Sometimes thoughts just seep into you giving words to your feelings.
I was just searching for something Zen for a change from the Sutras… and I loved what I came across… Had to record this in my blog. Interesting how we all ultimately talk about the same thing.. irrespective of any forms of philosophy… I thought it was a beautiful representation. I picked this up from the net and had to put it here for me get back at it whenever I could…
Ten Bulls Of Zen
The ‘Ten Bulls of Zen’ (or alternatively the ‘Ten Ox-herding Pictures of Zen’) is a metaphoric depiction of stages of self-realization, involving an ox-herder (representing the seeker or the separate self) and an ox or bull (representing our true, primordial nature, or the Ground of existence). It remains one of the best models for describing the awakening process.
It unfolds in ten stages that define the relationship of our mind to the deepest truth of reality. Initially this deepest truth, symbolized by the bull, appears separate from the seeker, but eventually it ‘disappears’ (or is forgotten) representing the realization that the separate self (the seeker) has never truly been separate from what it seeks.
The Ten Bulls of Zen was originally a creation of the Taoist tradition in China, but was developed and enhanced by the 12th century C.E. Chinese Cha’an (Zen) master Kuo-an Shih-yuan (Kakuan Shien), depicted above. The Ten Bulls defines the stages of awakening as follows, with Kakuan’s commentary in italics (as with many of the old texts there are several different translations into English; what follows is but one version).
I. The Search for the Bull
In the pasture of this world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the bull. Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains, my strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull. I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night.
The seeker looks for the bull (symbolic of his or her true nature, the ‘Buddha-mind’). This is the beginning of the path. It is usually heralded by a fundamental disappointment with one’s life, and a recognition, however dim, that we have been living a life governed by endless distractions leading us down endless garden paths of empty conventions, fads, and general nonsense. The search for the real meaning of our life begins: we are now seeking, however uncertainly, the bull. In the context of meditation, this can be thought of as marking our initial efforts as we sit.
2. Discovering the Footprints
Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints! Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints. Deep in remote mountains they are found. These traces no more can be hidden than one’s nose, looking heavenward.
The footprints of the bull are spotted. This is the point when the seeker’s confidence in the reality of the bull—in the real possibility of awakening—begins to grow. It could be said to represent the conviction that the possibility of salvation or liberation from the bondage of the mind and its powerful delusions is real. In meditation, it marks the progress that is noted as the mind begins to focus more clearly.
3. First sight of the Bull
I hear the song of the nightingale. The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore, here no bull can hide! What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?
The bull is spotted! The bull appears far away, perhaps even hiding behind a bush, but now there is no doubt that it is real. Visual confirmation has happened. This stage marks the first glimpse of the underlying principle of mysticism, that all that is perceived is ultimately not separate from the mind that perceives it. This can be likened to an initial awakening, usually called satori or kensho in Zen. It is an incomplete realization — symbolised by the fact that the seeker only sees the bull’s hindquarters, not its entirety — because it is going to require sustained discipline and a great passion for truth in order to deepen this realization and begin to integrate it into one’s daily life.
4. Catching the Bull
I seize him with a terrific struggle. His great will and power are inexhaustible. He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists, or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.
The bull is ‘caught’, but the seeker’s relationship with him is rocky. What this implies is that even after an initial glimpse into our true nature, unruly mental states—in particular, strong feelings and emotions—still arise. In many cases, these difficult mind states arise even more strongly after our initial awakening, because the mind is putting up its natural resistance to change. The bull is ‘wild’. Despite our initial glimpse, we are still very much in the grips of our unconscious mind with its habits and agendas. This is a crucial step, one in which many seekers of truth fail to successfully pass through.
If we successfully negotiate the previous stage — by applying real discipline and commitment to our path — we now reap the benefits. The 5th stage refers to the important realization that all thoughts arising in the mind are manifestation of our true nature. All is as it is, and must be seen that way (as opposed to being ‘made wrong’—‘this should not be the way it is’). With this realization, our mind begins to settle and to work with us, rather than against us.
6. Riding the Bull Home
Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward. The voice of my flute intones through the evening. Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me.
