THE WOODCARVER

by contemplativeinquiry

Khing, the master woodcarver, made a bell stand

Of precious wood. When it was finished,

All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be the work of spirits.

The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

“What is your secret?”

Khing replied, “I am only a workman.

I have no secret. There is only this:

When I began to think about the work you commanded

I guarded my spirit. I did not expend it

On trifles, that were not to the point.

I fasted in order to

Set my heart at rest.

After three days fasting,

I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days,

I had forgotten praise and criticism.

After seven days

I had forgotten my body

With all its limbs.

By this time al thought of your Highness

And of the court had faded away.

Al that might distract me from the work

Had vanished.

I was collected in the single thought of the bell stand.

Then I went into the forest

To see the trees in their own natural state.

When the right tree appeared before my eyes,

The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond

doubt.

All that I had to do was to put forth my hand

And begin.

If I had not met this particular tree

There would have been

No bell stand at all.

What happened?

My own collected though

Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;

From this live encounter came the work

Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

 

Merton, Thomas (1965 & 2004) The Way of Chuang Tzu Boston & London: Shambhala.

 

Chuang Tzu, one of the great figures of early Taoism, lived around 300 BCE. The frontispiece of this edition says: “He used parables and anecdotes, allegory and paradox, to illustrate that real happiness and freedom are found only in understanding Tao or Way of nature, and dwelling in its unity. The respected Trappist monk Thomas Merton spent several years reading and reflecting on four different translations of the Chinese classic that bears Chuang Tzu’s name. The result is this collection of poetic renderings of the great sage’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

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