The Scripture of the Fo...

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The Scripture of the Founding Master

Chapter Three: Practice

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The Founding Master said to Kim Namch’ŏn, “The other day I saw a man riding an ox. It seemed, though, that the man wasn’t leading the ox, but that the ox was leading the man. If the ox went into a thorny patch or a ditch, the man was led into a thorny patch or a ditch. If the ox went up into the hills or out into the fields, the man was led up into the hills or out into the fields. Pitching forward and backwards, the man’s clothes were ripped and his body injured. It was painful to watch. After watching this sight, I suggested that if he held the ox’s reins tightly and, by leading it only on the road, kept it from going wherever it wanted, then wouldn’t he be able to avoid such a mishap? The man replied that that would be wonderful, but said that when he got the ox he did not know how to train it and let the ox have complete control; now, as the man aged, the ox was getting wilder and he no longer had the ability to control it." The Founding Master continued, " I saw you, Namch’ŏn, coming here today, riding on an ox. Where is your ox, now?” Namch’ŏn replied, “I am still riding on its back.” The Founding Master asked, “What does your ox look like?” Namch’ŏn replied, “It is nearly one fathom tall, yellow in color, wears hempen shoes, and has salt-and-pepper whiskers.” The Founding Master laughed and said, “You know the looks of your ox pretty well. Then, does your ox do whatever you tell it to do or are you, too, led around by it?” Namch’ŏn said, “It usually does what I tell it. If the ox is lazy in doing what I want it to do, then I yell at it to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do; and if it tries to do the wrong thing, I yell at it to stop.” The Founding Master said, “Since you have already discovered your ox and know how to train it, and since it usually listens to what you tell it to do, you must work hard to train it further so that you may do all kinds of things with complete freedom.”