The Ten Stages

All esoteric traditions use Ten Stages to symbolize tools to reach Divine Presence.

The ten Oxherding pictures (illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki)

In the first six pictures, the child symbolizing the ruling faculty, is gaining control over the bull, which symbolizes the lower self. After the lower self is under control, prolonged presence can occur in the next four pictures.

The first six stages may be considered as preparatory. The decisive stage (the seventh stage) is the stage where the bodhisattva attains complete freedom from all sense of clinging. It is the stage where he obtains the Dharmakaya. -- Nagarjuna (2nd c. Indian Buddhist philosopher) 
The six elements produce the four kinds of Dharmakaya.
-- Kukai
(9th c. Founder of Shingon, Japanese esoteric Buddhism)

Six large and four small Jizo Bodhisattvas, Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo

Four Jizo Bodhisattvas, Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo


Guanyin Boddhisattva, with six and four limbs






Bodhisattvas must unfold the potent knowledge of Prajnaparamita into the ten modes of purifying and healing activity, the four spheres of formlessness and the six forms of super-knowledge. -- The Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhist sutra)





Shiva with four arms and his son Skanda with six heads,
India, at the Biblioteque Nationale, Paris





When we speak of the six paramitas the last is wisdom, but when we speak of the ten paramitas,the sixth is assigned four more details.
-- Tai Situ Rinpoche (20th c. Tibetan Lama)








The lower self, trying to kill the effort to be present
symbolized by the six and four fingers.
(The Dance of Death, The Munster of Bern, Switzerland, 15th C.)



Wisdom has a fourfold manifestation and a sixfold manifestation . . . But the Wisdom Beyond Discrimination has a singular expression, which is constantly manifesting before our very eyes here and now: It is total and absolute enlightenment. -- Dogen (13th c. Japanese Zen master)







Statue from Saqqara, Egypt, with six fingers showing and four finger hidden.



When you are awakened you will surpass
the Ten Stages and the Three Vehicles,
And stop the four kinds of life and the six ways.
-- Journey to the West
Ten steps that lead one up to heaven.

Ten steps through which a man knows God.

 The ladder may seem short indeed,

But if your heart can inwardly experience it 

You will find a wealth the world cannot contain. 

-- Theophanis the Monk, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)



The lower self, trying to kill the effort to be present
symbolized by the six and four fingers.
(The Dance of Death, The Munster of Bern, Switzerland, 15th C.)
















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