[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 30

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Legge 1891
He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will 
not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course 
is sure to meet with its proper return.

Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the 
sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.

A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does 
not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his 
mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against 
being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes 
it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for 

When things have attained their strong maturity they become old. 
This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao: and what is not 
in accordance with it soon comes to an end. 


Chu Ta-Kao 1904
He who assists a ruler of men with Tao does not force the world with arms.
For the actions of arms will be well requited; where armies have been quartered brambles and thorns grow. Great wars are for certain followed by years of scarcity.
He aims only at carrying out relief, and does not venture to force his power upon others.
When relief is done, he will not be assuming, He will not be boastful; he will not be proud; And he will think that he was obliged to do it. So it comes that relief is done without resorting to force.
When things come to the summit of their vigour, they begin to grow old. This is against Tao. What is against Tao will soon come to an end.


Moss Roberts 2001
Those who guide their leaders by the Way
Will not urge war to dominate the world,
For such a course is bound to haunt its taker.
Fields where armies camp grow thorns and weeds,
And plague and famine follow every war.
When the fruits of victory desist;
Never seek to break a beaten foe,
And flaunt no prowess with the victory,
Assert no strength, show no pride;
Be a visitor against your will,
A victor who will not dominate.
“Beware old age in pride of manly might”:
This warns you work not against the Way.
“Work against the Way, die before your day.”


Derek Lin 1994
The one who uses the Tao to advise the ruler
Does not dominate the world with soldiers
Such methods tend to be returned
The place where the troops camp
Thistles and thorns grow
Following the great army
There must be an inauspicious year
A good commander achieves result, then stops
And does not dare reaching for domination
Achieves result but does not brag
Achieves result but does not flaunt
Achieves result but is not arrogant
Achieves result but only out of necessity
Achieves result but does not dominate
Things become strong and then get old
This is called contrary to the Tao
That which is contrary to the Tao soon ends


A minister who follows the Tao, and applies the Tao in advising the sovereign ruler, will never attempt to dominate the world with military power. Those who are in tune with the Tao understand that violence begets more violence. What goes around comes around. Those who resort to methods of domination tend to have such methods turn back against them. Acts of aggression will inevitably cause retaliation and counterattack.
The use of military power is, by its very nature, an extremely negative thing to do. The thistles and thorns that flourish where the troops strike camp is symbolic of this negativity. When a great army passes the land, an ominous year of famine invariably follows in its wake.
Military leaders who really understand the use of force will never do any more than is necessary to achieve a particular result. Such leaders will not reach beyond the goal for more self-glorifying conquests. They accomplish the mission without bragging or flaunting. Success in completing the objective does not make them arrogant or over-confident. This is because they use force only when they have no other choice. They know that military power is the last resort, and not a tool with which to dominate others.
In nature, we observe that when things grow excessively strong, they will quickly age and weaken. We say that this is not in accordance with the unhurried nature of Tao. Things that do not follow the natural progression of Tao will soon come to an end. The same principle applies to the use of military power as well.

Ellen Marie Chen 1989
One who assists the ruler with Tao,
Does not overpower (ch'iang) the world by military conquests.
Such affairs have a way of returning (huan):
Where armies are stationed,
Briars and thorns grow,
After great campaigns,
Bad years are sure to follow.
The good person is resolute (kuo) only,
But dares not (kan) take the path of the strong (ch'iang).
Be resolute (kuo) yet do not boast (ching),
Be resolute yet do not show off (fa),
Be resolute yet do not be haughty,
Be resolute because you have no choice,
Be resolute yet do not overpower (ch'iang).
When things are full grown, they age.
This is called not following Tao.
Not following Tao they perish early.


Witter Bynner
One who would guide a leader of men in the uses of life
Will warn him against the use of arms for conquest.
Weapons often turn upon the wielder,
An army's harvest is a waste of thorns,
Conscription of a multitude of men
Drains the next year dry.
A good general, daring to march, dares also to halt,
Will never press his triumph beyond need.
What he must do he does but not for glory,
What he must do he does but not for show,
What he must do he does but not for self;
He has done it because it had to be done,
Not from a hot head.
Let life ripen and then fall,
Force is not the way at all:
Deny the way of life and you are dead.

Flowing Hands
Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Dao,
tell him to leave well alone and use as little force as necessary,
for this would only provoke resistance and rebellion.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever an army has been; things are laid to waste.
Lean years follow in the wake of wars.
Just do what has to be done and leave people well alone.
Never take advantage of power; it should only be used when absolutely necessary.
Achieve results, but never glory in them.
Achieve results, but never boast.
Achieve results, because this is the natural way of things.
Achieve results, have pride, but be open.
Achieve results, but avoid it through violence.
Force and violence are part of nature,
for the Ten Thousand Things have to exert themselves forcefully to survive.
But man uses violence unnecessarily for his own greed.
This is certainly not the way of Dao.
That which goes against the Dao will never last.

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Such an important lesson for a world full of conflict. More of this in The Art of War :)


Important to apply these principles to everything. Family, maybe business or if caught in ugly conflict with competition or internal affairs etc.

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  • Verse Thirty

When the main person in a group of people follows the Trail Marker,

They don’t put soldiers out under the sky.


There are better things to attend to.


Brambles grow in the places where 

soldiers have camped and trained.


In the wake of an army, bad harvests follow.


Do not use  daring to take by strength.

Live and grow and do not pity;

Live and grow and do not kill;

Live and grow and do not be proud;

Live and grow and do not need credit for your deeds or 

For the accidents of your birth:

Live and grow with no need to show your strength;


This idea that strength defeats weakness has been around for a long time, but it’s not what we’re calling “Following The Trail Marker”.


It’s not all there is to things .


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