The fourth stage is now the catching of the ox. After having sighted it we go closer to it and are maybe even able to lasso it and as the picture in one version shows, the little child holds a rope around the ox’s neck. Now, we have the ox closer at hand. But still the ox is unwieldy and it can still run away from us. It is still not under control. We have a rope that can enable us to keep it in tow. But still we have to continue to exert effort to enable it to stay there and not to run away from us.
The fifth stage, then, is one in which the ox has been tamed somewhat, and we are able to live in peace with it. It even follows us, and we are leading the ox along the path. We are now a little more accustomed to practice, and are now beginning to experience a sense of peace, a sense of joy. An inner satisfaction begins to make itself felt in our daily life, manifesting itself in our way of being more compassionate and being more thoughtful of others, and so on. And we begin to receive the fruits of the practice with less and less effort on our part.
Originally published on the Maria Kannon Zen Center website as, The Ten Oxherding Pictures: Overview. Oxherding pictures by Jim Crump for the MKZC series.
Featured Image: Discovering the Cow, by Hartwig HDK, CC BY-ND 2.0 from Flickr.com