Tao-te ching Comments

Avoid Force

    He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return.

    Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.

    A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for mastery.

    When things have attained their strong maturity they become old. This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao: and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end. (Ch. 30, Legge version.)


Here the excessive showing of mastery even in war is disapproved. Why? because things continuously change. As Lao-tzu says, when something attained his maturity it becomes old. That is, the very fullness changes to emptiness.

One more idea is stressed in this chapter: as a matter of fact one shouldn't use the force of arms. But if he must use it, he should do it only on necessity and only once. Continuing the showing of force will certainly lead to loss.

One more word: I read many times that the usage of force is prohibited by the Taoists. Just do a Google search and you'll find this idea almost everywhere, amateurs and masters alike. Why? Because the so-called Taoist masters of our days mistaken Taoism for the Christianity. Christians are adepts of peaceful approach of problems and avoid violence. At least in theory.

The true is power must be shown when times require. But one should be moderate in using it.

Commentary by Jhian



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