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Osho on Kakuan Ten Bulls of Zen Paintings

Osho - We enter on a rare pilgrimage. The Ten Bulls of Zen are something unique in the history of human consciousness. Truth has been expressed in many ways, and it has always been found that it remains unexpressed whatsoever you do. Howsoever you express it, it eludes, it is elusive. It simply escapes description. The words that you use for it cannot contain it. And the moment you have expressed, immediately you feel frustrated as if the essential has been left behind and only the nonessential has been expressed. The Ten Bulls of Zen have tried in a single effort to express the inexpressible. So first, something about the history of these ten bulls.

Basically, there were eight pictures, not ten; and they were not Buddhist, they were Taoist. Their beginning is lost. Nobody knows how they started, who painted the first bulls. But in the twelfth century a Chinese Zen master, Kakuan, repainted them; and not only that, he added two more pictures, and eight became ten. The Taoist pictures were ending on the eighth; the eighth is emptiness, nothingness. But Kakuan added two new pictures. That is the very contribution of Zen to religious consciousness.

Osho on Kakuan Ten Bulls of Zen Paintings

When one moves on an inner journey one leaves the world, renounces all that hinders the path, renounces all that is nonessential so that the essential can be searched, sought. One tries to become unburdened so the journey can become easier, because the journey, this journey, is towards the height, the greatest height there is -- the very pinnacle of human possibilities, the very climax. One leaves the world, one renounces the world; not only the world -- one renounces the mind, because the mind is the cause of the whole world. The world of desires, the world of possessions, is just the outer part. The inner part is the mind: the desiring mind, the lustful mind, the jealous, competitive mind, the mind full of thoughts; that is the seed.

One renounces the outer, one renounces the inner, one becomes empty -- that's what meditation is all about. One becomes totally empty. But is this the end? The Taoist pictures ended with nothingness. Kakuan says this is not the end -- one comes back to the world, one comes back to the marketplace; only then is the circle complete. Of course, one comes totally new. One never comes with the old; the old is gone, gone forever. One comes totally renewed, resurrected, reborn -- as if this man had never gone; as if this man is coming totally fresh and virgin. One comes back to the world and again one lives in the world yet lives beyond it. Again one becomes ordinary -- chopping wood, carrying water from the well, walking, sitting, sleeping -- one becomes absolutely ordinary. Deep inside, the emptiness remains uncorrupted. One lives in the world but the world is not in your mind, the world is not within you. One lives untouched, like a lotus flower.

These two pictures bring the seeker back to the world, and Kakuan has done a tremendously beautiful thing. One comes to the marketplace; not only that, one comes with a bottle of wine, drunk -- drunk with the divine -- to help others also to be drunk, because there are many who are thirsty, there are many who are seeking, there are many who are stumbling on their path, there are many who are in deep darkness. One comes back to the world because of compassion. One helps other travelers to arrive. One has arrived, now one helps others to arrive. One has become enlightened, now one helps others towards the same goal. And each and everyone is searching for the same goal.

The Taoist eight bulls are good but not enough; beautiful, but something is missing in them. Emptiness is perfect, but there is a perfection still to be attained. Emptiness is perfect, let me repeat it, but still there is a perfection yet to be attained. Emptiness is perfect in a negative way. You have renounced, it is negative, but you have not loved yet. The positive is missing. Unhappiness is gone, misery disappears, but you are not yet ecstatic. You have attained to silence and silence is beautiful, but your silence is not yet a fulfillment, it is not an overflowing; it is not a blissful dance of your inner being.

Here Kakuan goes beyond Taoism and beyond Buddhism -- because both ended on emptiness, as if the journey was complete. You have reached Everest, cool, collected, calm. Now what is the point of going back to the marketplace? But if your meditation does not become compassion, then your meditation is still somehow hiding your ego, then your meditation is still selfish.

If you don't cry, if tears don't come to your eyes for others, and if you don't start moving back to the world to help people who are stumbling, then somehow your meditation is still not religious. It has helped you; you may be feeling very, very good, but unless it becomes a compassion and overflows in all directions, the tree has come to a stopping point, it has not yet flowered. The tree is green, healthy, perfectly beautiful looking, but a tree without flowers is not fulfilled. A tree without flowers may look beautiful but there is still a perfection to be attained. The tree must bloom, the tree must release the fragrance to the winds so it can be carried to the very ends of existence.

