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Zen and Daoism: Action and Inaction

A Tract Book Essay


Anthony J. Fejfar, B.A., J.D., Esq., Coif

© Copyright 2007 by Anthony J. Fejfar

Some argue that Daoism and Zen are basically the same spirituality or philosophy.

I disagree. In fact in some ways Daoism and Zen are opposites.

Zen is very direct. Whether explicitly stated or not, the end of Zen is Being. Being is a

relatively unitary metaphysical quiddity. Zen Satori, as I have argued elsewhere, is

Insight drawn from Intuition. When one is in a Zen mode of consciousness, one is very

direct, and one wants to move, to act, to get things done. Zen is action.

Daoism, on the other hand is a very “go with the flow” spirituality. In fact, if you

are not in the flow of the Dao, you are not the Dao, and you are not being Daoist. The

end of Daoism is the Dao, which is a Ying/Yang, of complementary opposites. When one

finds the balancing point between Ying and Yang, one has found the Dao. When in the

Dao reality is aunitary. Time is experienced consciously as a flow. In the Dao time

flows, it does not pass. When in the Dao an hour may seem like 5 minutes. Time is

alinear not linear. It is impossible to be direct in the Dao, one can only flow with the

Dao. In the Dao, one lets reality come to you, one never seeks reality.

In living life, I argue that is impossible to live a good life if it is spent entirely in the

Dao, on the one hand, or entirely in the linear Being of Zen, on the other hand. In fact,

the good life is found where one begins in the Dao, goes with the flow for as long as

practicable, and shifts to the Zen of action. So, go with the flow until nothing is
happening, all is passive, and then switch to the Zen of direct action, rearrange the apple

cart through a direct action, and then go back into the flow of the Dao, letting the Dao

take over and do the work effortlessly. Of course in doing this one should as much as

possible participate in creative non-violence which allows for self-defense, but not

wonton violent aggression.