Ascending to the Pinnacle

(From ‘Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage,’ by Jackie Griffiths)

By Jackie Griffiths

Passing through a small wooden gate, Jae – with the puppy energetically pulling in all directions at once – stumbles gradually round the edge of the pine wood, but they make very slow progress. She has constantly to be aware of the puppy darting from left to right, in danger of tripping her up with every step. Luring and praising him all the while, she tries to keep the leash tight, but he frequently forges ahead straining to go faster in sudden, unpredictable spurts of energy, then abruptly reverses direction and falls behind, causing her to jerk to a stop and twist round.

“For goodness sake, where are your leash manners?” she cries in exasperation, after having had to wait on the spot for a minute to calm him down.

The way ahead leads distinctly upwards and the hills are getting steeper, transforming into proper mountains. A sudden enthusiastic tug sideways could result in a steep tumble down into the valley below. On her left, the side of the hill rises up fairly sharply, too precarious to scramble up with an excitable puppy. The little stony track is their only way forward.

“Sit!” she commands in a firm voice, and the puppy stops abruptly in his tracks, looking up at her. “I’m not going a step further until you behave. You have to stop straining at the lead, yanking me this way and that. I’m in control now, and you do as I say. Understand?”

The puppy rests on his haunches looking glum.

“Good. I’m going to get blisters on my hands if you keep on like this!”

As the puppy sits, obedient and sorry for itself, Jae takes the opportunity to study her surroundings, noticing a kind of plateau not far ahead beyond a clump of trees.

“I think your shed might be up there somewhere,” she says more gently.  “Let’s go and see. Heel!”

And they both start walking again, but this time the puppy seems to understand that he must follow tamely and respectfully.

They trudge uphill together at a steady pace, winding and ascending more rapidly – the path very much the only safe way to proceed. The drop to her right falls more steeply away the further she walks, and it’s become completely impossible to ascend the cliff to her left. She holds onto the leash very tightly.

“Good boy,” Jae praises the puppy encouragingly, as they safely negotiate an area of loose stones and hostile shrubbery. She’s very concerned about keeping the puppy under control, deciding the best way to walk is for her to go ahead, leading the way, with him following calmly behind.

“I’m very strict,” she says conversationally as they progress along the path. “If you wake up from a nap and whine, I’m going to ignore you. If you jump up at me, I will tell you off. But,” and she stops and bends down to stroke him affectionately, “I’m not harsh or cruel. There’s a big difference, you know. You’re young and full of energy, and I appreciate you don’t mean to misbehave. You’re only following your nature without thought or censor.”

Standing up and tugging the lead to signal they should start walking again, she says, “this is my job, little impressionable puppy. I need to be continually with you, always vigilant, always aware… so I can catch you in the act. A moment later, and it will all be useless!”



Breathing hard, Jae eventually reaches the plateau, a modest area of flatish land composed mainly of very short grass and a few giant boulders. On all sides is a stunning, undulating mountainous panorama, with one or two snowy peaks in silhouette on the far horizon. Over these distant summits the brilliant blue of the sky fades into a white haze, with an almost imperceptible blush of pink. It looks like the point in time when dawn has ended and the day just begun.

Taking a few deep breaths Jae relaxes her shoulders, extends her spine, and fills her lungs with fresh air. She holds the puppy’s lead tightly in her right hand, but he gives her no trouble, sitting still and obedient, seemingly enjoying the view. Gazing over the wild and rugged landscape she feels a deep contentment swelling out from a central point somewhere in her stomach. This is true splendour. True magnificence. A place where you can see, and feel, the awesome power and vastness of nature. An empty landscape full to bursting with nothing and everything.

Dropping the dog lead to the ground she stands on it with her right foot and slowly lifts both arms above her head, taking a long slow breath in through her nose. Holding it for a few seconds, she closes her eyes in complete stillness and emptiness, then slowly releases the air through her mouth, simultaneously bringing her arms back down to her sides.

Upon opening her eyes she’s surprised to see a little Buddhist monk standing facing her on the plateau. Bowing his shaved head in greeting, he clasps his hands lightly at chest level in a loose fist. He wears variegated brown-coloured robes and carries a small, dirty blue shoulder bag, in which Jae can glimpse the rim of a well-used wooden begging bowl. He wears nothing on his feet, but somehow they don’t appear to be dirty.

After a few seconds he straightens up and smiles at Jae, indicating with his left hand something behind her. Turning round, she sees carefully laid out on a flat stone beside a scrubby little bush, another old wooden bowl and more brown robes.