Kakuan brings the seeker back into the world. Of course, he is totally different so naturally the world cannot be the same. He comes to the marketplace but he remains in his meditation; now the marketplace cannot become a distraction. If the marketplace becomes a distraction, then your meditation is not yet complete. If anything can distract you, then your meditation has been a forced thing -- you have made yourself still, you have controlled yourself somehow. Your meditation is still not spontaneous, it is not a natural flow. It has not happened to you; you have made it happen. Hence the fear of coming back to the marketplace.

You will find many sannyasins in the Himalayas who are stuck there with the eighth bull -- empty, silent. There is nothing wrong with them, at the most you can say nothing is wrong with them, but you cannot say that they have bloomed, you cannot say their fragrance is released to the winds. Their light is still burning only for themselves. It has a certain ugliness in it. One may not see it immediately, but if you ponder over it you will see that this is selfishness. In the beginning it is good to be selfish, otherwise you will never grow; but in the end, with the meditation coming to a real completion, crescendo, the ego must disappear, the selfishness must disappear. You should become one with the whole.

And not only that -- Kakuan says one comes with a bottle of wine. Tremendously significant! -- one comes drunk with the divine. One is not only silent, one dances, one sings, one becomes creative. One is not simply escaping and hiding in a cave. One is so free now that there is no point in hiding anywhere. Now freedom is one's quality. The world becomes a new adventure. The circle is complete: from the world back to the world; beginning from the marketplace, ending again in the marketplace. Of course, totally different -- because now you don't have a mind, so the marketplace is as beautiful for you as the silent Himalayas; there is no difference. And people are thirsty. You help them, you show them the path.

Buddha has said that when somebody becomes a siddha, attains, the possibilities are two. Either he remains quite contented in his attainment, not moving out of it; then he becomes like a pool of water -- fresh, cool, silent, with no ripples, but a pool of water; in a way static, not a river, flowing. Buddha has used two words. If you become a pool of water he calls you arhat. Arhat means one who has attained to perfection but is not at all concerned with others. And another word he uses is bodhisattva. If your meditation flowers into compassion you have become a Bodhisattva; then you help others and your ecstasy is being shared.

Kakuan painted ten pictures of the whole search of man -- and man is a search. He is not only an inquirer: he is inquiry. From the very moment of conception the search starts. If you ask scientists they will say that when a man and woman meet, the man releases millions of cells and those cells start running somewhere, towards the female egg. They don't know where it is, but they run fast. The search has started. They are very tiny cells but they are seeking the egg. One of them will reach; others will perish on the way. One of them will reach the egg, will be born into the world. From that moment the search has started, the inquiry has started. Until death the search continues.

Socrates was dying. His disciples started crying and weeping; it was natural, but he said to them, "Stop! Don't disturb me -- let me inquire into death. Don't distract me! You can cry later on, I will be gone soon. Right now, let me inquire what death is. I have been waiting my whole life for this moment to go into the reality of death."

He was poisoned. He was lying on his bed watching what death is, inquiring what death is. And then he said to his disciples, "My feet are getting numb, but I am still as much as I was before. Nothing has been taken away from me. My feeling of my being is as total as before. My feet are gone." Then he said, "My legs are gone, but I am still the same. I cannot see myself reduced to anything less. I remain the total." Then he said, "My stomach is feeling numb, my hands are feeling numb." But he was very excited, ecstatic. He said, "But I still say to you: I am the same, nothing has been taken away from me."

And then he started smiling and he said, "This shows that sooner or later death will take my heart also -- but it cannot take me." Then he said, "My hands are gone, now even my heart is sinking, and these will be my last words because my tongue is becoming numb. But I tell you, remember, these are my last words: I am still the same, total."

This is the inquiry into death. From the very conception to the very end, man is an inquiry into the search for truth. And if you are not searching for truth, you are not a man. Then you have missed. Then at the most you look like a man, but you are not man. Your humanity is only in appearance but not in your heart. And don't be deceived by appearances: when you look in the mirror you can see that you are a man, that proves nothing. Unless your inquiry grows to such heights that your whole energy is transformed into inquiry and you become a quest, you are not man.

That is the difference between other animals and man. They live, they don't inquire. They simply live, they don't inquire. No animal has ever asked: What is truth? What is life? What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? From where do we come? To what goal are we destined? No tree, no bird, no animal -- this big earth has not asked this. This tremendously vast sky has never inquired about this.

This is the glory of man. He is very small but bigger than the sky, because something in him is unique -- the inquiry. Even the vast sky is not so vast as man, because there may be an end to the sky, but there is no end to man's inquiry. It is an eternal pilgrimage -- beginningless, endless.

