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Weapons of Evil

Part 31 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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Of all things, soldiers are instruments of evil, hated by men. Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them. The gentleman favors the left in civilian life, but on military occasions favors the right.

Soldiers are weapons of evil. They are not the weapons of the gentleman. When the use of soldiers cannot be helped, the best policy is calm restraint.

Even in victory, there is no beauty, and who calls it beautiful is one who delights in slaughter. He who delights in slaughter will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world.

The things of good omen favor the left. The things of ill omen favor the right. The lieutenant-general stands on the left, the general stands on the right. That is to say, it is celebrated as a Funeral Rite.

The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow. A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite.

(Tao Teh King 31)

I have mentioned this previously, but I want to make a point of the fact that armies of liberation are not quite as awful as Lao Tzu says. But in his time such things did not exist: all armies were armies of conquest and greed that relied on violence and cruelty to win. Nevertheless there is a down side to all war as was made clear in the previous section.

Of all things, soldiers are instruments of evil, hated by men. Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them. The gentleman favors the left in civilian life, but on military occasions favors the right. The wise avoid all forms of secular power because it eventually comes into conflict with wisdom since all things secular stem from the ego and before them all principles and convictions melt away as the foolish make all kinds of excuses and rationalizations for that. During times of peace the wise advocate calm, passivity, and non-interference, preferring to live in peace and non-involvement. But when it is necessary, he advocates strength in opposition and even aggressive conflict for the protection of that which is good and which will ensure the return to tranquility. In other words, he is never a “peace at any price” person, knowing well that some prices are much too high to pay. Regarding the venerable Swami Sri Yukteswar, his guru, Yogananda related: “My guru personally attended to the details connected with the management of his property. Unscrupulous persons on various occasions attempted to secure possession of Master’s ancestral land. With determination and even by instigating lawsuits, Sri Yukteswar outwitted every opponent. He underwent these painful experiences from a desire never to be a begging guru, or a burden on his disciples.”

Although the wise do not initiate conflict they must be adamant in resolving it in such a way that it will not rise again from the same roots. It is this outlook which has given rise to the martial arts of the East in which a person engages in intense conflict while remaining still in mind and heart.

This section also applies to the individual’s inner life. He should refuse in his private life to engage in outer disturbances, and should ruthlessly eliminate from his inner self all forms of violence and selfish aggression. Even when he must act in opposition to wrong, he never lets that be a justification for ill will toward another. He puts forth intelligent, dispassionate effort to bring about the cessation of evil, but never utilizes the passions such as “righteous indignation,” “holy anger” and other such evils masquerading as good and necessary.

Soldiers are weapons of evil. They are not the weapons of the gentleman. When the use of soldiers cannot be helped, the best policy is calm restraint. Wise government engages in conflict governed by calmness and restraint. If this had been observed in World War I there would never have been a Nazi Germany in reaction to the unreasonable vengefulness of the Versailles Treaty, and therefore no World War II.

On a personal level, the wise never employ negative means, and even in using right means they are always calm and restrained.

Even in victory, there is no beauty, and who calls it beautiful is one who delights in slaughter. He who delights in slaughter will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world. To consider victory won by injury, destruction and death as a beautiful thing betrays the craven heart of the violent and sadistic. Those who love slaughter will never ultimately rule, for their own evil will destroy them in time.

The wise individual detests harming another and never considers any advantage won by crushing another to be truly good and desirable. Those who are ruled by malice and vengefulness will never remain for long in the ascendency. They will be their own downfall.

The things of good omen favor the left. The things of ill omen favor the right. The lieutenant-general stands on the left, the general stands on the right. That is to say, it is celebrated as a Funeral Rite. Those things that arise from calm observation and non-involvement or objective, careful, and passionless involvement in action always move toward the good. But jumping in and thrashing around with ego and emotion running at top level will end in distress and eventual ill. The lieutenant-general represents calm objectivity and quiet living, while the general represents charging ahead and “getting things done” with expenditure of life force and mental strength. It is a kind of funeral rite before the fact.

The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow. A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite. This is the perspective of those who possess rare wisdom and humility. Such behavior is actually recorded in the annals of ancient India, especially in the Mahabharata, where the victory of the Pandavas was observed by them through undergoing intense spiritual discipline for purification of heart and with much grief at the loss of life on both sides.

In the same way the individual should be saddened at any “winning” which has involved the physical or mental injury of others, and should be accompanied with the endeavor to compensate for the unavoidable situation. This is why the Gita says that we should not rejoice at either victory or defeat.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Tao is Like the Sea

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Introduction to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Chapters of The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Preface to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

  1. On the Absolute Tao
  2. The Rise of Relative Opposites
  3. Action Without Deeds
  4. The Character of Tao
  5. Nature
  6. The Spirit of the Valley
  7. Living for Others
  8. Water
  9. The Danger of Overweening Success
  10. Embracing the One
  11. The Utility of Not-Being
  12. The Senses
  13. Praise and Blame
  14. Prehistoric Origins
  15. The Wise Ones of Old
  16. Knowing the Eternal Law
  17. Rulers
  18. The Decline of Tao
  19. Realize the Simple Self
  20. The World and I
  21. Manifestations of Tao
  22. Futility of Contention
  23. Identification with Tao
  24. The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue
  25. The Four Eternal Models
  26. Heaviness and Lightness
  27. On Stealing the Light
  28. Keeping to the Female
  29. Warning Against Interference
  30. Warning Against the Use of Force
  31. Weapons of Evil
  32. Tao is Like the Sea
  33. Knowing Oneself
  34. The Great Tao Flows Everywhere
  35. The Peace of Tao
  36. The Rhythm of Life
  37. World Peace
  38. Degeneration
  39. Unity Through Complements
  40. The Principle of Reversion
  41. Qualities of the Taoist
  42. The Violent Man
  43. The Softest Substance
  44. Be Content
  45. Calm Quietude
  46. Racing Horses
  47. Pursuit of Knowledge
  48. Conquering the World by Inaction
  49. The People’s Hearts
  50. The Preserving of Life
  51. The Mystic Virtue
  52. Stealing the Absolute
  53. Brigandage
  54. The Individual and the State
  55. The Character of the Child
  56. Beyond Honor and Disgrace
  57. The Art of Government
  58. Unobtrusive Government
  59. Be Sparing
  60. Governing a Big Country
  61. Big and Small Countries
  62. The Good Man’s Treasure
  63. Difficult and Easy
  64. Beginning and End
  65. The Grand Harmony
  66. The Lords of the Ravines
  67. The Three Treasures
  68. The Virtue of Not-Contending
  69. Camouflage
  70. They Know Me Not
  71. Sick-Mindedness
  72. On Punishment (1)
  73. On Punishment (2)
  74. On Punishment (3)
  75. On Punishment (4)
  76. Hard and Soft
  77. Bending the Bow
  78. Nothing Weaker than Water
  79. Peace Settlements
  80. The Small Utopia
  81. The Way of Heaven

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