Wu-Weifarer's Daoist Quotes
Featuring quotes, excerpts, and poems in the tradition of  philosophical Daoism
My primordial nature has no liking for the life in the cities.

To be free from the noise I built a little thatched cottage.

Far away in the depth of the mountains.

Wandering here and there I carry no thought.

When spring comes I watch the birds;

In summer I bathe in the running stream;

In autumn I climb the highest peaks;

During the winter I am warming up in the sun.

Thus I enjoy the real flavor of the seasons...

-- Shih T'ao (17th century)
Wu wei is not so much a principle of utter passivity or "non-action" but the idea of a "natural," "purposeless," "playful," or "disinterested" mode of action set in distinction to the willful and socially structured "face work" emphasized within Confucian tradition.
-- N. J. Girardot,
Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism
Wu wei... literally means "no action," but not in the sense of sitting all day like a dead tree stump... rather it means avoiding action that is not spontaneous... eschewing artfully calculated action and every activity stemming from a profit motive.
-- John Blofield,
Chuang Tzu did not treat suffering as the major issue of life...as it was for Buddha...as it was for Jesus.  Buddha came to solve the problem of suffering, of which Jesus came to make a redemptive use.  For Chuang Tzu suffering is a mishandling of life; the problem of suffering is itself a mistake.  Suffering is not to be solved but to be let be, to dissolve of itself, as snow in the spring sun of our right living.  To live rightly is neither living redemptively (Jesus) nor living enlightenedly (Buddha), but living appropriately, that is, fittingly to the changing climate of things, now soaring, now roaming - and that is Chuang Tzu's central concern.  Myths in most civilizations usually have the heroes undergoing suffering so as to solve it and live "happily ever after," not before or during the story.  Myths...in Chuang Tzu's writing are themselves moving images of happiness amidst suffering, happiness that is as nonchalant as animals and trees.

The essence of suffering is violence, which includes (for Chuang Tzu) violence against oneself, such as "morality."  Chuang Tzu would say that violence originates in opposition, including opposition to one's natural tendencies, one's spontaneity.  The way to oppose suffering and violence, thus, is to "oppose opposition"...

In fact, whatever comes is recognized as "violence" only when we oppose it.  To deal with it we go along with it - this is the weapon that deals a death blow to violence.

Words can be born of and dwell in the situation; if we let them speak out from the bottom of our hearts, they will echo the situation.  And we follow their lead to go with the winds of this world... at home in the inevitables (what cannot be helped).  To follow oneself is to be spontaneous (what one cannot help but be).
-- Kuang-ming Wu,
The Butterfly as Companion
When one seeks to regulate something,
he is in fact going contrary to it.

Where he seeks to embellish something,
he is in fact harming it..

Nonaction does not mean being completely inert,
but rather that nothing is initiated from the ego-self.
Huai Nan Tzu, translated by Roger T. Ames
In the barest essentials of the simple life there is a residue of spiritual power, which is free from conceit and egotism.

The creative process of the universe is also the creative process of the poet, who has transformed his ego into self, and thus has become part of the universe.

The great self reflects things, but does not change them.
-- Chang Chung-yuan,
Creativity and Taoism
...what one looks for outside turns out to be present inside, but only to be discovered after a long detour of seeking externally, in all the wrong places... in a process of gradual reversal, the return of what moves forward in the shape of a circle, in which the end meets the initial point of departure.
-- Zhang Longxi, "Qian Zhongshu on Philosophical and Mystical Paradoxes in the
...according to Fukunaga's reading of the text [the Chuang Tzu], one can begin actually to reorganize one's consciousness.  This is done by first closely inspecting and examining the reasons why one remained in such error all these years, why the distorted views arose to begin with.  The source of all discrimination, it is found, lies in the tendency to split one's identity into many different "I"s by comparing oneself with others and by making deliberate choices... Any conscious ego-identity, according to Zhuangzi [Chuang Tzu], will always be one-sided.  It shifts continuously from one "I" to the next without any constancy...

