Catching the Ox.
With the energy of his whole being,
the boy has at last taken hold of the ox:
But how wild his will, how ungovernable his power!
At times he struts up a plateau,
When lo! he is lost again in an impenetrable mountain pass.
After much time, patience, and energy the ox has been caught. However, it is still wild. The boy has managed to grab hold of the ox but the animal needs constant attention. The ox still longs for his freedom and will run if afforded the opportunity. It not only requires constant vigilance, but a free use of the whip in order to control him.
In your own life, you have experienced true enlightenment but the event is fleeting. You have caught the ox by its tail but it is likely to run away. You know the true path but there are many distractions along the way that can easily side-track you.
You see, once you achieve enlightenment, the journey does not suddenly end. You are still living in a world filled with hate, love, desires and pettiness. The real test only begins at this point. You soon realize that you have no real control over your true nature. You have only felt the joy of its existence. Your inner nature is likely to disappear as soon as it appears and this causes you to worry. It is very likely that you have terrible misgivings about the journey you have embarked upon. You want to live your life correctly, but feel yourself doing exactly the opposite. Your mind is in heaven but your body is firmly planted on the earth. What will you do?
The answer lies in the free use of the whip. You must tame your inner nature through the whip or discipline. It is very important now to use your discipline and training to control your inner nature. If we are meditating, we control wandering thoughts through our breath control. When there are no wandering thoughts, the ox stays by your side. The ox starts to move as stray thoughts enter your mind.
In acting, you have had some success. The ox, here, can be likened to the “persona” of the actor that you have created. If you let that persona out uncontrolled, he will run away, and get drunk with his friends every night after the show. Your performances will eventually suffer as the persona becomes more isolated and disoriented. He thinks that his reason for existence is to party with his friends. He has completely forgotten about the job that lays before him. Think of any number of Hollywood celebrities who are known more for their lovers and extravagances than their work.
How do we stop this? Through discipline. We don’t stop classes once we have a part. We keep up with our exercises. We work out and warm up, and continue to explore our character’s world until the very last performance. We do not let our success rule us, but we rule it. We come to realize that our successes are fleeting and that once we start dwelling on our past or present successes we stop working to ensure our future growth as actors. Our momentum will always slow down if we don’t keep moving in the right direction.