A great and powerful army is what most government want. The defence budgets of many countries are relatively high, or even higher, than the education and social development programs. But Lao Zi considers Army as an ominous instrument. Why?Dao De Jing Chapter 33 Text, Translation and Comments:
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A great army is an ominous instrument. (When an army is used, it means destruction and killings. Hence, bad omen.)
All things hate them. Hence, those with Dao Virtues will not associate with them.
Dao is about development and growth for all. It is the opposite of destruction.
Wise gentlemen in their daily life honor those at left. In war time, they honor those on the right.
(In ancient China, in Lao Zi time, left is more honorable than right. Admin officers stand on the left whereas generals stand on the right.)
Army is an ominous instrument. It is not the instrument of the wise gentlemen.
It is used as the last resort. Quietness and peace are better.
(Lao Zi is not against the use of the army. He recognized the harms in its use. Peace is preferred over war. But peace may be achieved only when one has a great army. It is as proposed by Sun Zi that the best strategy is to win without a war.)
Victory is not to be praised. Those who praise war are those that like to kill people.
Praising victors of war is like encouraging people to kill.
Those that like to kill are not able to win the heart of the world. (Yet, the world could never be conquered by the use of force against people wishes. See Chapter 29 & 30 also.)
The good things honor left. The bad things honor right. Assistant commanders stay on the left whereas commanders stay on the right.
When thinking about war, speak about funeral services. When many are killed, we are sad and we cry for them. Even after the victory, we must conduct funeral services.
Lao Zi is for peace and not for war. However, he is not against the build up of an army but rather the right use of it. Army is a weapon of destruction and killing and hence must be carefully put to good use. Use it for peace and not for somebody ego and pride to conquer the world. He will not succeed but only bring forth destruction, sufferings, and deaths. Notice Lao Zi uses left and right, the yin-yang concept to promote the thinking of right balance, and the right time and place to do the right thing.
Lim Liat (c) 7 Oct 16