The sixth stage represents a deepening of understanding, and the corresponding tendency to disengage from exhausting mental struggle. Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita[14:24-25] makes reference to this state when he remarks to Arjuna, ‘Who dwells in his inner self, and is the same in pleasure and pain; to whom gold or stones or earth are one, and what is pleasing and displeasing leave him in peace; who is beyond both praise and blame, and whose mind is steady and quiet; Who is the same in honor or disgrace, and has the same love for enemies or friends…’ It is here where we begin to move beyond duality, and all the reactive states (attraction-repulsion) and subsequent sufferings that arise from that.
7. The Bull Transcended (Bull Forgotten, Self Alone)
Astride the bull, I reach home. I am serene. The bull too can rest. The dawn has come. In blissful repose, within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope.
This stage marks the classic definition of enlightenment, when it is finally and directly understood that the seeker (the egoic self) and the bull (the Buddha-mind, our real nature) are not separate, and never have been. Prior to this the journey of awakening has been an ‘experience’—requiring a ‘me’ to experience this ‘awakening’. At the seventh stage, the central illusion of this separation is radically realized. There is no bull, and there never has been. We then begin to understand that enlightenment is not an experience. It cannot be, as experiences arise and fall away. Enlightenment is simply the direct recognition of our true nature — already here and now — which is unqualified and unconditioned and does not arise and fall away. This stage is sometimes characterized by the recognition that our meditation practice cannot ‘get’ us anything, as ordinary reality is already the case, and is already our true nature. Thus, we do not meditate to get anywhere, we meditate to enjoy what is already the case.
8. Both Bull and Self Transcended (or Forgotten)
Whip, rope, person, and bull—all merge in No-Thing. This heaven is so vast no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire? Here are the footprints of the patriarchs.
The eighth stage is a deepening and maturing of the seventh stage; here, all vestiges of what Chogyam Trungpa called ‘spiritual materialism’, or what Zen calls the ‘awful smell of enlightenment’, the subtle self-consciousness of ‘being awake’—‘I am awake and therefore special’—is extinguished. Roshi Kapleau, in his commentary on this stage, linked it to an old Chinese parable of a man who became enlightened, and experienced birds ‘commemorating’ the occasion by showering him with flowers. As his enlightenment deepened, the birds stopped doing this, ‘as he no longer gave off any aura, even of devotion or virtue’. With the previous stage (the seventh) the bull — the notion of a ‘higher truth’ — is forgotten, as it is radically realized that ordinary reality isthe Ground of truth. With the eighth stage, the very self that is realizing all this is also forgotten. All is Reality, empty, whole, and complete. Therefore, all reactive tendencies toward others (attraction or repulsion) are released and freedom from dualistic delusions is realized.
9. Reaching the Source
Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with that without—the river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.
This stage marks resting in the full recognition of the Source as ‘consciousness without an object’. It can be understood as the complete penetration of Ramana Maharshi’s ultimate koan, ‘Who am I?’ It is the return to the center from which all thoughts and the entire universe arises: pure Consciousness itself, self-radiant without cause or object, unqualified and perfect. Things are as they are: the ‘river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red’. Nothing is the same because now our eyes are open. And yet nothing has changed — the entire universe remains as it has always been. The river flows and the flowers are red. We had to seek truth to realize that there is nothing to seek: the very reality that we are immersed in is the truth, and we are that reality.
10. In the World (Entering the Marketplace with Helping Hands)
Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; now, before me, the dead trees become alive.
In some of the parables of the tenth stage, the seeker (now a finder) re-enters the world with a gourd, traditionally used for holding wine. The wine can be seen as symbolic of the true sage’s embrace of life and willingness to share their enlightenment with society and the world. It is an echo of an old idea found in many wisdom traditions that any deep spiritual realization must ultimately be shared in some way with the world for it to have lasting value and meaning.
