This blog is an interpretation of the Tao te Ching "Tao Virtue Book" which is attributed to Laozi "Lao Tze" a Chinese philosopher who lived circa 600 b.c.

Please remember always that this is the description of the Tao and not the experience of the living Tao. Hopefully, this blog will not serve as analysis or commentary but as a window into the Tao. You are encouraged to disagree with this interpretation, involve yourself in self-study, and ultimately leave all concepts behind and so experience the living Tao.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Understanding the Tao te Ching 30: The Dangers of Violence

When the magistrate follows Dao, he has no need to resort to force of arms to strengthen the Empire, because his business methods alone will show good returns.

Briars and thorns grow rank where an army camps. Bad harvests are the sequence of a great war. The good ruler will be resolute and then stop, he dare not take by force.

One should be resolute but not boastful; resolute but not haughty; resolute but not arrogant; resolute but yielding when it cannot be avoided; resolute but he must not resort to violence.

By a resort to force, things flourish for a time but then decay. This is not like the Dao and that which is not Dao-like will soon cease.

Tao te Ching Chapter 30


While the taoist sees that nature creates and allows to decay all things, the author cautions that resorting to violence as a policy in conduct of the kingdom, is expensive and dangerous.

The first stanza observes that the business of the Empire can be conducted without violence.

The second stanza observes that destruction follows the army.  The author uses examples from classical Chinese warfare, thorns and bad harvest where army have occupied and lands have not been attended.

The third stanza acknowledges the rulers need to be strong but not violent.  It again cautions against the ego.  Is it possible that ego is the seed of violence?

The translation of the third stanza is in doubt and the available translations disagree strongly on its meaning.  Certainly the first sentence is in keeping with the theme of the chapter; the apparent success of violence is followed by swift decay.  

The last sentence however is problematic.  While the Dao is eternal, all things of form do rise and then decay.  This is the natural order.   The original text reads this way:

The phrase, "" can be read, "Things strengthening through affection"   

Perhaps the author wishes to say that "strengthening through affection" is the natural way rather than through violence.

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