The Cow Te Ching

Selected Verses
(The Cow and its Characteristics)
The Zen Masters Kevin Solway & David Quinn
Copyright © 1995-2001

The Cow that can be told is not the eternal Cow.
The Woman that can be named is not the eternal Woman.
Man is the Creator of ten thousand things.
Woman is the beginning of hell on earth.
Ever desireless, one can see the truth.
Ever desiring, there is only appearance.
These two differ in name, and are forever opposed; this appears as
The gate to all knowledge.

Under heaven, a man sees her beauty as beauty only because he is
He knows her good as good only because he is evil.

Therefore her goodness and his evil arise together.
Her beauty and his ugliness contrast each other;
His strength and her weakness rest upon each other;
His hardness and her softness create each other;
His forwardness and her backwardness follow one another.

Therefore the wise man goes about avoiding her, teaching no-mooing.
His ten thousand thoughts evolve without cease;
Creating, yet not possessing,
Working, yet not taking credit.
His work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Not exalting the feminine prevents quarreling.
Not collecting wages prevents stealing.
Not giving woman the things she desires prevents pollution of the soul.

The wise man therefore rules by emptying pockets and filling
minds, by weakening ambitions and strengthening souls.
If men lack money and desire, then women cannot interfere.
If a man is poor, then all will be well.


The Cow is an empty vessel; she is used but never satisfied.
Oh, fathomable source of ten thousand delusions!
Blunt her shapeliness
Untangle her hold,
Scoff at her stare.
Merge with dust.
Oh, enclothed but ever naked!
I do not know why she comes.
She is the curse of all thinkers.

Women and girls are ruthless.
They see man’s ten thousand thoughts as dummies.
Wives are ruthless;
They see their husbands as dummies.

The difference between man and woman is infinite.
Fashions change, but never this truth.
The more women change, the more they stay the same.
More roles count for less.
Hold fast to your masculinity!


The petty spirit never dies;
It is the Cow, primal woman.
Her gateway is the root of all mindlessness.
It is like her veils, barely seen.
Men who use it – die.

A woman’s ignorance lasts forever.
Why does a woman’s ignorance last forever?
She is unborn,
So never thinking.
The wise man is a lost cause in her eyes, thus he stays ahead.
He is detached from her, thus one with all.
Through courage, he attains fulfillment.

Living alone and embracing reason,
Can you avoid copulation?
Attending to thought and becoming wise,
Can you be as a newborn babe?
Washing and cleansing the masculine vision,
Can you be without mother’s apron?
Understanding the world and ruling the mind,
Can you be without fashion?
Opening and closing the gates of Reality,
Can you play the role of a man?
Understanding and being open to all things,
Are you able to do something?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Thinking yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is Primal Virtue.

Look, she cannot exist, she is unconscious.
Listen, she cannot be silenced, she is without purpose.
Grasp, she cannot be held, she is not really there.
These three are inhuman
Therefore they are joined in one.


From above she is not bright.
From below she is not stupid.
An unbroken space beyond description.
She is simply nothingness.
The form of an angel,
The image of Heaven,
She is called impossible and beyond comprehension.

Stand before her and there is no dignity.
Follow her and there is no joy.
Esteem the ancient Cow,
And move into oblivion.

Women appear subtle, mysterious, profound and responsive.
The depth of their knowing seems unfathomable.
Because it seems unfathomable,
Men believe the appearance.
Blind, like men crossing a blackened room.
Dull, like men lost in a trance.
Crude, like drunken men at a brothel.
Rigid, like men afraid of a rustling breeze.
Complex, like men coping with two jobs.
Hollow, like shells.
Transparent, like glass.

Empty yourself of love.
Let the mind rest in peace.
The ten thousand worries rise and fall causing the husband to whirl about in
They grow and flourish and then strangle him to death.
Remaining in the single state is pure bliss, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is without love.
Not knowing love leads to wisdom.
Knowing love, your reason is destroyed.
With reason destroyed, you will be ignorant.
Being ignorant, you will act pettily.
Being petty, you will attain the highest honours of society.
Being honoured, you will be at one with the herd.
Being at one with the herd is animal.
And though the mind dies, the herd will never pass away.

When the great Cow is forgotten,
Simplicity and clarity of mind arise.
When women and femininity are born,
The great pretence begins.

When tears well up in a woman’s eyes,
Guilt and concern promptly arise.
When she is confused and in chaos,
Loyal men appear.

Give up courting, and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I love what others love? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrifice of their own souls.
In spring some go to the park and cuddle,
But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.

The greatest evil is to follow the Cow and the Cow alone.
The Cow is soft and beautiful.
Oh, it is beautiful and soft, and yet within is humiliation.
Oh, it is soft and beautiful, and yet within is pain.
Oh, it is bright and bubbly, and yet within is death.
This death is very real, and therein lies faith.
From the very beginning until now its true nature has rarely been
Thus I perceive the feminine.
How do I know the ways of the feminine? Because of this.


He who panders to her whims is not steady.
He who seeks her favour cannot maintain the pace.
He who bows before her is not enlightened.
He who lacks dignity is not respected.
He who works achieves nothing.
He who loves her will not endure.
According to followers of the Cow, “These are extra and necessary luggage.”
They bring much happiness in this world.
Therefore followers of the Cow carry them all.

What is a good man?
A teacher of a bad man.
What is a bad man?
A good man’s charge.
If the teacher is not single,
Then the student is not cared for.
Confusion will arise, however clever one is.
This is the crux of mystery.

Know the strength of a man,
And reject a woman’s care!
Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become a little child once more.

Know the feminine,
But keep the masculine!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unswerving,
Return to the infinite.

The great Cow flows everywhere, both in the world and in the home.
The ten thousand thoughts shy away from it, but it holds nothing back.
It fulfils its purpose noisily and makes endless claims.

It poisons the ten thousand thoughts,
And yet it is not their lord.
It has no aim; it is very petty.

The ten thousand thoughts struggle against it,
Yet it is not their lord.
It is mindless.

It does not show greatness,
And therefore is mediocre.


The wise student hears of the Cow and laughs out loud.
The average student hears of the Cow and becomes deeply disturbed.
The foolish student hears of the Cow and immediately changes the subject.
If there were no changing the subject, the Cow would not be what it is.

Hence it is said:
The mind of a woman seems pure;
The ways of the feminine seem innocent;
The smells of the Paddock seem natural;
Getting married seems like progress;
The highest salary seems fulfilling;
Great sex seems heavenly;
A wealth of possessions seems comforting;
Having children seems important;
The perfect tear has no beginning;
Great mistakes ripen late;
The obvious notes are hard to hear;
The greatest evil has no shape;
The Cow is everywhere, and has many names.
The Cow alone poisons and brings everything to stagnation.

My words are easy to understand, and easy to perform.
Yet no man under heaven knows them or practices them.

My words have ancient beginnings.
My actions are disciplined.
Because men do not understand, they have no knowledge of me.

Those that know me are few;
Those that abuse me are honoured.
Therefore the sage wears rough clothing and ignores the attractions of the



2 thoughts on “The Cow Te Ching

  1. Wow this is great stuff

    So much truth in these sayings, I will have to go through them when I’ve got more time
    Thanks for uploading my friend 🙂


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