tao tzu

Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind become still. The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then return to the Source. Returning to the Source is stillness, which is the way of Nature.

~Laozi
Tao Te Ching, Verse 16

(Source: Tao & Zen Facebook Page)

Wu wei ( 无为) is a Chinese word which is usually translated as “non doing”. This is a Taoist concept which has found its way into mainstream Buddhism via Zen (Chan). It is a fundamental principle in Eastern cultures and one which mystifies and at times frustrates Westerners.

The idea is that there are times when the best action is no action. We can best deal with a situation by not reacting to it. This is alien to most Westerners who feel that a reaction is always necessary. With wu wei we are as the water when it meets the stone in the river. It flows around without directly opposing the stone. Wu wei. The water way.

Wu wei wu(无为无), alternatively is essentially ‘doing non doing” or “action without action” Bruce Lee talks on this during an interview when we instructs those to “be like water”. 

“The Sage is occupied with the unspoken and acts without effort.’

– Laozi, The Tao Te Ching, chapter 2

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
—  Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Yet I who through the labyrinth can find my way,
Will not by erring lights be led astray.
I hold the thread that leads me to the core;
Peacefully I watch where others uselessly make war.

On the world’s stage I play no part at all.
To the vain, therefore, do I seem insignificant and small.
And while they strive to gain some part in multiplicity,
Mine is the All—O true felicity!

—Lao-tzu

In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
—  Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Crossing the River

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together when they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross it unsuccessfully. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows never to touch a woman. Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and continued on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. He was speechless and after rejoining his companion, an hour passed without a word between them, then two, then three.

Finally, the younger monk could contain himself no longer and blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman. How could you carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

When we allow ourselves to stop judging others, then we also allow ourselves to stop judging ourselves. The freedom from this lack of judgment allows us to see things simply and as they really are.

We can compare it to letting go of baggage that we have been carrying around with us. Dropping this extra baggage – especially the baggage of others that we have picked up without being asked – offers us the possibility to move much more freely, much more quickly. When our goal is the Light – when that movement is toward the Light – then our progress is not only beneficial to ourselves but more importantly to the growing soul within. When the ego is willing to let go, then the soul-being can move freely.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. —Lao Tzu