One Sweet Fable

I was sitting in meditation a couple of days ago and for some reason I kept seeing images of ants popping in and out with the Ten Ox Herding Pictures. The images dominated most part of my one-hour sitting so I took this as a sign that I needed to flush them out into the open.

Here’s the result. I can’t think of a good title. So I’ll just call it, “One Sweet Fable”.

#1 Lost and Seeking

wandering away
despair, confusion, searching
however which way

#2 Following the Trail

smelling its fragrance
following a trail of hope
with sense of delight

#3 Perceiving

catching a glimpse of
the source on top of a hill
its visible side

#4 Tasting

touching and smelling
feeling, listening, tasting,
still unsatisfied

#5 Dragging

dragging and towing
wanting to claim the bounty
pushing and pulling

#6 Moving

as it starts to move
ride or get out of its way?
down the hill it goes

#7 Movement

riding the bounty
only the sense of movement
rolling down, down, down

#8 ?!

#9 The Return

awareness returns
someone else is out there too
what just happened here?

#10 The Company

a small group appears
followed the scent of the first
to help lift the gift

#11 Returning to the Collective

and they all hike back
with their bounty to share its
one taste of sweetness


“One Sweet Fable” is a variation of the classic Ten Ox Herding Pictures. They’re essentially similar frame by frame except for a little twist near the end and the addition of an 11th frame. The classic Ten Ox Herding Pictures is a hero journey that one takes on the path to awakening. The myth of the hero is universal across cultures. It has been the predominant paradigm: a lone person going out on a quest and returning back to the world with the good news. This has been the model for most spiritual traditions, like Moses, the Buddha, Christ, and other founders of great religions and spiritual movements.

However, I think that, when it comes to the story of enlightenment, the hero paradigm is at best only partially true. The myth of the hero is useful when viewed from the perspective of the individual (e.g. our own subjective point of view ), but when viewed from the perspective of a collective, we see that the hero is in actuality a small spark in the turning of the wheel of awakening.

In the classic Ten Ox Herding Pictures, the story ended when the hero returned to the marketplace to spread the good news to all those who would care to listen. In “One Sweet Fable”, there’s a twist to the story. Those who are familiar with spiritual literature understand that the spiritual hero (e.g. enlightened sages, founders of great religions) almost always started teaching within a small group. The Buddha taught to a small group of monks, Christ had his disciples, and modern sages were reluctant teachers who were sought out by a small group of devoted people to come out in the open. Shinzen Young captured this concept beautifully when he said, “When the teacher is ready, the students appear.” And that’s what frames #9 and #10 are all about.

The myth of the hero will always be part of our collective psyche. But in our hyper-connected world where all spiritual teachings are always-already available and accessible to a large number of people, the myth of the hero takes a backseat to the myth of the small collective. And it’s through these small collectives, not the second coming of a solitary mythological figure, that the expression of the Divine will foster many awakenings.

Michael Bauwens put it succinctly: “The next Buddha will be a collective.” What is Enlightenment? magazine called this, “Collective Intelligence: The Next Step in Human Evolution.” What better way to represent this collective intelligence than the most eusocial creatures here on this planet: ants.

Here’s to our collective awakening, however which way, no matter how long it takes.

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