Ten Ox-herding Pictures: Stages in a Spiritual Journey
with Jody Hojin Kimmel, Sensei
April 15, 2023
The spiritual path comes alive pictorially in the Zen tradition’s Ten Ox-herding pictures. This series of images portrays a young ox-herder whose quest leads them to discover, subdue and train a wild ox—their own heart and mind—in a process of transformation. The ox represents awakening, and the herder is you—the meditator, the seeker—encountering the gritty reality and challenges of spiritual practice.
Created by 12th-century Chinese Master Guo-an Shi-yuan, the Ox-herding pictures offer practitioners a map of the spiritual path. While the images are presented in sequence, it’s important to remember that neither self-development nor Zen practice go in a straight line. Rather, we circle back to the various stages in a spiral, with more understanding each time around. The Ox-herding images are a bottomless source of wisdom we can return to again and again for inspiration.
In this retreat, we’ll begin with the history of the Ox-herding pictures and look at collections by various artists. Then, we’ll focus on the set of Ox-herding pictures painted by Jikihara Sensei in 1982 while visiting Zen Mountain Monastery, along with the accompanying verses by Shi-yuan. Finally, we’ll create our own set of images, placing ourselves right in the midst of our own journey.
The temple will provide simple art materials (various kinds of paper and mark-making implements), though you’re welcome to bring your own. Bring a favorite pen to copy the Ox-herding verses.
Because of the ongoing COVID situation, we are asking that all participants be fully vaccinated and present two negative rapid COVID tests (antigen tests), the first taken 48 hours before the start of the retreat, and the second taken immediately before joining the retreat. Please email a photo of the first (48h) test to: email@example.com. We will not be providing COVID tests at the temple, so please provide your own.
Jody Hojin Kimmel, Sensei received the priestly transmission (the transmission of the Precepts) from Daido Roshi, who began the process in 2009, and from Shugen Roshi, who completed the transmission in 2012. In 2017, she received full dharma transmission from Shugen Roshi. She serves as the Training Director for the Mountains and Rivers Order and Abbot of the Zen Center of NYC-Fire Lotus Temple . Hojin Sensei began her artistic career early and has taught drawing, ceramics, and painting, opening people up to the wonders and mysteries of the creative process and continues to offer Art Practices as part of her teaching. She has been in full-time residential training at the Monastery since 1990 and now shares her time at the Brooklyn temple.
Learn more about Jody Hojin Kimmel, Sensei