SERI E S
E AND INTER S H TION PR E
N O I T A
T HE C L A F O S S
ING SEQU E ERD N -H C E OX
N A G M A
A S E N I S
VA R I
A S E N I
AND INTER S PR ON I ET AT
N A G M A
ING SEQ U E ERD N -H C E OX
OF THE CL AS S SI ON I C T A vol. 2012
VA R I
Manga in/as Essay is an occasional online magazine dedicated to exploring the critical, analytical, and expressive potential of manga. In this first issue Manga in/as Essay presents modern variations and interpretations of the 12th century zen buddhist ox-herding sequence. The contents of this magazine are the result of a 2010 manga competition hosted by Leiden Universityâ€™s Asiascape.org and the Modern East Asia Research Centre (MEARC). Most of the manga in this issue were presented before in a virtual exhibition hosted by MEARC in 2011 and a on-location exhibition by the Political Arts Initiative in The Hague in 2012..
Manga in /as Essay Variations and Interpretations of the Classic Ox-Herding Sequence
Asiascape started in 2007 as an NWO funded project awarded to Chris Goto-Jones focussed on two particular fields of the political arts: cyberculture and animanga (anime and manga) and especially as they relate to (or originate from) East Asia. It is now an international network, hosted by Leiden University in the Netherlands, for research and knowledge in these fields. In 2010 Asiascape.org kicked of with the first of a series of ‘Manga in/as Essay’ competitions. For the first competition, ‘Ox-herding’, Asiascape solicited for contributions from manga artists, cartoonists and scholars (including students) for an anthology, and also for an exhibition (in real and virtual space). Contributions took the form of graphic essays; they were variations on or interpretations of the classic ox-herding sequence, traditionally used in Zen Buddhism to illustrate the journey towards Enlightenment. The bull is the eternal principle of life, truth in action. The ten pictures represent sequent steps in the realization of one’s true nature. Contributors were free to interpret this task as creatively, expansively, or parsimoniously as they liked: style, genre, and length could all be freely chosen. Text could be used if desired (in any language, as appropriate), but text was not required. The purpose was to explore the expressive potential of manga. 4
This ‘Manga in/as Essay’ issue shows the original ox-herding sequence, next to 5the prizewinning submissions received.
D I N R E G H
S S A I C L C O
N Q U E CE SE
In the twelfth century the Chinese master Kakuan drew pictures of ten oxen, basing them on earlier Taoist bulls, and wrote the comments in prose and verse translated on the next pages.
The pictures and associated poems represent, especially in the Zen tradition, the stages a practitioner takes as (s)he stumbles towards enlightenment. The mind as represented by the ox is fumbled after by a bumbling but budding practitioner that grows on the path as the pictures proceed. The sequence has been a constant source of inspiration to students ever since, and many illustrations of Kakuan’s oxen have been made through the centuries. The images shown on the following pages are modern versions by painter and sculpter Tatsuhiko Yokô (1928). The translation of the prose and verse are taken from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps (Charles Tuttle and Co. 2008)
1. The Search for the Bull In the pasture of this world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the bull. Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains, My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull. I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night. Comment: The bull never has been lost. What need is there to search? Only because of separation from my true nature, I fail to find him. In the confusion of the senses I lose even his tracks. Far from home, I see many crossroads, but which way is the right one I know not. Greed and fear, good and bad, entangle me.
2. Discovering the Footprints Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints! Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints. Deep in remote mountains they are found. These traces no more can be hidden than one's nose, looking heavenward. Comment: Understanding the teaching, I see the footprints of the bull. Then I learn that, just as many utensils are made from one metal, so too are myriad entities made of the fabric of self. Unless I discriminate, how will I perceive the true from the untrue? Not yet having entered the gate, nvertheless I have discerned the path.
3. Perceiving the Bull I hear the song of the nightingale. The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore, Here no bull can hide! What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns? Comment: When one hears the voice, one can sense its source. As soon as the six senses merge, the gate is entered. Wherever one enters one sees the head of the bull! This unity is like salt in water, like color in dyestuff. The slightest thing is not apart from self.
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..
