Wu wei, or “action through inaction,” can be used in many ways. For example, if someone treats us with anger or with hatred, we should not respond in the same way. This will just make things worse. A Taoist story shows this principle at work.

There was once a great warrior who, though old, had never been beaten. One day a young warrior challenged him. The young man was not only strong, but also skilled at spotting any weakness in an opponent. He would let the opponent make the first move, thus revealing his weakness. Then the young warrior would strike and defeat his opponent.

The old warrior accepted the challenge and the two stood facing each other, prepared for battle. For a long time, neither man moved. Then to provoke the old man, the young man began hurling insults at him. He threw dirt at him and spat in his face. But the old warrior merely stood there. Unable to provoke the old warrior into showing any weakness, the young warrior finally acknowledged that he was beaten.


How did the old man use wu wei in this fight?

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