These ten bulls are a pictorial representation of the inquiry, the inquiry that I call man. Kakuan painted the pictures but he was not satisfied. They are tremendously beautiful pictures, but he was not satisfied. Truth is such that whatsoever you do you remain discontented. It cannot be expressed. Then he wrote poems -- to substitute. First he painted these ten pictures; feeling dissatisfied, he wrote ten small poems to supplement them. Whatsoever was missing in the pictures he tried in the poems. Again he felt dissatisfied. Then he wrote ten commentaries in prose. I know then too he must have felt unsatisfied, but then there was nothing else to do. Truth is vast, expression limited, but he had tried his best. Nobody had done that before or after.

sho on Ten Bulls of Zen Paintings

Painting is the language of the unconscious. It is the language of visualization. It is the language of children. Children think in pictures, hence in children's books we have to make many, many pictures, colored pictures. The text is very small, pictures are very big -- because that is the only way to persuade children to learn to read, because they can learn only through the pictures. The primitive mind thinks in pictures.

That's why it is thought that languages like Chinese must be the most ancient, because they are pictorial. The language has no alphabet; Chinese, Japanese, Korean don't have any alphabet -- they have thousands of pictures. That's why it is very difficult to learn Chinese; an alphabet makes things very simple. For each thing, a picture! How many things are there in the world?

And pictures can never be very accurate. They only give you a hint. For example, if in Chinese you have to write 'war', 'fight', 'conflict', then Chinese has a pictogram: a small roof, and under the roof two women are sitting -- that is 'fight'. One roof and two women! That means, one husband and two women -- fight. But this is just indicative, a hint.

Children think in pictures, in dreams. Whatsoever they have to think, first they have to visualize it. All primitives do that. That is the language of the unconscious. You still do it; howsoever articulate you are with language, and howsoever proficient you have become in rational argumentation, still in the night you dream in pictures. The more primitive you are, the more colorful your pictures will be; the more civilized you have become, your pictures become less and less colorful. They become, by and by, black and white.

Black and white is the language of civilization. The rainbow is the language of the primitive. Black and white is not a true language, but we tend... all people who have been trained in Aristotelian logic tend to think in black and white, good and bad, night and day, summer and winter, God and devil -- black and white! And there are no other mid-stages. Who is in between God and the devil? -- nobody. This is not possible. Watch a rainbow: seven colors. Black on one side, white on the other side, and between these two a great range of colors, step by step.

The whole of life is colorful. Think in colors, don't think in black and white. That is one of the greatest diseases that has happened to humanity. The name of the disease is 'Aristotle-itis' -- it comes from Aristotle. You say: This man is good. What do you mean? And then you say: That man is bad. What do you mean? You say: This man is a saint, and that man is a sinner. What do you mean? Have you ever seen a sinner in whom the saint has completely disappeared? Have you ever seen a saint in whom the sinner has completely disappeared? The difference may be of degrees; it is not that of black and white.

Black and white thinking makes humanity schizophrenic. You say: This is my friend and that is my enemy. But the enemy can become a friend tomorrow, and the friend can become an enemy tomorrow. So the difference can be, at the most, relative; it cannot be absolute.

Think in color -- don't think in black and white. Visualization is the language of children, of all primitive people, and of the unconscious. Your unconscious also thinks in pictures.
Kakuan first tried the unconscious language because that is the deepest: he painted these ten bulls. But he felt dissatisfied. Then he wrote ten poems as a supplement, as an appendix. Poetry is mid-way between the unconscious and the conscious: a bridge, a misty land where things are not absolutely in the dark and are not absolutely in the light -- just somewhere in the middle. That's why where prose fails, poetry can indicate. Prose is too superficial; poetry goes deeper. Poetry is more indirect but more meaningful, richer.
But still Kakuan felt dissatisfied, so he wrote prose commentaries.

First he wrote the language of the unconscious, the language of painters, sculptors, dreamers; then he wrote the language of the poets, the bridge between the unconscious and the conscious -- of all art. And then he wrote the language of logic, reason, Aristotle -- the conscious. That's why I say such an experiment is unique; nobody else has done that. Buddha talked in prose. Meera sang in poetry. Unknown painters and sculptors have done many things -- Ajanta, Ellora, the Taj Mahal. But a single person has not done all three things together.

Kakuan is rare, and he must have been a great master. His painting is superb, his poetry is superb, his prose is superb. It rarely happens that one man is so extraordinarily talented in all the directions, all the dimensions of consciousness.

Source - Osho Book "The Search"

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