Scratching the Mountain: An Archetypal Dream and the 10th Ox-herding Picture

The Dream:

I was looking at a woman’s photograph of mountain ranges, many with beds of flowers with brilliant color on the ridge-tops. She was able to encourage flowers to bloom by using a rake and scratching the sides of the mountains first.

The Association:

The dreamer associated the dream imagery to Buddhist thought and in particular to the 10th ox-herding picture. From this picture and text, the dreamer recalled that a sage walked into the marketplace with bliss-bestowing hands, while unaware that flowers were blooming on the sides of the road as he passes.

The Interpretation:

The ten ox-herding pictures beautifully illustrate a cycle that is similar to the Jungian process of individuation. The above dream is an important dream for the dreamer.  It could be seen as teleological in nature; a future-oriented final step in the cycle of the individuation process where the dreamer is at one with the Self, or at one with the ox.

by h. koppdelaney


This cycle will repeat itself.  The attainment of bliss and attunement with the Self is reached with great effort, only to have the cycle repeated again and again through the course of the spiritual seeker’s life.


(See the well-done contemporary illustration and text of all ten ox-herding pictures by graphic designer, Hor Tuck Loon,  and the Buddha Dharma Education Association


© 2012, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to Scratching the Mountain: An Archetypal Dream and the 10th Ox-herding Picture

  1. Ira Katz says:

    Hi Jeff- this blog is most inspirational and I love the meditative colors on the mountain two. Scratching the Mountain and Herding the Ox are very Buddhist practices that are done on an very unconscious level. I become aware of both transcendences in my dreams. In my grad class in Rorschach and my training in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy I was able to achieve real and palpable growth my letting my ego go and embrace the Truth, the Light and the Way in serving others. What I have found when I “ally” with patients and friends the ox is herded and the mountain scratched. This does not always happen- when I allow I-me-my to come and party at my expenses and others. That is why I am still a seeker. At times I feel like I have made progress- then like Sisyphus I find myself sliding down the mountain. Fortunately, thanks to God I do pick myself up- tattered and torn and shamed and go forward. Does not matter whether I am alone. Does matter that I am able to join and ally and grow. Thank you, Jeff for your musings and leadings. Do take a copy of Tricycle with you to Colorado. It is a wonderful Buddhist Review that can profit all. Shalom— Ira

  2. Dr. Howlin says:

    Hi Ira,

    I very much agree with your comments here about “herding the ox” as so often occurring on an unconscious level, and how we all are helped with learning to be more at one with the ox especially by service to others. Thank you for reading, commenting and relecting on these ideas Ira. I appreciate your insights!


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