• Form
    5
    "Therefore the Master
    can act without doing anything
    and teach without saying a word."

    What does it mean to act without doing anything? And how does he teach without saying a word?

    If teaching without saying a word implies teaching through action, what is there to teach if he doesn't do anything?
  • DingoJones
    401


    It depends on what proceeds “therefore”. What is the proceeding verse in which the “therefore” is premissed?
  • Naiveman
    7
    Maybe it just implies that every action has meaning
  • Josh Alfred
    39
    That is what is called Non-Doing in Taoism. In chinese it is called Wu-Wei. I did a brief part on it in the following lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOD21h2_5vw&t=71s

    Silence is often the answer, as any arrogant fool knows.
  • BrianW
    640
    "Therefore the Master
    can act without doing anything
    and teach without saying a word."

    What does it mean to act without doing anything? And how does he teach without saying a word?
    Form

    I think it is a commentary on the perception of the absolute (the great Tao) from the perspective of relativity.

    By master is meant one who has cognized the great Tao. Cognize here means to know or understand something as a part of one's consciousness (not just a mental perception). Therefore, the master is one who is one with the great Tao. And just as the great Tao contains everything within it so also the master replicates such activity in consciousness. That is, the master is one with everything too. Because of this, the master cannot say one or a few words, and cannot do one or a few activities because to represent everything the master has to say and do everything, otherwise there would be limitation and, consequently, a kind of bias. So, just as the great Tao (reality or God) acts in all of us and in everything through nature but it itself remains unchanged, so also the master acts. Non-doing is that activity (transformation or change) which results in sameness (absolute unity and harmony). Such a state of unity is often spoken of as attaining the silence or stillness and it seems like non-action (also used in the Bhagavad Gita) to those immersed in relativity.

    For example, in analogy though somewhat deficient in its explanation, even though we are moving in space around the sun and the solar system is moving in space within the galaxy,... we are not aware of such motion from our earthly perspective. But we know of such movement from its influences on us and our environment. So also we know a master acts from the influence of those non-actions (unapparent actions).
  • DiegoT
    313
    I like the last analogy with the celestial bodies, is very useful
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1k


    Asalaam Alaikum.

    not to act is itself still technically an action. Its a choice, and requires patience and an exercising of the will to restrain oneself.

    Sometimes a moment arises, and people are usually worked up into a chaotic and loud mess, reacting emotionally to what happens and talking a lot, often causing more problems by doing so when they see themselves as trying to resolve the issue. The truth is, they often make it worse.

    If the teacher however acts contrary to this, and does what is not common, that is, not to act or to say anything, but to stay calm, quiet and composed, this is itself a way of being in the world. A way of acting; that is, calmly, with patience.

    Someone who is more likely to act chaotically and say a lot in such a situation might look at the teacher and see him as 'not acting', and 'saying nothing'; however, if the student is paying attention, there is a lot to learn from observing someone who acts by not acting; and teaches without talking. To be patient, and to be silent, can often be a very wise thing to do.

    Especially in a world where people talk too much. And act impatiently without thinking.

    May Allah guide us finite fools to the straight path, and grant us wisdom. Nice quote. Thank you for sharing it with us.
  • DiegoT
    313
    When you bring together the need to move fast to stay alive with the mechanics of fluids, a form called vesica piscis tends to arise. Vesica Piscis is a sacred shape, it´s the conjunction of the one and its twin reflection. And it is really a number, but a number in the Pythagoric sense: a rhythm or invisible vibration. The visual experience of these animals is just a sensorial manifestation of what is happening on a deeper level, which is the conjunctio or gradual harmonization between the specific rhythm we call animal life with the specific rhythm of fluid matter, either in form, cycles, movement... Fish, birds, flying fish and swimming birds, dolphins and bats.
    Flying+Fish+-+Flying+Animal2.jpg

    So what a Master who knows wu wei can do, is realizing that he too is a Pythagoric rhythm that is being mixed with other rhythms; when he focuses in allowing his body and mind align with the natural underlying "mathematical operation" in course, he can manifest the easiest action, the one that takes less effort, like driving without leaving the smooth, straight road and invading the stony field. He´s not moving; is the whole universe that is moving, and he with it.
  • Valentinus
    251

    The book does not say the Master never does anything; He does not do what is happening anyway.
    So the issue is about replacement of resources.

