Wuwei in the Daodejung Essay

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Wuwei in the Daodejung

The Dao represents a key principle of Taoism, Confucianism and other ancient Chinese philosophical forms. The symbol for the Dao translates literally as the "way" or the "path." Eastern philosophy of the Dao differs significantly from western philosophy. The Dao is a way of looking at the world in a holistic, rather than in an autonomous manner. The Dao cannot be explained adequately with words, yet, one can follow the principles of the Dao and integrate them into their life. The Dao cannot be controlled, but it can be understood to a certain extent.

One of the key principles of the Dao is the principle that every action creates a counter-action. These are expressed through the duality of the yin and yang. Even inaction creates a counter-action, bringing us to the topic of wuwei. Wuwei is the principle of actionless action. It refers to the idea that sometimes the best action is no action. The following will discuss various aspects of wuwei in the Dao. It will draw on modern, as well as classical works.

Life and Dao

In order to comprehend the principle of wuwei, it is necessary to first understand the nature of the Dao. The Dao is a constant and active force in the universe. It is not a set of ideals or standards, but rather an energy force that we encounter on a daily basis. It moves through our lives and created natural movements and processes in all things. People do not have to force the world into being. It will become of its own accord without any input from humans. The illusion of being able to control the Dao is simply that, an illusion.

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The Dao means living in harmony with the natural ebb and flow of nature. Whenever a person tries to control the direction of the Dao, it often results in unwanted and unexpected consequences. According to Daoist philosophy, one does not have to strive to make the universe perfect; it will achieve perfection of its own accord without any input from us at all. Virtue is a natural state of being, not something that one has to strive for in their lives.

Essay on Wuwei in the Daodejung Assignment

Perfection" cannot be created or achieved by ones actions or intentions. This state will only be achieved when we let go and allow it to come to us through the Dao. Following the Dao means simply allowing things to be without attempting to make them better or improve upon them. It is to realize that a state of perfection already exists and that one only needs to allow it to be.

Wuwei and the Principle of Actionless Action

Once a basic grasp of daoist philosophy has been achieved, it is easy to incorporate the principle of wuwei. The principle of wuwei refers the ability to know when to act and when not to act. Wu translates into "not having." Wei means "to act" or "doing." Therefore, the entire phrase translates into "without action." Wuwei can also be viewed as a natural action, something that occurs as a natural state of existence. For instance, the revolution of the earth around the sun, the erosion of soil, and the growth of a plant are all examples of actions that take place without any effort or input from humanity. Wuwei means doing what comes natural.

Wuwei is a powerful force. It can move mountains and can reduce the mightiest stone to sand. It is typically associated with water, a flowing force. Water lacks the desire to have its own shape. It is compliant and will conform to any shape that wishes to hold it, but it is also a powerful force. The water is much like the nature of wuwei. It wills in all of the cracks and crevices, leaving no space unfilled as it flows from one container to another. Such is the way of Dao energy as well.

The Wuwei and Destiny

The wuwei instills the concept that things happen of their own accord. We do not make things happen. Nature and the flow of Dao energy are the forces of creation and destruction. If one takes this stance entirely, it would make sense to discontinue action at all. If one simply needs to sit back and let the Dao energy take care of the world, then any input from us would be useless. This makes humanity appear to be nothing more than a watcher and observer of life, unless the person chooses to act in some manner. The concept of Dao and wuwei negates the need to take action. Nature will take care of itself.

However, one must remember that not taking an action is in itself an action. The person has the choice of whether to act or not to act. This brings up the topic of freewill. Chapter XXIII of the Tao and Wuwei suggests that man can control the Dao in some manner that will produce a result. If one understands the concept of action and reaction, then humanity has the choice to make decisions that direct the flow of the Dao, therefore altering the results achieved. One of the ways in which man can alter the Dao is in the way he pursues the affairs of his life. The Dao says,

Therefore he who pursues his affairs in the spirit of Tao will become Tao-like. He who pursues his affairs with the, will become the-like. He who pursues his affairs with loss, identifies himself with loss" (Goddard and Borrel, Chapter XXIII).

This verse tells us that life is what we make of it and that our results are directly correlated to our actions and attitude in life.

The Daodejung distinguishes from actionless action and laziness. Actionless action is spontaneous and occurs with little effort. It is the natural thing to do. This is different from passivity (Kardash). Actionless action means going with the flow, instead of against the currents. The Dao tells us that this attitude of going with the flow is the answer to many of the social problems that plague society. The Wuwei suggests that political interference is the cause of problems and that they would resolve themselves without any additional input (Loy, p. 73-87).

For Every Action there is Reaction

According to Eisnstein, the Laws of Physics state that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For instance, gravity opposes centrifugal force and light opposes darkness. The Wuwei recognizes that for every action another action will follow. However, it does not necessarily agree that action is equal and opposite. The Wuwei simply states that an action follows an action, even if this action is inaction.

Interactive media is an excellent modern reference that applies the Wuwei. A computer works on the basis of stimulus and response. The output of the computer is changed by the input that it receives. This system is one sided. The computer does not respond on its own accord and only the user can control the output by means of their input (Lawson). This happens with every electronic device that we come in contract with in our daily routine (Lawson). This is an example of the Wuwei at work. The response that we receive is directly associated with the input that we provide. This example demonstrates the Wuwei at work. However, unlike an electronic appliance, the response of the universe is not instantaneous, but happens at a much slower pace. However, it happens eventually, one must be patient.

Applying the Principles of Wuwei

At first glance, it would appear that when a person chooses to act in the spirit of the Wuwei, they must spend their days in meditation, doing nothing all day but searching for nothingness (Morgan). However, this is not what we find those who practice the Dao doing. They are some of the hardest workers in the world, regardless of their chosen profession (Morgan).

Confucius said that Shun ruled the empire by non-action. The people obeyed him from an admiration of his virtue (Morgan). Some persons are naturals in their chosen profession. Leaders rise up and the people follow. Sometimes they are not good speakers, or particularly charismatic, yet the people follow them anyway (Morgan). This is an example of actionless action at work. The person does not possess any special talents, yet the work is done through them, seemingly through no effort of their own. It is as if they allow themselves to be used as a tool through which the Dao can do its work.

To live the life in accordance to the Wuwei does not mean to live a life of roaming aimlessly. Flexibility is a key construct of the Wuwei, but this does not mean bending to the point of aimlessness. Flexibility is an important concept, but not to the point where focus is lost. Chang Tzu explains that one must maintain a certain degree of flexibility, but that one must be careful not to reduce Wuwei to a matter of flexibility (Fox). The proper… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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