Life is a culmination of the past, an awareness of the present, an indication of a future beyond knowledge, the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.

– Charles Lindbergh

Ten Bulls Of Zen

There is an ancient story, the famous Zen story, The Ten Bulls of Zen. It is a pictorial story with ten picture cards, each card containing a phase of man and his evolution. The original pack consisted of only nine cards; the tenth was added by a madman like me. Everybody opposed him, everybody denounced him. He had to leave his country. He added the tenth picture, and the tenth picture is the most beautiful, the very culmination, the culmination of culmination itself.

In the first picture the bull is lost and the owner is searching for it.

In the second, he is looking everywhere and he cannot find it.

In the third, far, far away he can infer: “Perhaps that is my bull.”

In the fourth he has actually seen the bull — not the whole bull but just its tail.

In the fifth he has seen the whole bull.

In the sixth he has caught hold of the bull by its tail.

In the seventh the man has learned a lesson; he is holding the bull by the horns.

In the eighth he is riding on the bull.

In the ninth they have arrived home. The ninth has no picture, neither the bull nor its owner. That was the old pack. A madman like me added the tenth to those nine cards.

In the tenth the man is seen in the marketplace – not only seen but with a bottle of wine. Now, no Buddhist can forgive it! Nobody thinking himself religious can forgive it!

That madman was thrown out of his country, but miraculously the tenth card has remained. Whatsoever is done by men like me… you may throw them out, you may kill them, you may crucify them, but what they do remains. You cannot destroy it. The man — nobody even knows his name, they even erased his name from the books; nobody knows who he was, but he has done a tremendous service to humanity.

Well, I believe life is a Zen koan, that is, an unsolvable riddle. But the contemplation of that riddle – even though it cannot be solved – is, in itself, transformative. And if the contemplation is of high enough quality, you can merge with the divine.

– Tom Robbins


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