The Ten Ox Herding Pictures
The Ten Ox Herding pictures from Taoism and Zen-Buddhism, show ten breaths of self-remembering. In picture one to six, a child is struggling to find the bull, symbolizing the lower self, 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.
From the lower self at every moment issues an act of deceit.
-- Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet)
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.
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
-- The Bible, Matthew 18:3
The sixth picture shows that the lower self is now under control.
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.
-- Al-Jilani (12th c. Sufi)
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.
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.
-- Liu Yiming (18th c. Taoist master - commentary on Understanding Reality
by Zhang Boduan 11th c. Taoist master)
The sixth day has two portions, one for itself and one in preparation for the joy of the union
of the King with God’s presence, which takes place on Sabbath night,
and from which all the six days of the week derive their blessing.
-- Kabbalah (Jewish text)
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.
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.
--The book of Balance and harmony, Li Dao Chun (13th C. Taoist master)
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.
-- Nagarjuna (2nd c. Indian Buddhist philosopher)
All esoteric traditions speak about ten stages through which a mans knows God, becomes a Buddha or reaches the mind of Tao, Heaven or Paradise, all referring the presence of the Higher Self.
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.
-- The Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhist text)
Learned Audience, if you constantly perform the ten good deeds, paradise will appear to you at once.
-- Huineng (6th Partriarch of Zen Buddhism, 7th c.)
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.
-- Theophanis the Monk, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)