606695F0-6859-41F0-A752-D4C5EAC43EA4‘Hotei in a Boat’ – Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769) – Yale University Art Gallery – Wikimedia

.

When could I have been born,
I who am the conceiver of time itself?
Where could I live,
I who conceive the space wherein all things extend?
How could I die,
I who conceive the birth, life, and death of all things,
I who, conceiving, cannot be conceived?

~ Wei Wu Wei (Posthumous Pieces)

.

You may have sometime come across the name ‘Wei Wu Wei’ while reading or researching, and you have thought that it referred to an exotic and remote Zen master of ancient China. Well, you couldn’t have been more wrong. For this is the pen name of a British aristocrat and writer of the last century. His name: Terence James Stannus Gray, who was born in 1895 and died in 1986, the very same years as J. Krishnamurti. ‘Wu Wei’ is nevertheless a Taoist term which literally means ‘effortless action’ or ‘action that is non-action’, and was chosen by the author for the meaning it carries. Regarding his name, the writer explains in the preface of his book ‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’: “What is a name? […] Is not a name essentially — the name of an ego? But the Self, the Principal, the I-Reality has no name. […] If the nameless builders of the Taj Mahal, of Chartres, of Rheims, of a hundred cathedral symphonies, knew that — and avoided the solecism of attributing to their own egos the works that were created through their instrumentality — may not even a jotter-down of passing metaphysical notions know it also?” He continued: “But in case you should still wonder who is responsible for this book I do not know how to do better than to inscribe the words

WEI WU WEI

為無為

.
Terence Gray was a colourful figure, raised near Cambridge in an Anglo-Irish family, and educated at Oxford University. Beside working as a theatrical producer and theorist, producing over one hundred plays, he had a passion for Egyptology, art, and racehorses. When he was 38, he developed an interest in eastern philosophy and travelled throughout Asia, spending some time in India, at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Between the years 1958 and 1974, he published 8 books and wrote in numerous periodicals including ‘The Mountain Path’. Because of his strong knowledge in Taoism and Zen Buddhism, he makes abundant references to the prominent Zen masters of the past, like Huang Po, Shitou Xiqian, Baizhang Huaihai, Hui Neng, and the Buddha. The teaching of Wei Wu Wei reveals itself under the form of explicit koans. It is not patient, didactic, pedagogical teaching. It rather aims at breaking our resistance or conditioning through the power of logic, humour, or the absurd, creating sudden and profound insights into the real nature of our self.

.
Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 per cent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself —
And there isn’t one
.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

.
Wei Wu Wei’s writing can appear intellectual, like a gymnastics of the mind. Yet many of his formulations are like an invitation to dive deeply into the structure of our minds, to let the meaning they carry form itself out of the nimbus of our confusion and misapprehension of reality. Chew them long enough, and they will slowly unravel to you the illusory nature of objective existence. They will show you how reality is nothing objective, that it is a living thing — pure and absolute subjectivity — and that it is verily god’s being in our being. As he writes in ‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’, “We ourselves are not an illusory part of Reality; rather are we Reality itself illusorily conceived.”

.

The essential understanding is that in reality nothing is.
This is so obvious that it is not perceived. […]
We refer to the Void and Emptiness without realising what is implied.
What is meant is just what is said, i.e. that nothing is —
that Nothing alone is what is
.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

‘I’ am not conscious of anything: never.
‘Consciousness’ as such is all that I am
.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

Reality alone exists – and that we are.
All the rest is only a dream, a dream of the One Mind,
which is our mind without the ‘our’
.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

Reality might, perhaps, be regarded as our texture,
though not in a material sense but rather as conscious being,
and its realisation as consciousness of being
.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

Transform ‘I’ into ‘Not-I’
and then ‘Not-I’ will become ‘I’.
Only God is ‘I’
.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

Object cannot exist apart from subject, whose manifest aspect it is.
Therefore it is apparently inexistent subject that IS,
and apparently existent object that IS not
.”
~ (‘All Else Is Bondage’)

~

.

