Thirtieth Chapter: Tao Te Ching
The sage, who is attuned to Tao, warns the ruler against the use of arms for conquest.
Weapons often turn upon the wielder.
Wherever armies are stationed, briers and thorns grow.
Great wars are always followed by famine.
A good general stops when he achieves his purpose.
He does not parade his victory.
He does not boast his ability.
He does not feel proud.
He rather regrets that he has not been able to prevent the war.
He must never think of conquering others by force.
Whatever strains with force will soon decay.
Because it is contrary to the Tao.
Whatever is not attuned to the Way of Tao will soon perish.
As I understand it:
Living a conflict free existence is in harmony with the Tao. Force creates a counterforce and this exchange goes on and on until an all-out war explodes.
The earth on which a war is fought stops producing crops. Famine falls and decimation of food and, men, women and children occurs.
A war is not only fought between two countries but also in the heart of good generals. They realize that sometimes violence is necessary but their victory is not something to be proud of.
Conquering a kingdom by force is ultimately a loss. It strips the people on both sides of exuberance and fruitfulness. It results in dearth of love, kindness and joy in their personal lives.
An enemy can be converted into a friend not by force but through love. Force results in resentment and revenge. It speeds decay and deterioration.
Do not participate in anything that violates your sense of goodness and freedom. Stop violence, pomposity of your weapons and boasting about the war. If you have to use violence to protect yourself and those you love, immediately retreat to a position that doesn’t allow for bragging and self-congratulations.
Restore a balance of love where hatred previously resided.
The Way of Lao Tzu, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.
Dyer, Wayne W., Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.