Heaven and earth operate without thought or purpose, through processes which are ziran 自然, so of them selves. Man follows the same course, through the process of growth and decay, without choosing either to be born or to die.
Yet alone among the myriad things he tries to base his actions on thought and knowledge, to distinguish between benefit and harm, pose alternative courses of action, form moral and practical principles of conduct.
If he wishes to return to the Way he must discard knowledge, cease to make distinctions, refuse to impose his will and his principles on nature, recover the spontaneity of the newborn child, allow his actions to be so of themselves’ like
physical processes. He must reflect things like a mirror, respond to them like an echo, without intermediate thought, perfectly concentrated and perfectly relaxed, like the angler or the charioteer whose hand reacts immediately to the give and pull of the line or the reins, or like the swimmer who can find his way through the whirlpool:
I enter the vortex with the inflow and leave with the outflow, follow the Way of the water instead of imposing a course of my own… I do it without knowing how I do it.’
If nothing within you stays rigid,
Outward things will disclose themselves.
Moving, be like water.
Still, be like a mirror.
Respond like an echo