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Doing without doing

india Updated: Jul 19, 2010 23:43 IST
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To stay still is not an easy task. Since childhood we have been taught to act, to take control of our circumstances and change them in our favour. We are also told that action, whatever little, is better than inaction.

Though the precept holds good for most of the times, there are occasions when action of any sort only adds to the complexity of the situation. About why it happens, the best explanation comes from the concept of ‘wei wu wei’ of Taoism.

'Wei wu wei' can be translated as "doing without doing." It implies that deliberate action that involves effort is not in tune with natural state and evolution of the world and for this reason leads to complications. The concept, therefore, lays emphasis on knowing when to act and when not to. In other words, there is no point in striking the iron when it is not hot.

Unfortunately, today we lead what can be called hyper-active lives because we not only want more and more but also want it quicker. This urge for instant gratification drives us toward needless activity. When we face a problem, we want to solve it quickly. When we can’t do anything about it, we are overcome with a sense of helplessness.

But choosing not to act can be a good strategy for two reasons. One, sometimes things work out themselves and amazingly so. And two, if we withdraw our mind from a problem for some time and approach it again with a fresh mind, there is a greater chance of getting a solution.

Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana was one of the navratnas of Akbar’s court. He led an action packed life as a general, administrator, poet and astrologer. However, realising the limitations of human action, he was compelled to write, “Rahiman chup ho baithiye dekh dinan kay pheir/jab neekay din ayinhe banat na lagiye der (O Rahim, sit quietly and watch the movement of days/ When favourable time comes, things will work out without delay).