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The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
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The Ten Pictures Of The Cowherd

[FN#275] The pictures were drawn by Kwoh Ngan (Kaku-an), a Chinese
Zenist. For the details, see Zen-gaku-ho-ten.

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

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

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:


1. The Rank of Turning---1. The Searching of the Cow.
2. The Finding of the Cow's Tracks.

2. The Rank of Service---3. The Finding of the Cow.
4. The Catching of the Cow.

3. The Rank of Merit---5. The Taming of the Cow.
6. The Going Home, Riding on the Cow.

4. The Rank of Co-operative Merit---9. The Returning to the Root and
10. The Going into the City with
Open Hands.

5. The Rank of Merit-over-Merit---7. The Forgetting of the Cow and
the Remembering of the Man.
8. The Forgetting of the Cow and of
the Man.

Next: Zen And Nirvana

Previous: The Five Ranks Of Merit

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