The 10th stage also speaks to the tradition of the ‘crazy-wise’ teachers, who seek to utilize any means to awaken others—even by entering into, and participating in, their ‘reality-tunnels’ or private dream-worlds. According to Mahayana Buddhist teachings a true ‘crazy wisdom master’ is only one who has reached a profound level of awakening and has been purified of character defilement. This enables them to enter into any dimension of reality without concern of becoming tainted and thereby having their clarity, or motives, for helping others compromised.
Two years back, every second, I would pray for sometime for myself to figure out my next steps in my life.. I did not want to do a job just for the sake of doing a job and earning money and continue with all the riff raff of fighting for a place in the pyramid. It was exhausting. Even when my concerned colleagues who would have definitely thought, I have gone down the bend :), asked me, I was like, I will have to figure out.. I mean who does that… ? Was I crazy… But it was like that time.. when I needed to take stock of what to do with the remaining years of my life… and I needed to do something which was meaningful to me.
It started with the withdrawal symptoms of a workaholic… was going insane without the work routine… But I am glad I went through it all… found things to do I have had long time on my bucket list about me…
Spending time with self (loved that part – I was losing myself) , knowing what to do besides the usual and expected, drawing, designing to my hearts content, learning shlokas, getting acquainted with Sanskrit, getting initiated into the next step of spiritual practice which was a long time coming… and then Yoga.
Prayers and mediation and requesting for guidance from the Divine Mother… on
what to do… what to do… what to do…
This reminds me of the song
We’re goin’ on a bear hunt
(We’re goin’ on a bear hunt)
We’re going to catch a big one,
(We’re going to catch a big one,)I’m not scared
(I’m not scared)
What a beautiful day!
(What a beautiful day!)
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!
Chorus: We’re going on a bear hunt…
It took 8 months to be peaceful and after that, and just like that, the calling came… but once my cup was empty, the new thoughts slowly started trickling.. so many new possibilities…
All I knew was that I wanted to do something which had purpose, meaning and made my life worth living, which included all the squishy squashy parts… I prayed for the opportunity to do something with a brand I believed in, a brand that valued people, a brand that gave back to people and not just excelled in making slaves out of them, a brand that brought in positivity in people’s lives daily.. and well, the calling came…
Taking the certification was not easy.. but it gave me purpose and I discovered so much about myself. Doing Yoga at the studios and learning and living Yoga everyday of the moment with a group of like minded people with a similar mindset…
Being certified to teach Yoga and actually teaching Yoga is like the icing on the cake. I like to think I am still a student and will be studying every day… and what better way to close the circle to share what I learn to the community around me… and make it a job out of it… what more could I ask for but to keep learning… as I grow…
So yes… thank you dear Divine Mother for answering my prayers…
Cannot forget the friends and my family who have supported me so much..
It is a mountain I have to climb… but then I am from the mountains… guess I am in my element…. rain or shine..
Today I sit and write this so that when I am down or out, I can read this and remind myself about this lesson I am learning… the memory gets tricky…
I consider myself extremely blessed that via the yoga teacher’s training I was exposed to the Patanjali Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. Its like I have taken a dip in ocean of divine knowledge…
I wish I was taught this in my childhood by someone. It would actually have built my respect for Hinduism as a way of life.
I have been born a Hindu but the actual meaning of the philosophy of why we did what we did never really made sense. I always had a curious mind and I could not find the right people for the answers.
As I grew older and life kept happening, the questions grew and there was no answer to satisfy me until I worked with various modalities. Each spiritual modality would give me a glimpse of something, maybe answer a few questions but the queries inside never stopped bubbling. The Bible and Buddhism brought me closer to exploring the art of living life with some good concepts and very soon I realised that they also had their roots in the old ancient philosophy when there was no clear concept of religion. But again, as I searched subconsciously, I could not find anyone who could explain to me. I wished there were was someone who would extrapolate the ancient wisdom to grains of word that would be easily be possible to digest.
In my quest, I found Swami Rama’s books, Sri M’s commentaries and his autobiography was an eyeopener and my hot favorite is Adi Shankaracharya… and I am still diving…
As I started this new phase of my life learning how to teach and strengthen my personal practice, I was introduced to Patanjali’s Sutras. And I am still amazed… Short and succinct and it has so much meaning and such profound interpretations that has placed everything I look at with a beautiful perspective.
