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Don’t Force Anything – Alan Watts Wu Wei

Don’t Force Anything – Alan Watts Wu Wei


There is a principle called Wu Wei. Wu means non or not, no, negation. Wei has a combination of meanings. It can mean action, making, but the best translation I have found for it is forcing. And so Wu Wei is the principle of not forcing in anything that you do. Now we know when we watch any performance of an artist, be it a dancer or an actor, or a musician, we know immediately when the performance is forced. And we say it doesn’t ring true, it’s too artificial, it doesn’t seem to be natural. Many people, who study the Taoist doctrines think that Wu Wei means do nothing. In the sense of laissez-faire, be lazy, always be passive. It doesn’t mean that. There is a time for action. When you study Judo, you use muscle only at the right moment. When your opponent is hopelessly overextended and off balance, and you add a little muscle to it and you throw him across the room. But only then. You never use muscle at the wrong moment. For Shakespeare knew perfectly well- “there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at it’s flood, leads on to fortune.” And so, Wu Wei is based on knowledge of the tide. The drift of things. Get with it. Wu Wei is the art of sailing, rather than the art of rowing. So, if you say now, one of the most famous sayings of in the Lao Tzu book is “superior virtue has no intention to be virtuous. And thus, is virtuous. Inferior virtue cannot let go of virtuosity, and thus is not virtue.” So one could also say, the real Wu Wei, is not intentionally Wu Wei, and so is Wu Wei. But inferior Wu Wei, so tries to be Wu Wei, that it isn’t. In other words, this is saying, Wu Wei is not a matter of cultivated passivity. Or even of cultivated spontaneity. Because there are people, who think that they are released. That they have realised that they are the Dao, as all of us in fact are. Or that you are, to put it in Vedanta terms, every one of us is the Brahman. The eternal self of the Universe, beyond all description or classification or thought. You have to be able to realise, that you don’t know what you really want to do, until you are very quiet.

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