Author: cheok hong chuan
Date: 06-03-12 14:39
Wu-Wei – Action in Non-Action
Lately I have had to resort to countervailing action against bloggers who were not the usual suspects – the usual ‘bananas’ who believe that Chinese should eat and poo like ‘gweilos’. I have been assailed recently by Chinese bloggers who challenge my filial piety, my loyalty, my very being of being a Chinese! This posting is directed at one in particular who retreated on his last post instead of rising up to the challenge of advocating the substance of his allegations in Chinese [so that he would not have to post in English which he certainly has no mastery of to be considered a wordsmith] to allow him equal opportunity to debate with me. Yet in his cowardly retreat, in his continuing despicable arrogance, he continued to show contempt for formal civilised Socratic debate and its due process. He persisted in casting aspersions, in his last innuendo, in this instance on my spiritual knowledge of ‘wu-wei’. This is the very same moron, who like a horse which chews dead grass and gives out horse-@!#$ at the same time, thinks that Christian Chinese is no longer Chinese and thinks that the Tao is found only in the words of the Chinese characters of the Chinese language!
He would be like a rather stupid Indian in Malaysia [which therefore suggests that 99%of the Indians in Malaysia would not dare to be so stupid!] saying that only an Indian can cook curry! I assure you that if you were to visit Malaysia, that the ubiquitous typical Northern Indian curry that you find in the U.K., United States, Canada or Australia would be your last curry of choice when you are faced with the vast range, array and plethora of curries available in Malaysia.
Yet, this same imbecile, who presumes to be an authority on wu-wei has never expounded or propounded by way of discourses or lessons or illustrations as to what his exegesis on wu-wei or generally the Way of the Tao might be? This very same person must think that because he is a professed expert on Traditional Chinese Medicine that that automatically makes him a Taoist Master and an expert on ‘wu-wei’?
I stand on my track record. I have in the sincerest of intent and terms shared my journey of the Way of the Tao. I have written considerably on all the Three Pillars of Chinese Society and might I add, Christianity as well; for the benefit of those Chinese who are Christians, for they too are entitled to Chinese fellowship and love.
Every individual’s journey of the Way of the Tao would be unique and different because of their respective karmic residue and destiny. The Tao is not something you can attain by reading or talking. It is a personal experiential spiritual journey. This spiritual fruit cannot be harvested when your karmic destiny is not ready, no matter how many Taoist books you read. Whatever I write can only be like the guidance from someone who his sharing his personal Taoist experience. I can tell you what peeing is like as a personal experience but I cannot pee for you. I can tell you what my experience of falling in love is like but I cannot fall in love for you. So I cannot be an expert in the Tao to others, nor can anyone else, because the Tao as an individual experience, as a personal journey, cannot be put into words that equally apply to some other. It has no meaning or relevance beyond the unique individual experience to a particular journey. For someone to assert that the Tao is only found in the Chinese word or only in the Chinese language shows he is a deviant, a devil incarnate and has no Tao in him! But nonetheless I am the sole custodian of my own personal experience on and of my journey of the Way of the Tao. So, in that sense I am the sole expert of my own Taoist experience which I wish to share with others, to provide guidance or signposts for others in their journey. So, Mr TCM, if you wish to provide your own signposts to help others, kindly do so, but in your own discourses. Stop making disparaging remarks of others who had or have the good intent of providing helpful signposts. Tell us how and what your journey of the Way of the Tao is like! Do not, please do not, talk in meaningless platitudes, that because your Chinese is better than mine therefore I know nothing about ‘wu-wei’. Surely, the question is whether you know anything about ‘wu-wei’?
Action speaks louder than words. Let me provide another exposition on ‘wu-wei’; to add to expositions that I have made in the past.
