Searching for the Bull
The journey begins as an exhausting search for an elusive quarry. The seeker is pictured in search of himself, but all he can find is rustling leaves and singing cicadas, and he does not yet realise that these are the very clues he seeks. During this stage the student is often confused and discouraged. He doesn't really even know what it is he is looking for. Zen sounds strange and obscure yet something in it inexplicably attracts him, nevertheless. Kuo-an Shih-yuan writes
In search of the Bull,
I fight my way through forests,
following the course of unamed rivers,
lost on meandering mountain paths.
Exhausted and despairing,
I can find nothing but rustling leaves,
and the singing of cicadas at nightfall.
Why search for a bull that has never been lost? The bull only appears lost because the ox herd is lost in the experience of separateness. His home becomes ever more distant. He reaches many crossroads in life, but does not know which road to follow. Desire and fear burning him like a fire, and ideas of right and wrong imprisoned him.
Student: " What is Zen?"
Nan-ch'uan: " Ordinary mind is very Zen."
Student: " Should we try to get it?"
Nan-ch'uan: " As soon as you try you miss it."
The master is trying to indicate to the student that the mind that we use in everyday life is as enlightened as it is ever going to get. In its natural nature it is totally free from striving to become something more than it already is. We believe that to be enlightened is a state that we have to find, to strive for. As soon as we start to strive for enlightenment and chase it we come out of the enlightened state which is our natural state.