 “Welcome to Bliss Point,” says the monk in a mellifluous voice as she turns back to him with a questioning expression. “Please put on your robes.”

As they walk together towards the flat stone, the monk continues, “these are ancient, traditional robes made of cloth that has been munched by oxen…”

“…munched by oxen?”

“…burned by fire, gnawed by mice, and worn by the dead.”

“Worn by the dead?!” repeats Jae, alarmed.

“Yes,” replies the monk in a polite, even tone. “In some cultures the robes are composed of excrement sweeping cloth; but as it happens, not these.”

“Hmm…ah. Oh.”

“These useful discarded bits of material have been scavenged from rubbish dumps, roadsides, cremation grounds, and other places. The truly unsalvageable parts have, of course, been trimmed away, but the rest are sewn together and washed, before being dyed with roots, tubers, herbs, bark or flowers and leaves… all sorts of things.”

“I see,” says Jae hesitantly.

“This is what gives the cloth its brown hue, a sort of earthy, neutral colour – a shade generally considered ugly by society.”

All at once Jae understands. “Then I will wear them gladly as a way of symbolising that I reject cultural values.”

“They are simple and serviceable and I hope they feel comfortable and fit well,” replies the monk, “but as a matter of fact, one doesn’t necessarily have to reject…”

“DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!” shouts Jae at the puppy, who has suddenly started tugging at the lead trying to leap up on the boulder. “I’m watching you all the time now, even if I appear to be fully engrossed in conversation. Sit still! I won’t take any nonsense.”

The puppy gives up his game and sits down meekly.

The monk smiles, apparently impressed. “Very good,” he says, and then turns his back on her to gaze out into the distance.

Taking her cue, Jae slips off her red t-shirt, steps out of her khaki shorts and puts on the robe. As she does so, the monk chants a simple verse:


“How great the robe of liberation

A formless field of merit.

Wrapping ourselves in Buddha’s

Teaching we save all beings.”


Jae is pleased to find they fit very well and don’t scratch or annoy her; they seem to have been designed perfectly as practical, everyday work clothes. Leaving her trainers, shorts and t-shirt in a neatly folded pile, she picks up the begging bowl, and, tugging the lead to make the puppy follow, she joins the monk to stare in wonder over the majestic landscape.

She feels as if she’s come home, as if this is where she’s always meant to be. I’ve found my place at last… this is it!

Presently the monk interrupts their companionable silence. “Come, the people are waiting.”

Composed and serene, they walk slowly over to the plateau where Jae, for some reason, is not surprised to see that a considerable crowd of people has gathered. Right now, she feels that anything is possible and nothing would totally amaze her. Off to one side, on top of a small grassy mound, she notices a boulder covered with a kind of pillow of thick green vegetation.

“That is where you’ll sit,” murmurs the monk. “We’ve made it as comfortable as we can because you might find yourself here for a while.”

On top of the boulder the pile of leaves will act as a sort of cushion – Jae sees they are some kind or laurel or bay leaf – and down beside the edge of the stone is a tray with a steaming tea pot and an empty cup.

“I think I’m going to be perfectly well catered for,” she exclaims joyfully, settling down cross-legged on the comfortable foliage. She pours herself a cup of green tea. “Piping hot too! Thank you very much.”

The little monk bows and smiles, saying, “I will leave you now. But remember this: there are none so deaf as those that will not hear, and none so blind as those that will not see.” And with that, he turns and walks away blending into the crowd.

“Oh. Hmmm. None so blind as those…” repeats Jae nodding in appreciation, “yes I understand what I need to do.”

Lifting the plain white cup to her lips, she sips the refreshing hot tea and loops the puppy’s lead around her bare ankle. Looking up, she carefully studies the environment. The crowd has inched forward, and now, as one, sits cross-legged on the grass in front of her, waiting, anticipating. The sun beats down on the top of her head, but it isn’t too hot, providing the perfect ambient temperature for sitting still without discomfort. She feels as if she understands the whole world, and experiences a profound desire to lead and direct other people, to share her wisdom. But just as she’s about to start speaking, a little girl about age ten with curly brown hair, and wearing jeans and white t-shirt, pushes out of the crowd towards her. As she reaches Jae, she bows slightly and hands her three objects: a hand mirror, a string of polished red beads, and a comb in the shape of a dolphin.

In a reverent voice, the little girl says, “I’m Vesta. I’ve been asked to give you these presents as a thank you for coming here to teach.”

