The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.
(From a translation by S. Mitchell)
Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
Lao Tzu told us why he knows the benefits of “inaction” because he watched “nothing go into the gaps of the things.”
Lao Tzu said: the softest thing in the world can destroy the hardest thing. The things that have no fixed shape or fixed form (such as wind and water), can enter the gaps of all things.
And “nothing” is instead a soft thing without a fixed shape and fixed form, which can enter hard things and things without gaps.
Therefore, inaction is not for the sake of purpose but with no purpose. It is what the Buddhists say: “without the heart’s desire.”
On the contrary, a lot of people do things with purpose and want compensation. There are seldom people who can apply inaction and ask for nothing in return.
Lao Tzu also realized that only a few would be able to teach without words or work without actions, which he reminds us of again and again in his book.