5. Taming the Bull! The whip and rope are necessary, Else he might stray off down some dusty road. Being well trained, he becomes naturally gentle. Then, unfettered, he obeys his master. Comment: When one thought arises, another thought follows. When the first thought springs from enlightenment, all subsequent thoughts are true. Through delusion, one makes everything untrue. Delusion is not caused by objectivity; it is the result of subjectivity. Hold the nose-ring tight and do not allow even a doubt.
6. Riding the Bull Home Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward. The voice of my flute intones through the evening. Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me. Comment: This struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children. Astride the bull, I observe the clouds above. Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.
7. The Bull Transcended Astride the bull, I reach home. I am serene. The bull too can rest. The dawn has come. In blissful repose, Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope. Comment: All is one law, not two. We only make the bull a temporary subject. It is as the relation of rabbit and trap, of fish and net. It is as gold and dross, or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout endless time.
8. Both Bull and Self Transcended Whip, rope, person, and bull -- all merge in No-Thing. This heaven is so vast no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire? Here are the footprints of the patriarchs. Comment: Mediocrity is gone. Mind is clear of limitation. I seek no state of enlightenment. Neither do I remain where no enlightenment exists. Since I linger in neither condition, eyes cannot see me. If hundreds of birds strew my path with flowers, such praise would be meaningless.
9. Reaching the Source Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with that without -The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red. Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear. Poised in silence, I observe the forms of integration and disintegration. One who is not attached to “form” need not be “reformed.” The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo, and I see that which is creating and that which is destroying.
10. In the World Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life, Now, before me, the dead trees become alive. Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wine shop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.
E R P F E R C O T Ze
Patrick Sung was born in Seattle, Washington in 1987. In 2009, he received his B.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine. He currently resides in Tottori, Japan, where he works as an English teacher while pursuing his interests in fiction and fan studies research. This collaboration marks his first time working with comics.
K TRIC SUN
Original Script and Statement
he t d
Victor Perfecto Camba was born in the Philippines in 1983. He is an illustrator currently residing in Long Beach, California. He’s worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for since 2003 and served as Comics Editor of the Long Beach Union Weekly from 2007 to 2010. In addition to writing and illustrating his comic strip “You’re STUCK Here,” Victor has done freelance illustration and T-shirt design. He is pursuing a BFA in Illustration at California State University, Long Beach.
V I C
Silkscreen, Ink and Screentone
Victor Perfecto Camba
M B A A& C O Mode T rn
Victor Perfecto Camba & Patrick Sung Zen and the Modern Cow Introduction: A cow sits in meditation. Its limbs form the Vitarka mudra, which signifies the opening of debate. Behind its head sits a halo, a simple circle that has symbolized enlightenment for thousands of years. The panels of the sequence radiate from the corona, representing the wheel of samsara that locks the world in an endless cycle of suffering. There are divisions between panels, but no borders on the page, to further encourage a sense of timelessness.
5. Selection of the bull
8. The second transformation
One creature struggles against the rope. But there is no room to escape, and the bindings are strong. Soon, the bull settles down, And marches obediently to its fate.
“Hello sir/ma’am, may I take your order?” “Would you like to make that a meal?” “Your order number is 76. Thank you and have a nice day.” “We’ll call your number when your order’s ready.”
Comment: This is no black-and-white animal as one might see on milk cartons, peacefully eating grass. The cow being led to slaughter is a dark, plain creature.
6. Slaughter of the bull 1. The search for life Half-hour lunch break; I seek peace of mind. The register rings, orders are called to empty space. A cheap burger lies in my hand, soon to be eaten. Only hunger gives me the appetite to eat it. Comment: Here is the modern man. Bound by a schedule and by endless details, he fails to see life when he holds it right in his hand. Emptiness and disconnection from the world plague him.
2. Discovering the footprints Something different in the restaurant! Are these footprints? Imbedded in the tile, over chairs and through the window, The tracks continue— I cannot help but follow. My burger and I go together. Comment: No longer satisfied, the man follows the first interesting path he finds. It originates in the fast food restaurant and soon goes far beyond. The first journey begins.
3. Perceiving the bull The space is dark and narrow. There is nowhere to move but forward, step by step. The back of the bull is inevitable. For the first time I behold a real animal, in the flesh. Comment: Having followed the trail, the man reaches what he believes as the end. At last, here is life! He eagerly goes to see the bull’s head.
