Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Art of Wu Wei

Daoists often dispute over what actually constitutes ‘Wu Wei’ which can be translated as ‘without doing anything’, ‘non action’ or ‘no need for action’. Free thinkers like to think that with Wu Wei there is no need for any action, a reason why they are attracted to Tao in the first place, while the better informed say there is required action before non action can arise.

Laozi first discussed Wu Wei in Chapter 2 of his Tao Te Ching. He indicated that ‘being’ and ‘non being’ produces each other. Just as difficult and easy complement each other; long and short contrast each other; back and front follow each other. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything -Wu Wei- and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

Whence can sages manage affairs without doing anything (Wu Wei), and convey instructions without the use of speech?

Probably you may already know the answer to the question. However few including translators of the TTC seemed to have the necessary experience and aptitude to know the answer. Otherwise they would have the clarity to tell us where and how to achieve the state of ‘Wu Wei’.

If people use their intellect to try to understand what Laozi wrote in Chapter 2 on Wu Wei, they may take forever and yet get no nearer to the truth of what the great sage had indicated. At such times, Daoists could better understand Wu Wei if they rely on what Daoist heavenly immortals – true representatives of Tao as compared to humans - had pointed to. And Buddhists can rely on Buddha if they do not want to follow the pointing of Daoist immortals.

In his Secret of the Golden Flower, Lu Dongbin said :
When the light is made to move in a circle, all the energies of heaven and earth, of the light and the dark, are crystallized. When one begins to apply this magic it is as if, in the middle of being, there were non being. When in the course of time the work is completed, and beyond the body there is a body, it is as if, in the middle of non being, there were being.

The book Leng Yen (Shurangama Sutra) says:
By collecting the thoughts one can fly and will be born in heaven. If one keeps this up for a long time there develops quite naturally, in addition to the body, yet another spirit-body.
[Secret of the Golden Flower – W/B]

Now that is Wu Wei but how many people down the ages understood it?

For those who sit and forget, movement of the wondrous breath (Qi) may one day enable them to develop non being from being. Upon reaching such a state, they may come to realize that the sage can manage affairs without doing anything – Wu Wei.

Did Laozi and Buddha really give direct instructions on how to achieve the Art of Wu Wei? No. Just like the Daoist heavenly immortals that came later, heaven’s secrets cannot simply be revealed. That is why both ancients, who knew heaven and earth well, are great sages!

If ardent followers of Wang Bi disagree to what is written, do not shoot the messenger. If only he had lived longer than his twenty four years of life and practiced neidan, perhaps Wang Bi may have cause to agree on what is written in this entry on non being, being, and Wu Wei. How would I know?


No comments: