Taoism > The Basics

What is Wu-Wei (nondoing)?

Wu-Wei - translated nonaction, inaction or nondoing - is one of the most important Taoist concepts. As one of the features of the Tao - the creator and sustainer of everything in the Universe – wu-wei means the actionless of Heaven, like in the following abstract from Tao-te ching:

    The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do. (Legge, chap. 37)

Regarding the human behavior, nondoing refers to not forcing the things on their way, or to the action without effort. In the terms of Alan Watts, wu-wei is "what we mean by going with the grain, rolling with the punch..." (Tao: The Watercourse Way, Pantheon Books, 1973.)

aikido and wu-wei picture
Aikido is a living illustration of the nondoing concept. The practitioner is moving along with his opponent instead of resisting his attacks

To conclude with, nondoing is a pragmatic concept inspired by the Tao itself, that leads to a way of life proposed both to Taoist sages and rulers.

Further Resources:

A paper dealing with nondoing was published in our paperstore section. Click here to learn more.

Nondoing and its connection with other basic Taoist concepts are further explained in our courses: Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching and initiation into Taoism, level 1 and 3.


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