Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, its Chinese New Year again and the first day of The Year of the Ox. Actually niu doesn't mean ox, in English ox being a castrated bull, so technically we English speakers should rightly call it The Year of the Bull. To the Chinese the bull suggests prosperity won by hard work; it symbolizes patient endurance and just quietly getting on with the job. People born in The Year of the Bull have all these qualities, plus they don’t say much but when they do it's eloquent, to the point and sensible.
It's interesting to see what the Buddha and his contemporaries thought about bulls (usabha). To call someone a bull of a man (purisusabha) meant that he was virile (Vin.III,39). But to the Buddha the bull conjured up the idea of nobility, courage, psychological strength and leadership. A monk who attained enlightenment was compared with the 'bulls, the fathers and leaders of the herd' (usabha gopitaro goparinayaka) who lead the other animals across the river (M.I,226). In the Anguttara Nikaya he said, 'When the cows are crossing, if the bull swerves they follow his lead and swerve too. If he who is considered the leader amongst humans does not live correctly neither do others. If the leader is immoral the whole group will be so too. When the cows are crossing, if the bull goes straight they will go straight following his lead. If he who is considered the leader amongst humans has integrity others will have too. The whole group will be happy if their leader is good' (A.II,70-1).
When King Asoka had one of his pillars erected at Rampurva he chose a sculpture of a bull for the capital. It is one of the masterpieces of early Indian sculpture. Unfortunately, this magnificent object is housed in Rastrapati Bhavan and six attempts by me to get in and see it have ended in an avalanche of forms, slips and permits, 400 k of journeys to offices, 3 passports worn out by being examined, 34 hours of being stared at with slit-eyed suspicion and no results. Maybe one day.
To all my Chinese readers Kung See Fa Choi or better Shen Tee Jen Kang Long Ma Zing Sern.
Photo by Benoy K. Behl.


natbas said...

I found this blog only two days before, and I regret why I didn't earlier.

I enjoy your posts, actually look forward to the next one.

Thank you.

Justin Choo said...

Don't tell me you know Mandarin as well. Well, no surprise if you do!

If The Bull is such a revered animal, I wonder why its stool is viewed with suspicion??!!