The other day I quoted the Tao Te Ching: “By practicing doing nothing/Everything is in harmony.” This refers to the concept of wu-wei or non-action.
Elsewhere in the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says “Nature uses few words.”
Of wu-wei, Wang Bi (226—249 CE), the famous interpreter of the classical Chinese texts, wrote,
The sage understands Nature perfectly. Therefore he goes along with [all things] but takes no unnatural action. He is in harmony with them but does not impose anything on them. He removes their delusions and eliminates their doubts. Hence, the people’s minds are not confused and things are contented with their own nature.
In Taoism, the sage is an ideal, representing the ultimate in human aspiration. The sage is like a buddha or bodhisattva, steeped in wisdom, guiding others. Because the sage is in harmony with the rhythm of life, the action he or she takes is not forced. In fact it seems effortless because less exertion is required. Tai Chi master Gary Khor calls wu-wei “relaxed action.”
Non-action is related to mindfulness. It is not as if we are suddenly “in harmony” with nature, as though someone had pulled a switch and voila! Wu-wei flows from mindfulness because it is actually a consciousness of harmony. Quieting the mind relaxes the body and spirit and we become more aware of life’s natural rhythms.
In terms of Buddhism, an attribute of awareness is understanding our part in the interdependency of all things. As all things are originally harmonious and natural owning to their ultimate oneness, practice of mindfulness and wu-wei teach us the way to take the right action at the right time.
The action of wu-wei is also the action of creative insight. The I Ching says “The creative is successful, advancing through correctness”.
More about the I Ching and creativity in an upcoming post.