Holding up the necklace she continues, “these beads are made from Mediterranean oxblood coral and there are 108 of them on the strand. If you like, you can wear them around your neck or hold them gently in your hand.”

“Thank you, Vesta. Oxblood..? They are lovely.” Jae takes them carefully, appreciating their rich tone and plump, round shape. “I might wear them now. What beautiful, luscious colours…”

Vesta smiles and holds up the hand mirror. “This mirror is for you to see the reflection of your face…”

“About time too!” Jae laughs.

“And this is a comb for your hair,” Vesta says, handing Jae the dolphin-shaped, wide-toothed comb.

“Well thank you very much, Vesta,” Jae responds pleasantly, carefully placing the beads around her neck. Then, raising the mirror without expectations she gazes, at last, at a clear reflection of her own face. She looks content, at peace, yet full of life. Her brown hair glistens, dark eyes sparkle, and the earthy wholemeal colour of her robes complement the warm radiance of her features. How strange to see her reflection properly after all this time. She looks so much more relaxed than the last time stared at herself in the living room mirror at home. And there’s no brown tinge or distorted glass on this mirror… but… on closer inspection, she does notice a smudge of something on her cheek, like a black smear of mud. Rubbing it gently doesn’t remove it, so she dips the end of her sleeve into her cup of tea and tries to wipe it away, but it persists. Whatever it is remains stubbornly in place. Shrugging, she puts the mirror back down on the rock. It can stay there, as can the comb. As can the smudge.

Glancing down to check the puppy continues to doze happily at her feet, she takes a deep breath and begins to address the crowd in a loud, clear voice.

“I will help you as much as I can. I can’t promise anything sudden or miraculous, but I will do my best to answer your questions, solve your problems, offer advice. I’ve reached this point after a long and difficult journey, and I will give you one hundred percent of my attention, now in the present, lucid and complete. I am yours for as long as I can give.”

At this, the people rise to their feet and form an orderly queue, beginning closest to Jae and trailing all around the edge of the plateau and beyond.

Shuffling in her seat, Jae takes another long sip of tea as the first person, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired woman wearing a top with a picture of a rabbit on it, steps forward eagerly to ask her question.

“Greetings Jae, my name is Freya; I’ve come all the way from Sweden. My question is: what is love, and how can I achieve a state of permanent loving?”

Without pausing or blinking an eye, Jae responds earnestly, “love is a state of being that is without mind!” And then sits quietly with her eyes closed, hands folded in her lap, the conversation over.

After a short wait, Freya says somewhat incredulously, “that’s it? Just no mind?”

Jae nods imperceptibly. “No mind.”

“I don’t get it.”

“If one day you have children, you will understand.”

“But I want to understand now, and I may never have children!”

“I think that highly unlikely, Freya,” Jae replies deliberately.

“Why? But, wait, are you saying that if I don’t have children I will never understand love?”

“What I am saying is that love is beyond the reaches of mind. It is a state of being that cannot be achieved; it just is. It’s most easily felt between parent and child, rarely between one adult and another. I cannot describe it to you.”


Seeing Freya doesn’t understand, Jae continues, “you don’t have to worry about whether you love or don’t love. When you love, you can’t go wrong. Everything you do is perfect.”

“Everything I do is…?”

“Perfect. Yes, because love isn’t one thing or another. It has no dependents. It can’t be sloughed off like a second skin, or changed like clothing. It’s an irreversible condition. It is your skin. It goes where you go, and can be heard when you speak and seen in your actions. It’s not separate from you.”

“How do I reach this state?”

“Search me.”

“Can you give me any clues..?”

“For starters, don’t try to fuse; don’t try to attain, or achieve, and especially don’t try and find it. Just don’t try, full-stop. It’s not about trying. In love, there is no ‘me’ and ‘you.’ It’s about just being.”

“Okay. Thank you, I will think on these things.”

“Good luck with your head-banging.”

Freya smiles a watery, discontented smile and mumbles, “thank you for your answer.” And with a sullen nod of her head she walks past Jae’s boulder and disappears off down the hill, petulant and disaffected, resenting the expense and effort she made to get here, only to be confronted by a fake.

A beautiful, older woman in her fifties with curling dark hair and olive skin approaches Jae next. Bowing slightly and looking up at her with intelligent hazel eyes, she says, “my name is Demeter; I’m from Greece, and I would like to know the solution to suffering.”

