Ten Bulls

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Ten Bulls or Ten Ox Herding Pictures (十牛; Japanese: jūgyū, Chinese: shíniú) is, in the tradition of Zen Buddhism, a series of short poems and accompanying pictures that are intended to illustrate the stages of a Mahāyāna Buddhist practitioner's progression towards enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent perfection of wisdom. The pictures first appeared in their present form, as drawn by the Chinese Chán (Zen) master Kuòān Shīyuǎn (廓庵師遠), in the 12th century, and may represent a Zen Buddhist interpretation of the ten stages experienced by a Bodhisattva as outlined in various Mahāyāna sūtras, most particularly the Avataṃsaka Sūtra.

Each picture is accompanied by commentary in prose and verse. The pictures and texts are believed to be based on the work of an earlier Daoist scholar. They first became widely known in the West after their inclusion in the 1957 book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki.

The pictures, poems and short pieces of prose tell how the student ventures into the wilderness in his search for "the Bull" (or "Ox"; a common metaphor for enlightenment, or the true self, or simply a regular human being), and how his efforts prove fruitless at first. Undeterred, he keeps searching and eventually finds footprints on a riverbank. When he sees the bull for the first time he is amazed by the splendour of its features ('empty and marvellous' is a well...
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