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6. The Dao of Governance

Lao Zi's political philosophy is centrally reflected in his discussion of the Dao of governance, or the art of leadership in modern terms. Comparatively speaking, one of its most typical traits is "take-no-action" (wu wei). The idea of "take-no-action" does not mean doing nothing at all. Instead it advises a ruler not to take arbitrary, unreasonable or blind actions when it comes to governing the people or conducting state affairs. In other words it demands that the governance or leadership make wise decisions and take just actions according to the Dao as the natural or objective law of all things. Thus it can be understood as a substitute expression for "follow the way of spontaneity" or naturalness. That is why it is respected as an ideal for political and governmental praxis, and as an instrument to facilitate smooth operation. Lao Zi himself was convinced that "the Dao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left undone. If kings and lords are able to maintain it, all things will submit to them due to self-transformation" (Ch. 37). By the same token, Lao Zi would persuade the ruler or leader to act upon what the sage says as follows: "I take no action and the people of themselves become transformed. I love tranquility and the people of them become righteous. I disturb nobody and the people of themselves become prosperous. I have no desire and the people or themselves become simple" (Ch. 57). All this denotes that the ruler or leader himself must set a good example for his sub ordinates to follow by embracing the above-mentioned virtue. Moreover, he should not be strong-minded or persistently self-centered, just like the sage who "has no fixed personal mind and "takes the mind of the people as his mind" (Ch. 13). In sum, as the conclusion goes, "In order to govern all under Heaven, one should adopt the policy of doing nothing. A person who likes to do anything arbitrary is not qualified to govern all under Heaven" (Ch. 48). Under such circumstances we can obtain a better understanding of one of Lao Zi's widely-quotes remarks-"Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish." (Ch. 60)
In comparison with the canon of "take-no-action," another equally enlightening aspect of the Dao of governing is connoted in the commitment to retreat for the sake of advance. It is stated, tactically but somewhat paradoxically, as follows: "I order to contract it, it is necessary to expand it first. In order to weaken it, it is necessary to strengthen it first. In order to destroy it, it is necessary to promote it first. In order to take it, it is necessary to give it first. This is called subtle light (Ch. 36). This "subtle light" well represents Lao Zi's dialectics thinking as to the art of leadership. The impression it tends to leave on us is that the retreat appears, as it were, propelled by initiative, active and practically purposeful. It is aimed a harvesting a long-term gain at the expense of a short-term loss.

Again in Tai Chi Chuan, this "apparent" no action, is more likely to give a more active preparation of your own offensive, using your opponent power, information about his incoming force and center of gravity, then striking while pouring in the previous "package" our own power for even more decisive issue.

As elaborated by Lao Zi (Cf. Chs. 3, 26, 36, 59, 60, 61, 66, 73, 74 and 75), the Dao of governing also features being modest as policy to win others over, and keeping to tenderness as a strategy to overcome the strong, etc... This principle has been constantly renewed and replenished at different times and for different goals. There is no wonder that the Dao De Jing reveals new truth as it is read and re-read.

 




 

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