Ask the Awakened

The Negative Way


In stock

Between the years 1958 and 1974, a series of books appeared that were attributed to the mysterious Wei Wu Wei. Perhaps the most important of these works, Ask The Awakened, is now available in a new edition. This work draws on a variety of sources including Taoism—specifically the texts attributed to Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu; Buddhism—especially the Heart, Diamond and Lankavatara sutras; and Chan Buddhism as taught by Hui Neng, Huang Po, Hui Hai, etc.; as well as the teachings of Padmasambhava and Sri Ramana Maharshi, among others.

This classic gem of Eastern spirituality is especially timely in the current climate of interest in Buddhism. Wei Wu Wei’s unique and fresh interpretation of the ancient teachings opens the reader’s eyes: “Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 per cent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself—and there isn’t one.” This powerful book rewards by exposing illusions and takes the reader beyond logic to the inexpressible truth of existence.

Wei Wu Wei joins Paul Reps, Alan Watts, and Philip Kapleau as one of the earliest and most profound interpreters of Zen Buddhism and Taoist philosophies. The depth of understanding evidenced in Ask the Awakened places it in the top tier of modern spiritual classics.


Praise for Ask the Awakened


Wei Wu Wei has long been one of my favorites. It is a great joy to have one of his finest books back in print. Wei Wu Wei goes right for the root. He takes away everything, and leaves nothing. Then he takes that away.

—Joan Tollifson, author of Bare-Bones Meditation: Waking Up from the Story of My Life

Really and truly Ask the Awakened is not about asking those wise men and women about their True Nature, and how on earth they managed to tap the infinite resources of that Nature. On the contrary, it’s about asking yourself those same questions–and arriving at very precise answers. You are invited to reverse the arrow of your attention and look not only at what you are looking at but also at What you are looking out of. Wei Wu Wei and I promise you it’s marvelous!

—Douglas Harding, author of On Having No Head


Page Count



Leave a Reply


Between the years 1958 and 1974, a series of books appeared that were attributed to the mysterious Wei Wu Wei, who joined Paul Reps, Alan Watts, and Philip Kapleau as one of the earliest and most profound interpreters of Buddhism. Ask the Awakened is a classic gem of Eastern spirituality, drawing on Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, among other sources. Wei Wu Wei’s unique and fresh interpretations of the ancient teachings opens the reader’s eyes: “Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself – and there isn’t one.

The Watkins Review

Wei Wu Wei–a Taoist term which translates as “action that is non-action”–was the pen name for Terence Gray, who was born to a prominent Irish family in 1865. He died in 1986, having written eight books in fairly quick succession. Ask the Awakened is a sterling introduction to the author and his works.

Like most of his tomes, this one is a pithy hodgepodge of poems, essays, paragraphs, and commentaries. He draws from such sundry sources as Taoism (particularly the teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu), Buddhism (The Diamond and Lankavatra Sutras), and Zen Buddhism (as taught by Hui Neng, Hui Hai, and the marvelous Huang Po).

The book takes its theme from Hui Neng: “From the beginning, not a thing is.” For Wei Wu Wei, everything–your thoughts, your coffee cup, the manifested universe, etc– are nothing less than sheer awareness. Some other names that he uses are “suchness,” “impersonal subjectively,” and “Consciousness itself.”

Wei Wu Wei’s prose can be hard going; for he had a succinct and quizzical way of expressing himself. But rarely is his writing impenetrable. A repeated reading of some phraise or observation will likely provide any sincere reader will superb insights. And more often than not, the author is radiantly clear, e.g., “Realization is a matter of being conscious of that which is already realized,” “All comparison is based on memory,” and “As long as anyone tacitly accepts Time either as really existing, or even as the basis of consideration, he is only concerning himself with objectivity.”

Kudos to Sentient Publications for producing such a fine edition of this trade paperback. The spine is strong, the text is crisp, and the layout is inviting. Note: Sentient also has published Wei Wu Wei’s The Tenth Man: The Great Joke, another penetrating assemblage of essays, epigrams, and commentary. Alas, the the printing isn’t as sharp and as uniform as the reviewed work.

Nonduality Highlights

First written in the mid-twentieth century by the anonymous Buddhist scholar Wei Wu Wei, Ask The Awakened: The Negative Way is a unique spiritual reinterpretation of ancient texts, incorporating Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and the teachings of Ramana Maharshi among other sources into a unique, powerful testimony that forces careful self-examination on the reader’s part. Enthusiastically recommended reading for students of Buddhism, Taoism, and Eastern Spirituality, Ask The Awakened is a profound and deeply moving work of true insight such as “We do not possess an ‘ego.’ We are possessed by the idea of one.”

The Midwest Book Review

Usually we gain knowledge by adding to our store of ideas and beliefs piece by piece. However, this book is subtitled, “The Negative Way” and Wei Wu Wei’s approach to understanding the Truth is by removing our ideas and beliefs, right or wrong, one by one. Eventually, we are guided to a place where, not by objective analysis, by by a subjective, intuitive realisation we can understand that which words cannot describe. It is by very clever use of words that we are taken on this journey – the book contains 114 teasingly challenging passages that prod the mind into revealing its flawed logic and illusions, turning our very thinking processes back on themselves. If you are put off by the enigmatic, this is not the book for you, but if you relish a conceptual challenge in the spirit of Zen and Taoism, then you will find it a treasure trove.

Pilgrims UK: Mind Body Spirit Superstore


about the author

Wei Wu Wei

The identity of Wei Wu Wei was not revealed at the time of the publication of his first book. This well-considered anonymity will be respected here, though a few background details may help to put the writings into context.

“Wei Wu Wei” was born in 1895 into a well-established Irish family, was raised on an estate outside Cambridge, England, and received a thorough education, including studies at Oxford University. Early in life he pursued an interest in Egyptology, which culminated in 1923 in the publication of two books on ancient Egyptian history and culture.

This was followed by a period of involvement in the arts in Britain in the 20’s and 30’s as a theorist, theatrical producer, creator of radical “dance-dramas,” publisher of several related magazines, and author of two related books. He was a major influence on many noted dramatists, poets, and dancers of the day, including his cousin Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet (which in fact had its origins in his own dance troupe at the Cambridge Festival Theatre which he leased from 1926-33).

After he had exhausted his interest in this field, his thoughts turned towards philosophy and metaphysics. This led to a period of travel throughout Asia, including time spent at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India. In 1958, at the age of 63, he saw the first of the Wei Wu Wei titles published. The next 16 years saw the appearance of seven subsequent books, including his final work under the further pseudonym O.O.O. in 1974.

During most of this later period he maintained a residence with his wife in Monaco. He is believed to have known, among others, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Dr. Hubert Benoit, John Blofeld, Douglas Harding, Robert Linssen, Arthur Osborne, Robert Powell, and Dr. D. T. Suzuki. He died in 1986 at the age of 90.

Visit the Wei Wu Wei archives at