Working for No Thing

Souce material: The Way of Chuang Tzu, Author: Thomas Merton, Copyright 1965, New Directions Publishing Corporation 80 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 ISBN 0-87773-676-6

When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill.

If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous.

If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets -- He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed.

But the prize divides him. He cares.

He thinks more of winning than of shooting-- And the need to win drains him of power.

(19:4, p. 158)

Cutting an Ox

Prince Wen Hui's cook was cutting up an ox ...
The ox fell apart with a whisper.
The bright cleaver murmured like a gentle wind.
Rhythm! Timing! Like a sacred dance ...

Prince Wen Hui:

Good work! Your method is faultless!

The cook:

Method? What I follow is Tao beyond all methods!
When I first began to cut up oxen I would see before me the whole ox all in one mass.
After three years I no longer saw this mass. I saw the distinctions.
But now I see nothing with the eye. My whole being apprehends. My senses are idle. The spirit free to work without plan follows its own instinct guided by natural line, by the secret opening, the hidden space, my cleaver finds its own way... Then I withdraw the blade, I stand still and let the joy of the work sink in. I clean the blade and put it away.

Prince Wan Hui:

This is it! My cook has shown me how I ought to live my own life! (3:2, pp. 64-67)