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[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 31

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Legge 1891
31 
Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, 
hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have 
the Tao do not like to employ them.

The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most 
honourable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp 
weapons are instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the 
superior man;--he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm 
and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him 
undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the 
slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot 
get his will in the kingdom.

On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized 
position; on occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in 
command of the army has his place on the left; the general commanding 
in chief has his on the right;--his place, that is, is assigned to him 
as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed multitudes of men 
should weep for them with the bitterest grief; and the victor in 
battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites. 

 

Chu Ta-Kao 1904
31
So far as arms are concerned, they are implements of ill-omen. They are not implements for the man of Tao.
The man of Tao when dwelling at home makes the left as the place of honour; and when using arms makes the right as the place of honour.
He uses them only when he cannot avoid it.
In his conquests he takes no delight. If he take delight in them, it would mean that he enjoys in the slaughter of men. He who takes delight in the slaughter of men cannot have his will done in the world.

 

Derek Lin 1994
31
A strong military, a tool of misfortune
All things detest it
Therefore, those who possess the Tao avoid it
Honorable gentlemen, while at home, value the left
When deploying the military, value the right
The military is a tool of misfortune
Not the tool of honorable gentlemen
When using it out of necessity
Calm detachment should be above all
Victorious but without glory
Those who glorify
Are delighting in the killing
Those who delight in killing
Cannot achieve their ambitions upon the world
Auspicious events favor the left
Inauspicious events favor the right
The lieutenant general is positioned to the left
The major general is positioned to the right
We say that they are treated as if in a funeral
The multitude who have been killed
Should be mourned with sadness
Victory in war should be treated as a funeral

Strong military power isn't something to be glorified. We should recognize it as an inauspicious instrument, the use of which inevitably brings misfortunes and calamities.
Violence and aggression are inextricably associated with the military. Thus, it is universally seen as extremely negative. Recognizing this, those who are on the path of Tao distance themselves from it.
During peacetime, honorable individuals value the left in day-to-day living. The left in this case symbolizes harmony.
During wartime, honorable individuals value the right in the utilization of the military. The right in this case symbolizes force.
Because the military is an ominous instrument of destruction, honorable individuals cannot see it as a tool that they identify with. It is the last resort, to be used only when absolutely necessary, when there is no other choice.
When forced to use the military, honorable individuals will do so with calmness above all, and detachment from emotional turmoil. They do not fight out of anger or hatred, and when they achieve victory, they do not consider it glorious. To them, there can be no possible glory in taking lives.
Those who do glorify war tend to be the ones who take delight in killing. Such people may think they have what it takes to conquer the world, but history shows they invariably fail to achieve their ambitions. They may dominate by force but never win the people's hearts.
Auspicious events favor the left (symbolizing harmony) while inauspicious events favor the right (symbolizing force). Thus, the lieutenant general, responsible for the peacetime training of the military organization, is situated to the left of the emperor. The major general, responsible for leading attacks, is stationed to the right.
Because of their involvement with the military, both generals are regarded by Tao cultivators as if they are fixtures in a funeral.
Because many lives are inevitably lost in battle, we understand the grief of those who mourn the dead, no matter which side they belong to.
The military parade that follows victory may just as well be a funeral procession, no matter which side happens to be the victor.


Ellen Marie Chen 1989
31
Military weapons are implements (ch'i) of ill omen,
Avoided (o) even by natural creatures (wu).
Hence the Taoist does not indulge (ch'u) in them.
The princely person (chün-tzu) in dwelling honors the left,
In military campaigns honors the right.
Hence military weapons are not implements of a princely person.
Military weapons, being implements of ill omen,
Are to be employed only in dire necessity.
Better to regard them with lack of interest.
Do not admire (mei) them.
If one admires (mei) them,
One would be rejoicing in the killing of people.
But whoever rejoices in the killing of people,
Will not be successful (chih) in the world.
Therefore in joyful affairs the left is honored,
In mournful affairs the right is honored.
The Second-in-Command takes the place of the left,
The Commander-in-Chief takes the place of the right,
Meaning that this is his place in the funeral rite.
When many people have been killed,
Wail them with sorrow and lamentations.
When victorious in battle,
Mark the occasion with the rite (li) of funeral.

