The Pursuit of the Dao

Chapter 48 of the “Dao De Jing”

Consider this passage from Laozi’s Classic “The Dao De Jing”:

The follower of knowledge acquires as much as he can every day;
The follower of Tao loses as much as he can every day.

By attrition he reaches a state of inaction
Wherein he does nothing, but leaves nothing undone.

To conquer the World, do nothing;
If you must do something,
The World remains beyond conquest.

This very cryptic passage at first glance is difficult to understand.  However, when we look at with a Daoist world view we can find the hidden meaning.

First, Daoism is interested in intuitive wisdom, rather than pursing knowledge.  Logical reasoning is considered by the Daoists as part of the artificial world of man, together with social etiquette and moral standards – things that are essentially created by man.

Daoists were more concerned with the patterns of nature, which is known to the Daoists as “The Dao”.  Thus, a follower of the Dao looks to “lose” learned patterns and behaviors and look at the world with a fresh and unbiased perspective.  In this way, you can become closer to “The Dao”.

To “do nothing” is based on the Chinese concept of “wu-wei”, which is translated as “action through non-action”.  It doesn’t literally mean “don’t do anything”; rather it means to simply do things by flowing with and following the natural forces of the world.

In this manner, you can act spontaneously and free, accomplishing everything without seeming to use effort.  Going against the flow of nature causes one to expend energy and struggle; while going with nature is like going with the current of a river – no effort is needed yet you get from point A to point B.

Understand the natural principles of the world and you will understand everything.

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