Take no Action

The phrase “take no action” is an English translation of a theory/thought/philosophical notion attributed to the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tsu.

Some interpret his notion “take no action” as an instruction to simply do nothing … therefore many scholars ridicule this component of his philosophy.

Seems Chinese scholars … after 2,500 years of intellectual inquiry, debate and argument … still don’t fully understand what Lao Tzu was trying to say.

Perhaps the first person to take his advice literally was Gautama Buddha … who apparently went and sat under a tree and refused to move until all knowledge/wisdom came to him.

Legend has it that Lao Tzu got tired of rejection and left China … went into the area known as Tibet today … perhaps as far as Nepal.

My imagination has obviously gotten away on me this morning. :slight_smile:

So it turns out that every time my wife tries to get me to do some job or other I’m following the teachings of Lao Tsu, whoever he is.

Those are the teachings of La Zee.

I’ve never heard of him, either, so I’m not really sure if that makes it better or worse.

Writing an OP is taking an action. Instead of meditating under a tree, pilgirm tom started a thread.
Is this WuWei or not?

As far as my knowledge of history is concerned, Lao tzu does not predate Buddha. In other words, they cannot learn anything from each other. Scholars later compared their philosophies. Buddhism and Taoism influenced each other a lot in China.

All of this trio, Tao, Confucius and Buddha, were born almost at the same timeline at different places, around 6 century BCE.

With love
Sanjay

The penny has only just dropped, wtf, it’s my age, you know, I wasn’t always this slow.

Delightful and I’m sure … sincere posts.

Seem to attest to another of Lao Tzu’s thoughts …

Dao De Jing … Chapter 41

“When the highest type of shi hear of the Dao,
They diligently practice it.
When the average type of shi hear of the Dao,
They half believe it.
When the lowest type of shi hear of the Dao,
They laugh heartily at it.
If they did not laugh at it,
It would not be the Dao.”

I don’t know.

OTH many Chinese scholars don’t interpret Lao Tsu’s Wu Wei in a literal sense … this particular group of scholars suggest “spontaneity” is what Lao Tzu is referring to.

My interpretation does not stem from intellectual gymnastics … rather as Moreno suggested in another post … personal experiences.

Sanjay I believe the historical records are ‘soft’. As you mentioned they all lived around the 6th century BCE.

Apparently there is anecdotal evidence that Confucius met Lao Tzu … the initiative belonging to Confucius.

In this anecdote Confucius referred to Lao Tzu as the ‘dragon’ … implying he felt Lao Tzu to be superior to himself.

Yes, it’s Wu Wei (‘non doing’) but I think OP’s ‘take no action’ reference comes from Lao Tzu’s political writings which is the application of Wu Wei in the wider political and social spheres. This is a bit different from the personal application of Wu Wei.

It’s important to note that Wu Wei/‘non doing’ doesn’t result in things not being done; they get done but they’re done in a natural ‘go with the flow’ way, rather than a forced or arbitrary way. Wu Wei refers to a state of mind where actions flow so easily and harmoniously, it appears that you’re not doing anything, yet things get done. Rather than making something happen, you find yourself in the back seat observing yourself doing things without struggle, force or motivation.

While both Buddhism (particularly Zen Buddhism) and Tao/Wu Wei advocate an unattached mind and overlap somewhat, their focus is quite different. Buddhism is about accessing one’s higher consciousness (enlightenment) and ending the cycle of rebirth (Samara) while Taoism is about harmonizing with the natural world.

Do nothing, and there is nothing left undone” ~ Lao Tzu

Well said Chakra.
I always thought that language translation sometimes ruins original intent at times. I have seen debates over translations of ancient writings and these are the ones who actually study the language. Agreement and disagreement occurs.
When we read translated ancient works, common sense needs to be used.

Apparently Taoism was never endorsed by the political establishment in China … whereas Confucianism was made state orthodoxy.

Despite the absence of political support, Taoism seems to have done OK over the years … suggesting at least … that much of Lao Tzu’s Dao De Jing has personal application.

How would Christianity have fared without the generous political support it received?

Yes, I realize this, but the OP expresses the idea that it is not clear amongst experts whether this means doing nothing or not. I actually think it is clear, but since the OP had posited otherwise I just worked with that. What does the philosophy say about the act of spreading the philosophy? I think it is always interesting to see what a philosophy’s content reflects back on the actions done in the name of the philosophy by adherents.

Taoism leans towards government inaction - or non-doing one could say ironically - so it is not appealing to governments. When Jesus did his render unto Caesar thingie PLUS the turn the other cheek and several other interlocking aspects of Christianity, we suddenly had a Judaism which governments could love. A focus on the afterlife and admonishment to accept the bad behavior of others AND pay taxes and you have an ideal religion for a government.

Obviously, the OP was poorly written … for that I apologize.

OTH it wasn’t written for a scholarly audience … I would have to consider myself a scholar to write such an article … a scholar I am not.

Having said that …

"As a consequence, “take-no-action” in the distorted sense of the term is somewhat rooted as an element in the psychology of some Chinese people. Hence they tend to be rather tolerant of and shrink from difficulties, hardships, rebuffs, failures, challenges, and even foreign invasions. That is the main reason why Lu Xun, China’s leading 20th century writer, severely attacked the doctrines of Lao Zi and Zuang Zi by labeling them as poisonous doses prescribed for passive and defensive “patients”

Page 90 … The Classic of the Dao A New Investigation

I’ve read the above book many times and I still don’t see the “Dao de Jing” as “political writings of Lao Tzu” … seems yet another instance of individuals see what they want/choose to see.

Perhaps the “Judaism which governments could love” you mentioned was simply a delectable ploy to keep Judaism alive in the absence of political support … albeit in the shadows of Christianity as you also inferred.

History repeatedly reminds us religion without political support goes the way of the dodo bird.

Whoa horsee … whoa … whoa … whooo! :slight_smile:

Just because all experts agree … all intellectuals … all INTELLECTUALS from among the intellectuals … the crème de la crème of intellectuals … doesn’t make it true. This rather small community of persons could well be victims of the phenomenon known as group think.

Far be it that a peasant intellect like mine should dare to challenge such a formidable group … reminds me of Copernicus and Galileo.

But you say Copernicus and Galileo were renowned scientists … this peasant intellect believes even the crème de la crème of todays’ scientific community agrees that science doesn’t have all the answers.

I posted earlier that I don’t see Lao Tsu’s writings as political in nature … I didn’t share what I do see them as.

After reading … many times … Lao Tzu’s poem as translated and elucidated by Wang Keping in his book “The Classic of the Dao A New Investigation” I drew the following conclusion … my perception only :slight_smile:

Lao Tsu’s poem is an eloquent rendition of the Bible … OT and NT combined … without the pollution, baggage, contradictions and gory stories … fact or fiction.

Lao Tzu’s poem is comprised of around 5,000 Chinese characters … only around 5,000.

Chinese characters in Lao Tzu’s time were pictographs … lending themselves to the axiom a picture is worth a thousand words.

Still only around 5,000 characters … evolving into all that Taoism has become … and may yet become.

One reads this often in ILP posts.

It’s basically the same as saying that there is no way to know what is true.

If a bunch of intelligent people who spend years studying a subject still don’t know what is true, when who can know?