The Tao of Cutting Meat

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.



Like a sacred dance …

Prince Wen Hui said, “Good work! Your method is faultless!”

The Cook replied, “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, said, “This is it! My cook has shown me how I ought to live my own life!”

(3:2, pp. 64-67). The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, Copyright 1965, New Directions Publishing Corporation, 80 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. ISBN 0-87773-676-6