Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom


Cow And Painting

A Zen Master teaches his disciples how to paint.

Painting is the medium through which he really leads his disciples into meditation. One can travel to meditation from anywhere and everywhere. There is no point in the world from where you cannot make a start for meditation. This Master has ten disciples who are gathered round him one morning.

He tells them, “Go and make a picture whose broad outlines should be like this. There is a cow in a grassy land, and the cow is grazing. You have to paint it, but remember, the painting has to have no form, no attributes.”

The disciples find themselves in great difficulty. It is the job of a Master to put his disciples in difficulty, in crisis, because only in crisis can they become aware of themselves. The disciples find it extremely hard to paint a picture without form and attributes; it seems an impossible task. They have to use lines and colors. They have to give the cow some form; they have to show the grass all over the field.

Nine of the ten disciples attempt to paint and the next day return with some sort of paintings which don’t have any clear cut outlines, everything is hazy and unclear. But a sort of cow is there in each painting. In drawing the grass they certainly made use of abstract art so it is formless as much as possible. Nevertheless, they have to use colors of some sort.

Inspecting each other’s paintings, a disciple asks one of his friends, “Where is the cow?”

The other says, “I had some idea of a cow when I was in the process of painting, but now I cannot say where the cow is.”

And the Master rejects all nine pictures saying, “How can you have color and a cow in a painting that has to be without form and attributes?”

The tenth disciple has just a blank sheet of paper in his hand, and the Master says, “Yes, this is it.”

The nine disciples who have attempted to paint feel disappointed and they protest, “Where is the cow?”

The Master says, “The cow went home after grazing.”

“And where is the grass?” they protest further.

The Master says, “The cow ate it up. So things have gone back to their original places. Things have returned to their unmanifest state. This is really painting without form and attributes. It shows a cow who is finished grazing and a plot of grass the cow has eaten up. Empty space, just space is there.”

At its deepest level self nature is without any form, without any attributes; it is utter emptiness. It becomes manifest with the grass appearing and the cow coming to graze on it. Then the play of attributes happens. And it all becomes unmanifest once again after the cow has eaten up the grass.

This vast expanse of our world was born out of emptiness, which is without form, and it will return to the same emptiness. Everything appears and disappears, but the source is the same emptiness, the immense void. And the whole is hidden in that emptiness which by its nature cannot have a name, a shape and an adjective.

In this sense, self-nature, like everything else, has two states: the manifest and the unmanifest.

If a man’s thoughts are muddy, If he is reckless and full of deceit – How can he wear the yellow robe? Whoever is master of his own nature, Bright, clear and true, He may indeed wear the yellow robe.


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