 

Witter Bynner
31
Even the finest arms are an instrument of evil, 
A spread of plague, 
And the way for a vital man to go is not the way of a soldier.
But in time of war men civilized in peace 
Turn from their higher to their lower nature. 
Arms are an instrument of evil,
No measure for thoughtful men
Until there fail all other choice
But sad acceptance of it.
Triumph is not beautiful.
He who thinks triumph beautiful
Is one with a will to kill,
And one with a will to kill
Shall never prevail upon the world.
It is a good sign when man's higher nature comes forward,
A bad sign when his lower nature comes forward,
When retainers take charge
And the master stays back
As in the conduct of a funeral.
The death of a multitude is cause for mourning:
Conduct your triumph as a funeral.

 

Hua Ching Ni
31
Weapons are instruments of killing and destruction,
which are contrary to the nature of life.
Thus, they are avoided by those who follow the subtle Way of the universe.
According to ancient social custom,
in times of peace a gentleman regards the left side, the soft hand, as the place of honor;
in times of war, the right side, the strong hand, is considered the place of honor.
Because weapons are inauspicious,
they are not the instruments of a gentleman.
Only when one has no other choice may one resort to using them, and, if their use is necessary, one must employ calmness and restraint,
for peace and quiet are the normal nature of universal life.
Even in victory there is no cause for excitement and rejoicing.
To rejoice over a victory is to delight in killing and destruction.
He who delights in killing and destruction cannot be expected to thrive for long in the world.
Therefore, on happy occasions the left side has precedence,
while on sad occasions, it is the right side.
When this rite was applied in the army, the lieutenant-commander stood at the left, while the commander-in-chief stood on the right.
This indicates that war is treated as the equivalent of a funeral service.
Because many people have been caused an unnatural death in war,
it is only right that the survivors should mourn them.
Even when a victory is won,
the occasion should be regarded as lamentable.


Flowing Hands
31
All creatures hate weapons of war;
for they are instruments of fear and dread.
Therefore followers of the Dao never display them and only use them when there is no
choice.
To a wise man, they are not his tools,
for peace and quiet are dear to his heart.
Do not rejoice in victory.
If you rejoice in victory, you take delight in killing.
If you take delight in killing, you can never fulfil yourself.
The wise man's tools are his heart, mind and best of all, the Dao.
In great wars many people are killed.
The officers and generals should feel sadness in their hearts, to see their men die before
them.
War should be conducted like a funeral.
The dead should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
Unfortunately war is necessary when one party rejects the Dao, and observes it as a carnival
of human carnage.
For these Men are greedy and do not know or follow the Dao.

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Yes, peace is preferable over war.  Don't point a gun at anyone unless you plan to shoot them.

 

Left hand/position vs right hand/position has a lot of significance.

 

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Curious, Marblehead...

Maybe you'll say more about the significance of lefthand/righthand position.... :)

 

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The Guanzi says, the left links with spring and life, the right with autumn and death; as well as Wen (civil) and Wu (military) , respectively. 

 

Some left vs right comments in the previous study:

 

https://www.thedaobums.com/topic/17975-ttc-study-chapter-31-of-the-tao-teh-ching/#comment-252604

 

Also note ch. 79 which relates the Sage holds the left tally... they give but do not take (or do not expect payment). 

 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, cheya said:

Curious, Marblehead...

Maybe you'll say more about the significance of lefthand/righthand position.... :)

 

I wish I could.  My thoughts on this are scattered and not in good enough condition to write anything on it.  Maybe when my time lightens up a bit I can do my research and then comment.

 

(Or maybe someone else could do it for me.  Hehehe.)

 

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On 2/21/2018 at 4:37 AM, Marblehead said:

Yes, peace is preferable over war.  Don't point a gun at anyone unless you plan to shoot them.

 

Left hand/position vs right hand/position has a lot of significance.