    If "I", (taken for a brief moment as someone who could show you something you do not know that "I" see you do not know) taught you something as if it came from me when it is only available to you through your own efforts, then you will never learn what "I" am doing. Now staying near a resource that keeps knowingly deflecting your attempts to learn on another basis is an "action" when compared to refusing to not being around at all.

    I hope that doesn't help. :cool:
  • Form
    5

    "The softest thing in the universe
    Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
    That without substance can enter where there is no room.
    Hence I know the value of non-action." ...

    and what follows is the one I mentioned. I think I understand it now. It is only suited for particular situations. I had the wrong assumption that it was a sort of quote that leads to some other grand objective truth.


    I haven't got a clue in what you're saying


    Replacement of resources ? . What resources are we referring to?
    "taken for a brief moment as someone who could show you something you do not know that "I" see you do not know" I don't understand this confusing sentence so I have to ask you to put it in simple terms. It is confusing and contradicting. I assume if you truly understand what you're saying, it would require no effort to put it in simple terms. Why would "I" (the one you are referring to as you) never learn what you are doing? Do you suggest that information is only available through the effort of "I"? And any information learned from you is only information learned from "I".
  • Valentinus
    251
    Do you suggest that information is only available through the effort of "I"? And any information learned from you is only information learned from "I".Form

    On the contrary. The emphasis in the text is that what is happening is happening to everybody at the same time. The deflection from being an author of special knowledge is not an argument that the teacher is useless in the situation.

    I can show you how to plane wood or knit a sweater. The form of education being presented presumes something else than the teacher is at work when you learn those skills. You may discover the teacher is wrong about a lot of things when you are the art. The teacher went through the same process.

    How does one start to talk about this other instructor?
  • Form
    5
    The form of education being presented presumes something else than the teacher is at work when you learn those skillsValentinus

    This implies we have innate knowledge, and that we are not learning but in fact remembering. Is that right?
  • TheMadFool
    2.7k
    "Therefore the Master
    can act without doing anything
    and teach without saying a word."
    Form

    I guess it's some form of passivity that the Tao is referring to. To not do and yet do. To speak not and yet teach. Self-realization is what this is pointing to. The master is a mirror and does nothing but serve to reflect the student's own thoughts; through which the student must see the light and become one with the Tao.

    I don't think this is just a technique of teaching someone. Passiveness is foundational to the Tao. I don't know why though.
  • BrianW
    640
    Passiveness is foundational to the Tao. I don't know why though.TheMadFool

    Please allow me to share my thoughts on this, it is a subject I'm very fond of.

    It is not necessarily a passiveness because in terms of focus, concentration, scope and application of intelligence, etc, for example, as shown in meditation and other yoga practices, the activities can be very intense. But in terms of interaction with others, the idea is to avoid unnecessary influence or going to excesses.

    3:21. - What the best one is doing, the others are doing as well: people follow such an example.
    3:22. - There is nothing, O Partha, in the three worlds that I am required to do or that I have not achieved! Yet, I am constantly engaged in action.
    3:23. - For, if I had not been always acting, O Partha, then people everywhere would follow My example!
    3:24. - The world would be destroyed if I had ceased to act!
    (From the Bhagavad Gita.)
    - This shows something about the active (constant) nature of non-action.

    3:26. The wise one should not confuse unwise people attached to earthly activity! The wise one should try to bring such activity into harmony with Me.
    (From the Bhagavad Gita.)
    - This reflects on the nature of the activity, subtle and non-conflicting.
    (I like to include other sources of spiritual info especially the Bhagavad Gita.)

    10. ...(The Tao) produces (all things) and nourishes them; it produces
    them and does not claim them as its own; it does all, and yet does not
    boast of it; it presides over all, and yet does not control them.
    This is what is called 'The mysterious Quality' (of the Tao).
    (From The Tao Te Ching.)

