Tao by Matsumoto

Taoism videos / Chapter 63

A. Work no work


Act no action.

Work no work.

Taste no taste.

However contrary people may think, Lao Tzu's teaching is very simple and easy to apply to your life. It is "Act no action".

Sometimes, one may wonder why Dogen criticized Taoists so harshly although their teachings are surprisingly similar.

It has to be mentioned clearly that Tao and Zen must be the same. If someone says it is not, he is talking about anything else but Tao and Zen. (☞Please read the very first sentence of Tao Te Ching. Master Dogen should not have been fooled by words.)

Likewise, when someone asks what is Za-zen, the answer has to be "it is to act no action".

What does it mean really, "act not action"? That is the one and only teaching of Tao Te Ching, but it sounds enigmatic enough to discourage people to practice it in life.

To answer the question, we can discuss "work no work" and "taste no taste" beforehand.

Fist of all, what is "work" in this context?

It means "interference". "Work no work" signifies "Do not interfere others directly or indirectly".

This teaching is not surprising at all. It sounds rather familiar. People often say so in everyday life.

But are we truly following this moral precept? No, we often ignore it. Even people who do not interfere others directly are sometimes happy to do it indirectly.

For example, though they don't bother others, they criticize them. Criticizing is a form of  interference.

You may say, "It doesn't matter. We are careful enough. We don't say anything to him straight. We say things behind his back. He doesn't hear what we say. It cannot possibly bother him".

Wrong. Lao Tzu might laugh at your lame excuse.

"But, listen. What we are saying is right. Even if he hears it, it is a constructive criticism. It will help him improve his life."

Wrong again. Master Dogen would give you 30 beatings.

Remember who he is and where he exists. He is you and exists in your mind. He is the extension of yourself created in your hologram. That is to say, he is part of you. Your words will surely reach him (or a part of yourself). (☞See Chapter 3b You and non-you for the explanation.)

What you say and what you think will influence everything. Criticism is an interference. Why do you have to change others by your words while you can change them much more easily?

Goodwill belong to the same category. As the word shows, there is a judgement, the division between good and bad. (☞See Chapter 2 Do not judge.)

You try to do good to someone because you think you are right. It is another form of interference.

International aids are a good example. Helping someone is an interference, an act of exporting your discontent. You are trying to impose your judgement to others. Because they try to interfere in their life, the situation never gets better. The best aid is to leave them alone.

You don't have to improve your world (=your hologram) because it is already perfect. How can you improve something perfect?

Well, but it is all right to have an unquenchable wish to improve it under the circumstance like today, where your friends and relatives are constantly telling you, "Better, better, and much better!".

Trying to suppress your feelings is like attempting to efface some clouds in the sky. Just leave them as they are. You don't have to feel responsible for your sentiments. (☞See below [Related Articles] Chapter 10d Heaven's gate opens / closes)

If you cannot help changing your world, there is a way. (☞See also [Related Articles] 10 points to be One with Tao)

It is easy to change your world, but you ought to be careful not to act. Whether it is direct or indirect, taking an action to influence others is not recommended.

You should not try to analyze your hologram (=your world), according to the principle of cause and result. It is like drawing a picture in the dark. Whatever you draw, it is dark and you cannot see anything. No matter what reason you find, it is distorted.

Then, how can you interfere by no interference?

One of the answers to the question is Hara gei (Belly art), an act still practiced by the Japanese businessmen from the old school.

When you have a chance to do some business in Japan and your local hosts invite you to an expensive Japanese restaurant, you should think, "This is it!".

What you are experiencing now is a Japanese traditional art along with Noh and Kabuki. It is an act on the verge of extinction and needs no less protection than whales and tunas.

For the defeated Japanese "samurai" soldiers after World War 2, business was an alternative to their "katana" sword. Up until the late 80s, they had considered themselves economic samurai and used all the spiritual know-how in business.

Later, more and more Japanese businessmen were educated at an American business school like HBS and Wharton. These days, the generation who grew up with a Nintendo and a PlayStation occupies the heart and soul of the Japanese business world.