If reality is not to be found in objects, but in pure subjectivity — which is found in awareness — then it is a complete reversal of our usual apprehension of the world. Wei Wu Wei shows here some of the implications that this new understanding bears on concepts such as existence or experience:

.

It is perhaps an illusion that we ‘live’: we are ‘lived’.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

What-we-are does not experience, can not experience at all. For only an object can suffer experience. Identification with that which is suffering experience is what constitutes bondage, whereas ‘being-this-experience’, devoid of entity, cannot be bound. […] Suffering, therefore, is conceptual, i.e. ‘experiencing’ in a time-context.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

Only Pure Consciousness is conscious of anything,
for only as Pure Consciousness am I myself conscious.
Therefore only as Pure Consciousness does anything exist.
There is no other consciousness, no other ‘mind’
.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

You have no objective existence (as ‘you’),
Nor any subjective existence (as ‘you’),
Because ‘existence as subject’ would make subject an object — which it could never be.
You only exist as existence itself
.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

What is called ‘experience’ is the effect of reacting. It has no existence as such. It is sensually interpreted as pleasant or unpleasant, i.e. as positive or negative sensation, but it is conceptual, not factual.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

The seeing of Truth cannot be dualistic (a ‘thing’ seen).
It cannot be seen by a see-er, or via a see-er.
There can only be a seeing which itself is Truth
.”
~ (‘All Else Is Bondage’)

~

.

In his inimitable fashion, Wei Wu Wei is now looking into the ego, and stresses that our sense of being a separate entity is illusory. “We do not possess an ‘ego’. We are possessed by the idea of one.” can we read in his book ‘Ask The Awakened’.

.

Destroy ‘the ego’, hound it, beat it, snub it, tell it where it gets off?
Great fun, no doubt, but where is it? Must you not find it first?
Isn’t there a word about catching your goose before you can cook it?
The great difficulty here is that there isn’t one
.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

We have only to eliminate the ego-notion
by succeeding in the difficult task of understanding
that it does not exist except as a notion
.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

.D19963F0-DEE1-4F95-9C53-E99F7F30A5DF‘Wei Wu Wei (Terence Gray) in 1976 – Wikimedia

.
Wei Wu Wei shows here how the absence of a doer will affect concepts such as correct action, or free will. He also delves into the nature of the seer, the knower, the experiencer, which shows to have no other existence than in only seeing, knowing, experiencing.

.

Non-Action on the plane of Being becomes, by articulation, Correct-Action on the plane of Existing. […] It would seem, therefore, that Correct-Action can only be spontaneous — the product of the split-second that outwits the fraud of Time.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

Blaming a man for what he ‘does’ is in accordance with the same process of logic as blaming a door when it bangs or an object when it falls on your foot.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

Let us not forget that the ‘self’, the ‘ego’, so conceived, being illusory — a thought, based on a thought, which is based on a thought, itself based on a thought, there cannot be such a thing as our sacrosanct Free-will, no, not the slightest trace of it, as far as our actions are concerned, in view of the fact that there is no ‘self’ to exercise it!
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

‘Volition’ is only an inference, for, search as we may, we can find no entity to exercise it.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

True-seeing is non-seeing — no one looking.
True hearing is non-hearing — no one listening.
True action is non-action — no one doing.
True thinking is non-thinking — no one thinking.
Spontaneity alone is non-volitional — and there is no I
.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

There are no ‘things’ (objects) apart from the cognising of them: there is no cognising apart from the ‘thing’ cognised, because there is no cogniser. That is the naked truth, and it is why phenomena and noumenon are not two, nor Samsara and Nirvana, object and subject, etc., etc. ad infinitum — and full understanding proceeds therefrom.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

.

