The Way of The Warrior ~XVII~

10/15/22

Besides these Five Ranks of Merit,
Zenists make use of the Ten Pictures of the Cowherd,
in order to show the different stages of mental training
through which the student of Zen has to go.

Some poems were written by Chinese and Japanese teachers
on each of these pictures by way of explanation,
but they are too ambiguous to be translated into English,
and we rest content with the translation of a single Japanese poem
on each of the ten pictures, which are as follows:

The first picture,
called ‘the Searching of the Cow,’
represents the cowherd
wandering in the wilderness
with a vague hope of finding his lost cow
that is running wild out of his sight.


The reader will notice that
the cow is likened to the mind of the student
and the cowherd to the student himself.

“I do not see my cow,
But trees and grass,
And hear the empty cries
Of cicadas.”

The second picture,
called ‘the Finding of the Cow’s Tracks,’
represents the cowherd tracing the cow
with the sure hope of restoring her,
having found her tracks on the ground.

“The grove is deep,
and so is my desire.
How glad I am, O lo!
I see her tracks.”


The third picture,
called ‘the Finding out of the Cow,’
represents the cowherd slowly approaching the cow from a distance.

“Her loud and wild mooing
Has led me here;
I see her form afar,
Like a dark shadow.”

The fourth ‘picture,
called ‘the Catching of the Cow,’
represents the cowherd catching hold of the cow,
who struggles to break loose from him.

“Alas! it’s hard to keep
The cow I caught.
She tries to run and leap
And snap the cord.”

The fifth picture, called ‘the Taming of the Cow,’
represents the cowherd pacifying the cow,
giving her grass and water.

“I’m glad the cow so wild
Is tamed and mild.
She follows me, as if
She were my shadow.”

The sixth picture,
called ‘the Going Home Riding on the Cow,’
represents the cowherd playing on a flute,
riding on the cow.

“Slowly the clouds return
To their own hill,
Floating along the skies
So calm and still.”

The seventh picture,
called ‘the Forgetting of the Cow and the Remembering of the Man,’ represents the cowherd looking at the beautiful scenery
surrounding his cottage.

“The cow goes out by day
And comes by night.
I care for her in no way,
But all is right.”

The eighth picture,
called ‘the Forgetting of the Cow and of the Man,’
represents a large empty circle.

“There’s no cowherd nor cow
Within the pen;
No moon of truth nor clouds
Of doubt in men.”

The ninth picture,
called ‘the Returning to the Root and Source,’
represents a beautiful landscape full of lovely trees in full blossom.

“There is no dyer of hills,
Yet they are green;
So flowers smile, and titter rills
At their own wills.”


The tenth picture,
called ‘the Going into the City with Open Hands,’
represents a smiling monk, gourd in hand,
talking with a man who looks like a pedlar.

“The cares for body
make that body pine;
Let go of cares and thoughts,
O child of mine!”

These Ten Pictures of the Cowherd
correspond in meaning
to the Five Ranks of Merit above stated,
even if there is a slight difference,
as is shown in the following table:

~ Kaiten Nukariya, The Religion of the Samurai [1913]

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