The Politicization of the Dao
The Way of Wuwei


Dragon (about to eat the butterfly to its right) Animated butterfly
 
meditator inhaling the "power" (de) of the universe/Dao
 
When carrying on your head your perplexed bodily soul
Can you embrace in your arms the One and not let go?
Person embracing a yin-yang symbol
In concentrating your breath
Can you become as supple
as a babe?
bamboo page divider
Can you polish your mysterious mirror

And leave no blemish?
Bronze Mirror
Can you love the people and govern the state
Without resorting to action?
bamboo page divider
When the gates of heaven open and shut

Are you capable of keeping to the role of the female?
Enso (empty Zen circle painting) representing the Gate of Heaven
When your discernment penetrates the four quarters
Are you capable of not knowing anything?
bamboo page divider
 
It gives them life and rears them.
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
Mysterious Virtue: Power of the Dao exploding into the universe
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
 
Such is called the mysterious virtue [or “mysterious power” (玄德)].
bamboo page divider
(Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 14; cf. SCT, 82)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Daoist Sage Xu You
Sociopolitical Solution #1
Zhuangzi’s
“Individualist” Perspective
 
 
The Confucian Sage Emperor Yao
 
Yao wanted to cede the empire to Xu You. “When the sun and moon have already come out,” he said, “it’s a waste of light to go on burning the torches, isn’t it? When the seasonal rains are falling, it’s a waste of water to go on irrigating the fields. If you took the throne, the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I can see are my failings.  I beg to turn over the world to you.”
 
Xu You said, “You govern the world [but] the world is already well governed. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name is only the guest of reality will I be doing it so I can play the part of a guest? ...
 
Chinese funeral with food offerings for the deceased
 
Go home and forget the matter, my lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world! Though the cook may not run his kitchen properly, the priest and the impersonator of the dead at the sacrifice do not leap over the wine casks and sacrificial stands and go take his place.” (The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 32-3 [Zhuangzi, Chapter 1]; word change in square brackets, transliterations changed to pinyin)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Jian Wu said to Lian Shu, “I was listening to Jie Yu’s talk  big and nothing to back it up, going on and on without turning around. I was completely dumbfounded at his words  no more end than the Milky Way, wild and wide of the mark, never coming near human affairs!”
 
“What were his words like?” asked Lian Shu.
 
Daoist Sage: Lu Dongbin
 
“He said that there is a Holy Man living on faraway Gushe Mountain, with skin like ice or snow, and gentle and shy like a young girl. He doesn’t eat the five grains, but sucks the wind, drinks the dew, climbs up on the clouds and mist, rides a flying dragon, and wanders beyond the four seas. By concentrating his spirit, he can protect creatures from sickness and plague and make the harvest plentiful. I thought this was all insane and refused to believe it.”
 
Gushe Mountain
 
“You would!” said Lian Shu. “We can’t expect a blind man to appreciate beautiful patterns or a deaf man to listen to bells and drums. And blindness and deafness are not confined to the body alone  the understanding has them too, as your words just now have shown. This man, with this virtue of his, is about to embrace the ten thousand things and roll them into one. Though the age calls for reform, why should he wear himself out over the affairs of the world? There is nothing that can harm this man. Though flood waters pile up to the sky, he will not drown. Though a great drought melts metal and stone and scorches the earth and hills, he will not be burned. From his dust and leavings alone you could mold a Yao or a Shun! Why should he consent to bother about mere things?” (The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 33-4 [Zhuangzi, Chapter 1]; transliterations changed to pinyin)

Chinese charactes for "non-purposive action" (wuwei) on a hanging scroll
Sociopolitical Solution #2
The Advantage of Doing Nothing
 
 
The Grand Canyon
The Power of Softness
Daodejing, Chapter 43
What is softest in the world
Overcomes what is hardest in the world.
No-thing penetrates where there is no space.
Thus I know that in doing nothing there is advantage.
The wordless teaching and the advantage of doing nothing [wuwei]
there are few in the world who understand them.
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Daoist meditator "sitting and forgetting"
 
Devotion to learning means increasing day by day;
Devotion to the Way means decreasing day by day.
Decreasing, and decreasing still more,
one arrives at doing nothing.

And in doing nothing, nothing remains undone.
If one would take control of all-under-Heaven
one should always refrain from activity;

One who is engaged in activity
is unworthy to control all-under-Heaven.
bamboo page divider
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89-90)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Uncarved Wood
The Way is constant: by doing nothing,
nothing is left undone [wu wei er wu bu wei].
If lords and kings can hold to it, all things will,
of themselves, be transformed.
If, as they are transformed, desires arise,
I suppress them by means of
the nameless uncarved wood.
Carved Wood
From the nameless uncarved wood
comes absence of desire,
Through not desiring one becomes tranquil,
And the empire, of itself, becomes settled.

(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 87)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Shen Nong (the "Divine Farmer")
Sociopolitical Solution #3
The “Primitivist” Perspective

 
Kung Fu Panda eating noodles (empty mind, full belly)
Do not exalt the worthy,
and the people will not compete.
Do not value goods that are hard to come by,
and the people will not steal.
Do not display objects of desire,
and the people’s minds will not be disturbed.
Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds,
fills their bellies,
weakens their ambitions,
strengthens their bones.
He always causes the people to be
without knowledge, without desire,

And causes the wise ones [i.e. “those who know”]
not to dare to act.

He does nothing (wuwei),
and there is nothing that is not brought to order.
(
Sources of Chinese Tradition, 80-81)
 
Winnie the Pooh flying a (Daoist) kite (from the Dao of Pooh)
Do away with sageliness, discard knowledge,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Do away with humaneness, discard rightness,
And the people will once more be filial and loving,
Dispense with cleverness, discard profit,
And there will be no more bandits and thieves.
These three, to be regarded as ornaments, are insufficient.
Uncarved Wood
Therefore let the people have something to cling to:
Manifest plainness,
Embrace uncarved wood,
Diminish selfishness,
Reduce desires.
Bamboo page divider
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 84-5)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)
Ideal "Primitivist" state (composed of small, isolated villages)
The Ideal Primitivist State
Daodejing, Chapter 80
 
Let the state be small and the people be few.
There may be ten or even a hundred times as many implements,
But they should not be used.
Let the people, regarding death as a weighty matter,
not travel far.

Though they have boats and carriages, none shall ride in them.
Though they have armor and weapons, none shall display them.
Let the people return once more to the use of knotted ropes.
Let them savor their food and find beauty in their clothing,
peace in their dwellings, and joy in their customs.

Though neighboring states are within sight of one another,
And the sound of cocks and dogs is audible from one to the other,
People will reach old age and death and yet not visit one another.
(
Sources of Chinese Tradition, 94)
Taiji (yin-yang) symbol being engulfed by a dragon (symbol of imperial power)