4. The captives revealed The cacophony of steers packed together! In surprise, I let my burger fall. Corn feed, manure and sweaty hide: A dizzying smell, unimaginable before.
Comment: Few people wish to imagine the realities of their food. The burger’s journey is over, as it has reached its source. However, a new journey has commenced.
Comment: The clerk places an order, and the cooking staff prepares the beef. After adding flavors and aesthetic additions, everything goes inside a bun and onto a tray for serving.
9. Perfection achieved
Upward by its hooves, the bull carcass stands like a man, Pulled by the crank as steadily as a heartbeat. The expert knife whistles a tune, Turns beast into rib eye, tenderloin, fat for making tallow.
I behold a wonder of the modern age. Not cow, but beef since the day it was born! Made to feed and to enjoy with fries and a Coke, For a half-hour lunch between twelve-thirty and one.
Comment: With little fanfare, the bull is killed and sliced to pieces. This is the true beginning of wisdom, gained not by journeying toward oneness, but by bearing witness to sharp and bloody separation.
Comment: This is the all-American hamburger— recognizable the world over, mouth-watering in its cookie-cutter sameness, the symbol of modern processing triumphant. “Bull” has been turned successfully into “fast food.”
7. The first transformation
10. Return to the restaurant
The parts have been processed and ready for shipment. Their final destinations: supermarkets, restaurants, kitchen tables. One hundred percent Grade-A ground beef patties, Quiet and innocent as angels.
Break has ended. I am tired and hungry. I must run to make it back to work. My burger will be eaten so that I may live. This moment is over. My day continues.
Comment: Once the choicest cuts have been removed, the offal and rough parts of the bull are put into a grinder and homogenized. With the aid of Styrofoam, plastic and printed stickers, dead cow becomes sanitized for consumption and rechristened “beef.”
Comment: The man returns to the world, sobered by his new understanding. Nothing on the outside has changed, but inside is a completely different world. He eats and is enlightened.
Conclusion: In Mahayana Buddhist tradition, the defining trait of the bodhisattva is not enlightenment alone, but enlightenment coupled with compassion for one’s fellow beings. This interpretation of the ten bulls sequence is meant as a reminder of the suffering that modern life obscures from our notice, as well as an affirmation of humanity’s connection to life. If all creatures are in search of Buddha-nature, as humans are, then we would do well to remember what we inflict upon the world simply to survive. The aim of this essay is not to inspire anguish or guilt, but a renewed sense of respect. 17
Lnga and the
a p S
R O F DH
Paul Fordham is an amateur (manga) artist from Carmarthenshire in the United Kingdom
P A U c e, Ox
Sébastien Conard (1982) is a graphic novelist from Ghent, Belgium
RD NA rance
N C E I O T étition e
Sébastien Conard Répétition et Différance The subject of this first manga project of Asiascape.org was a very inspiring one. Being a graphic novelist, querying into the theme of the ox-herding pictures not only disclosed to me this classic Buddhist tale, it also led me back to a very meditative journey I’ve spent in Myanmar and Laos some years ago. Back then, travelling on my own, I reached a pleasant pace and an enduring feeling of content barely known before. Truly, not much more than your usual Westerner abroad, taking time off, relaxing from the daily high-speed society at home. I don’t tend to be a Buddhist, properly speaking. As Nietzsche, I believe Europeans rather need their own version of Buddhism in order to escape from debilitating nihilism. Still, I kept some of those modest insights alive since then and they helped, especially when times were harder. Inhale, exhale, slow down, feel, focus then open up, accept, don’t try, aspire without ambition. As I said: tiny things based on some superficial inquiries and personal experiences. With the same lack of thoroughness, I somewhat roamed about on the Internet to inform myself a little further on the ox-herding sequence. Picking here and there, encountering diverse interpretations, I found it a candid little story. For me, the most interesting element is the importance that some give to the ten thousand things. True awareness is then understood as the simultaneous consciousness of all things present, all things alive and dying. It reminds me of the burgeoning multiplicity where philosopher Deleuze focused upon and writer Michaux extensively wrote about, for example in L’ infini turbulent, his combined writings and drawings about his adventures under the influence of mescaline. In this sense, I wanted to interpret the ox-herding tale as a sequence of ten thousand things that constantly change without ever really moving at all. The repetition of the central landscape dwells on this répétition et différence. Subsequently, I chose to resume the ten steps with ten pages. Each page consists of a dominant central frame, the landscape ever present but ever changing, asking for one’s first glance on the page, bordered by a sequence of ten frames. A front page precedes this graphic narrative essay: 34
