Inner Sanctum
 Derek's Private Study

Wu Wei

February 22, 2005

Wu-wei isn't passive non-action as many believe. Instead, it is about acting without attachments, to focus on the action itself without any expectations of particular results. This results in the most appropriate action and nothing extra. Oftentimes the most appropriate action is to simply let things be - but not all the time.

Thus, far from being passive, Tao sages are capable of swift, effective, and minimally intrusive actions. Their general advice to refrain from interference is still a good one, because most people have this overwhelming tendency to meddle. We just have to be careful to not assume that the sages advocate doing nothing at all. What they advocate is to observe mindfully, and then take actions (if any) along the flow of events.

If a genuine Tao cultivator were to lead the nation, and the nation encounters hostility or even acts of war, the Tao leader would react the same way that a Judo master would against an aggressive, incoming attacker. The only difference is that instead of using arms and legs in hand-to-hand combat, the Tao leader would use soldiers in a conflict at the international level.

Although the scale is vastly different, the Tao of warfare remains exactly the same, and the principle of wu wei applies equally well. Whether the battle is between states or individuals, the Tao leader does not see the necessity to meet force with force. Instead, he or she would let the attacker gain false confidence, over-extend, and become unbalanced.

Of course this is easier said than done. It is no trivial task to become a Judo master, and the world has not yet seen a leader who can effectively and consistently utilize the Tao to resolve our most intractable global problems.