Wei Wu Wei now delves into the nature and process of awakening — what it consists of. For him, “Realisation is a matter of becoming conscious of that which is already realised.” (‘Ask The Awakened’)

.

All so-called volition is a manifestation of the I-concept.
Who seeks enlightenment?
As long as it is sought under the compulsion of the I-concept
how could it possibly be realised?

(‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

Awakening is a readjustment. The state is always present, is our normal, permanent, real nature — as the Masters of all the doctrines never tire of telling us — but the conscious experience of it is denied us by a deviation of subjectivity on to a concept that, as such, is unreal, an object in consciousness appearing as its own subject. Until this phantom is exorcised by being exposed, subjectivity appears to be bound, and we cannot experience it as it is in reality.”
(‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

THIS which is seeking is THAT which is sought, and
THAT which is sought is THIS which is seeking
.”
~ (‘All Else Is Bondage’)

~

We are required to cease looking at objects as events apart from ourselves,
And to know them at their source — which is our perceiving of them
.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

I don’t believe that there is anyone to wake up! Sentient beings are not there at all as such — as the Buddha pointed out in the Diamond Sutra, so how can they wake up? And what is there to wake up? They are concepts or thought-forms, objects — and objects cannot either go to sleep or awaken! […] Phenomenally they are appearances, and noumenally they are not asleep.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

There is no such ‘thing’ to aim at, seek or look for, as what one is. On ceasing to seek or to look — one is present.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

However fast you run after it, you will never catch it;
however fast you runaway from it, you will never lose it
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

~

‘Enlightenment’ does not exist phenomenally at all,
and ‘we’ cannot have it — because it is what-we-are!

~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

.

Our perception of reality is necessarily biased by our limited sense perceptions, so the limitless nature of reality cannot be perceived objectively, by our senses. As Wei Wu Wei writes in ‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’: “We are only aware of that aspect of the universe of which the senses we possess are able to inform us.” And this naturally affects our understanding of the nature of reality, and the validity of our sacrosanct view on matter and mind.

.

Science is concerned with objects, which are unreal. If it concerned itself with the subject of the objects it might find out what they really are.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

Mind is the dynamic aspect of matter.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

Objects are neither k’ung (empty) nor not-k’ung: they are just their subject, their source. Judging objects is as futile as all ‘problems’ are, for only the mind itself is concerned. All judgements and ‘problems’ vanish when split-mind is made whole.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

Science is built on the arbitrary assumption that the universe exists in Time and Space.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

Void is the sub-stance of form,
Form is the manifestation of Void
.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

.

After the discovery that our perception of reality is biased by our senses, Wei Wu Wei now delves into the nature and reality of time and space, and lays bare some of the implications that this new understanding naturally carries on the nature of our self.

.

There is no becoming. ALL IS.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

The present is not a fleeting moment: it is the only eternity. In Time ‘lies’ samsara: in the Present ‘lies’ nirvana. Time is the measurement of objectivity: the Present is the presence of subjectivity, in which everything potentially is, and from which, in Time, everything is apparently projected.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

The present alone represents that which we are in an apparent world in which we are not.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

How do we know that the world is transitory, that time is passing, that nothing stands still?
We could not know that our river was flowing unless we could put one foot on the bank!

~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

That which is not extended in space can have no perceptual existence, for the concept of ‘existing’ denotes and requires spatial extension. That is the explanation of Hui Neng’s statement: ‘From the beginning not a thing is’, i.e. ‘No “thing” has ever existed’, for there has never been such a thing as ‘space’ other than as a concept in mind (which we are) which renders possible the notion of appearance.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

‘Enlightenment’ is ‘sudden’ only because it is not in ‘time’.
[…] It is reintegration in intemporality.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

The seeker is the found, the found is the seeker –
as soon as it is apperceived that there is no time
.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

2A6FFBE6-1EBD-40EE-B826-F095636AA1A4‘Boundless’ – Kazuaki Tanahashi, 2011 – WikiArt

.
Here, Wei Wu Wei adresses the imminent or more loving aspect contained in our shared being, the fact that “To the Sage, there is no difference between self and other.” as he mentioned in his book ‘The Tenth Man”.