    34. - All-pervading is the Great Tao! It may be found on the left hand and on the right.
    All things depend on it for their production, which it gives to them, not one refusing obedience to it. When its work is accomplished, it does not claim the name of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment, and makes no assumption of being their lord;--it may be named in the smallest things. All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is IT which presides over their doing so; it may be named in the greatest things.
    Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
    (From The Tao Te Ching.)
  • TheMadFool
    2.7k
    I still think Taoism is more about passive acceptance rather than active doing. Why else the emphasis on, somebody was saying, Wu-Wei? The negation of the active principle or moving force is a cornerstone of the philosophy.

    Perhaps, as you say, a balance of opposites is being entertained (yin-yang). If there's such a thing as human nature then we all know how forceful we are. We want to achieve, we want to succeed, we want to win, etc. It's likely that the Tao cautions against such extremes.

    Yet, couldn't we ask that the Tao itself, if it is the source of all things, made us to be so and wouldn't it be against the Tao if we were to do anything different?
  • Tzeentch
    173
    Taoism teaches one to bring oneself into harmony with the natural order of things. Sometimes this corresponds to doing nothing at all, and quieting the mind.

    Do you know that feeling of not knowing what to do, even though your mind is telling you there are many things you could be doing? A Taoist might say that at that moment one should give into the feeling of having nothing to do.

    This also ties into the idea that Taoists do not like to force matters, and instead prefer to let matters present themselves naturally. For example, someone may have the ambition to study a certain subject. However, every time the person tries to study this subject it costs him a lot of effort. He cannot remember the material, he cannot make the connections, he becomes frustrated etc. For a Taoist this may be an indication that the person is acting against the natural harmony of things. If we assume that the person is intelligent enough to learn the material, a Taoist may advise him to put the book down momentarily and (ideally) wait for a natural urge to pick it back up.

    While Taoists accept that there is a natural harmony to things and that it is in one's best interests to adhere to this harmony, it doesn't advocate to be passive in general. Whether you are active or passive can correspond with a wide variety of things, ranging from time of day to seasons to one's age, personality, ailments, etc.

    How one follows the Tao is quite personal, but the key is never to go against one's own nature and force things to be in a way they are not 'meant to be'. Another example would be a person who has a busy job, even though he is not the sort of person that can handle stress very well. It is likely that his nature has been telling him he's not on the right path, but external pressures or conditioning have forced him into it. Maybe his parents wanted him to take over a family business, or he has been told from infancy that he should be ambitious and pursue material wealth. This disregard of one's own nature can ultimately result physical and psychological problems.
  • DiegoT
    313
    Passiveness in Taoism does not mean to be at rest, or quiet. It´s a different meaning.

    Non-action action in real example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jXXWBt5URw
  • Pattern-chaser
    720
    "Therefore the Master
    can act without doing anything
    and teach without saying a word."

    What does it mean to act without doing anything? And how does he teach without saying a word?
    Form

    IME, the best way for a Westerner to understand wu wei is to refer to any of Alan Watts' lectures on the subject. He explains it better than anyone I have come across. HTH.
  • BrianW
    640
    If there's such a thing as human nature then we all know how forceful we are. We want to achieve, we want to succeed, we want to win, etc. It's likely that the Tao cautions against such extremes.TheMadFool

    What do we want to achieve, to succeed at, to win? The great Tao teaches what we must direct our activities so that we achieve, succeed and win that which is true. The great Tao teaches humans against achievements, success and winning that are against others (the losers). It teaches that we can achieve, succeed and win for all, ourselves and all others collectively and comprehensively. It teaches that such endeavours are subtle, harmonious, unifying, freeing, and unknown to those who seek dominion or superiority over others.