‘Wu-wei’ in the way it has been stated or explained in simplified literal terms means ‘action on non-action’. You can see straight away that it is self-contradictory and meaningless. However the Taoists Masters of the past in their wisdom have preferred to let this starting point of an enigma remain for it befits the mystery of the Tao as it is. Strangely enough it took my studies of Hinduism and in particular the Bhagavad Gita to open up my eyes initially to the mystery of ‘wu-wei’. The Bhagavad Gita can be summed up in the maxim – ‘Do what you are destined to do and do not delve with the merits or demerits of your deed’. In the Bhagavad Gita the warrior prince Arjuna refused to go into battle against his cousins who were considered traitors; and his charioteer [who was the god Krishna in disguise or incarnate] was teaching him about karma and destiny and spurring him to do battle regardless of his personal emotions. [At this point, may I ask forumites not go haywire about Hinduism, like some have done about my expositions on Christianity. There is nothing in the Tao that says that you cannot study or read anything else other than the Tao Te-ching! In fact, Hinduism and Buddhism share common foundations. In fact, I would encourage all forumites to read about all religions and philosophies. Knowledge broadens the mind. Do not cloister yourself into narrow-mindedness.].
Let us take Japanese archery as our discussion tool for ‘wu-wei’. Let us focus on the two rather disparate and incongruent terms – ‘action’ and ‘non-action’.
‘Action’ by inference means the ‘now’, the ‘present’. Why? You cannot ‘action’ in the past! What is past is past! Time cannot go backwards. Nor, can we go back in time. As far as I know we cannot travel into the future either? If we express these as ordinal terms then whether past, present or future are in metaphorical terms a sense of direction. So we must direct our ‘action’ on the ‘now’ of the ‘present’.
‘Action’ as a deed requires us to do something. ‘Action’ as a deed requires thought and something to be done paired to that thought? Obviously if there are millions of thoughts in that one moment of the present [which is scientifically impossible in the sense of a millionth of a second for each thought, for then there can only be one thought after one thought] our ‘action’ is not going to be ‘well thought’! A bad ‘action’ is not an ‘action’ of spiritual worth at all! To be worthy of the Tao, the ‘action’ has to be a good worthy ‘action’. The Tao actually predicates, as we will find out later at the conclusion, that we deal in good worthy ‘action’ that amounts to good worthy ‘non-action’. It goes without question that a ‘selfless’ ‘action’ in contradistinction is more worthy than a ‘selfish’ ‘action’. An ‘action’ for the general good is more worthy than an ‘action’ for the good of one’s sole self and nobody else. If one is totally selfless and altruistic, obviously this would epitomise good worthy ‘action’. It is in this sense that we say that in Tao that there should be no thought of ‘self’ or ‘ego’. But in ‘action’ as in spiritual equality with ‘non-action’ we have to go beyond no thought of self to ‘no thought’ at all! For the ‘thought’ is only the pathway or the tool. What is being evaluated is the ‘action’ and not the ‘thought’. The Tao is not a religion. We are not interested in whether a thought is sinful or otherwise. This does not mean no thought at all in a strict sense as in a comatose mind but that your ‘thought’ should be frozen as a pathway, as if there was no consciousness of thinking or thought; as in totally absorbed mechanically minded focus, without fear or favour, bias or judgement or feelings. Once you are on the highway, you do not constantly remind yourself that ‘you’ are on the highway or that it is a ‘highway’ that you are on!
‘Action’ requires energy whether mental energy or otherwise. Focusing on the ‘now’ of the ‘present’ and the ‘no thought’ of the ‘action’ [as explained and postulated earlier] we need to give it all our energy. ‘Action’ can never be optimal if the available energy is not totally harnessed in its favour but is rather dissipated to all and sundry! So we need to focus our energy on the ‘action’ or task [or on every effort or endeavour in life and living] without ‘personal’ fear favour bias or judgement or feeling. Like a good doctor we must not let our emotions stand in the way. Spiritual ‘action’ is like that. We must not let our subjective emotions, bias and favours stand in the way of objectivity. Note – we are all humans, so on most occasions we live our rather fragile vulnerable emotional tenuous unrewarding human lives. We treasure or relish our little pleasures or moments of comforts or happiness and joy when we find them. That is only human! We know not when the next malady or sorrow or grief might befall us!
