Daodejing Chapter 63: act with effortless action

Richard Brown
2 min readSep 19, 2023

Act with effortless action.
Manage without interfering.
Taste without tasting.
Treat the great as small
And the many as few.
Repay injury with inner power.
Tackle the difficult when it is easy.
Tackle the great when it is small.
All difficult tasks in the world,
Begin with the easy.
All great tasks in the world,
Begin with the small.
The sage never strives to be great.
So, he accomplishes greatness.
A promise made lightly
Should not be trusted.
Things considered easy
Often turn out to be difficult.
The sage treats everything as difficult.
So, he never encounters any difficulties.

「為無為,事無事,味無味。大小多少,報怨以德。圖難於其易,圖大於其細。天下難事,必作於易。天下大事,必作於細。是以聖人終不為大,故能成其大。夫輕諾必寡信,多易必多難;是以聖人猶難之,故終無難矣!」

The most effective way of managing a major project is to break it down into small and simple steps that can be easily accomplished while making sure that they are fully aligned with its ultimate objective.

Successfully accomplishing the project not only requires careful planning but also a clear and realistic understanding of the complexity of each and every step and the resources, time, and personnel needed to complete it. Failure to take all these factors into account will inevitably lead to unexpected problems further down the line.

Notes
1.) Chapter 63 provides the most cogent description of the concept of wuwei (無為), often translated as effortless action, non-action, or non-doing, in the Daodejing. As the chapter illustrates, wuwei does not mean doing absolutely nothing at all. It entails becoming so immersed in the natural flow of the world that you can identify potential problems and challenges in time to resolve them before they get out of control. By practicing wuwei, you can navigate life’s complexities with minimum drama and maximum effectiveness.

2.) I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.