Wu- Wei: A Philosophical Interpretation of Taoism

Wu Wei is one of the important Wu-forms in the philosophy of Da De Jing and is something I am currently doing. I am going with the flow of my own rhythm, and then the world’s, ultimately, it aligns with the flow of the universe. However, it may seem irresponsible to others… I do things in my own time, yet, I am always on time. I am slow, yet, growing faster as I flow increasingly into society’s standards and demands. There is wisdom in that, and I will pick apart three chapters that gives good reasoning for going with that kind of model. It is a way of controlling life and not letting life control me. It is following my heart. It is following nature. Wu-Wei is described as “non-doing” and doing things with ease. It is my way of cultivating a perception that is personal and sacred. It is not an activity, but a part of a grander way of being. It is an important puzzle piece and act, into become a whole person, and more importantly into a virtuous person.

Creativity is not something endowed to few people, it is a luxury we can all afford and use… In fact, we are all creative beings. Yes, some are more creative individuals than others, but if you look closer, we all yearn to experience creativity and ultimate freedom. But, some may not value creativity, and to each his own. They just do not know… But I believe creativity is one of the easiest ways to experience true richness, and even open doors that were even hidden or locked.

Living in spontaneity, I believe, is using your creativity. It is majestic and freeing, it is like flowing with the universe. The universe is chaos, but still, there are natural laws that govern it, and provide harmony. Creativity is essentially chaos, yet, when combined with logic – it creates connections in the perception you are creating or becoming involved in.

In chapter 73 of the Dao De Jing, “Tian’s way is winning the war without going to battle, Is answering effectively without saying a word, Is coming of its own accord without being summoned, And is laying plans skillfully while remaining free and easy.” (192, Hall & Ames)

Right off the bat, patience and non-doing shows its power in this passage, freedom also, to act and be effective in their own way. Perhaps, the silver linen and ultimate reward is not in some external achievement or tangible thing. It is in governing one’s self how you feel you are meant to govern yourself. In my interpretation, like I said, that is the true essence of Wu-Wei, not letting life control or sweep you away.

In chapter 80, it writes about having military weapons and chariots, but having no intentions of using them. Essentially, taking life seriously, and not being caught up in the illusions or things that do not exactly hold weight or value. It is basically aiming to show how to live a full life and not to venture off too much. Of-course meaning is subjective, but from this governing stance in governing a state, Wu-Wei is again a powerful concept. It is “non-doing” or what some governments striving for power would call foolish… But the government in this chapter only cares about its people’s livelihood, and well-being. That is a true noble government in my understanding.

Lastly, non-doing, is stealthily and intelligently facing the biggest and last true challenge, death.

In chapter 50 it says, “…because they are alert to danger, secure amid changing fortunes, and careful in their undertakings, nothing is able to do them harm.” (154, Hall & Ames) One knows how to deal with contingencies. The person practicing Wu Wei is in power. They are not putting too much strain, but doing only what they can handle, until they can handle more. The person practicing Wu Wei is making the connections so that they are secure and not rushed, usually mentally. How is it that the Master karate fighters will drink water, and sit silently or eat rice throughout the day in the kung fu movies, but is still able to defeat a band of enemies single handedly? My best conclusion, Wu-Wei.