Chitta Prasadana is one aspect from the Sutras which has been on my mind for a couple of days. Chitta Prasadana as I understood it deals with mind purification or rather helps in making our mind tranquil. With so many ups and downs it seems that the art of being in balance has been forgotten. Chanting helps, meditation helps but digging deep into the Sutras also opens up so many avenues of thought process.
I was wondering about how as a teacher one could sustain the sattvic attitude of giving and not just showing off what one knows. Then with personal interactions with peers and public including myself where the people are so enmeshed in their “knowing” and “experience” that anything different or out of the box is difficult to accept or imagine..
Then it struck me… Chitta Prasadana. The ancient sages have already decoded this point and here we are trying to reinvent the wheel in our own mind trying to find quick fixes for our experiences or rather the events which bring us stress or conflict.
This thought liberated me to an extent – when I was struggling with the ego part from me and others… and it has at least stilled my restlessness. Practicing it in life definitely brings forth a kind of mindful and emotional evolution. Specially when we are attempting to follow yamas and niyamas which is quite difficult in this age.
Here is something I read which I want to share.
YS. 1.33: Excerpt from http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1212Dec/01.html
Maîtree-karuNaa-muditopekShaaNaam sukha-duHkha-puNyaapuNya-viShayaaNaam bhaavanaatash chitta-prasaadanam
(bhaavaartha=paraphrase): The mind-field is made pleasant and clear by the practice of amity towards the happy, compassion towards those in suffering, joyfulness at seeing others meritorious, and the practice of indifference towards the transgressors of virtue.
It appears simple enough but the actual meanings are profound; this becomes clear by studying the explanations given by commentators, starting with Vyasa. He adds:
By practising these there arises in one the bright virtue (or bright attributes) (shukla dharma). Thereby the mind-field becomes pleasant and clear; thus made pleasant and clear it attains the state of stability and stillness (sthiti-pada).
Only such a mind can be stabilized in meditation and can attain the desired stillness.
It answers a question the sadhakas often raise: why does my mind not settle down during meditation? Why does it keep wandering? The answer is implicit in the sutra: Dear Sadhaka, your mind wanders, does not attain stability and stillness because you have not made it pleasant and clear through the practice of the four right attitudes of chitta-prasaadana.
I term this as emotional purification. Without emotional purification in daily life, there can be no ‘pra-saadana’ of the mind and consequently the mind will not attain stability during meditation which alone leads to stability and interior stillness.
The commentators go further into the psychology of these practices. Vachaspati Mishra (VM) states (paraphrased here):
The sutra states the means and methods for making the mind-field pleasant and clear that serve as antidotes to the negative attributes like malice (asooyaa) and so forth. It is because the mind that is unrefined is filled with these malice and so forth, it cannot bring about samadhi and its supporting means and methods.
These practices are the methods of refining the mind (pari-karman).
It works as follows:
When one practices amity towards those who are happy and in comfort, his mind-field’s dark stains of jealousy are turned off.
When one practices compassion, that is the desire and inclination for eliminating others’ sufferings in the same measure in which one wishes to remove one’s own, then the dark stains of any inclination towards harming others cease.
When one cultivates joyfulness at seeing other beings virtuous, the dark stains of malice are turned off.
When one cultivates indifference, that is neutrality, remaining in the middle (madhya-stha), then the dark stains of intolerance vanish.
So this kind of gave me an idea ( I am still figuring this out) how to work with the mind and the pull and push from outside. The knowers and the doers and the haters and the players… its all a game… if I focus on the mind and understand what state I need to be in, and just follow the sutras keeping my ego totally out, there is so much more to achieve then…. WOW…
Well I am just a babe in these woods and still trying to comprehend how to work through this… inside myself… so more later… 🙂
It started with languages and then with writing and then with People… Everytime, I resisted and then once pushed it worked wonders for me… it was like polishing what I had inside…
Languages for example, it was never unique for me that I grew up speaking more than 5 languages.. it built the communication skills and helped me learn the foreign languages easily. Today when I see my friends who are married from different ethnicity, I encourage them to have their kids speak both their languages. It is an unbeatable combination or a foundation for communication skills and lateral thinking and even helps in their imagination..
