What are oxen to you, Mara?

Standard

In Zen tradition, the ten Ox Herding images are used as a metaphor for embarking upon the path to enlightenment, the struggles you encounter along the way, and finally (hopefully!) realization.

I was very interested to hear of the Kassaka Sutta in the Pali Canon. Mara, desguised as a farmer in search of his oxen, sees if he can catch the Buddha of guard (Yeah, right!). Not only does it give a possible reference point to the origin of the Ox Herding theme (or maybe not, I tend to be full of bull when it comes to these things… I am a Taurus, after all!), but it also has a striking resemblance to the central theme of the Heart Sūtra, one of the most important Zen and Mahayana Sūtras, as the name suggests.  

By now, anyone interested has probably gone on and listened to the rest of the talk already, so this will be the last of the clips that I will share. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I have!

 

Kassaka Sutta: The Farmer

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn04/sn04.019.than.html

At Savatthi. Now at that time the Blessed One was instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — were listening to the Dhamma.

Then the thought occurred to Mara, the Evil One: “Gotama the contemplative is instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — are listening to the Dhamma. What if I were to go to Gotama the contemplative to obscure his vision?”

Then Mara the Evil One, taking on the form of a farmer with a large plowshare over his shoulder, carrying a long goad stick — his hair disheveled, his clothes made of coarse hemp, his feet splattered with mud — went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, said, “Hey, contemplative. Have you seen my oxen?”

“And what are your oxen, Evil One?”

“Mine alone is the eye, contemplative. Mine are forms, mine is the sphere of consciousness & contact at the eye. Where can you go to escape me? Mine alone is the ear… the nose… the tongue… the body… Mine alone is the intellect, contemplative. Mine are ideas, mine is the sphere of consciousness & contact at the intellect. Where can you go to escape me?”

“Yours alone is the eye, Evil One. Yours are forms, yours is the sphere of consciousness of contact at the eye. Where no eye exists, no forms exist, no sphere of consciousness & contact at the eye exists: there, Evil One, you cannot go. Yours alone is the ear… the nose… the tongue… the body… Yours alone is the intellect, Evil One. Yours are ideas, yours is the sphere of consciousness & contact at the intellect. Where no intellect exists, no ideas exist, no sphere of consciousness of contact at the intellect exists: there, Evil One, you cannot go.”

Mara:

Of what they say, ‘This is mine’; and those who say, ‘Mine’: If your intellect’s here, contemplative, you can’t escape from me.

Buddha:

What they speak of isn’t mine, and I’m not one of those who speak it. Know this, Evil One: you won’t even see my tracks.

Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, “The Blessed One knows me; the One Well-gone knows me” — vanished right there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s