In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.
 The Ma wang tui text reads these two lines as: 'Those who work at their studies... Those who have heard of the Tao...'
 Lau reads this last line as: 'Should you meddle, you are not equal to the task of winning the empire'. The Ma wang tui text reads the preceding line as, 'When someone wants to take control of the world, he should always be unconcerned with affairs...' and goes on to agree in substance with Lau's interpretation of the last line.
Wang Pi says: One who pursues learning wishes to advance what he can do and increase what he has learned.
One who pursues the Tao wishes to revert to emptiness.
Conscious action results in occasions for failure, but action without conscious effort results in nothing remaining undone.
He reads the last three lines as:
One who takes all under Heaven as his charge always tends to matters without deliberate action,
But when it comes to one who does take conscious action,
Such a one is not worthy to take all under Heaven as his charge...
and comments: One who tends to matters without deliberate action always acts in accordance with things.
One who does take conscious action tries to implement things of his own making.
Such a one has lost the roots of rulership.
Cheng says: Those pursuing knowledge want to add to it each day. In contrast, practitioners of the Tao desire to reduce desire, 'to lose and lose and lose' until they reach the state of non-action. No action, and yet nothing is left undone. It is the same for those wishing to win over the world? Those who act, rebel against the Tao. Those who rebel against the Tao will always lack the means to win over the world.
Longchenpa once remarked that samsara - 'running round in circles' - is like a child's game...A child can remain absorbed in a game which never ends, changing and adapting throughout the day as interest in this and that waxes and wanes. Then Mother calls, and it's time for dinner, and the game is immediately dropped and forgotten.
It's the same for us with all our doing - our 'busywork'. So much so, that it's actually extremely difficult for us not to be doing something... Even our recreation and sleep are often 'doing something'.
Not seeking a goal, an outcome, is very, very hard on one hand.
Not-doing - doing without conscious effort - entails, first and foremost, being completely one with what one is doing and yet not just distracted like a lonely child entertaining itself or totally obsessed like a harassed young business executive.
It's a question of fine-tuning, of finding perfect balance, of not seeking to entertain oneself or to be distracted.
I don't mean not being entertained, one should certainly find enjoyment and satisfaction in what one is doing, but I do mean not being distracted.
When we are distracted, we are dragged off by the nose into the world of processes and things; when we remain with the openness of the Tao, things happen of themselves, as it were, and one simply follows them.
What keeps us obsessed is the fear that we will never get what we want or be rid of what we don't like or fear of what other people will think or tight-assed 'self respect' or... its name is legion...
Letting go is like tuning an instrument. If you pull the string too tight, that is not the note; if you leave it too slack, that's not it either.
Finally, what we need to do is to find the perfect balance between tight and slack for that note, and then the perfect resonance with all the strings around it...
Then, as the Baul saying has it: 'If He (read 'the Tao') should play but one note, I shall be happy all the days of my life!'