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Human Actions Illustrated in Zen’s Ox-Herding Pictures

Author(s): Yong Zhi

Journal: Humanities
ISSN 2076-0787

Volume: 1;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 166;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: philosophy | religions | Buddhism | Zen | enlightenment | poetics | theory of action | literary criticism

The enlightenment from Zen’s perspective is the experiences of action that reveal a horizon of new consciousness. This event of enlightenment is the process of action rather than the outcome of action. Therefore, actions are not just the means to enlightenment but the very core of it. The actions of enlightenment from Zen’s perspective cannot be adequately described and explained in logical terms. Unlike most other Buddhist schools, Zen does not engage in extensive philosophical discourses; its classical literatures are mostly artistic in nature, consisting of collections of koans, poetry, and paintings, etc. The ten ox-herding pictures of Zen Buddhism are recognized as the classical illustration of Zen’s spiritual journey, as it vividly depicts the practice of Zen in a poetic and metaphorical way. They present a visual parable of the path to enlightenment in a narrative sequence of a boy’s searching, seeing, wrestling, riding, and transcending of the ox.
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