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Ivan Frimmel


Wei Wu Wei is a pseudonym used by late Terence Gray, an Englishman of Irish stock—a poet, philosopher
and mystic, greatly influenced by Sri Ramana Maharshi, Ch’an Buddhism and Taoist philosophy. He was a
brilliant intellectual—and one who could see clearly the trappings of one’s intellect. His major works include
the Open Secret, Ask the Awakened, All else is Bondage, The Tenth Man… His iconoclastic prose is terse
and precise, resembling the koans and word games of Zen masters, skilfully designed to shake and destroy all
dogmatic beliefs and ideas—and to bring about an instant awakening in the reader’s mind.

Wei Wu Wei is also a Chinese expression for what can be loosely translated as an “action without action”,
practice of “non-practice”, or as Krishnamurti called it “action without idea” or “an action without actor”, in
other words: a spontaneous action, without the interference of an individual ego (the idea we have about who
we are). It is not surprising at all that Wei Wu Wei used this Chinese expression as his pseudonym. His
writing seems to be a perfect example of effortless writing about effortless living.

Wei Wu Wei likes to call living in this mode non-volitional, living . Readers from a Christian background
may understand this seemingly strange notion better if they compare it with such admonitions of Christian
mystics as: “Let Thy Will Be Done, Not Mine” and “Be Still and Know I am God”.

The question of volition in our daily life is very closely related to the one all-important question Who am I?
that Sri Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Alan Watts and many other enlightened teachers, including Wei Wu
Wei, were so fond of asking in hundreds of different ways their followers.

For example, in the Open Secret, Wei Wu Wei says:

Perhaps the question of volition may be most readily understood just by asking
who is there to exercise volition and who is there to experience the results of it.
Noumenally there is no volition—because there is no I. Phenomenally spontaneity alone is non-volitional.

Is this not what Buddha meant by his teaching about Anatta, no-self? Does not Krishna talk in the Bhagavad
Gita about performing any action without expecting any fruits thereof? Does not the Bible also admonish us
to selfless action, urges us to forget the self in the service to God?

Wei Wu Wei’s opening statement in Ask the Awakened (The Negative Way) is going straight to the heart of the
Why are you so unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself—
And there isn’t one.

In this beautiful statement he expressed the essence of all Advaita (non-duality) teachings, the teaching of
Upanishads, Buddha, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, Ramesh S. Balsekar, Meister Eckhart,
and many mystics in all religious traditions.

How much is our intellect going to struggle before we can understand his koan-like statements (from the
same book):
It is necessary to understand I Am,
In order that I may know that I Am Not,
So that, at least I may realise that
I Am Not, therefore I Am.

No wonder that the enlightened present-day Indian advaitin mystic and philosopher, Ramesh S. Balsekar,
jokingly admitted to his audience that at one stage of his own development he found Wei Wu Wei’s books
very fascinating and helpful, but also very frustrating and difficult to understand—and that he almost drove
himself insane before he could fully understand them. Judging by Balsekar’s obviously sharp intellect and his
very clear and helpful descriptions of his own enlightened state, often using terminology similar to Wei Wu
Wei’s, he is undoubtedly better off for Wei Wu Wei’s influence and for being exposed to his radical,
nonsense-destroying ideas, such as these from the Open Secret:
There is no such ‘thing’ to aim at, seek or look for,
as what one is. On ceasing to look—one is present.
Everything is I, and I am no thing.
“I” am not conscious of anything: never.
“Consciousness” as such is all that I am.
After reading statements like these, how can one still carry on frantically looking for himself or herself, for
the answer to the question Who am I? — like many people still do?

I believe that most of us can be enlightened in an instant by being exposed to an iconoclast like Wei Wu Wei,
and his “weird” ideas, especially if we are a bit “weird” like him. Or, is this “weird” way of seeing perhaps
not the only sane way of looking at the way things really are, or the way I really am? Who is there to see
what, or to tell what—and to whom, I ask?

Who is asking whom?