Lao Tzu used to send his disciples to learn the art of meditation from a butcher. The disciples were very puzzled – why the butcher? And Lao Tzu would say, “You go and see. The man lives exactly the way one should live, always herenow. It does not matter what he is doing. He is not the doer at all; he is just a watcher, he is a witness. It is a role that he is playing – he is acting as a butcher.”
And he was no ordinary butcher; he had been especially appointed by the emperor of China to his own kitchen.
The emperor asked Lao Tzu, “How to learn to be herenow? – because you are always talking about herenow.”
Lao Tzu said, “You need not ask me; your butcher is the right person. Even I send many of my disciples to watch him.”
The emperor was shocked. He said, “My butcher! What does he know about it?”
Lao Tzu said, “You watch him work.”
And the emperor watched. And it was really a tremendously ecstatic experience even to watch him working. His instrument, his knife, was so sharp, so shining, as if it was absolutely new, as if he had brought it for the first time.
The king asked – he was very interested in weapons – he asked, “From where did you get this beautiful knife?”
He said, “This knife was given to me by my father who died forty years ago. For forty years I have been working with this knife, cutting animals with this knife.”
“Forty years!” the king said. “And the knife looks so new so fresh!”
The butcher said, “There is an art to it. If you are doing everything watchfully, alert, conscious, then no rust gathers – not only in you, not only on the inside, but even on the outside no rust gathers. I am fresh, my , knife is fresh. I am young, my knife is young. And I am I working as a meditation. This is just a role that I am playing.”
A Zen master used to tell his disciples the story of a master thief who became enlightened…
So don’t be worried about being a judge or a doctor – even a thief can become enlightened. The question is not what you do, the question is how you do it. The question is not about the act but the consciousness out of which that act arises.
This is one of the most famous Zen stories. I love it tremendously.
The thief was known as a master thief – no ordinary thief. Even the king respected him because never in his life was he caught. And everybody knew that he was the greatest thief in the country. In fact, his fame was such that people used to brag that “Last night the master thief entered our house,” that “Our treasure has been stolen by the master thief.” It was a privilege because the entry of the master thief meant you were really rich, because he would not go to any ordinary person, only kings and very rich people had the privilege of the master thief visiting them.