Jugyuzu (十牛図)

Jugyuzu is a set of ten drawings of cows which depict the path leading to the enlightenment of Zen meditation. Jugyuzu by Kakuan, a Zen monk who lived in the Song period in China, is well-known.

Jugyuzu consists of the following ten drawings. In these drawings, the cow is regarded as the symbol of man's mind. Alternatively, the cow is portrayed as enlightenment, and the child as a practitioner of austerities.


Jingyu means the aspiration to find the cow. This refers to the state of bewilderment which results from searching for the cow but not finding it.


Kenseki means the discovery of the cow's footprints. Footprints represent Buddhist scriptures, or koan (small presentations of the nature of ultimate reality, usually presented as a paradox) of the ancients, or the like.


Kengyu means getting a glimpse of the sight of the cow. It refers to the state of being able to slightly see 'enlightenment' as the result of meeting a distinguished mentor.


Tokugyu means catching the cow by force. It refers to the state of managing to achieve the reality of enlightenment but not yet being able to absorb it.


Bokugyu means taming of the cow. It refers to ascetic practices for absorbing enlightenment.


Kigyukika means riding on the back of the cow and going home. It refers to the state of finally attaining enlightenment and returning to the world.


Bogyuzonnin means returning home and forgetting about the cow. It refers to the realization that enlightenment has not gone away but is to be found within the practitioner of austerities.


Ningyugubo means forgetting about everything and returning to the state of nothingness. It refers to the realization that the practitioner of austerities who has achieved enlightenment is not special but is in the original and natural state of man.


Henpongengen means the original and natural beauty making its appearance. It suggests that enlightenment exists in such a natural state.


To the city... It depicts the practitioner of austerities (his appearance has changed from a child to Hotei osho (a legendary monk called Hotei, who is said to have lived during the Tang period in China)), who has achieved enlightenment, going out into the town and playing with another child; it represents Hotei osho leading the path to enlightenment.

Some jugyuzu are in the form of kansu (a scroll) or gajo (an album of paintings), or ten pictures drawn in the cloth width of a hanging scroll. It is rare for jugyuzu to contain gatha (poetic verse of a scripture), and most jugyuzu consist of pictures only and contain no words. While some jugyuzu are of Chinese origin, most were created by monks who lived during or after the Muromachi period in Japan, or by painters of various schools of paintings.

Jugyuzu by Kakuan

[Original Japanese]