the same landscape but as an etching, introducing the setting for the reader but with a more distant, timeless feel. Throughout the story, one can link the small frames to the repeated landscape but without any exact localization. This comic might as well have started as a blurry daydream while gazing at some old etching. To create each sequence, I wrote down a number of key words related to sense, intent and atmosphere of each step. Those notes served as small synopses. They are partly inspired
by the verses of the Chinese master Kakuan (12th c.) as disclosed in the call for submissions for this project. These are my notes: 1. The searching of the bull (the bull has never been lost): grass, trees, woods, (door de bomen het bos niet meer zien), crossing rivers, crossroads, mountains, hearing the locusts chirring at night, fatigue, estrangement of one’s true nature, confusion of the senses, undecidability (many roads but which one is the right one?), the map is not the territory. 2. Discovering the footprints: traces, fragrant grass (following one’s nose), high up in the mountains, nose to the sky, differentiation between true and false, discovering the path to truth. 3. Perceiving the bull: the nightingale sings, the warm setting sun, the soft breeze, the green willows on the river bank, the ox, a beautiful beast, hearing the voice of truth is knowing its source, synaesthesia, merging of the senses, unity of experience, truth/the ox. 4. Catching the bull: struggling, mighty beast, the high plateau, clouds, mist, dust, the ravine, wrestling with experienced truths, breathtaking and intensive. 5. Taming the bull: the whip, the rope, taming, the dusty road, rest, sweaty skin, without a doubt, thinking straightforward and decidedly, following the path of true thoughts, naturally leaving false ideas behind.
6. Riding the bull home: at night, still cloudy, mounting the beast, without whip nor rope, riding homewards, leading the ox on the flute to the endless rhythm of a pulsating harmony, rest, balance, assimilation, a cheery tune, straightforward without doubting, in harmony between body and mind, human and nature, enlightened, ten thousand things. 7. The bull transcended: the moon emerging from a cloud, one’s true home, man and beast at rest, at dawn, in unity: one truth, one law, one balance. 8. Both bull and self transcended: man, beast, whip, rope, all vanish into No-thing, the immaculate void, an unlimited state, unaffected, undisturbed, no seeking any more, like a blinding daydream, full light. 9. Reaching the source: awakening again, rediscovering reality, the source, the roots of the tree, one’s true home, the steady stream, the red flowers, the emerald river, the indigo mountains, just like a natural peyote trip, crystal clear water (truth), the quiet observation of life and death, integration and destruction, creation and annihilation, shapelessness (l’informe), ten thousand things. 10. In the world: barefooted, bare-chested, mingling with the people, in rags and dirty, holding the beggar’s staff, drinking wine on the marketplace, death trees flowering up, blissful, cheery, a secret, invisible joy, a lush inner garden, everything enlightened.
suspension of disbelief). Still using classic figuration, I preferred to use tiny, repetitive windows on fragments of material reality, trying to translate the quiet rhythm of ten thousand things. Meanwhile, I hoped to convey some meanings by classic iconography or symbolism (like the ouroboros) or by intuitive depiction (like specific parts of the ox for the related senses). Translinear placing of formal elements like the eye of the ox/ the chicken and the moon/ sun (a comics technique called tressage) should give an overall sense of unity. The rather realistic comic style is meant to be functional (not drawing the reader away from the story) and somehow in the line of classic manga, manhua and comics. Also the use of colors might have diverted one’s attention. The choice for grayscale is thus one of simplicity, coherence and functionality. So is the choice for the absence of text. I hope the drawings, sequences and compositions should be effective enough. Have a nice reading!
