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Registered: 08/31/99
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Stories of Wu-Wei
    #3004364 - 08/14/04 03:04 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I'm reading a book by Alan Watts right now entitled Tao, The Watercourse Way. It is the last book he wrote before his death. In it is a chapter about Wu-Wei, the method of "not forcing". Alan Watts describes Wu-Wei as "the lifestyle of one who follows the Tao, [which] must be understood primarily as a form of intelligence -- that is, of knowing the principles, structures, and trends of human and natural affairs so well that one uses the least amount of energy in dealing with them." He goes on to say that "this intelligence is not simply intellectual; it is also the 'unconcious' intelligence of the whole organism and, in particular, the innate wisdom of the nervous system. Wu-wei is a combination of this wisdom with taking the path of least resistence in all one's actions. However, it is not the mere avoidance of effort."

Essentially, Wu-Wei is a way of life which entails not forcing anything, remaining bereft of expectation. If we examine our lives right now, we should easily discover that we have all kinds of expectations about how life should be, what is good for us or bad for us. Wu-Wei is in truly, profoundly letting go of all these things. But, one cannot intend to make such an adjustment: that is in itself a violation of the Wu-Wei principle. We cannot intend to let go, because intention is grasping on. How, then, are we supposed to live in accordance with the Tao?


I feel compelled to post these stories, as they have a certain sparkle to them that I couldn't resist sharing. I'd encourange anyone interested to head down to the library and pick up a copy of this book. It's a fantastically light and colourful read. Instead of unengaging lists of topical observations or raw translations (ala Jay L. Garfield), it beams Taoist insight through humour and a conversational style. Such is the work of Alan Watts, I suppose.

The Story of Pu Liang I

There was Pu Liang I, who had the genius of a sage, but not the Tao. I have the Tao, but not the genius. I wished to teach him, so that he might really become a sage. I kept on telling him; after three days, he began to be able to disregard all worldy matters, anxieties about gain or loss. After his having disregarded all worldly matters, I kept on telling him; after seven says he began to be able to disregard all external things as being seperate entities. After his having disregarded all external things, I kept on telling him; after nine days, he began to be able to disregard his own existence as an ego. Have disregarded the existence of his ego, he was enlightened. Having become enlightened, he was then able to gain the vision of the One. Having the vision of the One, he was then able to transcend the distinction between past and present. Having transcended the distinction of past and present, he was then able to enter the realm where life and death are no more. Then, to him, the destruction of life did not mean death, nor the prolongation of life an addition to the duration of his existence. He would follow anything; he would receiving anything. To him, everything was in destruction, everything was in construction. This is called tranquility in disturbance. Tranquility in disturbance means perfection.

No more Distinction: Blended into Unity

At the end of seven years, there was another change. I let my mind reflect on what it would, but it no longer occupied itself with right and wrong. I let me lips utter whatsoever they pleased, but they no longer spoke of profit and loss. At the end of nine years, my mind gave free rein to it's reflections, my mouth free passage to its speech. Of right and wrong, profit and loss, I had no knowledge, either as touching myself or others. Internal and External were blended into Unity. After that, there was no distinction between eye and ear, ear and nose, nose and mouth: all were the same. My mind was frozen, my body in dissolution, my flesh and bones all melted together. I was wholly unconcious of what my body was resting on, or what was under my feet. I was borne this way and that on the wind, like a dry chaff or leave falling from a tree. In fact, I knew not whether the wind was riding on me or I on the wind.

Chuang-chou the Butterfly

Once upon a time I, Chuang-chou, dreamed that I was a butterfly, a butterfly flying about, enjoying itself. I did not know that it was Chuang-chou. Suddenly I awoke, and veritably was Chuang-chou again. But I do not know whether it was I dreaming that I was a butterfly, or wether I am a butterfly dreaming that I am Chuang-chou.


How do I know that the love of life is not a delusion? How do I know that he who is adraid of death is not like a man who was away from his home when young and therefore has no intention to return? How do I know that the dead weill not repent of their former craving for life? Those who dream of a banquet at night may in the next morning wail and weep. those who dream of wailing and weeping may in the morning go out to hunt. When they dream, they do not know that they are dreaming. In their dream, they may even interpret dreams. Only when they are awake, they begin to know that they are dreamed. By and by comes the great awakening, and then we shall find out that life itself is a great dream. All the while, the fools think that they are awake; that they know. With nice discriminations, they make distinctions between princes and grooms. How stupid! Confucious and you are both in a dream. When I say that you are in a dream, I am also in a dream.


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great ape

Registered: 10/28/03
Posts: 1,306
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Re: Stories of Wu-Wei [Re: Ped]
    #3004644 - 08/14/04 04:45 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I use the woo-hoo approach

lets get drunk

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great ape

Registered: 10/28/03
Posts: 1,306
Loc: cipherland
Last seen: 5 years, 5 months
Re: Stories of Wu-Wei [Re: Ped]
    #3004776 - 08/14/04 05:39 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Oh yea I'm just finishing this book right now called Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits by Bill Porter.

It's a book about Daoist and Buddhist hermits in China. History of the hermit tradition, hunting around for hermits in the mountains of China, interviews with hermits, information about the current state of religion and temples under the communists. There are photos and lots of information on sages, scholars, immortals, emperors, temples, he even mentions drugs. Check it out

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yankee doodledandy
Registered: 08/11/04
Posts: 208
Re: Stories of Wu-Wei [Re: Ped]
    #3005025 - 08/14/04 07:24 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Anhilation of the ego is where it's at. To desire this is absurd.

I believe that the core of taoism and buddhism (and probably others) is the ultimate insight, in fact the only. It's the final victory over the animal within us, the ideas and the systems around us. Forget the silly dogmas and orthodoxies surrounding this central core, those are just the inevitable perversion of the one true idea over the centuries.

The one true idea is an anti idea, the end of all other ideas and all desires. The final idea to overcome is the idea of the self. By overcoming this, true compassion and true morality arises. All is one.

Edited by AntiMeme (08/14/04 07:26 PM)

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