE: The Ten Oxherding Pictures
Answer
5/20/09 9:33 PM as a reply to Florian.
Author: TE_Girl

A Google search of "The Ten Oxhearding Pictures" turned up this site for me http://www.terebess.hu/english/oxherding.html. That site has the most explanation of the Oxhearding pictures I found. I'm always concerned about the autheniticy of websites, I will be interested to find out what other people think of it.
Thanks,
Diane