Catching the Bull

I don’t know how to talk about this.

I’m now (apparently) on the 4th stage of the path as described by Ten Bulls1, the 3rd stage (of 6) described in M-4.I.A Development of Trust: “a period of relinquishment”, and the 2nd stage of the 4 stages of enlightenment: once-returner

Zen stages

Considering that the transition from 1. The Search for the Bull to 2. Discovering the Footprints was in 2005 and it took 12 years before 3. Perceiving the Bull (last year), I was not expecting another transition so soon. My attitude has been very much “How could I possibly catch that thing!?”

Yet here we are. As with the previous transitions, I did not at first realise what was going on. After a few days of strict adherence to “restful activities only”, I wrote in my journal:

I’m finding this discipline very challenging to continue. It goes against a very firmly established and life dominating habit. The Treadmill mind/productivity mind is devious, sneaky, relentless.

At the word relentless I thought that sounds familiar, so I looked up the next stage and found it an apt description of my experience:

4. Catching the Bull

I seize him with a terrific struggle.
His great will and power are inexhaustible.
He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists,
Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

Comment: He dwelt in the forest a long time, but I caught him today! Infatuation for scenery interferes with his direction. Longing for sweeter grass, he wanders away. His mind still is stubborn and unbridled. If I wish him to submit, I must raise my whip.

ACIM stages

I have found the descriptions offered by ACIM less easy to definitively compare to my experience perhaps due to unfamiliarity.

From the Manual for Teachers, M-4.I.A:

The third stage through which the teacher of God must go can be called “a period of relinquishment”. If this is interpreted as giving up the desirable, it will engender enormous conflict. Few teachers of God escape this distress entirely. There is, however, no point in sorting out the valuable from the valueless unless the next obvious step is taken. Therefore, the period of overlap is apt to be one in which the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth. He has not realised as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless. Through this, he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy light-heartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift bestowed on him.

In the switch in “Lessons from the past” I say things like:

I may need to grieve for the loss of those audiences.

So I guess that’s about where it started. Subsequent posts are quite miserable and continue the theme of “giving up what is valueless”.

It’s interesting to note that, just as it says, the grief I anticipated never came, and instead I’m just a bit lighter.

I keep having these moments of intense calm.

Theravada Buddhist stages

Sakadagmi or “once-returner”:

The three specific chains or fetters (Pali: saṃyojana) of which the Sakadagamin is free are:

  1. Sakkāya-diṭṭhi (Pali) - Belief in self
  2. Sīlabbata-parāmāsa (Pali) - Attachment to rites and rituals
  3. Vicikicchā (Pali) - Skeptical doubt

The Sakadagami also significantly weakened the chains of:

  1. Kāma-rāga (Pali) - Sensuous craving
  2. Byāpāda (Pali) - Ill-will
    Thus, the Sakadagamin is an intermediate stage between the Sotapanna, who still has comparatively strong sensuous desire and ill-will, and the Anagami, who is completely free from sensuous desire and ill-will. A Sakadagami’s mind is very pure. Thoughts connected with greed, hatred and delusion do not arise often, and when they do, do not become obsessive.

Sounds about right, although I laughed at “very pure” - my mind is anything but pure, but compared to the mind of the ‘ordinary person’, I suppose it is.


As with previous transitions, there’s a sense of irreversibility about it. I can never go back. Now that I see the bull/mind must be trained, I cannot do anything but that. As Jesus puts it:

An untrained mind can accomplish nothing.2 3

I see that this is true, and that my mind is untrained, and that in this state it accomplishes nothing. And so I’m driven by a sort of all-encompassing curiosity to find out what happens when I keep my hold of the ‘leash’. I know what happens when I let the bull/mind do as it pleases. In the words of Trinity:

…you have been down there, Neo. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends.

Turbulent times

Another experience that seems to follow each transition (so far for me at least) is changes in personality and behaviour. I’m again like a newborn, uncertain of who I am or what I will do next. Sometimes these changes mean the exposure of problems that have been hidden for a long time, and it can look from the outside like things have gotten worse, or that I’ve gone mad, when in fact I’ve just become suddenly a bit saner, having been a particular kind of mad (like everyone else) for my whole life. My newfound sanity then reacts to whatever situation my previous insanity had created for me. So, who knows what will happen/what I will do next.


I never had a regular meditation practice. The Buddhist Nun who first instructed me said that I would have to learn discipline eventually. But I was never motivated. Now I have a very natural motivation. I don’t regret my ritual-free path.

Further ramble

I like that there’s an apparently linear sequence of experiences, all mapped out for me. What a gift. And each time I recognise a new one, I know I can forget the lessons of the previous stage.

Cat Stevens/Yusuf

His album, Catch Bull At Four is a reference to this stage, and this is clearly noticable in some of his lyrics.

meta comment

uh, it seems okay?

  1. in which the bull is an analogy for the mind that thinks 

  2. W-In.1:3 

  3. well, that explains my whole life 

Forgive, and you will see this differently.