1. Searching for the Bull
Where has your Bull gone away? You should measure by the eye where the Bull grazes the grass. The Herdboy cannot find out the Bull without measuring by the eye concerning the direction of his Bull’s existence. Listen to the senior Herdboy (the superior’s) advice about how to search for his lost Bull.
The Bull, the true nature, must be amidst the copse woods (miscellaneous trees) rank with weeds. The Herdboy, a seeker who is seeking his true nature, should thus be wise and clever, and he should hear the guidance of the Buddha's wisdom. Namely, the practitioner must search for his Bull by depending on the farsighted leader (the keen-eyed Zen Master).
2. Finding the Footprints of the Bull
The Bull's footprints come in sight. Follow in the footsteps!
The moment when the Herdboy finds out the footsteps of his Bull, he should be very happy and excited. The Bull has certainly left the footprints. Therefore if the Herdboy follows in the footsteps, he must meet with his Bull.
“The Bull of a practitioner means what?”. Your Bull here is just trace of the true self that you are searching for. The forest which the Bull grazes means this world you live in, and the world-forest you live in is endless, and it is composed with the infinite times and spaces.
Where is your true self hidden in this world-forest? Really is it visible? If then, you should be hit 30 times. Why? Because it is that you see your illusional self. However, if it is invisible, you're foolish one. Why? Because you don't see yourself which is now pure and clear like this. But you don't have to despair of your practice. Heaven is high and earth is wide, and yet you can search for yourself amid this world, and you must search for yourself. What does the footprint of the Bull mean? It is the very thoughts you are now giving rise to just at this moment. You should see where all such thoughts arise and vanish. You haven't yet found the Bull, but if you had seen all thoughts you would have discovered but the Bull's tracks. And next you should discover the Bull hidden in the forest. This Bull you're searching for is the essential teaching of the Buddha, and is the essential Oneness of all things. Here the forest is just the objective world and this objective world is but reflections of the true self. Continually and eagerly follow the footsteps. If then, you will meet with your Bull that grazes in the forest. Only this path is the seeker's mission, just as the Herdboy searching for his Bull.
3. Seeing the Bull
You are to meet with you for the first time since the ultimate beginning.
That which the Herdboy sees his Bull means that you meet with “your true self”. At this stage, even if you would get a glimpse of your true nature (the Bull), it is not easy to gain confidence whether that Bull is your owns.
Therefore you should continually approach it. And so if you could gain confidence that it is your owns, you should, not remaining only beholding the Bull, hold it fast by the bridle as soon as possible. Because you're liable to miss it. To tell the truth, that which you see your true nature is just like miracle. It is almost impossible that ordinary people see their own true nature. However, it is more impossible to see and continually maintain it.
4. Catching the Bull
The Herdboy should hook the reins of holding in his hand to the Bull's nose-ring and catch hold of it fast. If he doesn't do it so, he cannot tame his Bull well. If then, how can he take it in safety to his house? Therefore the Herdboy must not let go (loosen) the reins. Only when the Herdboy is holding his Bull's reins fast, he will be able to be greatly relaxed.
Here the Bull's reins means “Koan” which the Zen-seeker should cultivate, practice and master, holding on it all the time, and “the Bull” is the true nature of the Seeker.
In case the practitioner sees his true nature, he should hook the rein of Koan to it, and hold on it fast like the herder's catching hold of the Bull's rein. Yet, though what the practitioner sees is his true nature, it's not easy that the practitioner, of himself, can judge that it is his true nature. And why? Because the practitioner doesn't know what his true nature is.
Even if he sees the very place that ten thousand of thoughts would arise and vanish, he doesn't understand what it is. Therefore while introverting all his thoughts with a question for long, long time, the practitioner should hold onto the very question fast and must not loosen it, just as the herder's catching hold of the Bull's rein. If then, all doubts and questions will slowly, slowly vanish, and his true face will be clear.
What is it that gives rise to thoughts as much as the particles of dust in this world?
One day a Zen monk, named Hyae Jang was preparing food as a cooking priester (Kitchener) in the temple kitchen.
The great Zen Master Majo then entered and asked, “What are you doing now?”
Hyae-Jang replied, “I'm herding the Bull.”
Majo asked, “How do you herd the Bull?”
Hyae Jang replied, “If the Bull tries to enter the grass land, then I pull the rein tightly.”
Majo said, “You're a true herdboy.”
5. Taming the Bull