Sébastien Conard, Ghent, Belgium October, the 31st, 2010
The result of this method is this essay in ten short sequences, some more mosaic or fragmented, others following a higher pace with rather sensorial-motoric or filmic snapshots. I wanted to subtly transgress the usual baroque sequentiality that is strongly based on affects of speed, action and chronological and representational consistency (diegetic 35
Aimée de Jongh (1988) lives in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She works as a professional comic artist. Ever since she competed in the competition “Stripstrijd” in the Dutch quality newspaper “Het Parool” (2006), her comics and illustrations have been demanded more and more. In 2006 she published her first book, called “Aimée TV”. Since 2007, Aimée is making animations too, from short movies to leaders. Her style in drawing is influenced by the Japanese manga comics, yet she gives it her own, recognizable touch. The professional work Aimée does consists of things such as comics, illustrations, CD covers, animations, book covers and magazine covers.
Aimée de Jongh
E D J E O l EThe Bul and T
Her portfolio is: www.iamshotaro.com
Aimée de Jongh The Bull and The Boy Context I hadn’t seen the ox‐herding pictures before I participated in this contest. After seeing them, I went on a digital journey to find out more about the pictures and their meaning. That way, I reckoned, I could make my own interpretation of them. My approach was simple: interpret, but also make a slight twist in the story to make things interesting. I make a lot of comics for several publishers, and one of my favorite things to do is short “gags”, the four‐panel‐comics that end with a funny event. So I thought: How can I apply humor into the ox‐ herding pictures? Of course, it is a very serious set of pictures that have a lot of meaning buried into them. So I chose to keep most of the pictures intact and just add a whole page in between the pictures. The picture that represents “taming the ox” was spread out over this new page. Here, the boy would tame the ox a bit too much, by taking him to the cinema, taking a bath together, celebrating his birthday, etcetera. They eventually become best friends. But then, the sequence continues where it stopped, namely the picture of the transcending of the bull and self. The bull transcends and disappears. The boy, who had just made a new best friend, ends up in the world alone. Instead of being happy up there, he’s sad because he lost his bull‐friend. Of course, this is a humoristic take on the sequence. The meaning of the taming‐picture is exaggerated in an extreme way, in order to make it funny. It’s a caricature. The boy is not supposed to be sad at the end of the sequence either. So even though the events of the sequence stay the same, the emotions within the events changed. That raises a question for the reader. Did the meaning of the sequence change because the emotions of the character changed? Also, the question remains: Is friendship really important at all – or is transcending to the world the most important? Or maybe both? I think it’s best if the readers find out themselves.
Look and feel There were certain choices I made through designing the three pages of the comic. One was of course the style of the comic. I like manga, so I tried to use elements from that typical style, especially in the design of the boy. But in order to make it more “my style”, the bull was more cartoon‐like and the backgrounds were more realistic. This makes the comic not one genre or style, but a mix. It’s much more interesting to look at, in my opinion, than a comic that’s full of cliché style‐ elements. The (digital) coloring was something that I decided to do last‐minute. The comic worked well in black and white, but somehow the colors made it more alive. I made the backgrounds in soft colors, pastel‐like and with very smooth edges. This refers to ancient Asian painters – they rarely use very hard colors, instead they choose the soft ones that always make the drawings more misty. This works very well in landscape‐paintings. The foreground (characters and objects) was colored more like the cels from anime. This technique is called “cel‐shading”. This separates the figures more from the softly colored background and makes them more important in the panel. This way, background and foreground are directed exactly where they should be to the eye of the reader. Because it’s acomic, I also used textballoons and I think it makes the comic even more humoristic.
Aimée de Jongh 2010
At the end of the comic, there’s a candle that was lit on the cake that the bull got for his birthday. So it’s a memory of the boy, but also a symbol for warmth, friendship, as well as light (or enlightening) and clarity – this points back to the sequence of the ox‐ herding pictures. I made an unhappy ending to the comic, because it seemed like a nice twist to the story. But in the end, he came in the world and reached exactly what he was looking for. So the ending is both happy and unhappy. It’s just how the reader interprets the comic.
the MANGA IN/AS ESSAY series vol. 1,
design Chris Goto-Jones, Esther Truijen coverimages excerpts of Camba & Sung’s ‘Zen and the Modern Cow’
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Published on Nov 18, 2012
Manga in/as Essay is an occasional online magazine dedicated to exploring the critical, analytical, and expressive potential of manga. In th...