"Non-action" is the nearest translation of the Sanskrit word "naishkarmyam," which expresses a specific quality of the doer, a quality of non-attachme"Non-action" is the nearest translation of the Sanskrit word "naishkarmyam," which expresses a specific quality of the doer, a quality of non-attachment whereby he enjoys freedom from the bondage of action, even during activity. It expresses a natural and permanent state of the doer. Whether he is engaged in the activity of the waking or dreaming state, or in the inactivity of deep sleep, he retains inner awareness. It is a state of life where Self-consciousness is not overshadowed by any of the three relative states of consciousness -- waking, dreaming, or sleeping. In this state of "naishkarmyam," the doer has risen to the fourth state of consciousness, "turiya"; this, in its essential nature, is Self-consciousness, the pure absolute state of bliss-consciousness --Sat-Chit-Ananda --but yet is inclusive of the three relative states of consciousness.
Effortless Action: Wu-Wei as conceptual metaphor and spiritual ideal in early China, is Edward Slingerland's attempt to come to an understanding of the state of naishkarmyam, but in a Chinese context. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, from whence the first paragraph of this review was borrowed, really sheds light on the reality of Wu-Wei (non-action), which has long puzzled Sinologists.
More than the author's fresh attempt to understand We-Wei as conceptual metaphor, I enjoy the wonderful translations of the five seminal Chinese sages that appear in this volume: Confucius, Laozi, Mencius, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi. For instance, the following, from Xunzi:
What do human beings use to know the Way? I say that it is the heart/mind. What does the heart/mind make use of in order to know? I say it is tenuousness, unity and stillness. The heart/mind never stops storing, but it still possesses what is called tenuousness. The heart/mind never stops being divided, bu it still possesses what is called unity. The heart/mind never stops moving, but it still possesses what is called stillness.
When people are born they begin to acquire a degree of awareness, and with awareness comes intention. Intention is the result of storing. However, there is still that which is called tenuousness: not allowing what has already been stored up [in the heart/mind] to harm what is about to be received is what we call tenuousness. As soon as we are born, the heart/mind begins to accumulate awareness. With awareness comes differentiation. Differentiation implies the simultaneous awareness of two things, and the simultaneous awareness of different things leads to division. However, there is still that which is called unity: not allowing awarness of one thing to harm awareness of another thing is what we call unity. When the heart/mind is asleep, it dreams; when it is unoccupied, it wanders off on its own; and when it is employed, it schemes. Therefore, the heart/mind never stops moving, but it still possesses that which is called stillness; not allowing dreams or fantasies ot disorder one's awareness is what we call stillness.
One who has yet to attain the Way but is seeking it should be told about tenuousness, unity, and stillness. Once these qualities are attained, the tenuousness of one who intends to receive the Way allows it to enter; the unity of one who intends to serve the Way allows him to do so completely; and the stillness of one who wishes to contemplate the Way will allow him to be discerning. One who, understanding the Way, is discerning and able to put into practice is an embodier of the Way. Tenusouness, unity, and stillness are what is referred to as the Great Clear Brightness.
In the words of the Gita, "Established in Being, perform action." ...more