If you really have an opportunity to be part of a Hara gei act of your Japanese hosts, enjoy and remember all the bits and pieces of it to tell the story to your grandchildren. It is like a Kanak old man talking about his experience of conversation with the spirits of rocks. Once it's gone, no one will see it again.

Hopefully, you don't misunderstand this. The true Hara gei is not selling unpopular products in the domestic market to innocent foreign dealers who have no idea about what is going on among the fickle and most demanding consumers in Far East.

To those who understand Tao truly, Hara gei is not influencing others, but accepting everything as it is. As the name of Nintendo Co., Ltd shows, they intentionally avoid making fruitless efforts and let heaven to lead you. For heaven's decision (=Tao) is your true will, and your wish is just a whim you have while you are lost.

This true Hara gei will lead you to the state to "taste no taste", but what does "no taste" mean?

It means what Zen Buddhists call Bumo-misho-izen (the time before your father and mother were born: 父母未生以前). It is the state before your hologram is projected. (☞See the last sentence of [Chapter 5 Hologram / Paraphrased] )

In this context, "no taste" means Tao. If you can accept what is happening in front of you, you are already one with Tao. To taste Tao is to be one with Tao.

"Act no action" doesn't mean "Be inactive". It doesn't signify "Suppress your desire", either. Master Dogen might laugh at this kind of selfish interpretation.

It means "Accept everything as it is", in other words, "Love all".

  [Related Articles]


Do you have to be an intellectual to understand Buddhism? Not at all. Do you have to read many books on the subject? Not at all, either. If you want to know about it but have a limited amount of time and patience, check these two series of Manga cartoon comics. Osamu Tezuka, the father of the one and only Astro Boy, created «Buddha». As its name shows, the Manga is about the life of the founder of Buddhism. This Japanese counterpart to Walt Disney also created «Phoenix» to tackle the theme of reincarnation. (☞Please compare Tezuka's interpretation with that of Tao by Matsumoto. See Chapter 74 Reincarnation.) Both Anime video version and Manga cartoon version of «Phoenix» are available. These days few Japanese can ignore the Anime and the Manga as non-educational.

-At Chapter 10d Heavens gate opens / closes you will find a metaphor similar to the one above. Feelings are like clouds in the sky.

-[Practical uses] 10 points to be One with Tao has good suggestions, especially 5)Accept everything as it is and 8)Don't try to influence Tao. To change your world, don't try to change it.

-[Practical uses] "Do nothing" Corporation tells you about Nintendo.

-[Practical uses] Kawabata’s Onsen Geisha

-Chapter 63 Use Tao

-Chapter 63b Big is small

-Chapter 63c Nothing is difficult

-Taoism videos / Chapter 63 1-4 Riddle

-Taoism videos / Chapter 63 5-9 Love him

-Taoism videos / Chapter 63 10-14 Promises

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  [Chapter 63 Use Tao]  A. Work no work

Need help?

Q: "I am frustrated! Will Tao help me?"

A: Why don't you think the other way round?

Reverse Thinking

Q: "I am not happy about how I look. Do I need a cosmetic surgery?"

A: Before you invest a hefty sum of money on your appearance, there are a few things to think about.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Q: "I am scared of seeing my reports. What’s gonna happen if the numbers are not good enough"

A: Zen Masters asks you to forget about statistics.

No Numbers

Q: "We need to change our way to grow foods. I am worried about the future of my children. What should we do?"

A: If you are interested in organic foods, read about the modern-day Lao Tzu of “Do nothing” farming, late Masanobu Fukuoka.

Tao Agriculture

Q: "People talk about Zen, but what the heck is it indeed?"

A: Zen is nothing special. It is something you know well.

Zen is Love

Q: "I am desperate. I need some solutions right away."

A: No worries. Here is a practical method.

10 points to be One with Tao

Q: "I am confused when people tell me to face reality. What is reality?"

A: A good question! Zen masters have been tackling the question for ages, but our old man, Lao Tzu, knows the answer.

No Absolute Truth

Q: "Is a geisha truly a p,........., a lady of the oldest profession of human beings?"

A: No, it means "artist", literally. She is an artist of the Taoist way of living.

Kawabata's Onsen Geisha

Q: "What Does Nintendo mean?"

A: It means "Do nothing" Corporation.