The Hermetic Traveller

For: Explorers, Adventurers, Navigators

By Shubun in the 15th Century

1. Undisciplined

With his horns fiercely projected in the air the beast snorts, Madly running over the mountain paths, farther and farther he goes astray! A dark cloud spreads across the entrance of the valley, And who knows how much of the fine fresh herb is trampled under his wild hoofs!

The Search for the Bull

The inspiration for this first step, which is searching for the bull, is feeling that things are not wholesome, something is lacking. That feeling of loss produces pain. You are looking for whatever it is that will make the situation right. You discover that ego's attempt to create an ideal environment is unsatisfactory.

1. In Search of the Bull In the pasture of the world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the Ox. Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains, My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the Ox.

2. Discipline Begun
I am in possession of a straw rope, and I pass it through his nose,
For once he makes a frantic attempt to run away, but he is severely whipped and whipped; The beast resists the training with all the power there is in a nature wild and ungoverned, But the rustic oxherd never relaxes his pulling tether and ever-ready whip.

Discoving the Footprints
By understanding the origin you find the possibility of transcending this pain. This is the perception of the Four Noble Truths. You see that the pain results from the conflicts created by ego and discover the footprints of the bull, which are the heavy marks of ego in all play of events. You are inspired by unmistakeable and logical conclusions rather than by blind faith. This corresponds to the Shravakayana and Pratyekayana paths.

2. Discovery of the Footprints Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints. Even under the fragrant grass, I see his prints. Deep in remote mountains they are found. These traces can no more be hidden than one's nose, looking heavenward.

3. In Harness
Gradually getting into harness the beast is now content to be led by the nose,
Crossing the stream, walking along the mountain path, he follows every step of the leader; The leader holds the rope tightly in his hand never letting it go,
All day long he is on the alert almost unconscious of what fatigue is.

Perceiving the Bull
You are startled at perceiving the bull and then, because there is no longer any mystery, you wonder if it is really there; you perceive its insubstantial quality. You lose the notion of subjective criteria. When you begin to accept this perception of non-duality, you relax, because you no longer have to defend the existence of your ego. The you can afford to be open and generous. You begin to see another way of dealing with your projects and that is joy in itself, the first spiritual level of the attainment of the Bodhisattva.

3. Perceiving the Bull I hear the song of the nightingale. The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore - Here no Ox can hide! What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?

4. Catching the Bull I seize him with a terrific struggle. His great will and power are inexhaustible. He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists, Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

4. Faced Round
After long days of training the result begins to tell and the beast is faced round,
A nature so wild and ungoverned is finally broken, he has become gentler;
But the tender has not yet given him his full confidence,
He still keeps his straw rope with which the ox is now tied to a tree.

Catching the Bull
Seeing a glimpse of the bull, you find that generosity and discipline are not enough in dealing with your projections, because you have yet to completely transcend aggression. You have to acknowledge the precision of skillful means and the simplicity of seeing things as they are, as connected to fully developed compassion. The subjugation of aggression cannot be excercised in a dualistic framework - complete commitment into the compassionate path of the Bodhisattva is required, which is the further development of patience and energy.

4. Catching the Bull I seize him with a terrific struggle. His great will and power are inexhaustible. He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists, Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

5. Tamed
Under the green willow tree and by the ancient mountain stream,
The ox is set at liberty to pursue his own pleasures;
At the eventide when a grey mist descends on the pasture,
The boy wends his homeward way with the animal quietly following.

Taming the Bull
Once caught, the taming of the bull is achieved by the precision of meditative panoramic awareness and the sharp whip of trancendental knowledge. The Bodhisattva has accomplished the trancendent acts (paramitas) - not dwelling on anything.

5. Taming the Bull The whip and rope are necessary, Else he might stray off down some dusty road. Being well-trained, he becomes naturally gentle. Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.

6. Unimpeded
On the verdant field the beast contentedly lies idling his time away,
No whip is needed now, nor any kind of restraint;
The boy too sits leisurely under the pine tree,
Playing a tune of peace, overflowing with joy.

Riding the Bull
Once caught, the taming of the bull is achieved by the precision of meditative panoramic awareness and the sharp whip of trancendental knowledge. The Bodhisattva has accomplished the trancendent acts (paramitas) - not dwelling on anything.

6. Riding the Bull Home Mounting the Ox, slowly I return homeward. The voice of my flute intones through the evening. Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me.

7. Laissez Faire
The spring stream in the evening sun flows languidly along the willow-lined bank,
In the hazy atmosphere the meadow grass is seen growing thick;
When hungry he grazes, when thirsty he quaffs, as time sweetly slides,
While the boy on the rock dozes for hours not noticing anything that goes on about him.

The Bull Transcended
Even that joy and color becomes irrelevant. The Mahamudra mandala of symbols and energies dissolves into Maha Ati through the total absence of the idea of experience. The is no more bull. The crazy wisdom has become more and more apparent and you totally abandon the ambition to manipulate.

7. The Bull Transcended Astride the Ox, I reach home. I am serene. The Ox too can rest. The dawn has come. In blissful repose, Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and ropes.

8. All Forgotten
The beast all in white now is surrounded by the white clouds,
The man is perfectly at his case and care-free, so is his companion;
The white clouds penetrated by the moon-light cast their white shadows below,
The white clouds and the bright moon-light-each following its course of movement.

Both Bull and Self Transcended
This is the absence of both striving and non-striving. It is the naked image of the primeval Buddha principle. This entrance into the Dharmakaya is the perfection of non- watching - there is no more criteria and the understanding of Maha Atia as the last stage is completely transcended.

8. Both Bull and Self Transcended Whip, rope, person, and Ox - all merge in No Thing. This heaven is so vast, no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire. Here are the footprints of the Ancestors.

9. The Solitary Moon
Nowhere is the beast, and the oxherd is master of his time,
He is a solitary cloud wafting lightly along the mountain peaks;
Clapping his hands he sings joyfully in the moon-light,
But remember a last wall is still left barring his homeward walk.

Reaching the Source
Since there is already such space and openness and the total absence of fear, the play of the widsoms is a natural process. The souce of energy which need not be sough is there; it is that you are rich rather than being enriched by something else. Because there is basic warmth as well as basic space, the Buddha activity of compassion is alive and so all communication is creative. It is the source in the sense of being an inexhaustible treasury of Buddha activity. The is, then, the Sambhogakaya.

9. Reaching the Source Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Dwelling in one's true abode, unconcerned with and without - The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.

10. Both Vanished
Both the man and the animal have disappeared, no traces are left,
The bright moon-light is empty and shadowless with all the ten-thousand objects in it;
If anyone should ask the meaning of this,
Behold the lilies of the field and its fresh sweet-scented verdure.

In the World
Nirmanakaya is the fully awakended state of being in the world. Its action is like the moon reflecting in a hundred bowls of water. The moon has not desire to reflect, but that is its nature. The state is dealing with the earth and ultimate simplicity, transcending following the example of anyone. It is the state of 'total flop' or 'old dog'. You destroy whatever needs to be destroyed, you subdue whatever needs to be subdued, and you care for whatever needs you care.

10. Return to Society Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.