He who by Tao purposes to help the ruler of men will oppose all conquest by force of arms. For such things are wont to rebound. Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow. The raising of a great host is followed by a year of dearth.
Therefore a good general effects his purpose and stops. He dares not rely upon the strength of arms; effects his purpose and does not glory in it; effects his purpose and does not boast of it; effects his purpose and does not take pride in it; effects his purpose as a regrettable necessity; effects his purpose but does not love violence.
(For) things age after reaching their prime. That (violence) would be against the Tao. And he who is against the Tao perishes young.
(Tao Teh King 30)
He who by Tao purposes to help the ruler of men will oppose all conquest by force of arms. For such things are wont to rebound.
Byrn: “Those who lead people by following the Tao do not use weapons to enforce their will. Using force always leads to unseen troubles.” Mabry: “A leader who is advised to rely on the Tao does not enforce his will upon the world by military means. For such things are likely to rebound.” This verse applies to both nations and individuals. Military action should be avoided as much as is possible and practical because violence always causes a negative rebound, as will be explained in the second verse. Actually, government should avoid any type of coercion, for those who bring pressure on others and force them to go against their principles or will, in time will find the same thing happening to them. Those who use reason and benevolence will find the same virtues being directed at them. This also applies to individuals: kindness and reason bolstered by good example are the only way we should affect others–if possible. Of course this has to be qualified because just as there are incorrigible governments there are also incorrigible people who cannot be dealt with as rational. The basic attitude should be that following the Tao will in time bring about all that is good. Refugees from the Soviet Union told me of amazing instances of people who boldly lived in a manner that often brought imprisonment and execution of others by the Communist regime, yet those individuals would not even be reprimanded by the government, but continued to openly follow their principles and defy the evil power. Questioning about them revealed that they were perfectly honest and consistent in all things, having a completely peaceful and kindly attitude toward those that could have jailed or killed them. Patanjali said that when a person is perfect in ahimsa (non-violence) violence cannot arise in their presence. Buddha proved this more than once.
Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow. The raising of a great host is followed by a year of dearth.
Byrn: “In the places where armies march, thorns and briars bloom and grow. After armies take to war, bad years must always follow.” Armies of aggression bring terrible misery in their wake. It is as if the earth is cursed by the touch of their feet, and the civilians become overwhelmed with darkness of mind and heart. Liberating armies do just the opposite, fortunately. Although in a war there may be a good or “right” side, nevertheless war itself always has terrible consequences, even if evil forces were eliminated by it. For example, immediately after World War I the terrible influenza plague swept through the world and killed more people than the war had killed. Close examination shows that the countries that are forced into war in order to fight evil are without exception experiencing moral and civil degeneration afterward. After every war there is a marked lowering of the quality of civilized and moral life.
A multitude of “natural disasters” accrue to a world that tolerates and even encourages violence. Consider the last twenty-five years of the twentieth century. A heavy toll of civilian life was taken by various natural disasters in so many ways as the karmic reaction to the many small wars that raged constantly around the world.
Right now there are more people in slavery than at any time in the past. Even more surprising, although governments and media suppress knowledge of it, piracy is thriving throughout the world as well. Institutions of evil that we smugly assure ourselves have been long eliminated in our “more advanced times” are actually on the increase. And look at the proliferation of bizarre and unheard-of diseases that are bringing horror to the world daily. There is a law that demands equalization and it must be satisfied.
Yogananda has said it perfectly, as usual: “The year 1945 has also ushered in a new age–the era of revolutionary atomic energies. All thoughtful minds turn as never before to the urgent problems of peace and brotherhood, lest the continued use of physical force banish all men along with the problems.
“Though the human race and its works disappear tracelessly by time or bomb, the sun does not falter in its course; the stars keep their invariable vigil. Cosmic law cannot be stayed or changed, and man would do well to put himself in harmony with it. If the cosmos is against might, if the sun wars not with the planets but retires at dueful time to give the stars their little sway, what avails our mailed fist? Shall any peace indeed come out of it? Not cruelty but good will arms the universal sinews; a humanity at peace will know the endless fruits of victory, sweeter to the taste than any nurtured on the soil of blood.”
Therefore a good general effects his purpose and stops. He dares not rely upon the strength of arms.
Mabry: “A good leader accomplishes only what he has set out to do And is careful not to overestimate his ability.” Wu: “What you want is to protect efficiently your own state, but not to aim at self-aggrandizement.” This, too, applies to individuals and nations. Only what is truly needed should be done or aspired to. Ego must not fool us into doing more. The Bhagavad Gita describes those of demonic character as saying: “Today this has been acquired by me. This I shall also obtain. This is mine, and this gain also shall be mine. That enemy has been slain by me, and I shall slay others, too, for I am the Lord, I am the enjoyer, I am successful, powerful and happy” (Bhagavad Gita 16:13-14). This is the direct route to destruction of ourselves and others. Wise are those who know their limitations and also know when to rein in their capacities and not go further even if they are able to do so. It is important to live with the lightest possible touch in all things. Moderation and frugality in themselves are not the purpose; rather we are to learn to engage in external involvements as little as possible. In this way peace and contentment will be ours. The bulk of our attention and time should be on cultivation of the Tao.
[He] effects his purpose and does not glory in it; effects his purpose and does not boast of it; effects his purpose and does not take pride in it; effects his purpose as a regrettable necessity; effects his purpose but does not love violence.
Byrn: “When victory is won over the enemy through war it is not a thing of great pride. When the battle is over, arrogance is the new enemy. War can result when no other alternative is given, so the one who overcomes an enemy should not dominate them.” Wu: “After you have attained your purpose, You must not parade your success, You must not boast of your ability, You must not feel proud, You must rather regret that you had not been able to prevent the war. You must never think of conquering others by force.” The nobility of this passage is so evident that there is no need to comment on it. I would like to point out that in my visits to India I have met many rajahs and maharajas and saw in them exactly what a warrior (kshatriya) should be: compassionate and interested only in the welfare of those under their care, detesting all violence and conflict, yet able to intelligently engage in it for the good of others without any enmity toward those they must oppose and conquer. They were all of outstanding courage and strength of character, yet gentle though firm and dedicated. Every one of them practiced meditation and were markedly religious. One, the Raja of Solan, whom we called Yogi Bhai (Brother Yogi), was of outstanding spiritual attainment, simplicity and humility.
(For) things age after reaching their prime. That (violence) would be against the Tao. And he who is against the Tao perishes young..
Byrn: “The strong always weaken with time. This is not the way of the Tao. That which is not of the Tao will soon end.” Mabry: “Things that grow strong soon grow weak. This is not the Way of the Tao. Not following the Tao leads to an early end.” Wu: “For to be over-developed is to hasten decay, and this is against Tao, And what is against Tao will soon cease to be.” Duality is not just a law of relative manifestation, it is a law governing the externals of life. Ma Anandamayi used to say: “Getting implies losing.” Everything gained must eventually be lost, otherwise we could never return to our original status and be liberated. Happily, this applies to bad as well as good, so nothing can hold to us nor can we hold to it. That is blessed freedom, frustrating to the ego but a balm to the Self. So we must realize that all our gains will in time pass away and that all the “good” we accomplish will fade away after a while. And this is as it should be, otherwise the Tao would not be unconditioned and perfect. We are the Tao, and to seek to be otherwise is to willfully suffer and fail. Consequently we should be ever detached from everything but the Tao, which we should seek and find to discover we have always been inseparable from It.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Weapons of Evil