The Oxherd Series – Reaching the Source – Modern Koans

Posted by in Buddha, Modern Koans, Oxherd Series, Writings

The Oxherd Series is a collection of 10 images and commentary on the quest for enlightenment.  Its source is the Zen tradition. What you’re reading here is a satirical, but not all together purposeless, treatment of these so called stages. Using excerpts from one of my favorite cartoons, Bob’s Burgers, I hope to bring this old story into the present.

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is

– Donovan

What is the work we’ve been doing? Work, precisely defined in the physical sciences is the constant force (F) multiplied by the displacement (s) of the object on which the force is applied

W = Fs

If we use this definition and apply it to Donovan’s paraphrasing of an old Zen adage, we’ve done nothing. To quantify that, our displacement = 0, so W = 0

W = F*0 = 0


All things are empty of inherent nature, but none the less, they are there before us - existing. Click To Tweet

So, as I’ve mentioned, the work we are doing is not the kind we’re used to. Yes, we’ve shifted our minds quite a bit and wrestled with some disturbing concepts (emptiness, thusness, and so on). But we’ve basically come to the world as it is. Net change of nothing. Our understanding of the self is nuanced.  We recognize that it is impermanent, always shifting. Our understanding of other has been similarly developed.  All things are empty of inherent nature, but none the less they are there before us – existing. Just not the way that we’ve grown to expect. Work – still zero.

The divine that we’ve all been pining for has been found in the realization that all things are temporary and therefore precious.  Gratitude, compassion, wisdom, and so on arise naturally from the spaces cleared of preconceptions, preferences, and aversions.  And yet, those spaces will fill back up as we fall back asleep and wake again everyday. Just like yesterday, and the day before. Total beans counted at the end of the day – nuthin’.

the rebirth of everything, including us, in each and every now. Click To Tweet

So, if we’re going nowhere, we must be there, and we must be where we started, at the source.  So what is “the source”? An ocean of being, from which waves and currents make the faces, hearts, and hands of each and every being. It is the rebirth of everything, including us, in each and every now.

Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode,
unconcerned with and without –
The river flows tranquilly on
and the flowers are red.

Next: In The World

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Modern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important than their answers.

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ― G.K. Chesterton

Dialectic Two Step, Modern Koans, Verse Us, Say What?, and Minute Meditations all copyright Andrew Furst

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Andrew Furst

Author of two books, Poet, Meditation Teacher, Buddhist blogger, backup guitarist for his teenage boys, lucky husband and technologist
Andrew Furst
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