The heart of Eastern wisdom teaches you to be naturally in the world without rejecting it. Many spiritual paths condemn and judge the world, as if they were enabling one to move beyond desires. But many fail to realize that they are desiring not to desire (a point that the Buddha understood).
Lao-tzu saw all these pursuits of desiring not to desire as nothing more than spiritual pride and a moving away from our human nature. The Taoist perspective is to leave no stone unturned in an embrace of life and yourself, as exemplified by Chuang-tzu. He dived headfirst into life, bringing his internal harmony into the world and time in which he lived. In the introduction to The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, Burton Watson states:
"In Chuang Tzu’s view, the man who has freed himself from conventional standards of judgment can no longer be made to suffer, for he refuses to recognize poverty as any less desirable then affluence, to recognize death as any less desirable than life. He does not in any literal sense withdraw and hide from the world—to do so would show that he still passed judgment upon the world. He remains within society but refrains from acting out of the motives that lead ordinary men to struggle for wealth, fame, success, or safety. He maintains a state that Chuang Tzu refers to as wu-wei, or inaction, meaning by this term not a forced quietude, but a course of action that is not founded upon any purposeful motives of gain or striving. In such a state, all human actions become as spontaneous and mindless as those of the natural world. Man becomes one with Nature, or Heaven, as Chuang Tzu calls it, and merges himself with Tao, or the Way, the underlying unity that embraces man, Nature, and all that is in the universe.
"To describe this mindless, purposeless mode of life, Chuang Tzu turns most often to the analogy of the artist or craftsman. The skilled woodcarver, the skilled butcher, the skilled swimmer does not ponder or ratiocinate on the course of action he should take; his skill has become so much a part of him that he merely acts instinctively and spontaneously and, without knowing why, achieves success. Again, Chuang Tzu employs the metaphor of a totally free and purposeless journey, using the word yu (“to wander” or “a wandering”) to designate the way in which the enlightened man wanders through all of creation, enjoying its delights without ever becoming attached to any one part of it."
The Nature of the Universe and of the Human Heart
Chuang-tzu never once condemned the world. Instead he used his insightfully witty humor to shine a light on wu-wei, which the world has unceremoniously put away in the closet. The Way of Lao-tzu has nothing to do with transcending desires, as this would be spiritual pride. But he is also not saying one should become lazy or sloppy and succumb to desires.
What Lao-tzu is saying is that when we inquire not only into our own nature but also into the nature of the world, we will come into contact with the nature of the human heart, which is the nature of the universe, and that is love.
This love that is hidden within the heart of Lao-tzu’s Taoism is not a love that one discovers and keeps for oneself. It is a love that is shared because, in the Taoist philosophy of li, this love, which transcends any boundary, will bring harmony to the world piece by piece, or perhaps I should say “peace by peace.”
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The Way of Tao that an individual experiences brings this love into the world, and it inspires others, no matter how rigid their beliefs. This love, which all spiritual paths contend is the fruit of an enlightened soul, is not attainable if we do not accept ourselves and the world and gain a total comprehension of our inner and outer worlds.
The complete scope of Lao-tzu’s Taoism is hard to fathom, as each individual is unique. But we do know that it is one of the only spiritual paths that has no set doctrine, dogma, or formulas, and this gives it the lucidity to reach every aspect of our consciousness.
Lao-tzu’s Taoism acknowledges the shadow, especially in the sense that one discovers one’s intrinsic relationship to others and the world with no preconceived idea of how they should be, which allows for a great deal of transformation to occur and take us through our repressed pain.
Understanding the Total Picture
One of the primary purposes of the I Ching is to understand the total picture of our psychology, which is why Jung was so attracted by it. When we have worked sincerely within ourselves and made conscious and accepted everything about ourselves, then we have truly become human and are able to sympathize with the pain of others through our humble hearts.
Anything other than a true humble heart, in the eyes of Lao-tzu, would be catastrophic to the world. No relationship to another or to the world can be developed if we still own a personal agenda and have not embraced our pain.
Living Wu-Wei: Trusting and Accepting
Living wu-wei is the medicine for our ills in this world. Trusting and accepting ourselves and others is the remedy for building healthy, harmonious relationships, not only with one another, but also with the natural environment. An agendaless individual, working through the spiritual barriers within her own being, brings the wisdom of Tao into the world. In knowing ourselves, we can relate to other people and feel our integral connection not only to nature but also to the entire universe.
Any relationship we have with an individual, nature, or the cosmos can only be genuine and harmonious if we trust their intrinsic nature. Those who live wu-wei understand this best, because allowing life to be as it will brings equilibrium to the world, as one reflects the untouched purity, stillness, and aliveness of nature. Only when you understand that your real nature is wu-wei will you be able to have a relationship not only with yourself but with the entire universe in all of its glory.
©2018 by Jason Gregory. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Inner Traditions Intl.
Effortless Living: Wu-Wei and the Spontaneous State of Natural Harmony
by Jason Gregory
A guide for achieving an enlightened mind through the art of non-doing. Revealing wisdom utilized by renowned sages, artists, and athletes who have adapted “being in the zone” as a way of life, the author shows that wu-wei can yield a renewed sense of trust in many aspects of your daily life, making each day more effortless. As an avid wu-wei practitioner, he provides keen insight on how you, too, can experience the beauty of achieving an enlightened, effortless mind while reveling in the process of life’s unfolding.
About the Author
Jason Gregory is a teacher and international speaker specializing in the fields of Eastern and Western philosophy, comparative religion, metaphysics, and ancient cultures. He is the author of The Science and Practice of Humility and Enlightenment Now. Visit his website at www.jasongregory.org
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