It is OK to be vulnerable and disposed to the whims and vagaries of one’s fate and karmic destiny. It is OK to accept and bear our lot or fate in life. There is nothing absolutely perfect in this world. The mortality of death reminds of that. That is why we should not have an ego. That is why we humble ourselves and together we work to make this world a better place.
In spiritual hopeful terms we need to and always speak of the ideal, of the apex of the spiritual mountain. In reality we are in our daily lives caught up like the warrior prince Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita having to do what destiny befalls on us. So it makes more sense to be realistic at all times to take the Tao as not a destination but just a journey. Whether we reach the end of the journey is not really relevant. It is the journey of learning, of experiencing that matters. That is why the Tao is so beautifully wonderful. There is no sin, no salvation, no prescribed tome or course, no judgment, no report cards, no set time for performance, no nothing. The Tao cannot be expressed in words. We can get near it but we can never reach or touch it. Tao allows us to be human because we know we can be near but not reach the Tao! It is something to aspire for but not mandatory to reach or attain!
It is this understanding of karma and destiny that is inherent in the Tao that teaches us that in our spiritual journey we do not have to have specific job cards or tenets or commandments from a God. We need only focus our energy on the moment on the ‘action’ of the deed before us so that we need only hope to make the world a better place than when we found it when we leave. That is, we come with nothing and we take nothing with us when we die except our karmic consequences or residue. So we live but we do not cling to life. We live, knowing that death could be around the corner. We live to value-add to the general pool of life rather than to subtract or detract from it. By value-adding we are conversely reducing our karmic consequences; for what subtraction or detraction you have done you will have to come back to pay back! We thus return to one of our Taoist one-liners – In ‘action’ you have to live selflessly and not selfishly.
Back to Japanese archery.
In any ‘action’ you have to face the right spiritual direction. Facing the ‘now’ of the ‘present’ is represented by facing the ‘target’ which represents the ‘present’. Do not face the other way, which is like facing the ‘past’! Do not face the sky which would be like facing the ‘future’!
Take the bow and arrow and face the target with total luminous metal awareness but with ‘no thoughts’, and in particular no ‘personal’ thoughts. There should be nothing on your mind but the target as the ‘now’ and the ‘moment’ of the ‘present’ before you. This is total spiritual concentration.
Bend the bow with 100% of your energy to the fullest. This is total spiritual effort.
Fix the arrow in aim with exact alignment. This is total spiritual mindfulness.
Then when all the spiritual aspects are in harmony and equilibrium, let the arrow fly! This is wu-wei! The arrow hits the intended target ‘bull’s eye’! But it [the arrow in flight hitting the target] was in itself a ‘non-action’
Having an ego is like you as the archer in this ‘wu-wei’ illustration caring only for yourself but not the others as metaphorically represented by the ‘bow and arrow’ and the ‘target’. In contrast if you care equally for the bow and arrow as you care for yourself; then as a ‘fusion or union’ there is no individual ego! When you are united and fused in ‘action’, there is in the consequence ‘non-action’ in the flight of the arrow; and that is ‘wu-wei’! ‘Wu-wei’ cannot be taught through others. The archer might think that he is competing with others but in reality he is competing against himself. ‘Wu-wei’ as is anything in the Way of the Tao is a personal journey. It cannot be taught or learnt or handed down!
It is useless trying to understand ‘wu-wei’ without understanding karma. Why? In our illustration of Japanese archery, the archer could  be blind or have bad eyesight!  have a broken limb, be a cripple or be physically weak!  have a hyperactive ‘monkey’ for a brain and cannot concentrate or focus!  have no sense of coordination at all! The bow and arrow could be of poor quality, good enough only for child’s play. You could have a bow but no arrow or a broken arrow or vice-versa. And that is karmic destiny!