.

What could self find but himself?
For other is the absence of self,
And self is the absence of other
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

~

How can there be a ‘seeing’? Surely the ‘seeing’ is false; the object is not over there, it is at home ‘here’. I am it, it is I. How, then, can I ‘see’ it?” […] “The ‘seen’ is the ‘see-er’ and the ‘see-er’ is the ‘seen’, and that is a definition of noumenon.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

In repose, it is pure potentiality;
Functioning, it must seek itself as other,
In order to find that the absence of other
Is the absence which itself is
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

~

(Who?)
“I cannot say it,
I cannot know it,
I cannot be it.
Because I am it,
And all it is I am
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

~

.

Wei Wu Wei was never a teacher, as he himself writes in his introduction of his book ‘Open Secret’: “The writer of these lines has nothing whatever to teach anyone; his words are just his contribution to our common discussion of what must inevitably be for us the most important subject which could be discussed by sentient beings.” Yet his clear understanding and his impeccable mind have given birth to some outstanding descriptions of truth:

.

‘We’ are not the reality, not the substance, but its reflection. The substance is there, in Reality, hidden from us by the screen of Time. ‘We’ are a shifting shadow on a wall, but the substance of that shadow is in every Instant that our consciousness is not able to seize. Our ‘life’ on the plane of phenomena is a continuous misapprehension by which a reflection is mistaken for its image, an echo for its voice, a shadow for its substance.”
~ (‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon’)

~

We cannot dispose of our shadow by running away from it, nor can anyone bury his shadow, however deep the hole he may dig. A shadow can only be affected via the reality of which it is a distorted and unsubstantial projection. The Maharshi is said to have pointed out that so it is with the ego. The I-concept can only be abandoned by seeking out the I-Reality of which it is a fluctuating and intangible reflection.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

Please be so good as to believe that there is nothing whatever mysterious about this matter. If it were easy, should we not all be Buddhas? No doubt, but the apparent difficulty is due to our conditioning. The apparent mystery, on the other hand, is just obnubilation, an inability to perceive the obvious owing to a conditioned reflex which causes us persistently to look in the wrong direction!
~ (‘All Else Is Bondage’)

~

.

Although this is not apparent here, where I have privileged shorter quotes and excerpt, Wei Wu Wei was nevertheless often using longer expositions of truth. He never shied away from using striking images in stories, dialogues, parables or metaphors. Here are a few examples where we come to encounter rhinos and dragons, an artichoke, a clown in a circus, and the sun amongst the clouds:

.

For goodness’ sake let’s give up all this objectivising nonsense! It has gone on altogether too long! Wasting our apparent lives objectivising from morning to night, and from night to morning — except for deep sleep when we go sane for a short respite. Take the absurd idea people have about there being a moon in the sky! What is a ‘moon’, what is a ‘sky’, and where is either the one or the other to be ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the other or the one? Did you ever hear such balderdash? We know perfectly well, you who are reading this know perfectly well, where the so-called ‘moon’ comes from, where it belongs, and the so-called ‘sky’ along with it! They belong with all the other phenomenal objects we objectify day and night, dreaming ‘asleep’ or dreaming ‘awake’ — rhinos and roses, beetles and bodhisattvas, dandelions and dragons. Aren’t you heartily sick of them all? No? Very well, then, admire them, do what you like with them, but for Heaven’s sake don’t go on thinking that they ‘exist’ as such in some sort of way somewhere or other ‘over there’, ‘up there’, ‘down there’ or any other sort of ‘where’! You know quite well where they ‘exist’, how they ‘exist’, and that their only ‘existence’ is at home where they belong, which is where you perceive them. That is living practice.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

