Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Cook is the Teacher

"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 Wen Hui: This is it! My cook has shown me how I ought to live my own life!"

Chuang Tzu. The Way of Chuang Tzu. Translator/Editor Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1965, pp. 64-67. Cited at

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his programs can be found at He teaches iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan.

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