Time Class Challenge – Wu Wei – March 9, 2015


beckoning softly
the garden’s invitation
wu wei

© G.s.k. ‘15


Wu Wei WuWei

This is one of the fundamental principles of Taoism and therefore Zen Buddhism which is a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism.  Literally it means non-doing, non-action … or  “the morality of no morality,” “the knowledge of no knowledge,” … of course it’s a paradox as are many of the Taoist principles …  here is an extract from a discussion on wu wei … and I’ll put the link HERE so that if you’re interested you may go and read the whole page.  The subject of wu wei is rather complicated in its simplicity and is very foreign indeed to our ways of organizing our life.  From the gentle art of calligraphy to the art of archery going through the famous tea ceremony … in fact all aspects of Zen art … wu wei is the goal … that is to do without doing … action in inaction:

    “It is significant that one finds the same paradox in other Asian traditions which maintain the nonduality of subject and object. Not surprisingly, it is most common in Chinese Buddhism, where Taoist influence is to be expected. However, that wei-wu-wei is a paradoxical synthesis of nonaction in action is more clearly recognized in Buddhism. Seng Chao maintained in the Chao Lun that action and nonaction are not exclusive: Things in action are at the same time always in nonaction; things in nonaction are always in action. [28] This claim is expounded in the first chapter, “On the Immutability of Things,” but the point is important enough to be repeated in chapter four, “Nirvana is Nameless”: “Through non-action, movement is always quiescent. Through action, everything is acted upon, means that quiescence is always in motion.” [29] One of the earliest Ch’an texts, the Hsin Hsin Ming of the third patriarch Seng-ts’an, states twice that the awakened mind transcends the duality of rest and nonrest, [30] echoing the argument of Nāgārjuna that both motion and rest are incomprehensible and hence unreal (śūnya). [31] Probably the best-known example, definitely not derived from Taoism, is found in a passage from the Bhagavadgītā which explicitly describes action which is yet no action:

He who in action sees inaction and action in inaction — he is wise among men, he is a yogin, and he has accomplished all his work.
Having abandoned attachment to the fruit of works, ever content, without any kind of dependence, he does nothing though he is ever engaged in work. (IV, 18, 20) [32]

The Sanskrit word for action, karman, suggests an interpretation of these verses which sees them as recommending action that does not bring karmic results. In answer to the Buddhist and Yogic emphasis on withdrawal from the world of social obligation, the Gītā claims that action too may lead to Krishna because no karman accrues if an act is performed “without attachment to the fruit of action.” “

This post is linked to Carpe Diem Haiku Kai – Time Glass Challenge

21 thoughts on “Time Class Challenge – Wu Wei – March 9, 2015

  1. You have surpassed (comme d’habitude) your offering in this prompt, cara. Brava, thank you and I must reblog this so others may read. I am trying to learn to detachment…I am always reminded of Siddhartha detaching from his son…I struggle with this but am trying.


    • I’m happy that you found the Wu Wei explanation helpful … it’s not quite detachment … but it is about detachment … I thought I’d try to give some background as I’d used it in the haiga. Thanks for reblogging!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, I did get that about Wu Wei but the last part of your explanation you talk about Gita and detachment. But action and inaction is something we westerners have to learn or unlearn:) brava, cara, I was happy to reblog.


  2. the explanation was very helpful
    thank you
    can’t quite wrap my head around wu wei
    your haiku is wonderful



  3. Don’t you love Hotei’s smile? Years ago, Carolyn put a note in my lunch bag: “Have a wu wei day, Baby.” I wore Hotei’s smile all day.
    BTW, we are off to Assisi for a month. If you are traveling south, let me know.


    • lol … a lovely story .. my sister who lives in Illinois always says Hotei … and I’m not sure if she knows what she’s saying but I find it lovely … our father was stationed in Japan way back when and he was always very Zen, it was only when I discovered Zen that I understood how much so 😉 I don’t think I’ll be travelling south for Easter … I’m not sure what I’m doing during that period, but Assisi is rather off the beaten path … a lovely citadel. I visited it years ago for a peace march, and I think it’s splendid! You’ll enjoy it very much.


  4. Another fascinating post! Like JazzBumpa, it will take some time for me to wrap my head around it. Reminds me of a book I read “way back when” as a tween. An elderly man marked his yard into one-foot squares then had the neighbor kid watch one square per day for an hour a day. Then the kid came to look forward to those hours. And he grew. But I suppose even that is action in a way.

    Much to learn here 🙂


    • Here when you speak of “action” what you’re speaking of is doing something for a specific reason … an example … a Zen master will say to a student .. what is the sound of one hand clapping … as long as he/she sits there trying to find an impressive answer the teacher rejects his response.

      So when you speak of action what you’re often talking about is motivation (and so you see why I replied as I did last week about “intentions”). Spontaneous non guided non goaled non egoistic action is one thing … premeditating action is another. And that’s one aspect of wu wei.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So the kiddo just sitting there for the joy of watching the grass, not expecting anything, just observing — is that action or non-action?

        [I may have to revisit this when my head isn’t pounding.]!!


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