Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon one’s self.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
Tao Te Ching, chapter 30, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
There Will Be Repercussions
There were laws at work, governing our universe, long before Sir Isaac discovered them. And, while the physics textbooks give credit to Newton for discovering them, and I don’t mean to take anything away from Sir Isaac’s discovery, but long before Newton had his “Eureka!” moment (while watching an apple fall from a tree), Lao Tzu perceived the laws governing our universe, and penned his own theory. The way things are, the Tao; for every force there is a counter force.
If you are relying on the Tao in governing, you won’t try to force issues, or defeat enemies by force of arms. Violence, even if it is done with the best of intentions, always rebounds upon the one perpetrating the violence.
I appreciate Stephen Mitchell’s translation, I really do. But, it almost seems like it could have come right out of a physics textbook. Red Pine’s translation just has a more poetic feel to me.
“Use the Tao to assist your lord
don’t use weapons to rule the land
such things have repercussions
where armies camp
best to win then stop
don’t make use of force
win but don’t be proud
win but don’t be vain
win but don’t be cruel
win when you have no choice
this is to win without force
virility leads to old age
this isn’t the Tao
what isn’t the Tao ends early”
That sure is a lesson I wish our rulers took to heart.
President Trump wasted no time taking up the use of force where his predecessor left off. Any hopes that he was going to scale back the violence have been nipped in the bud. Will we ever learn?
SUNG CH’ANG-HSING says, “A kingdom’s ruler is like a person’s heart: when the ruler acts properly, the kingdom is at peace. When the heart works properly, the body is healthy. What enables them to work and act properly is the Tao. Hence, use nothing but the Tao to assist the ruler.”
LI HSI-CHAI, quoting MENCIUS (7B.7) says, “‘If you kill someone’s father, someone will kill your father. If you kill someone’s brother, someone will kill your brother.’ This is how things have repercussions.”
CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “The external use of soldiers and arms returns in the form of vengeful enemies. The internal use of poisonous thoughts come back in the form of evil rebirths.”
WANG CHEN, paraphrasing SUNTZU PINGFA (2.1), says, “To raise an army of a hundred thousand requires the daily expenditure of a thousand ounces of gold. And an army of a hundred thousand means a million refugees on the road. Also, nothing results in greater droughts, plagues, or famines than the scourge of warfare. A good general wins only when he has no choice, then stops. He dares not take anything by force.”
MENCIUS says, ‘Those who say they are great tacticians or great warriors are, in fact, great criminals.” (MENCIUS: 7B.2-3)
I really like that Mencius, dude.
LU HUI-CH’ING says, “To win means to defeat one’s enemies. To win without being arrogant about one’s power, to win without being boastful about one’s ability, to win without being cruel about one’s achievement, this sort of victory only comes from being forced and not from the exercise of force.”
SU CH’E says, “Those who possess the Tao prosper and yet seem poor. They become full and yet seem empty. What is not virile does not become old and does not die. The virile die. This is the way things are. Using an army to control the world represents the height of strength. But it only hastens old age and death.”
HO-SHANG KUNG says, “Once plants reach their height of development, they wither. Once people reach their peak, they grow old. Force does not prevail for long. It isn’t the Tao. What is withered and old cannot follow the Tao. And what cannot follow the Tao soon dies.”
WU CH’ENG says, “Those who possess the Way are like children. They come of age without growing old.”
And finally, the old Master himself, LAO-TZU says, “Tyrants never choose their death.” (Taoteching: 42)
Now back to the physics textbook, hehe. Stephen Mitchell tells us the Master understands the universe is forever out of control, that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
We need to believe in ourselves; because, if we believed in ourselves we wouldn’t try to convince others.
We need to be content with ourselves; because, if we were content with ourselves we wouldn’t need others’ approval.
For the last couple of days we talked about accepting the world. But, Lao Tzu also told us to see the world as ourselves. So, it isn’t exactly surprising to see Stephen Mitchell ending this chapter with the need to accept ourselves. Why? The whole world will accept us.