The enlightenment for which Zen aims, for which Zen exists, comes of itself. As consciousness, one moment it does not exist, the next it does. But physical man walks in the element of time even as he walks in mud, dragging his feet and his true nature. So even Zen must compromise and recognize progressive steps of awareness leading closer to the ever instant of enlightenment.
That is what this book is about. In the twelfth century the Chinese master Kakuan drew the pictures of the ten bulls, basing them on earlier Taoist bulls, and wrote the comments in prose and verse translated here. His version was pure Zen, going deeper than earlier versions, which had ended with the nothingness of the eighth picture. It has been a constant source of inspiration to students ever since, and many illustrations of Kakuan's bulls have been made through the centuries.
The illustrations reproduced here are modern versions by the noted Kyoto woodblock artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki, descendant of a long line of artists and proprietor of the Daruma-do teashop (Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch). His oxherding pictures are as delightfully direct and timelessly meaningful as Kakuan's original pictures must have been.
The following is adapted from the preface by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps to the first edition of their translation.
The bull is the eternal principle of life, truth in action. The ten bulls represent sequent steps in the realization of one's true nature.
This sequence is as potent today as it was when Kakuan (1100-1200) developed it from earlier works and made his paintings of the bull. Here in America we perform a similar work eight centuries later to keep the bull invigorated. [There in Kyoto, Tokuriki has done the same.]
An understanding of the creative principle transcends any time or place. The 10 Bulls is more than poetry, more than pictures. It is a revelation of spiritual unfoldment paralleled in every bible of human experience. May the reader, like the Chinese patriarch, discover the footprints of his potential self and, carrying the staff of his purpose and the wine jug of his true desire, frequent the market place and there enlighten others.