10 Ox Herding Stages in FGS Tea Meditation

Fo Guang Shan (FGS) South Island¡¯s most recent Tea Meditation was held on the 19th of March in the main shrine, led by Temple Minister in Charge Venerable Jue Xi who supervised the six tea practitioners serving 26 devotees. This time, it was the ¡°Sariputta¡± group¡¯s turn to introduce Sariputta to the audience, who is known as the wisest of the Buddha¡¯s ten principal disciples. Group leader Zhang Dong, Ann and Olivia told stories of Sariputta¡¯s path in learning Buddhism, so that everyone can be more familiar with this chief disciple of the Buddha.

During the tea meditation, Venerable Jue Xi first guided the devotees into a meditative state, and once everyone¡¯s body and mind was at ease, the practitioners proceeded to pour good tea one by one into each devotees¡¯ tea cup. Venerable Jue Xi said that whilst pouring tea, the practitioners should use it as an opportunity for learning how to focus. On the other hand, those drinking the tea have to accept the tea offering gladly, as the flavour of the tea will reflect one¡¯s feelings during the moment of tasting.

Venerable Jue Xi used the ¡®Ten Ox Herding Pictures¡¯ to explain the metaphorical ten stages of Chan¡¯ meditation. The first step - ¡®In Search of the Bull¡¯, refers to the journey of finding our true Buddha¡¯s nature. Even after we have found it, and have a sense of enlightenment of the Buddhist Dharma, we have to continue to cultivate ourselves. We shall ¡®Tame the Bull¡¯, ¡®Ride the Bull Home¡¯, ¡®Transcend against the Bull¡¯, ¡®Transcend and Forget about both the Bull and Self¡¯, and after ¡®Reaching the Source¡¯, one must continue for one more final step ¨C to be a Bodhisattva - ¡®Returning to Society¡¯, to bring home the message to all sentient beings. The entire process is one that is very thought provoking, and the Venerable encourages all learners to experience it themselves, stating that it will be a worthwhile experience indeed.

At the very end, the devotees learn to savour the sweet lingering aftertaste of tea after the initial bitterness, and had a look at the remaining tea leaves inside the teapot. One then understands the refreshing at-ease nature of the tea leaves¡¯ original uncrumpled appearance, and the sacrificial spirit a Bodhisattva must have to undergo the long arduous process necessary in order to serve others well. These are all lessons that come with enough time in the tea meditation sessions.