Having understood this flaw in one's thinking, the fundamental error in one's conception of oneself and the world, one can now proceed to get rid of it.  The process that leads to spontaneity is called "forgetting": first one forgets living beings without, then one forgets mental classifications within.  Increasingly one merges one's mind with the Tao, the underlying flow of existence as such...
-- Livia Kohn,
Early Chinese Mysticism
There is nothing you can do about the world.
You can only follow what is natural in pushing the myriad things ahead.
There is no getting to the bottom of the changes they undergo.
You can only grasp the essential destination and lead them there.
Huainanzi, translated by D. C. Lau and Roger T. Ames
...internal conflict makes for an ontological rigidity of the self, which results in an obstinate blindness to things as they are...

...having been internally at odds with itself, the self was at odds with the world.  The self was divided against itself and could not help but be inflexible and irrelevant to reality...tossed from one extreme to another...

[Once] one is out of the trap of trying, to get in and out of the trap is an enjoyment.  One now plays with words, as one does with fire, without burns...

One acts only at an irresistible urge.  Therefore one experiences no "inner turmoil" and naturally ceases to meddle with things or with men, going after nothing, welcoming nothing...

For Chuang Tzu, to come back to one's nature is to come home to nature in general...

I owe it to myself to return myself to my root, to my pristine simplicity...
-- Kuang-ming Wu,
Chuang Tzu
For one to genuinely live a life in accordance with naturalness, it is necessary, on the one hand, to give up interfering with other people and things, and on the other hand, to prevent other people and things from disturbing or interfering with oneself... Actually, all human difficulties - with the exception of natural disasters such as flood and drought - basically result from the desire of some people to impose by force their virtue, ideals, values, interests, or beliefs upon others.  Regardless of whether or not these things being imposed upon others are good or bad, the attempt to impose them always results in disaster.

...Naturalness not only excludes the interference of external forces, but also excludes a sudden transformation resulting from any cause.

...Although things developed by natural means can encounter various problems, they are generally speaking seldom subject to large-scale disturbances or man-made disasters, whereas things contrived through the conscious effort of human beings are less stable: although they can expand quickly to encompass the globe, they can also fall apart in an instant.
-- Liu Xiaogan, "An Inquiry into the Core Value of Laozi's Philosophy"
Doing what they did with no ulterior motive, they accorded with dao; saying what they said with no ulterior motive, they were in communion with de; happy and easy with no sense of self-importance, what they gained was in harmony; though they had a myriad of different manifestations they yet accorded with each of these things in their various natures, their spirits resided in the tiniest tip of an autumn down, and yet were larger than the sum total of the cosmos.
Huainanzi, translated by D.C. Lau and Roger T. Ames              
As people grow up and engage in active life, oneness is lost.  The dualism of yin and yang then dominates human consciousness and the world.  As a result, everything people see happening around them is perceived as depending on the interaction of opposites... As yin and yang change into each other at their peak, so all opposites in the world alternate.  Whatever is yin can only maintain its yin-nature until it reaches its pinnacle.  Then it reverts back to yang, and vice versa.  For people's activities, this means that the straight forward pursuit of a goal does not always lead there.

...True people for [Zhuangzi] are those who have merged their thoughts and actions with the ever-changing transformations of the universe.   Once at one with the Tao, such people act from their innermost being; they no longer deliberate or think about their actions.  Free from all choice, they reflect the situation with perfect clarity and duly respond in the only possible and perfectly appropriate way.
-- Livia Kohn,
Early Chinese Mysticism
Wu...connotes the transcendent and unknowable aspect of the Dao... Wu therefore has a sense which is eminently positive: it is the absence of any determination.  On this occasion the Chinese, as Spinoza did, performed a reversal and showed that all determination (and therefore all affirmation) involves negation... Because it is "empty", it can "respond"... It is the receptivity of the Dao that guarantees its inexhaustible possibilities.
-- Isabelle Robinet, "The Diverse Interpretations of the
When we realize that there is the universal reservoir of ontological plenitude behind all things, then we realize that each actuality is as with its own seed-power to spring out as such.  And to realize this point is to be awakened to the likelihood that we are something other than ourselves dreaming of being ourselves.  This is the meaning of life, a self-referential irony of universal interdependence and interchange.  Difference - and - interchange is at work, both horizontally among various things, and vertically between actual ideals and their ground.  And this is what it means to play, for to be awakened to the meaning in life is to traverse all these models in life.

...Chuang Tzu shows us that we are awakened to an ever-present possibility of changing back and forth between the butterfly-world and the human-world.  Such play releases us from the fear of poverty and death.  On the death bed we praise the "creator"-force which prepares us for a new journey into new entities.