I loved to write from the time I discovered pens and pencils.. and stationery.. even today I flip on stationery items… Keyboard just does not do it for me like pen on paper.. it evolved into letters and then I discovered the world of pen-friends… where I could write to my hearts content and there were friends who had the time to read and reply in equally detailed manner… made many good friends some of whom are still in touch… it was a beautiful world.. without much expectations… just writing and sharing for the love of it…
These were sort of some of my many hobbies which kept me busy enough to be always excited about something or the other. I had plenty of friends and playmates but this world of mine was just mine… where I could build and create as I wished… oh it is still so beautiful…
Then writing became my job and my love and communication became standardised shaded with policies and rules of dos and dont’s, a totally different world of different shades of grey. It was all interesting at the beginning and as long as the job was exciting and there was impact with my skills or whatever abilities I had, it was fulfilling but then it was tiring swimming through the plethora of resistance and routine… and yet salary meant security and stability… which one is so scared to let go…
The more resistance I had from inside, the more I was pushed to do justice to my inner self, my purpose and the very belief that kept flowering inside me that it was time I just followed my passion… yes it would be difficult, yes it would be unknown, yes it would be totally scary but to stay with something which totally killed me inside and did not give me any respect besides the money… was really a deal breaker.. I was like —- what is the worst case scenario… that I would have to face… believe me I had deep dark scenarios… which left me shaken… part of it fuelled by the score of society which kept me tied… unwillingly to things that I did not believe in….
There is always a beginning and an end to everything.. Nothing lasts for ever and if only we allow the old bits to end, new bits come to flower in our life…
So here I am, unshackled from that so called corporate milieu and loving it… Yes I have had withdrawal symptoms… but I have embraced all that and every day is beautiful when I keep counting what is already there in my life and my gratitude knows no bounds… I am breathing, I am healthier, I am not worried about compromising my beliefs, I dont have to be forced to listen to a stupid Chinese putting Indians and Indian colleagues down or the Indian system down at every opportunity …. Idiotic though that soul is, he never understood that it was this very India which was giving him so much freedom to be nonsensical… if he was in China, he might have been bloody persecuted by his Govt.. ( grrrrrrrowwwwlllll) [ More on that on my future ramblings]
Anyways, before I digress, my cup is empty now and my loving friends have rallied again.. to push me ahead with things I have been fearful of… I knew from the inside but the monkey mind keeps scattering the doubts… ready to overpower the certainty in the uncertain… After one of the calls today from a dearest friend, I was in tears with gratitude to the universe as my thoughts unfolded and as my friends came in to rally in with me… I get more and more courage to strike out with the values and the ideas which I believe in…
It is more critical for me since I am a person, as crazy and idiosyncratic as I am, it scares me to hell to just leap into the unknown but oddly whenever I did that, there were multiple benefits… and hope that this unknown leap will also bring forth unlimited joys and open more pathways inside me…. the possibilities have been been limitless…. just waiting to be tapped into… Yeah as you can understand… now I am in love with myself… buhahahaha 🙂 and I love it…
It is always important to follow what your heart wants. You will get stuck doing things what others want to do… Do It.. its fine as long as you know there is something which you want to… and start digging, you never know what treasures you may discover… and block out the chatter of the souls who tell you that you are no good or this will not work or laugh at you… they don’t matter… and yes hook up with the souls who egg you on, even knowing that its a bit crazy and yet have that belief in you making you stronger with every step…. with no judgements…
Every time I think that I am striking it alone, there are so many so many so many helping hands in the form of so many magical events… that I cannot be grateful enough for all that life has given me… even if its a tiny drop… it fills me with an ocean of possibilities… that tiny drop is enough…
So yes I think I am hanging up my Corporate Robe for a while, as I brew something for what I believe in. Its still work in progress and I don’t know the exact path but its unfurling and that journey itself is bloody exhilarating… this new robe is magical… I must say… hahahaha 🙂