Oxherding Parable

Scene 30, Episodes 1-3. Baodingshan, Dazu (map)

The Oxherding Parable illustrates the process of enlightenment. As the herdsman gradually tames his ox, so the spiritual seeker tames his unruly mind by the practice of Zen.

In Episode 1, (left side of the left photo), the herdsman and ox are in conflict; the ox wants to go in the wrong direction, but the herdsman pulls back forcefully on its rope to make it turn around. In Episode 2 (right side of the left photo), the herdsman entices the ox to turn around by offering sweet grass with his left hand and wielding a rod with his right; using "the carrot and the stick," as we would say. In Episode 3 (right photo), the ox has turned around but is still unruly; the herdsman stands upright, brandishing his stick.