TEXT

以道佐人主者,
不以兵强天下,
其事好还。

师之所处,
荆棘生焉。
大军之后,
必有凶年。

善有果而已,
不敢以取强。

果而勿矜,
果而勿伐,
果而勿骄,
果而不得已,
果而勿强。

物壮则老,
是谓不道,
不道早已。

TRANSLATION

Use Tao to assist the rulers of the people.
Don’t use armies upon the land under Heaven,
that kind of thing rebounds.

Where armies camp
thorns and thistles grow.
Where armies have been
famine follows.

Goodness bears fruit, that’s all;
it does not dare to use force in pursuit of power

It bears fruit, yet does not brag
It bears fruit, yet does not boast,
It bears fruit but is not proud
It bears fruit naturally
It bears fruit without coercion.

Things that flourish briefly and then pass
cannot be called the Tao that endures.


COMMENTARY

This passage brings together the principles of, on the one hand, modesty and unassumingness and, on the other, non-violence and non-coercion. While force can get results, these are short term and do not accord with the Tao. The the land under Heaven is, in a certain way, sacred, and not to be tampered with rashly.

Taoist sages were sometimes in the position of advising the secular powers, even the emperor. The correct Taoist approach would be to achieve desirable ends with the minimum of disturbance, avoiding the use of force as much as possible. Rulers who assert themselves in harsh ways commonly end up as victims of the oppression they themselves created. For an instance closer to our times, those who introduced the guillotine in the French Revolution, mostly ended up being executed upon it.

One cannot claim Taoism as a completely pacifist ideology. Quite a number of armed struggles have been inspired by the Taoist desire to create a more ideal society. This is the big dilemma of living in the land under Heaven - ideals do not work out in simple ways. The Taoist has to be willing to rise to the yang position sometimes even though he would much rather remain in the shadow as yin. Nonetheless, the text asserts that gentle goodness gets results. Persistence in goodness bears fruit. Armies should be a last resort.

The little verse “Where armies camp thorns and thistles grow. Where armies have been
famine follows” makes its point strongly. While sometimes armed struggle may be the only way forward, there is always massive disadvantage attached to it. Taoism, as ever, is practical. War is costly in money, time, lives, culture, and just about everything we value. Avoid it if one possibly can.

Thus there is a need to cultivate modesty. The ideal here is the quietly confident person who does not need to brag and who does not lay claim to fame, but retires when the job is done. Such a person contemplates the bigger picture and the longer time frame. Grasping after short term advantage is not the way of the Tao. The Tao flows from the ancient past and puts everything into perspective.

Views: 27

Replies to This Discussion

Good advice for new puppy owners, as well as rulers of countries :)

RSS

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

MY MEDICAL CONDITION

Posted by David Brazier on June 26, 2019 at 18:04 6 Comments

My medical condition continues to be a mystery. It is clear that I do not have any of the big nasty things - brain tumour, cracked skull, stroke, etc - as these have been ruled out by MRI investigation. Nonetheless I continue to have persistent, continuous head pain that varies in intensity and I become exhausted by the least effort so that I am functioning like an invalid incapable of doing very much. There is always a possibility that the whole syndrome is a…

Continue

Grace.

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on June 2, 2019 at 1:02 4 Comments

“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark Valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us… Continue

Sit

Posted by Geeta Chari on April 26, 2019 at 22:13 3 Comments

This is a short video of a Buddhist monk and his family. 

It raised questions on parenting and Buddhism - does detachment (or perhaps quietism), as practiced here, lead to demotivation and disengagement with the world around one?

His children find the detachment practised by the monk disquieting. They appreciate the irony of detachment, which is supposed to…

Continue

Zero Limits

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2019 at 14:13 0 Comments

 

 

 

I have recently been made aware of a practice known as Ho’ponopono. Ho’ponopono is an ancient Hawaiian healing practice, based on universal forgiveness, that was rediscovered and popularised in the 80s. A man called Joe Vitale(Hawaiian I think)  became enchanted by the practice after his daughter was healed from an…

Continue

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service