out to pasture

108ZB goes on a spiritual quest.  Playing with the kanji strokes of “Buddha” lead to some doodles that melded with the idea of how these 108buddhas are a spiritual quest.  And that lead to the obvious: the 10 ox-herding pictures.

Bloggosphere teacher, Barry Briggs of Ox Herding, is the master of the Ox Quest so I submit the next 10 days with some anxiety and trepidation.  And just to increase the anxiety, I added some rules in manifesting these pictures.  The characters have to be represented by the lines of the kanji that make up the character “Buddha.”  That gave me 10 strokes to get the message across.  I allowed myself some embellishments to close the background; but these cannot be part of the main characters.  This series is not spontaneous and since that violated Rule #1 when I started 108buddhas, I convened the Parliament of Internal Artistic Critics for an emergency session.  Typically Canadian, we formed an unholy alliance with Dark Karma and repealled Rule #1 in favour of Rule #108: Do what is needed.

searching for the Ox

There are traces everywhere,
dark stains of twisted karma ~

dusty, heavy, dragging back.

The momentum of desire
pitches me forward,
falsely protected

by intellect but
steadied by the breath.


Daido Loori’s Riding the Ox Home and John Cage’s Zen Ox-Herding Pictures are beautiful renditions of the Ox Herding quest.  Loori writes that we cannot start our spiritual quest until the question of our purpose in life arises.  There has to arise a self-shattering doubt which propels us into confusion and leaves us disoriented  about the relationship we have, through this life, with this world.

That moment came for me at a professional conference when I said something in public I thought was a flippant joke about someone and someone else responded, “That was nasty.”  It wasn’t just the words that shattered my concept of how the world works but the deep sadness in the tone I heard (I have no idea if the speaker felt this at all because she was a complete stranger to me).  Perhaps what feelings I thought were in her words were merely a resonance of what I felt.  I was standing in a crowd of people but in the second the words registered, I felt as if I had smashed full-speed into a wall of ancient stone built piece by piece of all my past unskillfulness in thought, word and action.  The way I thought the world operated was not the way, it seemed.  And I knew had to start over.

But that starting over didn’t happen for a number of years, which was good because it allowed me to accumulate more evidence of why I needed to journey into figuring out who and how I am meant to be in this life.  And, fortunately, it has happened several times since.

By the way, I’m making no claims that I will show myself fully realized by the end of these ten pictures; from what I gather of the first picture, I’m not sure I’m even in that frame yet!  It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to anyone else what text will flow from the art.  Or perhaps, there will be nothing much to say and we will just enjoy a sip of iced green tea and durian cookies together.

Thank you for practicing,


8 thoughts on “out to pasture

  1. Pingback: Tricycle » Searching for the Ox

  2. “There has to arise a self-shattering doubt which propels us into confusion and leaves us disoriented about the relationship we have…” with life… I love this. This is where I am at the moment. Blogging has done this for me. put me smack dab in the place of “unknowing”, doubt and disorientation, about what I really “know”, about everything. And like Yoda, am having to unlearn what I have learned all over again… But I hear that the space of “unknowing”, this “self” shattering is a “good” thing 🙂 Love your painting… Happy journey 🙂

  3. If everyone did what was needed, the world would be a better place. Thank you for doing it!

    When I wrote new poems to accompany the standard 10 images, I learned something new about the series (and, thus, ’bout myself). Have fun!

  4. Pingback: 7 links – how to appreciate yourself « 108zenbooks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.