The brave soldier is not violent.
The good fighter does not lose his temper.
The great conqueror does not fight.
The good user of men places himself below others.
This is the virtue of not-contending, is called the capacity to use men, is reaching to the height of being mated to Heaven, to what was of old.
(Tao Teh King 68)
The brave soldier is not violent. The good fighter does not lose his temper. Wu: “A good soldier is never aggressive.” Byrn: “The best warriors do not use violence.” Mabry: “The best fighter is not driven by anger.” War is a terrible thing, yet entire nations are often forced into armed conflict by aggressive countries. Lao Tzu does not condemn those who are not the aggressor, but gives his wise observations concerning the situation.
First he tells us that a worthy soldier does not like violence and does not lose his coolness of mind in the heat of battle when it is “natural” to become angry. Nor does he harbor enmity toward those he fights against.
The great conqueror does not fight. Wu: “The best way of conquering an enemy is to win him over by not antagonizing him.” Mabry: “The true conqueror wins without confrontation.” Byrn: “The best tacticians try to avoid confrontation.” Lao Tzu now tells us that the greatest conqueror is one that uses reason and wise, honest and uncompromising diplomacy to convince his potential enemies of the way to peace and understanding.
Feng and English have a different translation: “A good winner is not vengeful.” It is unfortunately usual that the winners of a war punish the conquered and oppress them terribly. This has come to be expected, so a victor who does not act in this way is considered either weak or foolish. No one seems to recognize the presence of goodness. It is also usual for the defeated to feel humiliated and degraded if the conqueror does not maltreat them! This is a sad proof of how much the character of the human race has become corrupted and distorted.
The good user of men places himself below others. Wu: “The best way of employing a man is to serve under him.” Byrn: “The best leaders become servants of their people.” This has been seen in the actions of great warriors. In our time (or nearly so) General Douglas MacArthur was a prime example of such conduct. The United States may have “conquered” Japan, but General MacArthur saved Japan, giving it the best constitution in the world, even better than that of his own country. When he left Japan, multitudes of people came to bid him farewell, many of them with signs expressing their love and appreciation. Many shed tears at the departure of their true friend and benefactor.
This principle of Lao Tzu is also seen in the lives of the true saints of India. Swami Sivananda was the loving servant of all humanity. Paramhansa Yogananda was unfailingly humble and caring toward all people, including those who were disrespectful and even inimical to him. In my own visits to India I have witnessed remarkable instances of humility and sacrifice for others on the part of the saints. Of them many can say the words of the hymn: “For his love has been so gracious, it has won my heart at last.” This was especially true of Yogananda who has rightly been given the title Premavatar, Incarnation of Love, by those who lived with him.
This is the virtue of not-contending, is called the capacity to use men, is reaching to the height of being mated to Heaven, to what was of old. Wu: “This is called the virtue of non-striving! This is called using the abilities of men! This is called being wedded to Heaven as of old!” Mabry: “I say there is much good in not competing. I call it using the power of the people. This is known as being in tune with Heaven, like the Sages of old.” Byrn: “This is called the virtue of non-competition. This is called the power to manage others. This is called attaining harmony with the heavens.” The fundamental idea of all these different translations is that those who do not force, do not struggle (contend) with others or the elements of life, themselves are following the eternal pattern of Divine Heaven, which forces nothing but resolves all things through gradual evolution. Realizing that people must evolve for there to be lasting beneficial change, the wise person works for that alone and never resorts to the other means which, being in violation of the divine order and the nature of all things, cannot but fail and in the end work harm.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Camouflage