Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 30
No War

Those who with wisdom advise rulers
Counsel against conquest,
Using aggression & violence to rule.
The nature of weapons
Is to turn against their holder.
Where armies march,
Thorns and brambles grow.
War brings bad harvests.
Great conquerors
Are really great criminals.
Best to defend and stop.

The best leaders succeed
Without becoming arrogant,
Without bragging,
Without feeling proud,
Without feeling regret.
They only do what has to be done,
They succeed without using force.

Like waves in the sea,
Let life ripen and then fall.
The Tao - like the sea itself -
Doesn’t begin or end.
What goes against the Tao
Comes to an early end.


“Forward and backward, abyss on abyss, in danger like this pause at first and wait, otherwise you will fall into a pit.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 29
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Patience

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“Lavinia: ‘Why must there be war?... The horrible list of carnage they were making ready for… Why? What was it for? For a pet deer? For a girl? What good would that do?’
Turnus: ‘Without war there are no heroes. What harm would that be? Oh Lavinia, what a woman’s question that is.’”

Lavinia via Ursula Le Guin
12th C. BCE
Prophetess and co-foundrer of the Roman Empire
from Lavinia

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“The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.”

Odysseus Ὀδυσσεύς via Homer
c. 1100 BCE
Trickster lineage hero and symbol
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

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“The military in its victory avoids the solid and strikes the empty. Thus water determines its movement in accordance with the earth.”

Sun Tzu 孙武
(Sun Zi)
544 – 496 BCE
HIstory's supreme strategist

Themes: Water

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“'Politicians and generals who always want to extend their territories and fill their treasuries are called, 'Robbers of the People and should suffer the highest punishments.”

Mencius 孟子 via Wing-Tsit Chan, Shan Dao
372 – 289 BCE
from Book of Mencius 孟子

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“Abandon your plan… respond to the demands of inner truth… and war will end by itself!”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 via Thomas Merton
369 – 286 BCE

from Zhuangzi

Themes: War Truth

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“The Master achieves success, yet he never does a thing… People don’t see him as a leader since he lets them find their own way”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Success

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“He who takes up the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that evil can be overcome by evil, or violence by violence?”

Jesus via Didymos Thomas
3 BCE – 30 CE
from Gospel According to Thomas

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“Nothing results in greater droughts, plagues, or famines than the scourge of warfare. A good general wins only when he has no choice, then stops. He dares not take anything by force.”

Wang Zhen via Ralph D. Sawyer
809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: War

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“There is nothing more inglorious than that glory that is gained by war.”

Thomas More
1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: War Power

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“Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition of benevolence, confidence, justice.”

Baruch Spinoza
1632 – 1677 CE

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“When a country is defeated, there remain only mountains and rivers, and on a ruined castle in spring only grasses thrive. I sat down on my hat and wept bitterly till I almost forgot time.
A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors.”

Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉
1644 – 1694 CE

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“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

Themes: Aggression Peace

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“Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.”

Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Government

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“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

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“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”

Black Elk
(Heȟáka Sápa)
1863 – 1950 CE

Themes: Openness

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“We talk of wild animals but man is the only wild animal. It is man that has broken out. All other animals are tame animals; following the rugged respectability of the tribe or type.”

G. K. Chesterton
1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. (He is already on the way; he is like Mohammed. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with a wild god.”

Carl Jung
1875 – 1961 CE

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“Control in any form breeds distortion, conflict and an unhealthy mind.”

(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
1895 – 1986 CE
from Awakening of Intelligence

Themes: Power Control

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“effort in our practice should be directed from achievement to non-achievement”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Success

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“There can be no more wars of faith. The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
1906 – 1945 CE

Themes: War Golden Rule

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“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”

Noam Chomsky
1928 CE –
from Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

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“We are the waves, the Tao is the sea.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE

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“McLuhan’s comment that ‘every new technology requires a new war’ may help explain why we have so many new wars popping up all the time - not just wars with guns but cultural wars, race wars, gender wars, political meme wars, religious wars, social hierarchy wars, wars of philosophy…”

Shan Dao 山道
1933 CE –

Themes: Technology War

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“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso
1935 CE –

Themes: Peace

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“It is better to win the peace and to lose the war.”

Bob Marley
1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: War Victory Peace

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“Best self-interest lies in achieving universal well-being… When the goal of self-=interest is seen to be perfectly isomorphic with universal well-being, bad people will do what it takes to get universal well-being.”

Kim Stanley Robinson
1952 CE –
from 2312

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“Proud families spend fortunes on a one-day wedding ceremony for a marriage that may or may not last, while on the same day, in the same village, people are dying of starvation.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ།
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
1961 CE –
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

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  1. Shan Dao
    The translation here, “Great conquerors are really great criminals” is indebted to Mencius, 7B.2-3, Red Pine translation: “Those who say they are great tacticians or great warriors are, in fact, great criminals.”