Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Bit More On: Wu, Wuwie and Te

A Bit More On:
Wu, Wuwie and Te

Questioner: Yoo Yuong Chon
Private: no
Subject: Taoism (Follow-up)

For the original question go HERE at

Or HERE at Multiply.

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you so much for the response. It really did help me to grasp the concept of Taoism a little bit better, although I do not completely get it. I suppose that seeing as how one of the main beliefs of Taoism is that one cannot completely understand without experiencing it, it is normal for me to always feel Taoism a bit beyond my grasp.

I had wanted to ask though also about what Taoists believe happen after death? In Buddhism, there is reincarnation, or, if one achieves it, Nirvana. For Christians, there is a Heaven. What exactly do the Taoists believe in?

Another thing I was hoping you could help me clarify is the concept of Wuwei. You definitely covered the big points and I'm understand it a bitter beter. However, do you think maybe you could give me a more in-depth analysis and maybe an example to help illustrate it?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and answer these questions. It's really helpful!

    -Yoo Yuong Chon

My reply:

Hi again,

....although I do not completely get it. I suppose that seeing as how one of the main beliefs of Taoism is that one cannot completely understand without experiencing it, it is normal for me to always feel Taoism a bit beyond my grasp.

Absolutely and a good realization on your part. 'The tao that can be named is the real Tao...'

    Even the name tao is not Tao:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

Another way to think about this: Forget that you are Yoo Yuong Chon for a moment. Forget your country of origin or where you now live. Forget your gender, your parents, your siblings, your religion, your culture, your beliefs.... Empty yourself completely of everything, all assumptions, belief systems and paradigms and for the moment simply exist on the planet as an empty vessel.

That is the state of Wu: complete emptiness.

Now, from that state of emptiness solve this problem: ....

There is where your answer resides. Emptiness. Wuwei is not possible without Wu. Emptiness.

Taoists are not big on what-ifs (even when they are as certain as death). Essentially Tao flows ever onward. The person you think of as "Yoo Yuong Chon," the person I think of as "John" is the product of our cultures, our experiences and so on. "You" do not exist. Yoo Yuong Chon will be no more after death (this teaching is a main reason I do not fully embrace Taoism by the way).

As Chuang Tzu wrote:

"Since life and death are each others companions, why worry about them? All beings are one."

According to Taoism, the temporarily differentiated "being" ("I am") will cease to be because it (we) never really existed in the first place, but who we really are, beyond all illusion and false (ego) identification will embrace pure yin (the mother of the ten thousand things) and continue on in some way. Nothing real ever ceases to exist. According to Taoism, there is neither birth nor death, neither being nor non-being... there is only undifferentiated Tao.

Taoist concepts are, by their very nature, flowing and not set in stone.

From the Tao Te Ching (Gia Fu Feng and Jane English):


Tao abides in non-action [Wuwei],
Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.
If they still desired to act,
They would return to the simplicity of formless substance.
Without form there is no desire.
Without desire there is tranquility.
And in this way all things would be at peace.

This is the essence of Wuwei. Things are done when the time comes to do them. Because the time to do them has arrived, there is no-doing, there is only observing the timeless flow of Tao and accepting ones part in the Great Mystery.

I used the example of the wooden deck before. It was "time" for me to be in a Taoist monastery and to receive the following: One of my teachers told me to paint a certain deck. It was a bit faded but looked fine to me. I asked why, considering Wuwei: Isn't that "doing?" His answer was basically what I told you before. When there is hunger the natural response is to eat. When the deck needs to be painted the natural response is to paint it. The way of Tao is preserve that which is. My presence and purpose at that "time" and place was to paint the deck. As I did so I had an odd sense of peace, a "knowing" came over me that at that time, I was precisely where I was 'supposed to be" doing exactly what "I was supposed to be doing" and I experienced Wu.

When the king, as in the above quoted canto, sees he needs to act he acts, otherwise he does not. That is the role of a King. When the mom needs to feed the baby she does so because that is the role of the mom. That is Wuwei, Such actions are not "doing" but flowing harmoniously with Tao. How could the mom not feed the child? Its natural. Its non-doing.

If the king gives everyone food why should they farm? If he cloths them why should they knit and sew? If the farmers cease to farm and the tailors cease to sew there is will shortages for everyone. That is not the Way of Tao. So the farmer farms and the tailor sews and there is peace as long as the king does not interfere.

The way of Tao is to do that which needs to be done when and as the time to do them arrives.

This is determined through Wu or Emptiness. The leaders of the people should interfere with this natural process as little as possible. If nothing is done, nothing will be left undone. Which is to say, only in harmony with t'ien ming, the Mandate of Heaven should any action be done and when actions are done in harmony with t'ien ming they are as non-actions because they are simply the onward flow of Tao.

Hope this helps,

    ~ John of AllFaith

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