Sunday, January 25, 2009

Riding the Ox

It is said that Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, rode an ox to leave the kingdom of Zhou where he worked. The reason? he couldn’t stand the corruption and poor governance of the kingdom. But before disappearing permanently, he wrote the great book Tao Te Ching, the bible of Taoists.

Inspired by this story, I wrote the following poem:

Si Lao Tzu daw ay sumakay ng kalabaw
upalng lisanin ang tiwaling kaharian;
ngunit bago maglaho nang tuluyan
ang Tao Te Ching ay kanyang isinulat.
Sa nais maging pangulo ng bayan
hiling ko sa inyo ay simple lamang:
basahin at limiin ang dakilang aklat
at matutong mamuno nang tama at tapat.


It is said that Lao Tzu rode an ox
to leave a corrupt kingdom;
but before disappearing permanently
he wrote the Tao Te Ching.
To those who wish to lead a nation
I have only this simple request:
that you read and reflect on the great book
and learn to rule truly and sincerely.

Now, in Zen Buddhism, riding an ox has a deep spiritual meaning. In the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures drawn by the Chinese Master Kakuan in the 12th century, the ox is said to symbolize the eternal principle of life or truth in action. Each of the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures represents a stage in the Zen discipline toward enlightenment or realizing one’s true nature. The picture of the man coming home on the ox’s back is the sixth of the ten. It is the stage when:

‘The struggle is over; the man is no more concerned with gain and loss. He hums a rustic tune of the woodman, he sings simple songs of the village-boy. Saddling himself on the ox’s back, his eyes are fixed on things not of the earth, earthy. Even if he is called, he will not turn his head; however enticed he will no more be kept back.’ [taken from: D.T. Suzuki's 'Manual of Zen Buddhism']

Happy Year of the Ox!

I don’t know who drew this, but I bought it from a street vendor in Halong Bay, Vietnam in 2000, when I made a presentation on the Philippine peace process in a social science research conference.

Note: The image at the top was from


Blogger sakuo said...

Dear Roh Mik san,
I am Sakuo Nakamura, haiku-picture painter of Issa.
I have enjoyed your favorite music very much,
especially " Someway over the rainbow" that i like best.

Thank you pleasant time.


12:16 PM  

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