Lieh-Tzu exhibited his skill in archery to Po-Hun Wu-Jen.
When the bow was drawn to its full length, a cup of water was placed on his elbow and he began to shoot.
As soon as the first arrow was let fly, a second was already on the string, and then a third one followed. In the meantime he stood unmoved like a statue.
Po-Hun Wu-Jen said: “The technique of shooting is fine, but it is not the technique of non-shooting. Let us go up to a high mountain and stand on a projecting rock, and then you try and shoot.”
They climbed up a mountain. Standing on a rock that projected over a precipice ten thousand feet high, Po-Hun Wu-Jen moved backwards until one third of his feet were overhanging the edge. He then motioned Lieh-Tzu to come forward.
Lieh-Tzu fell down on the ground with perspiration flowing down to his heels.
Said Po-Hun Wu-Jen: “The perfect man soars up above the blue sky, or dives down to the yellow springs, or wanders all over the eight limits of the world, yet shows no sign of change in his spirit. But you betray a sign of trepidation, and your eyes are dazed. How can you expect to hit the target?”
Action needs skill. But no-action also needs skill. The skill of action is just on the surface; the skill of no-action is at the very core of your being. The skill of action can be learned easily; it can be borrowed; you can be educated in it because it is nothing but technique. It is not your being, it is just an art.
But the technique, or the skill, of no-action is not technique at all. You cannot learn it from somebody else, it cannot be taught; it grows as you grow. It grows with your inner growth, it is a flowering. From the outside, nothing can be done to it; something has to evolve from the inside.
The skill of action comes from without, goes within; the skill of no-action comes from within, flows without. Their dimensions are totally different, diametrically opposite. So first try to understand this, then we will be able to enter this story.
For example, you can be a painter just by learning the art; you can learn all that can be taught in art schools. You can be skillful, and you can paint beautiful pictures, you can even become a renowned figure in the world. Nobody will be able to know that this is just technique, unless you come across a master; but you will always know that this is just technique.
Your hands have become skillful, your head knows the know-how, but your heart is not flowing. You paint, but you are not a painter. You create a work of art but you are not an artist. You do it, but you are not in it. You do it as you do other things – but you are not a lover. You are not involved in it totally; your inner being remains aloof, indifferent, standing by the side. Your head and your hands, they go on working, but you are not there. The painting will not carry your presence, it will not carry you. It may carry your signature, but not your being.
A master will immediately know, because this painting will be dead. Beautiful…you can decorate a corpse also, you can paint a corpse also, you can even put lipstick on the lips and they will look red, but lipstick, howsoever red, cannot have the warmth of flowing blood. Those lips – painted, but no life in them.
You can create a beautiful painting, but it will not be alive. It can be alive only if you flow in it; that’s the difference between a master when he paints and an ordinary painter. The ordinary painter really always imitates because the painting is not growing within him. It is not something with which he is pregnant. He will imitate others, he will have to look for ideas; he may imitate nature – that makes no difference. He may look at a tree and paint it, but the tree has not grown within him.