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Darkness within DarknessThe Call to Non-ActionThe Good Life

Tao Te Ching/The Call to Non-Action

Meditation and Reading taken from Tao Te Ching: A New Translation, by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English

All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1: Historical background -
Today's Themes

The concept of wu wei, non-action, permeates the Tao. Often thought of as quietism or passivity, wu wei is really much closer to a concept of right action than of no action at all. The focus is on waiting for the right action to make itself known and then doing it without hesitation; as opposed to seeking to enforce your own will, it centers on moving harmoniously with the flow of the universal Tao.

The Tao applies this principle to governmental leadership, but this “less is more” philosophy has many implications for our spiritual lives, too. Specifically, wu wei demands discipline because we must refrain from acting simply for the sake of acting, a siren call when difficulties arise and we wish to avoid or plow through them. Instead, wu wei calls us to a very active form of patience, a watchful waiting similar in some ways to both the Buddhist concept of mindfulness and the Christian concept of discernment: like mindfulness it is predicated upon awareness of what surrounds us, and like discernment it involves a sifting through ego-driven desires to a purer communication with the universal. Yet its call to acting with surgical precision at precisely the right moment, no more and no less, is uniquely its own.

Call To Worship

Flames dance and shimmer, yet the candle is unmoving.
Waves ripple outward to the vastness of the sea, yet the pebble tossed in water moves in one precise motion.
We move into this place with busy hands and hurried steps, yet our togetherness comes from our quiet presence.
Here in this place today, let us seek

     not action but understanding,

          not pleasure but contentment,
               not noisy praise but quiet acceptance.
Let us move in harmony with the Tao.


In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

            Tao, Chapter 48
            (Feng and English translation)


Practice non-action.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Magnify the small, increase the few.
Reward bitterness with care.

See simplicity in the complicated.
Achieve greatness in little things.

In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy.
In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds.
The sage does not attempt anything very big.
And thus achieves greatness.

Easy promises make for little trust.
Taking things lightly results in great difficulty.
Because the sage always confronts difficulties,
He never experiences them.

            Tao, Chapter 63
            (Feng and English translation)


May your doing arise from understanding, not struggle.
May your not doing arise from acceptance, not ignorance.
May you have the vision of simplicity in the midst of complication.
May you move through difficulty as water passes through a sieve.
In all things, in all ways, may harmony guide your hand, heart and mind.