Tag Archives: effortless action

Daodejing Chapter 37: The Dao takes no action

Daodejing Chapter 37

「道常無為而無不為,侯王若能守之,萬物將自化;化而欲作,吾將鎮之以無名之樸。夫亦將無欲,無欲以靜,天下將自定。」
The Dao takes no action,
But leaves nothing undone.
If princes and kings are able to stay true to it,
All things will be transformed of their own accord.
If, during their transformation, desire should arise within them,
I will calm them down using the nameless uncarved block of wood.
This will free them of desire.
Being free of desire, they will be tranquil;
And the world will find peace of its own accord.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 37: The Dao takes no action

Daodejing Chapter 28: an uncarved block of wood

Daodejing Chapter 28

「知其雄,守其雌,為天下谿;為天下谿,常德不離,復歸於嬰兒。知其白,守其黑,為天下式。為天下式,常德不忒,復歸於無極。知其榮,守其辱,為天下谷。為天下谷,常德乃足,復歸於樸。樸散則為器,聖人用之,則為官長。故大制不割。」
Know the male,
But keep to the female.
Be a ravine to the world.
As a ravine to the world,
Constant virtue will never leave you,
And you will return to being an infant.
Know the bright,
But keep to the dark.
Be a model to the world.
As a model to the world,
Constant virtue will never be wanting,
And you will return to the limitless.
Know honor,
But keep to disgrace.
Be a valley to the world.
As a valley to the world,
Constant virtue will always be sufficient,
And you will return again to the uncarved block of wood.
When the uncarved block shatters, it is transformed into utensils.
The sage makes use of them,
And becomes the lord of all the officials.
Therefore, the deepest cut doesn’t sever.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 28: an uncarved block of wood

Daodejing Chapter 27: intuitive wisdom

Daodejing Chapter 27

「善行無轍跡,善言無瑕謫,善數不用籌策,善閉無關鍵而不可開,善結無繩約而不可解。是以聖人常善救人,故無棄人;常善救物,故無棄物。 是謂襲明。故善人者,不善人之師;不善人者,善人之資。不貴其師,不愛其資;雖智大迷,是謂要妙。」
An excellent driver leaves no tracks.
An excellent speaker makes no slips.
An excellent accountant uses no tallies.
An excellent gateman needs no bolts to secure a door,
But nobody can open it.
An excellent binder needs no knots,
But nobody can untie the binding.
This is why,
The sage excels at taking care of everyone;
So abandons no one.
The sage excels at taking care of everything;
So wastes nothing.
This is called intuitive wisdom.
Therefore, those who excel are the teachers of those who don’t;
Those who don’t excel provide object lessons for those who do to learn from.
If you don’t value your teachers,
If you don’t care for your object lessons,
No matter how knowledgeable you think you are,
You are greatly deluded.
Such is the essential truth.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 27: intuitive wisdom

Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to be whole

Daodejing Chapter 22

「曲則全,枉則直,窪則盈,敝則新,少則得,多則惑。是以聖人抱一為天下式,
不自見故明,不自是故彰,不自伐故有功,不自矜故長。古之所謂曲則全者,豈虛言哉?誠全而歸之。」
To yield is to be whole.
To bend is to be straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be exhausted is to be renewed.
To have little is to gain.
To have too much is to be troubled.
That is why the sage embraces the one and sets an example to the world.
He does not show off and therefore shines.
He does not promote himself and is therefore revered.
He does not boast and is therefore honored.
He does not seek glory and therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
Nobody in the world contends with him.
The ancient saying “to yield is to be whole” is indeed true.
When you are whole, all things will come to you.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to be whole

Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader

Daodejing Chapter 17

「太上,不知有之;其次,親而譽之;其次,畏之;其次,侮之;信不足焉,有不信焉。悠兮其貴言。功成、事遂,百姓皆謂:我自然。」
The best leader is one whose presence is unknown to his people;
The next best is one who is loved and praised;
The next is one who is feared;
The worst is one who is despised;
When a leader has no trust in his people,
The people have no trust in him.
The best leader reflects and chooses his words carefully.
When his objective is achieved and the work is done,
The people all say, “We did it ourselves.”
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader

Daodejing Chapter 10: Laozi throws down the gauntlet

「載營魄抱一,能無離乎?專氣致柔,能嬰兒乎?滌除玄覽,能無疵乎?愛國治民,能無為乎?天門開闔,能為雌乎?明白四達,能無知乎?生之蓄之,生而不有,為而不恃,長而不宰,是謂玄德。
Can you nurture your spirit and embrace oneness,
Without letting it go?
Can you concentrate your vital energy and reach a state of suppleness,
Like a new-born baby?
Can you polish and clean your mystery mirror,
So that you leave it untainted?
Can you love your country and care for your people,
With effortless action?
Can you play the role of the female,
Opening and closing the gates of Heaven?
Can you understand everything instinctively,
Without employing knowledge?
Bearing and nurturing;
Bearing without possessing;
Acting without taking credit;
Leading without dominating.
This is called mysterious virtue.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 10: Laozi throws down the gauntlet

Daodejing Chapter 3: leadership through effortless action

「不尚賢,使民不爭;不貴難得之貨,使民不為盜;不見可欲,使民心不亂;是以聖人之治,虛其心、實其腹、弱其志、強其骨。常使民無知無欲,使夫智者不敢為也。為無為,則無不治。」
Do not single out the gifted for praise,
To ensure that the people never contend;
Do not prize rare goods,
To ensure that the people never steal;
Do not display objects of desire,
To ensure that the people’s hearts will never be restless.
That’s why the sage rules his people by:
Emptying their minds;
But filling their stomachs;
Weakening their ambitions;
But strengthening their sinews.
Always keeping the people free from knowledge and desires,
To ensure that those with knowledge will never dare act.
By acting with effortless action,
There is nothing that he cannot govern.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 3: leadership through effortless action

Daodejing Chapter 2: effortless action

「天下皆知美之為美,斯惡已。皆知善之為善,斯不善已。故有無相生,難易相成,長短相形,高下相傾,音聲相和,前後相隨;是以聖人處無為之事,行不言之教,萬物作焉而不辭;生而不有,為而不恃,功成而弗居;夫唯弗居,是以不去。」
When the whole world knows to regard beauty as beauty, there is ugliness.
When the whole world knows to regard good as good, there is evil.
Thus, something and nothing nurture each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short give form to each other;
High and low depend on each other;
Note and sound harmonize each other;
Front and rear follow each other.
That’s why the sage:
Conducts his affairs with effortless action;
Spreads his teaching without words;
Lets all things unfold without initiating them;
Lets them grow without claiming possession of them;
Gets things done without expecting any gratitude;
Achieves his goals without claiming any credit.
It is precisely because he does not claim any credit,
That it stays with him forever.

The Dao doesn’t place any arbitrary labels on anything. It draws no false distinctions between beauty and ugliness and good and evil. It simply allows everything to unfold, without ever attempting to intervene, in the knowledge that opposing natural forces will remain in balance. Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 2: effortless action

Confucius on effortless action

子曰:「無為而治者,其舜也與!夫何為哉?恭己正南面而已矣。」
Confucius said: “If there was a ruler who achieved order through effortless action it was Shun, wasn’t it? How did he do it? He composed himself with reverence and sat facing south. That was all.”

Effortless action (無為/wúwéi) is a term much more closely identified with Daoist teaching than Confucius, which is hardly surprising given that this is the only time it appears in the Analects. Continue reading Confucius on effortless action