Every time our consciousness finds itself outside the range of domination by the I-concept, from whence the unreality of the ego, as of any concept, is apparent, a leaf is peeled off the artichoke. The artichoke has many leaves, and the outer ones are coarser than the inner, but it becomes smaller at every mouthful. Finally nothing is left but the choke — and that is Reality.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

When I was a child I was taken to the circus. […] There appeared a grotesque personage, vaguely resembling a human being, who interfered with everything but effected nothing. He fell over the carpets, bumped himself against every object, was slapped and kicked, and then took all the applause as though he were responsible for everything. […] Now that I am no longer a child he seems to me to be a perfect image of the I-concept.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

What we are is the sun; ‘we’ do not dissipate the clouds in order to reach (obtain or attain to) it: it is the sun which dissipates the clouds and enlightens us without us even knowing that ‘we’ are there?
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

.

I will end this exposition of Wei Wu Wei’s writings with a number of quotes that are short, and particularly striking or effective. See how savoury, delicate, and insightful they are:

.

As long as there is any ‘one’ to suffer — he will.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

Play your part in the comedy, but don’t identify yourself with your role!
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

Objective existence is mythical,
Non-objective existence is absolute
.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

What is your trouble? Mistaken identity.”
~ (‘Ask The Awakened’)

~

There is no mystery whatever — only inability to perceive the obvious.”
~ (‘All Else Is Bondage’)

~

I am the awareness of being aware that I am universal awareness,
the first dim,
the second brilliant,
the last a blinding radiance
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

~

An ‘I’ of which one is conscious is an object.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

Everything is I, and I am no thing.”
~ (‘Open Secret’)

~

In order to be effective truth must penetrate like an arrow —
and that is likely to hurt
.”
~ (‘Posthumous Pieces’)

~

The I is real, as long as it remains unconditioned.”
~ (‘Why Lazarus Laughed’)

~

‘You cannot see it because you are transparent.’
(stop reading until you see what this means)
.”
~ (‘The Tenth Man’)

.

Wei Wu Wei has been an influence to some authors including Ramesh Balsekar and the British mathematician G. Spencer-Brown. In the course of his later life, he has met many eminent lovers of truth like D. T. Suzuki, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Jean Klein, Francis Lucille, Douglas Harding, J. Krishnamurti, and others. Wei Wu Wei died in Monaco in 1986.

.

~~~

Excerpts and quotes by Wei Wu Wei (1895-1986)

Head painting by Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769)

Second painting by Kazuaki Tanahashi (born 1933)

Accompanying text by Alain Joly

~~~

.

Thanks to Matt Errey at ‘The ‘Wei Wu Wei’ Archives’ for his generous permission to use some of the content of his website…

Bibliography:
– ‘Fingers Pointing Towards The Moon: Reflections of a Pilgrim on the Way’ – by Wei Wu Wei (Foreword by Ramesh Balsekar) – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘Why Lazarus Laughed: The Essential Doctrine Zen-Advaita-Tantra’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘Ask The Awakened: The Negative Way’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘All Else Is Bondage: Non-volitional Living’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘Open Secret’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘The Tenth Man’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)
– ‘Posthumous Pieces’ – by Wei Wu Wei (Foreword by Wayne Liquorman) – (Sentient Publications)

– ‘Unworldly Wise: As the Owl Remarked to the Rabbit’ – by Wei Wu Wei – (Sentient Publications)

Websites:
The ‘Wei Wu Wei’ Archives 
Wei Wu Wei (Wikipedia)
Sentient Publications (Wei Wu Wei)
Hakuin Ekaku (Wikipedia)
Kazuaki Tanahashi (Wikipedia)

.

Back to Pages

.

2 thoughts on “Wei Wu Wei

  1. yes, when I take away everything that I see that I don’t know, this is what is left. It may or may not be what “is”, but it comes close enough such that the part of me that wants to “know” is satisfied enough to just be quiet about it all. Thank you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s