Jae fixes the woman with a benevolent but intense gaze, and after a few seconds replies in a steady voice, “why are you worrying about such things? Wouldn’t it be better to just admire the view?”

“I…can’t help it,” Demeter stammers, defensive. “Suffering is all around us, it’s an everyday experience. There’s no getting away from it that I can see, although plenty of people and books tell me there is a life without it. I would like that life.”

“Then admire the view!” replies Jae more firmly.

“How can that help?”

“Let go, breathe deeply; nothing is important.”

“But everything is critically important to me.”

“That’s what I said – everything is important.”

“But -”

Jae suddenly reaches forward and twists a little twig off the nearby bush holding it up to the woman.

“In the wind of life the twig will get blown about, pushed this way and that way – a strong wind comes along and SNAP!” Jae dramatically snaps the twig in half, “it breaks.” Then she reaches down and takes a piece of long grass from the side of the boulder and holds it up. “In the winds of life the grass gets blown about, pushed this way and that way – a strong wind comes along and… (Jae blows ferociously on the blade of grass)… it bends gracefully over, weathering the storm… and stands up again afterwards, the same as ever. To avoid suffering you have to be like the grass: bending and flexing with the changing currents of life, adapting and letting go. Don’t stand rigid, clinging to ideas, expectations and images, or you will suffer.”

“Even if my daughter is abducted?!”

“Even if your daughter is abducted, or murdered, or any other truly dreadful thing happens. If you bend with the winds of life then you necessarily minimise suffering. Of course, things can frequently occur that afford you terrible grief, cause you to mourn or be dreadfully angry, and any number of other negative emotions; but if one remembers the analogy of the twig and the grass, and you are the blade of grass, suffering is minimised, or doesn’t exist. But don’t worry too much. It’s very unlikely anything awful will happen to your daughter.”

“I do worry about her. She is very appealing to men, and headstrong.”

“Admire the view over the mountains. If something happens to your daughter, then that is when you should attend to how you feel, and the consequences. Meanwhile, my advice is to observe the magnificent scenery. Nothing else is happening right now. Your daughter is not abducted, but the mountains are breathtakingly beautiful.”

A few desolate tears slide down the woman’s cheeks. “Thank you. I think I understand.”

“May your life go well.”

Demeter walks away towards the edge of the plateau without looking back, thinking that she must learn to let life take its course.

Jae takes a sip of tea, still piping hot, and just for a fleeting moment wonders if she’s doing the right thing. People don’t seem to be finding the answers they want or need from her, but perhaps, on the other hand, this is indeed the kindest thing she can do. Perhaps the truth is not fundamentally what they want, yet it is her job to provide it, no matter what the cost..? She has no time to consider this further, before the next person approaches – an attractive dark-haired young man with a trimmed, curly brown beard. Bowing respectfully, he smiles at Jae and begins, “hello, my name is Tobiah, I’m from Israel -” but then he notices the puppy curled up at the base of the boulder and exclaims, “oooh I love your little dog!”

Eagerly reaching forward, Tobiah ruffles the puppy’s fur causing him to leap to his feet and wag his tail enthusiastically, pulling the lead taught. “What a sweet little boy you are,” continues Tobiah rubbing the fur on his back, “and such dark, black colouring!”

At this, Jae glances down and sees that indeed the dog’s hair seems to have darkened since she last looked, or perhaps it’s a trick of the light? She could have sworn he had some white patches before.

“Calm down. SIT!” instructs Jae, pressing down on the puppy’s hindquarters, whereupon he immediately subsides quietly onto the grass. Grinning back at Tobiah she says, “he’s very obedient – we have a mutual understanding. I issue commands and he carries them out.”

“That’s great,” exclaims Tobiah, “I have an excellent relationship with my hound back at home.” Then he continues, “but the reason I’m here to see you is because I’ve heard about your journey and what you’ve been through, and I plan to undertake something similar. Can you give me some pointers about how to start my own inner pilgrimage? I wish to find truth.”

Jae thinks in silence for a moment and then blurts, “if you wish to find truth, ask your dog!”

Surprised, Tobiah responds, “what does he know?”

“A hell of a lot more than you!”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re looking for truth, Tobiah. And as long as you continue to do so, you will never locate it, even if you search for ten thousand years! Truth is found in no place, in no creed, no temple, or mosque. You can’t travel to find it in some far distant country, or through devotion, in books, or via some great achievement. It is not a thing, and doesn’t exist.”

Tobiah looks confused. “Truth doesn’t exist?”

