An ox’s footprint filled with water....
Commentary by SKYE-MED BDE-CHEN
Now, another contradictory simile. By the simile of water in the footprint of an ox it is pointed out how qualities dry up, if they are not real.
Just as a man who has never seen the ocean will think that the water in the footprint of an ox is the sea and, though he may look for a precious jewel in it, will not find it, so [and in the way the simile will be understood] by thinking that the pleasures which are experienced as having determinate characteristics and distinct feeling-tones are the ultimately real bliss, ultimate reality is not found. Therefore Saraha says, “An ox’s footprints filled with water.”
Just as in the water which fills the footprints of an ox, a precious jewel may be found but will be lost quickly because it is so small, so the things created by the ordinary mind, the common achievements, vanish quickly, because they are not lasting. And so Saraha continues, “Will soon dry up.”
Illustrations: Babe the Blue Ox w/Paul Bunyan (top); Tectiform Ox at Font de Gaume Ice Age cave (bottom)
The Royal Song of Saraha, A Study In The History Of Buddhist Thought, Translated and Annotated by Herbert V. Guenther, Berkeley, Shambala, 1973.