The way matters, not the skill

Another story of Taoism pioneer Zhuangzi goes like this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another story of Taoism pioneer Zhuangzi goes like this.

Butcher Ding was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui.

As every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee with perfect sound effect!

He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the job synchronized with music.

"Ah, this is magnificent ! said Lord Wen-hui, implying that the skills of Butcher Ding are reaching a pinnacle.

Butcher Ding laid down his knife and replied, "What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill.

"When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself.

"After three years I no longer saw the whole ox.

"And now I go at it by spirit and don't look with my eyes.

"Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants.

"I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and following things as they are.

"So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

"I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I've cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone.

"There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness.

"If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there's plenty of room more than enough for the blade to play about it.

"That's why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone."

"Excellent!" said Lord Wen-hui.

"I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!"

This story is something to ponder, as it reminds me of what Bruce Lee Siu- lung said.

"Before I knew about martial arts, a punch is a punch," the late actor said.

"While learning martial arts, a punch is no longer a punch.

"And after I learned martial arts," the action star said, "a punch is still a punch!"

Kerby Kuek has published 15 books on feng shui, inner alchemy, Taoism and metaphysics. He can be contacted at