The Ten Ox Herding pictures from Taoism and Zen-Buddhism, show ten breaths of self-remembering. In picture one to six, a child is searching for the bull (symbolizing the lower self) and then struggling to bring it under control. (For more information on the symbol of the bull, see Lower Self: Animal Nature.) In our normal state of consciousness we are not aware of the lower self because we are the lower self. Only when we begin to have self-awareness, and one`s identity is in the steward (the part in one, that makes effort to awaken from the state of sleep we spend our lives in), do we begin to become aware of our lower self.
Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet): From the lower self at every moment issues an act of deceit.
The child symbolizes the ruling factor or the mind, which Gurdjieff called the steward. The steward or mind is represented as a child because one cannot be artificial and complicated if one wants to experience the state of Divine Presence, one needs to be simple and innocent, like a child.
The Bible, Matthew 18:3: Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The sixth picture shows that the lower self is now under control.
The Ten Ox Herding pictures, illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki
Manjushri Bodhisattva seated on his lion
Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey,
Chartres Cathedral, France
Journey to the West Ch. 29: “Bodhisattva,” said Monkey, “he's the blue-haired lion from under your throne.” The Bodhisattva said a spell and shouted, “Return to the Truth, beast. What are you waiting for?” Only then did the fiend-king return to his original form, Manjusri placed a lotus-blossom over the monster to tame him, and sat on his back.
Al-Jilani (12th c. Sufi): When the believer has mastered his lower self, so that it serves as a riding mount beneath him, the deeds of his heart will shine forth upon his face.
I Ching (Chinese text): When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature takes its appropriate place.
Lao Tzu on a buffalo
Shiva with ten arms on the bull Nandi,
15th-18th century Siam,
Gaining control over the lower self, through the gradual awakening of the Higher Self, is presented as a process of six stages by all esoteric traditions.
Liu Yiming (18th c. Taoist master - commentary on Understanding Reality
by Zhang Boduan 11th c. Taoist master): The point where one yang begins to move is when the yang light of real knowledge of the mind of Tao stirs but is not yet very active: only then is a glimpse of the root of heaven revealed. At this time you should quickly set about increasing the fire, gathering yang and putting it into the furnace of evolution, gradually gathering,
gradually refining, from vagueness to clarity, from one yang to complete purity of six yangs.
On the left, the I-Ching hexagram 'Return" with one yang and five yins, on the right the hexagram "Heaven" with 6 yangs
The Bible, Exodus 20:11: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and made it holy.
Zhuangzi (4th c. BCE Taoist philosopher): One who mounts the truth of Heaven and Earth, rides the changes of the six breaths, and then roams amongst the boundless.
After having control over the lower self, prolonged presence can occur, symbolized by the following four oxherding pictures. They are four breaths of rest and emptiness. In six breaths or steps of action, one uses short reminders to be present, and then one stays present for four more breaths.
The book of Balance and harmony, Li Dao Chun (13th C. Taoist master): This is the energy of true sense and his first movement arising from stillness is called the return of yang. This is to be fostered until sense and essence, energy and spirit are united. After that withdraw into watchful passivity, because if you persist in intensive concentration after the point of sufficiency, your work will be wasted.
Nagarjuna (2nd c. Indian Buddhist philosopher): The first six stages may be considered as preparatory. The decisive stage (the seventh stage) is the stage where the bodhisattva attains complete freedom from all sense of clinging. It is the stage where he obtains the Dharmakaya.
All esoteric traditions speak about ten stages through which a man knows God, becomes a Buddha or reaches the mind of Tao, Heaven or Paradise, all referring to the presence of the Higher Self.
The Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhist text): Bodhisattvas must unfold the potent knowledge of Prajnaparamita into the ten modes of purifying and healing activity, the four spheres of formlessness and the six forms of super-knowledge.
Huineng (6th Partriarch of Zen Buddhism, 7th c.): Learned Audience, if you constantly perform the ten good deeds, paradise will appear to you at once.
Theophanis the Monk, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text): Ten steps that lead one up to heaven.
Ten steps through which a man knows God. The ladder may seem short indeed, but if your heart can inwardly experience it, you will find a wealth the world cannot contain.