There is the maxim of military strategists: I dare not be the first to invade, but rather be the invaded. Dare not press forward an inch, but rather retreat a foot.
That is, to march without formations, to roll up the sleeves, to charge not in frontal attacks, to arm without weapons.
There is no greater catastrophe than to underestimate the enemy. To underestimate the enemy might entail the loss of my treasures.
Therefore when two equally matched armies meet, it is the man of sorrow who wins.
(Tao Teh King 69)
There is the maxim of military strategists: I dare not be the first to invade, but rather be the invaded. Dare not press forward an inch, but rather retreat a foot. Mabry: “The military has a saying: ‘I would rather be passive, like a guest than aggressive, like a host. I would rather retreat a foot than advance an inch.’” Legge: “A master of the art of war has said, ‘I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive). I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot.’”
Master Lao Tzu is not advocating that we should be passive and without initiative, but in relation to others we should never be aggressive or invasive, attempting to shape their thought or life. A good example of this is the traditional Eastern Orthodox way of establishing a church in a non-orthodox area. A missionary goes there, takes up residence and simply lives from day to day. If anyone shows interest he speaks to them about Orthodoxy. But if after some time (the recommended time is three years) no one has shown serious interest in becoming part of the Orthodox Church he moves on to another place or returns home. Lao Tzu would approve totally.
That is, to march without formations, to roll up the sleeves, to charge not in frontal attacks, to arm without weapons. Wu: “This is called marching without moving, rolling up one’s sleeves without baring one’s arms, capturing the enemy without confronting him, holding a weapon that is invisible.” Mabry: “This is called going forward without instigating, engaging without force, defense without hatred, victory without weapons.” That is really all there is to this: live peacefully and unobtrusively, friendly to all but respectful of them by never interfering or trying to influence them. If asked, opinion and help can be given, but only to the degree requested and with nothing more than continued good will.
There is no greater catastrophe than to underestimate the enemy. To underestimate the enemy might entail the loss of my treasures. Legge: “There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious.” Often people push in and meddle in other people’s lives because they think those people are malleable and inferior to them in understanding. This can have very surprising and unpleasant results as the pushed may not just push back, but punch back. Also, we should not underestimate those we think need our guidance or instruction.
Therefore when two equally matched armies meet, it is the man of sorrow who wins. Wu: “Therefore, when opposing troops meet in battle, victory belongs to the grieving side.” Legge: “Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers.” Chan: “Therefore when armies are mobilized and issues joined, the man who is sorry over the fact will win.” Since inevitably conflicts will arise, even if only from the side of others, the truly wise one in the matter is the one who regrets it and considers it a loss and a detriment. Often the wise one must apologize to the foolish in order to restore order.
The sum of it all is to live in self-containment and self-effacement, being the peacemaker even if not the cause of conflict.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: They Know Me Not