Jae sighs, and gazes quietly back at him. Suddenly she indicates the wide-toothed comb lying in the short grass at her feet.

“Could you please pass me that dolphin comb?”

He reaches down and picks it up, but is surprised to see it’s unusable. Most of the teeth are missing and it looks greasy and dirty.

Tobiah apologises, “I’m sorry, it seems to be broken. There are no teeth and it’s really dirty…”

“In that case, pass me the dolphin,” Jae replies holding out her hand, deadly serious.

Tobiah looks back down where the comb was and sees nothing but green grass. He gazes back up at Jae, who remains still, hand reaching down towards him expecting… what? An actual dolphin? All he can do is just stand immobilised, dumbfounded, unable to speak or move.

A silence descends onto the plateau, broken only by the occasional cough from a member of the crowd. Eventually Jae relaxes and says, “keep your mind still and your mouth shut; then you might just get somewhere.”

Then she continues, “this koan suggests to you to rely on the inconceivable. Let go of all pre-conceptions! Take this away and work with it.”

Tobiah remains standing unmoving in front of her, a stunned expression on his face.

“Anything else?” she eventually asks.


“Then may your life go well…” Jae dismisses him; and he walks slowly, and somewhat awkwardly, beyond her boulder to descend the plateau. He feels as if he has just had something of great importance revealed to him, but can’t quite grasp what it is.

After he’s gone, Jae fluffs up the leaves she’s sitting on, takes another sip of hot tea, and indicates to the next person to approach. This isn’t turning out to be as fulfilling as she thought it might.

An overweight Indian man in his thirties with striking features ambles slowly up and touches his palms together in front of her. He has large ears and a very prominent nose that Jae tries not to look at too closely. He’s wearing several brightly-coloured necklaces of differing lengths, and impressive cuff bracelets around his wrists. His shirt is open down to several buttons, displaying a fleshy-looking chest.

Jae smiles reassuringly, but before he can start, the man turns aside to cough productively. When he begins speaking it’s in a surprisingly deep and resonant voice.

“I am from India. My name is Ganapati. I have heard of your achievements, and my question to you is about wisdom. I wonder, how can I acquire deep wisdom?”

Looking out across the crowd Jae takes a deep breath before asking, “have you had a heart-attack?”

Startled, Ganapti replies, “me? No. Why?”

“So your heart still works fine?”

“To the best of my knowledge.”

“Then you are just confused.”

Taken aback, Ganapti replies, “I don’t feel especially confused, I merely came here to –”

Jae interrupts, “you came here to seek out a guru! To follow a leader, a teacher, to gain something from someone else. Only the person who has lost touch with his vital organs, with his heart, thinks he can find wisdom outside of himself.”

“But I –”

“Before breakfast, observe your heart,” she interrupts sternly, “everything you need to know is already there. After breakfast, observe your heart. During your morning chores, observe your heart… Listening – silence – is the beginning of wisdom.”

After a few moments Ganapati drops to his knees and tries to kiss her feet, but she gently motions him away.

“Dear fellow,” she says affectionately, “there is no ‘me’ or ‘you.’ There is no ‘how.’ Wisdom cannot be acquired. You don’t need me to tell you anything. Instead, implement complete cessation of thought, and in those moments, listen. Listen to what you already know.”

“I’m so grateful,” whispers Ganapati. Pulling a collection of brightly coloured sweets from his pocket, each wrapped in shiny foil. “These were made with great love by my sisters. Please… take them.”

Jae smiles, and taking a sweet, peels off the paper and pops it into her mouth. “It’s delicious,” she exclaims, “tastes like watermelon. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. And thank you for your answer to my question.”

Shuffling about on her leafy boulder Jae watches Ganapati lumber away over the plateau. Turning back to the crowd she feels restless, as if something is wrong but she can’t think what it might be. A creeping feeling of unease washes over her and she feels something significant has slipped through a gap in her attention. These people need me, she thinks, I’m doing a valuable service. They’ve come from far and wide to hear what I’ve learnt and I can’t disappoint them.

She believes she’s found her meaning in life – to teach others, to help enlighten those who meet her through dialogue, discussion and intellectual exchange. During her adventure she’s had such an amazing experience, such a mind-opening realisation, that she wants to share this with everyone from all corners of the world. Perhaps, she muses, she’s not trying hard enough. Maybe she should start up a school or camp when she gets home, to help enable people to live a life at one with the universe…

Just then, a pleasant-looking boy in his early teens with blue eyes and curly blond hair, comes forward, and reverently places Jae’s empty tea cup carefully in front of her on the boulder.

