Only on the Ox was he able to come Home,
But lo, the Ox is now vanished, and alone and serene sits the man.
The red sun rides high in the sky as he dreams on placidly.
Yonder beneath the thatched roof his idle whip and idle rope are lying.
Now the ox vanishes. This picture is sometimes called Ox Transcended because you realise the truth that you and the ox were never really separate. You know the ox is your own Buddha nature and you’ve had it all along. There’s no need to go running around searching for it because you have it right here. The path up to this point was just a means to an end: a way to wake up to this truth.
This is the stage where you forget about trying to practice. There are no goals and no effort. You stop trying to improve or change yourself by becoming something else. You can just live.
All the struggle has gone. You don’t have to try to keep your mind focused and practice arises spontaneously in every moment. Every act is infused with the truth of your innate being. You forget about the dharma because practice isn’t for the sake of a goal – it’s just for itself. You can simply be and go with the flow of life. As the Zen Dog by Edward Monkton says:
He knows not where he’s going
For the ocean will decide –
It’s not the destination…
…It’s the glory of the ride.
You’re at peace with yourself and the world, but there’s still a subtle separation between you and the world. You still have a sense of self…