    Yet, couldn't we ask that the Tao itself, if it is the source of all things, made us to be so and wouldn't it be against the Tao if we were to do anything different?TheMadFool

    The great Tao teaches that our nature is neither good nor evil because IT (the source which begot everything) is neither good nor evil. Here good and evil are opposites, one implying absence of the other. The great Tao is the source of everything, the source of the power which humans misuse, the source of the wisdom which is obscured by our greed and lusts, the source of the challenges and the victories over them. By free will, we (humans) have the power to achieve anything, so the better question would be, "why do we allow ourselves to suffer?"

    I think the source of misunderstanding is always perspective. I feel like we have the same message but are seeing it from different viewpoints.
  • DiegoT
    313
    This book was written by people who thought that their wisdom, that was not so dissimilar to some of the ideas held in the western end of Civilization in the same period, could not be transmitted through a book. It´s more a poetic exercise, that explores different examples of a literary figure called paradox. It´s not meant to be read like Christians read their Bible or Feminists read Simone de Beauvoir; it´s not an epiphany or an oracle from a higher power. I isn´t a manual or beginner´s guide to become a taoist either. It´s poetry, it´s an artistic object to be used for meditation. So to discuss what a particular fragment of the book means is misguided.
  • BrianW
    640


    Allow me to use the Buddha's teachings to show how perspective can be reconciled.

    (From Vinayapitaka, The Book of of the Discipline volume 1, Suttavibhanga)

    Then the brahmin of Veranja came up to the lord, and having come up he exchanged friendly greetings
    with the lord, and having exchanged friendly greetings he sat down to one side. As he was sitting to one side, the brahmin of Veranja spoke thus to the lord:

    I have heard, good Gotama, that the recluse Gotama does not greet brahmins who are worn, old, stricken in years, who have lived their span and are at the close of their life; nor does he stand up or ask them to sit down. Likewise, good Gotama, that the revered Gotama does not greet brahmins who are worn, old, stricken in years, who have lived their span and are at the close of their life; nor does he greet them or stand up or ask them to sit down. Now this, good Gotama, this is not respectful,
    said the brahmin.

    Brahmin, I do not see him in the world of devas including the Maras, including the Brahmas, including recluses and brahmins, of creatures including devas and mankind, whom I should greet or rise up for or to whom I should offer a seat. For, brahmin, whom a tathagata should greet or rise up for or offer a seat to, his head would split asunder,
    said Gotama.

    The revered Gotama is without the quality of taste,
    he (the brahmin) said.

    There is indeed, brahmin, a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama is without the quality of taste. For, brahmin, tastes for forms, tastes for sounds, tastes for scents, tastes for savours, tastes for tangible objects — these have been destroyed by the tathagata, cut off at the root like a palm-tree, they are so utterly done away with that they are not able to come into future existence. This, brahmin, is a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama is without the quality of taste. But surely you did not mean that,
    he (Gotama) said.

    The revered Gotama is without enjoyment,
    he (the brahmin) said.

    There is indeed, brahmin, a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama is without enjoyment. For, brahmin, enjoyments of forms, enjoyments of sounds, enjoyments of scents, enjoyments of savours, enjoyments of tangible objects — these have been destroyed by the tathagata, cut off at the root like a palm-tree, they are so utterly done away with that they are not able to come into future existence. This, brahmin, is a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama is without enjoyment. But surely you did not mean that,
    he (Gotama) said.

    The revered Gotama professes the doctrine of non-action,
    he (the brahmin) said.

    There is indeed, brahmin, a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of non-action. For I, brahmin, teach the non-doing of offences of body, speech and thought. I teach the non-doing of manifold evil and wrong states. This indeed, brahmin, is a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of non-action. But surely you did not mean that,
    he (Gotama) said.

    The revered Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation,
    he (the brahmin) said.

    There is indeed, brahmin, a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation. For I, brahmin, speak of the annihilation of passion, of hatred and of confusion; I speak of the annihilation of manifold evil and wrong states. This indeed, brahmin, is a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation. But surely you did not mean that.


