What is Wu-Wei?
In the Tao Te Ching, wu-wei (translated nondoing) is one of the features of the Tao. But it is also a model of
conduct for the wise in the everyday life. Thus, in chapter 48 we read:
Aikido is a living illustration of the wu-wei concept. The practitioner is moving along with his opponent instead of resisting his attacks.
In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action (wu-wei) is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course. (Translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English).
It cannot be ruled by interfering.
Nondoing is thus the way of ruling things without interfering with their course. A
strange idea if we think of our modern leaders and their governments.
Perhaps the best explanation of this basic concept in Taoism comes from Alan Watts:
A water-course - another symbol of nondoing
...wu-wei, meaning not to force, refers to what we understand of one's acting accordingly to the nature, of one's moving in order to avoid a stroke, of one's
swimming downstream, sailing before the wind, rolling like the waves or one's bending in order to win. ("Tao: the Watercourse Way").
The well-known parable about the pine and the willow tree perfectly illustrates those said above. Being covered with snow, the pine falls down as it is rigid and resisting,
whereas the willow, being pliant, bends to the ground and this way, the snow falls down from it.
But wu-wei is not pure absence or refrain from interfering with things; it is also the
way of acting in accord with the very course of the things. In other words, the way of minimal resistance. This is a concept close to the Christian: Don't resist to the
Finaly, the practice of wu-wei
should lead one to the unification with the Tao, which the major goal of Taoism.