...Play... is itself its own purpose... A bird sings, and an ornithologist says it is for the sake of courtship and species propagation.  For the bird, however, to sing is to sing, for the bird is born to sing.  Come spring it sings, and the rest takes care of itself.
-- Kuang-ming Wu,
The Butterfly as Companion
When a person has the means to find it in himself,
Even under a tall tree or in an empty cave,
His real nature will be able to find satisfaction.

If he does not have the means to find it in himself,
Even if he has the empire as his personal possession
And the myriad people as his subjects,
This will not be sufficient to give his vitality substance.
Huainanzi, translated by D. C. Lau and Roger T. Ames
...we develop in such way that, in our venturing, in our learning and realization, desire becomes initially responded to and affirmed by us as absolute guide, only eventually to be negated as absolute but integrated into some larger directive power, namely, that provided by our sense of norms.  But this power also initially becomes affirmed as absolute guide, only eventually to be negated as absolute, and desire and the sense of norms are then both to be integrated into the larger whole of our being...

...we are meant to live and act for a while guided in this way [by desires; by norms], and to develop and evolve out of ourselves until eventually we gain the power, the potency, through which we outgrow such absolutization.  Then we can unlearn it and relearn about ourselves.

So far as we unwittingly arrest our own growth and fix ourselves
beyond its proper time in the absolutization of one or another element in ourselves, so far we hinder, even prevent, our nature evolving to become integrated in its richness as it was designed to be...we are human beings arrested in the growth of our own humanity and "childish" still...

One forceful way to characterize the difference between the two by-ways and the great way, is to speak of the former as involving a participation in active effort...whereas the latter involves..."non-action, non-doing."  The negation in the latter case is of those limitations and constraints which prevent activity from being fully adequately engaged in: in particular, the constraint to make activity conform to our "ego" or prove our "goodness," and thus the introduction into active effort of an assertiveness, and aggressiveness, that is divisive.  Non-action is not failure to take part in activity, but is such participation in activity as is not marred by these limitations and constraints, such participation as has been released into its own native human fullness.
--  Richard Gotshalk,
The Beginnings of Philosophy in China
Growth in life is growth in the perception of unsuspected connections, which often shock common sense.  Such shocks are expressed in ironies.  He who can connect ironically is a mature man.
-- Kuang-ming Wu,
The Butterfly as Companion
Hegel reflects on the dialectical interchanges and negations ultimately leading to a higher fusion.  Spanning two roads steers one on to a third, the "high road" so to speak... For the Zhuangzi, a dialectical system that leads to a "high road" (a cumulative calculus, totaling up in an absolute) would generate an alternate "low road" (say a universe of entropy, of nothing, of nihilism)... the useless.

...we can say that the
Zhuangzi's approach is not advocating a dialectic, a trialectic, or a quadralectic.  If pressed for coinage, then because Zhuangzi enjoys the ten thousand or myriad things, "myrialectic" (the art of conversing on each and every thing) might be forced to pay that debt.  The irony in the Zhuangzi might be more fruitfully compared to a post-modernist approach.  It presents a nonsystematic form of change, with a decentered, negated self, or multiple perspectives of various "selves," and a decentered sense of history. 
-- Chris Jochim, "Just Say No to 'No Self' in Zhuangzi"
While the action of assertion, man's common tendency, is preconceptual and rational, it cannot penetrate the hidden recesses of creativity.  The action of assertion is viewed from the externals of intellection, while the action of nonassertion [wu wei] is activated by the inner light.  The former action is limited and finite, the latter free and limitless.
-- Chang Chung-yuan,
Creativity and Taoism
We are never complete and our experience and situation are partial... Rather than searching for some center, we become effective in action - wise - by looking out and enlarging our perspective.  Indeed, life is a process of developing our perspective in conversation, creating and expanding ourselves by experimenting with others' experiences as well.

...It is important for Zhuangzi that each of these perspectives is valid according to the perspective from which it arises, or else it would not have arisen.

...another point: that there are many worlds other than the human world.

...This is where Daoism diverges from Confucianism in its most radical terms.  For Daoists, the human world is interwoven with other worlds that are entertained from other perspectives - trees, animals, rocks, and so on - these worlds add up to an ever expanding composite cosmos.
-- William A. Callahan, "Cook Ding's Life on the Whetstone"
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