    The chapter goes on to give a few more examples but, that is what I get from our discussion, that, we know what is significant but we're approaching it from different perspectives.
  • Pair o'Ducks
    6


    It´s poetry, it´s an artistic object to be used for meditation. So to discuss what a particular fragment of the book means is misguided.DiegoT

    I strongly disagree. The interpretation by the spectator is a vital aspect of every art form, regardless of whether the artist's intention was to deliver concrete instructions, more abstract food for thought or simple entertainment. Are we misguided in debating the interpretation of poems, or music, or cinema?

    As regards the topic: wish I could chip in on Taoism, but my knowledge is sadly lacking in that department.
  • Valentinus
    251
    This implies we have innate knowledge, and that we are not learning but in fact remembering. Is that right?Form

    Zhuangzi describes it quite differently:

    His cook was cutting up an ox for the ruler Wen Hui. Whenever he applied his hand, leaned forward with his shoulder, planted his foot, and employed the pressure of his knee, in the audible ripping off of the skin, and slicing operation of the knife, the sounds were all in regular cadence. Movements and sounds proceeded as in the dance of 'the Mulberry Forest' and the blended notes of the King Shou.' The ruler said, 'Ah! Admirable! That your art should have become so perfect!' (Having finished his operation), the cook laid down his knife, and replied to the remark, 'What your servant loves is the method of the Dao, something in advance of any art. When I first began to cut up an ox, I saw nothing but the (entire) carcase. After three years I ceased to see it as a whole. Now I deal with it in a spirit-like manner, and do not look at it with my eyes. The use of my senses is discarded, and my spirit acts as it wills. Observing the natural lines, (my knife) slips through the great crevices and slides through the great cavities, taking advantage of the facilities thus presented. My art avoids the membranous ligatures, and much more the great bones. A good cook changes his knife every year; (it may have been injured) in cutting - an ordinary cook changes his every month - (it may have been) broken. Now my knife has been in use for nineteen years; it has cut up several thousand oxen, and yet its edge is as sharp as if it had newly come from the whetstone. There are the interstices of the joints, and the edge of the knife has no (appreciable) thickness; when that which is so thin enters where the interstice is, how easily it moves along! The blade has more than room enough. Nevertheless, whenever I come to a complicated joint, and see that there will be some difficulty, I proceed anxiously and with caution, not allowing my eyes to wander from the place, and moving my hand slowly. Then by a very slight movement of the knife, the part is quickly separated, and drops like (a clod of) earth to the ground. Then standing up with the knife in my hand, I look all round, and in a leisurely manner, with an air of satisfaction, wipe it clean, and put it in its sheath.' The ruler Wen Hui said, 'Excellent! I have heard the words of my cook, and learned from them the nourishment of (our) life.'
    Translated by James Legge

    The emphasis on following the "natural lines" means the artist is moving outside of oneself as with a dance partner. The partner is "natural" but learning the dance is not a matter of simple intuition. Wu Wei is counter intuitive in regards to responses to resistance and conflict. Sun Tzu's Art of War echoes the Tao Te Ching by noting the skillful avoids conflict by responding to the "smallest of its beginnings" without effort. The need to develop tactics and techniques comes from failing to follow the Tao. But even in failing, one can still keep trying to follow. The adherence leads to better outcomes. We have to unlearn unhelpful reactions on the job. As the Tao Te Ching puts it:

    36
    WHAT is in the end to be shrunken,
    Begins by being first stretched out.
    What is in the end to be weakened,
    Begins by being first made strong.
    What is in the end to be thrown down,
    Begins by being first set on high.
    What is in the end to be despoiled,
    Begins by being first richly endowed.

    Herein is the subtle wisdom of life:
    The soft and weak overcomes the hard and strong.

    Just as the fish must not leave the deeps,
    So the ruler must not display his weapons.

    Translated by John C.H. Wu
  • Form
    5
    Passiveness in Taoism does not mean to be at rest, or quiet. It´s a different meaning.

    Non-action action in real example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jXXWBt5URw
    DiegoT

    Explain why it is a real example to you. What are your thoughts on this video?

    What I get from this statement is that, you are implying that "Non-action action" means influencing through the arts of beauty and music. Or something like that.

    By all means, what is passiveness ?
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