“Hello,” he says softly, “my name is Lucifer. I’ve come to pour you a cup of tea.”

“Lucifer?!” Jae exclaims with surprise, recoiling a little.

“Yes, as my name implies, I bring you light…”

“But Lucifer is the name of…”

“Not originally,” the boy interrupts. “My mother assures me that I am the ‘bringer of the dawn light.’ I am the morning star.” He smiles sweetly.

Taking the teapot he slowly pours tea into the cup, but when it reaches the rim he keeps pouring, and the hot liquid starts to overflow and form a puddle around the base.

“What are you doing?” cries Jae in astonishment, “you can stop pouring now, thank you, it’s reached the top. No more will go in!”

The boy looks up and stares directly into her eyes. “I am showing you your mind,” he says mysteriously.

Jae stares at the overflowing tea and the expanding pool on the boulder, steadily widening towards her feet. A brimming-over cup of tea making a mess… What has this got to do with my mind?

The boy continues, “the cup represents your mind. You can see it is now completely full. In effect it has closed up. You know so much that there isn’t any room for anything more to go in. You think you are a great expert, that you have attained something important. But really your mind has just narrowed. Instead, you should aim to be a beginner, to have a beginner’s open mind. This is just vainglory!”

Jae feels her heart skip a beat, and she abruptly stands up straight on top of her boulder, scattering laurel leaves onto the grass.

“Oh foolish me!” she exclaims, trembling and performing a sincere bow to the boy. “I believe you are right – I see the trap!”

“You have not forgotten your Self,” warns the boy, “you’ve attained nothing. This is just pride, a form of self-worship!”

Dazed and disappointed, Jae remains on top of her boulder, tears flowing from her eyes, nose and mouth.

“Oh, this place is a delusion too,” she cries, chastened. “It is a mistake to create such lofty ideas around my Self and my supposed achievement. Actually, there is no achievement at all!”

“Where is your puppy?” asks the boy.

Jae looks down and realises she hasn’t felt the presence of the puppy since speaking with Ganapati. He’s not there. The lead she went to so much trouble to fit has been severed, and far off in the distance wandering untethered in a field below, Jae spots the shape of a mighty black ox grazing alone and free.

She releases a frustrated little wail and swats her palm against her forehead. Turning to the boy she says remorsefully, “I have been afflicted with self-congratulation at having come so far. Little by little, without noticing, I’ve come to think greatly of myself and my achievements; but in reality I’m none other than a white elephant. I purport to guide the process, yet I am stuck deeply in the mud myself. How much good can come of this? Confusion upon confusion! How can this help people?”

Taking off her robes and letting them fall in a pile by her feet, she discovers she’s wearing her old familiar red t-shirt and khaki shorts underneath. Her trainers are already on her feet. Taking the necklace from around her neck and dropping it onto the robes, in a loud voice she speaks to the crowd.

“Better not listen to me – I’m a fraud! I’m merely reading answers off a page. I have nothing of importance to tell you. Goodbye.”



Running down the mountainside without a backward glance, she aims roughly in the direction of a little pool of water she spotted, about half way down. As she descends her tears dry on her cheeks.

Delusive concepts just keep coming back. This bad habit must be eliminated!

Arriving at the vicinity of the pool, she takes some time to catch her breath, pacing up and down and gathering her thoughts. Then, leaning over the edge carefully holding her hair out of the water, she stares into the crystal-clear water to study her reflection. A persistent breeze disturbs the surface giving her a slightly out of focus appearance. I didn’t mean to boast, she thinks, frustrated. I just let my guard down for a moment. Just a few seconds of inattention and this is what happens!

Seeing the reflection of an ox’s head behind her in the water, she says out loud, “your nature does not easily change. You have endured over such a long period. Even though I now understand the nature of emptiness, struggle still seems necessary. Or, at least, vigilant and meticulous observation.”

Standing up and turning round, she sighs deeply, looking the ox straight in the eyes. “I’ve had enough of this. I want to go home.”

The ox gracefully lowers his head, and placing her trainers near the base of his horns, she hops up onto his neck. Clambering lightly and rapidly on all fours she reaches his back, and perches cross-legged, gazing up at the impending sunset.

As the creature turns his massive body away from the pool and begins to walk slowly back to the path, she acknowledges that from now on there will be no need for nose-ring or whip.

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