The Significance of Spontaneity
Spontaneity is an attribute of Dao
The Laozi ( 老子 Laozi ) says that 'Man follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows Dao, Dao follows Spontaneity". Dao is the ultimate existence; no other existence is above it or precedes it. Therefore, it does not follow anything but itself. Though Dao is its own ruler, this does not mean that it intentionally rules other things, but that it respects the natural development of all beings and of the world. According to Heshang Gong's Han dynasty interpretation of 'Dao follows Spontaneity', "the nature of Dao is Spontaneity ( 自然 Ziran ); it is ruled by nothing."
Opposition between Man and Spontaneity
All beings have their own nature, which is spontaneous. Here, the term 'Spontaneous' is equivalent to the commonly used term 'Natural' ( 天然 Tianran ). The Perfect Man of Nanhua ( 南華真人 Nanhua Zhenren ) considered that cows and horses originally lived in a state of natural spontaneity, but that when men forced them to wear harnesses, they infringed on the spontaneity of the cows and horses. Man also originally had his own nature, but has been reined in by fame and locked up by fortune, to the point where he has lost his natural spontaneity.
Spontaneity and Non-Interference are identical
Daoism advocates Purity ( 清 Qing ), Tranquility ( 靜 Jing ), and Non-Interference ( 無為 Wuwei ). Dao does not interfere and does not give orders, but spontaneously generates the myriad beings. To achieve Non-Interference and to unite with Dao is to achieve a state of Spontaneity. Chapter 17 of the Laozi states:
- "The best kind of rulers are those whose *existence
- Is merely known by the people below them.
- The next-best are those who are loved and praised.
- The nest-best are those who are feared.
- The next-best are those who are despised.
- If trust in others is not sufficient,
- It will be unrequited.
- (The best rulers) are cautious,
- And seldom issue orders.
- When tasks are accomplished and affairs completed,
- The common people will say,
- "We simply follow the way of spontaneity" ( Trans. Wang Keping: The Classic of the Dao. A New Investigation. Beijing, 1998: Foreign Languages Press. ).
That is to say, let the common people and the myriad beings be born, grow, develop and change according to their own nature. Let the rulers not interfere, and let the ruled follow their nature.