 

 

If peace is preferable over war, why war remains an option even today. Different beliefs, religions, political opinions and the world ends always in war, so what good brings Laozi to this world as it is been like this for a long time?

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6 minutes ago, Stosh said:

Why eat if you're going to die anyway? 

 

Cause your hungry?

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2 minutes ago, cold said:

 

Cause your hungry?

Fine , then you should read Laozi because you're hungry .

 

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1 minute ago, Stosh said:

Fine , then you should read Laozi because you're hungry .

 

 

I love soul food:wub:

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54 minutes ago, Mig said:

 

If peace is preferable over war, why war remains an option even today. Different beliefs, religions, political opinions and the world ends always in war, so what good brings Laozi to this world as it is been like this for a long time?

A good question to ask all political, religious leaders.  Why keep taking from those who have worked so hard to achieve something good?

 

The answer is that if you have a bigger gun you can take from others without having to do the work yourself.

 

Yes, it's been that way for ages, since written history and before.  

 

But if we keep talking about it maybe, just maybe, there will eventually be enough people wanting it to change that changes will start happening.

 

We've not made much progress at that lately but that doesn't mean we should stop talking.

 

 

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As devils advocate, and with a broad brush...

When the Yellow emperor dominated the land now called China , uniting it , it ushered in a golden age, and many societal advancements . Same can be said about the long term effects of Rome , and potentially the US. 

Talking doesn't often get people to change what they are doing whereas even an implied threat with force to back it up , can get folks moving. 

In these hallowed digital halls, there has been much ado about the fallibility of speech , and if that's correct, then talking amounts to the ' twitter of birds '.

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2 hours ago, Stosh said:

As devils advocate, and with a broad brush...

When the Yellow emperor dominated the land now called China , uniting it , it ushered in a golden age, and many societal advancements . Same can be said about the long term effects of Rome , and potentially the US. 

Talking doesn't often get people to change what they are doing whereas even an implied threat with force to back it up , can get folks moving. 

In these hallowed digital halls, there has been much ado about the fallibility of speech , and if that's correct, then talking amounts to the ' twitter of birds '.

 

So what Laozi was talking about this chapter? What this chapter tells us about war and we are in the same situation or a little better (not sure in Syria, Congo, Nigeria, Honduras, just to name a few)?

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29 minutes ago, Marblehead said:

But why change if one is already happy?

 

 

How about, If you think your happiness is built upon a foundation with a limited potential to persist over time,, you might think change was in order. The world continuously moves beneath our feet and so one has to predict , to stay in balance. 

Or you might be happy , but be under the impression that happiness isn't all there is to life. 

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34 minutes ago, Mig said:

 

So what Laozi was talking about this chapter? What this chapter tells us about war and we are in the same situation or a little better (not sure in Syria, Congo, Nigeria, Honduras, just to name a few)?

He is saying that , while there are sound reasons to play one of the roles in a conflict, its deleterious to war for the purpose of enjoying the conflict, most people love conflict you know. They just don't like to be the loser. 

Conflicts abound , and every nation who plays a part in one , has their reasons , their justifications, and so forth. 

If you luxuriate in the drama , then drama is what you will have, and you wont want to bring it to a fruitful end. Check out one of the endless argument threads , there's no end-game , it just goes on and on and on and on ....

Edited by Stosh

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7 hours ago, Stosh said:

He is saying that , while there are sound reasons to play one of the roles in a conflict, its deleterious to war for the purpose of enjoying the conflict, most people love conflict you know. They just don't like to be the loser. 

Conflicts abound , and every nation who plays a part in one , has their reasons , their justifications, and so forth. 

If you luxuriate in the drama , then drama is what you will have, and you wont want to bring it to a fruitful end. Check out one of the endless argument threads , there's no end-game , it just goes on and on and on and on ....

 

I think this is why LZ, as told in stories, walked away, as told, to the west... 

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1 hour ago, dawei said:

 

I think this is why LZ, as told in stories, walked away, as told, to the west... 

He he he , maybe. 

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