How We Destroy Our Three Greatest Treasures

The generals have a saying:
‘Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.’

This is called going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 69, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Two days ago, Lao Tzu boiled down his teachings to our three greatest treasures: “Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.” Yesterday, Lao Tzu began talking about how to guard those three treasures, through the virtue of competing without competing. That had me thinking about the possibility of competing governments. For some time, those of us who yearn to be free have had to resort to escaping the land of our nativity, on a perilous physical journey; and, that has not always been a viable option. But, now, with our present technology, we should be able to have competing virtual governments vying for our citizenship. Governments no longer have to be restricted to geographic borders. I am a citizen of the world. What difference does it make where I happen to live, physically? Now, I know, I am never the first to think of these things. If I am thinking of something, untold numbers of people have probably thought of them many times, before. Sure enough, I got an almost immediate response to my blog post, asking if I had heard of bitnation.co. Good! I wanted to be part of a conversation. I have already begun to check out what I can find out online about this endeavor. And, I hope those of my readers who already know something about it, and maybe are participants, will message me. I have a need to know more. Let’s talk!

In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu focuses on the danger of not guarding our three greatest treasures. He does so, by talking military strategy. Remember, yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about the best general entering the mind of his enemy. This is one way to embody the virtue of competing without competing. Once you have entered your opponent’s mind, it is time for the generals to get together, and start talking. Lao Tzu says, “The generals have a saying: ‘Rather than make the first move it is better to wait and see. Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard.’” This, my friends, is the embodiment of one of our three greatest treasures, patience.

We dare not attack first. To initiate the use of force, that is, violence, is to have it rebound upon us. Better to take a step back, to “retreat a yard”, to take a defensive position, and wait and see what actually is in our opponent’s mind. And, because they are patient, they “go forward without advancing, and push back without using weapons.”

To do anything other than this is to underestimate your enemy. And, what a misfortune that would be! When we underestimate our enemy, when we think of them as anything less than human, as evil, we destroy our three treasures, and become an enemy ourselves.

This brings me to our current “War on Terror”. Yesterday, I also posted an article by Chris Hedges at truthdig, entitled “The Lie Of Patriotism” where he interviewed a couple of “Veterans For Peace” who, after seeing firsthand, just how evil we have become, in our prosecution of wars (let’s just admit our generals aren’t following Lao Tzu’s military strategy), that they are now practicing acts of civil disobedience, to call attention to the atrocities done in our name.

The article is a good one. I highly recommend everyone read it. We have departed so far from where we should be. And, it seems that those voices, who are speaking the truth, are drowned out by those who want only more of the same. When will we see the power in yielding? That is the way of the Tao. When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go, not to the one who strikes first, but to the one who knows how to yield.

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