The 'Ten Oxherding Pictures' are also known as jugyuzu and are the creation of 12th century Kakuan Shion Zenji, a Buddhist priest who lived on Mount Ryozan in China during the end of the Northern Sung Dynasty (1126-1279 AD). He taught that all beings are fundamentally endowed with Buddha-nature, and that we must only realize this eternal truth to gain enlightenment. The metaphor that is the Ten Oxherding Pictures functions by likening Buddha-nature to an ox, and the ox-herder to the person who is seeking his or her Buddha-nature. To find one's Buddha-nature is akin to becoming enlightened, and thus is the chief achievement and transformation in Buddhism. To find one's Buddha-nature, commune with the Buddha, achieve enlightenment, gain religious consciousness, perceive the incomprehensible and to experience Nirvana are all ways of expressing the same occurrence of transcendent awareness (Mumon, xv).
The Ten Oxherding Pictures are one of four texts known together as the Zenshu Shburoku (The Four Texts of the Zen Sect). Despite being pictures, they are considered texts because of the accompanying verses, prefaces, and Japanese poems. The other three are known in English as The Faith in Mind Inscription, Song of Enlightenment, and the The Principles of Zazen, These four texts together became favored and well known as an introductory text for beginners on the Zen path (Mumon, xv – xvi).
Buddhist scholars classify the Ten Oxherding Pictures as introductory teachings. First, the teachings are transitional; second The Oxherding Pictures is a text that emphasizes stages beyond the state at which there is nothing left, which is represented by an empty circle at stage eight. This is opposed to some strains of Zen thought, which believes that the dissolution of the dichotomy between self and other, as well as the dissolution of self and other, is the final stage on the path. There are versions of the Oxherding Pictures that depict the empty circle as the final stage, but the version that this paper deals with is the version with the most authority. Of most interest, however, are the ways in which the Ten Oxherding Pictures function paradoxically. The next part of section one will be an examination of various definitions of paradox, first with the intention of giving a sense of how different scholars view paradox, and secondly to settle on our own working definition of paradox. The focus on paradox will lead us into our discussion of the way in which the Ten Oxherding Pictures function as paradox.
Paradoxes are sometimes thought to be useless dead-end logic riddles that are little more than worthless semantic problems. Alternatively, paradoxes are identified to be valuable tools of insight that expand and open the mind for higher perception and cognition.
[...] Even the birds would come with flowers in their beaks and lay them before him. When finally he reached a new level of attainment under the Fourth Patriarch Doshin Zenji, the birds stopped bringing flowers to him. This was considered a good thing. Mumon sums up the point of the story. He says, is still not good enough if our consciousness is the kind that inspires awe and gratitude in people, that makes people talk about you. If it is, this is a disgraceful scene.” Flaunting humility and being praised by random people, or as Mumon says, Dick, or Harry,” is cause for shame (Mumon, 82-83). [...]
[...] Thus, the absolute and the relative paradox has various levels of applicability and relevance to Ten Oxherding Pictures of Kakuin Zenji. The mountains are mountains paradox has also been shown in places to be relevant and similar to the other two. All three metaphors are meant to expedite a practitioner's “progress” on the path to enlightenment. They all wish to express a thing that must be attempted to be expressed but is inexpressible in normal language. Now we move on to section three to discuss another paradox. [...]
[...] Section 6 Four specific ways that the Ten Oxherding Pictures function as paradox were examined. The first examination was done by illuminating the Ten Oxherding Pictures in relation to the Two Worlds metaphor and the Mountains metaphor. This was useful in highlighting various ways that the Ten Oxherding Pictures parallel the two metaphors, thus showcasing the paradoxical nature of the Ten Oxherding Pictures. For example, one's Buddha nature isn't lost until one starts to look for it is a paradox that was shown to be similar to the mountains metaphor. [...]
[...] The concept of emptiness is a paradox because emptiness itself is said to be empty and if even our bodies and brains are empty, where then is our consciousness rooted? Where does it come from? Another way to think about this concept is that if everything is relative, and therefore dependent on something else for existence, what is the thing that everything comes from, or exists because of, or is attached to? This is why we speak of the two worlds of relative and absolute; the absolute must necessarily exist if the relative does and vice versa. [...]
[...] The Ten Oxherding Pictures are especially relevant when one considers the possibility that the various types of religious transformation all share fundamentally the same goal with different paths. They might also be of particular interest to scholars of religion because they have the uncommon characteristic of functioning as a transformative agent without the use of a God. Matthew Bagger posits paradoxes are exalted social constructions. Bagger describes his task, try here to demonstrate that naturalistic inquiry of a sort that fully integrates philosophy of religion and social scientific theory proves well suited to explaining the peculiar exaltation of paradox in religious discourse.” Here we must define paradox and address the ways in which the Ten Oxherding Pictures function as paradox. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee