Zen Bunny and the Ten Bulls 3: Perceiving the Bull


The third ox-herding picture from the series of ten traditional woodcuts shows the visual discovery of the bull.  Spring is arriving now in my world, too!  Below is the original piece from Paul Reps’ _Zen Flesh, Zen Bones_.  I learned that Reps is considered one of the first American Haiku poets.  He lived from 1895 to 1990.  My wife says he looks like a nice man in this picture:

What a difference a smile and bright eyes make!  He considered Maui, Hawaii home, but spent much time in Asia.

Thinking more about the double-meaning of “bull,” it seems that the foundation of Buddhism is to perceive the BS of “normal life.”  I’m not a Buddhist and think that the Four Noble Truths should be regarded as the “Four Hypothesis.”  Since, to quote John Lilly, “In the province of the mind, what is believed to be true either is true or becomes true,” the belief “life is suffering” can be a hazardous program to run.  Life contains many things, including carrots.  One Taoist contribution to Zen is to enjoy the pleasures of life without getting depressed due their impermanence.

When I was a child, my mother would threaten to withdraw her permission for me to go a slumber party or play with a new toy if I didn’t complete my chores.  It seemed to me that no matter how caught up I was she would find some reason to use such threats.  I remember deciding that I wouldn’t desire slumber parties as Mom’s controlling way of using them as leverage caused too much anguish.  That’s understandable, but childish.  I’ve seen some “fundamentalist” Buddhists apply that immature philosophy to their whole lives, hoping that they will “get off the wheel of birth and death” if they can just stop desiring to have fun.  It can be a circular loop–desiring to stop desiring, craving to end craving, aversion to aversion.  We aren’t that far yet in this third ox-herding picture, we have just begun to see the bull.  One of my favorite Zen Koans is about a fellow hanging from a fraying rope on a cliff with tigers below and mice above (chewing the rope) who delights in the flavor of a strawberry he picks from the cliff face.

The commentary seems to reference initial success at meditation–the senses merge, the gate is entered.  Unity is experienced.  What artist can capture the experience of Samadhi?  Probably not a simple cartoonist like me!

Zen Bunny and the Ten Bulls:  

A Cute Adaptation of

the Traditional Ox Herding 10 Woodcuts

See the individual post links for background, references, and commentary.

Part 1:  The Search for the Bull

Part 2:  Discovering the Pawprints

Part 3:  Perceiving the Bull

Part 4:  Catching the Bull

Part 5:  Taming the Bull

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