Compassion Chapter 69

 The Power of Compassion

Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

Many times Lao Tzu writes about the generals and war.  This chapter talks about military, enemies and weapons. The military can be our power physical and mental, our enemies are the people and things we feel are against us and the weapons are our words and actions. Lao Tzu is a pacifist,  except when conflict is unavoidable.  In this chapter we see that idea displayed again.

To be a Guest

 “In using the military, there is a saying:
I dare not be the host, but prefer to be the guest
I da
re not advance an inch, but prefer to withdraw a foot”(1)

Lao Tzu starts the verse telling us the military would prefer to be a guest rather than the host.  We can understand this from what WANG CHEN(2) says, “In warfare, we say the one who mobilizes first is the host and the one who responds is the guest. Sages only go to war when they have no choice. Hence, they are the guest.” 

In life we face many conflicts from who gets the parking space, a lovers quarrel or our country going to war.  In our personal life whether driving or having a family discussion it best to be the guest.  Let’s say that a friend who I will call Fred and myself are discussing where to have dinner.  I am set on having Japanese food and Fred is set on having Mexican food.  I could start by saying how bad Mexican food is; now I am the host of the battle.   This battle is now my responsibility.  In this discussion it is better to be invited in as a guest.   In this case Fred is now the guest, and he can respond by that I am wrong about Mexican food (trying to advance an inch).  Then I will come back to defend my position and the battle begins.  Fred can (try to withdraw a foot) by suggesting we try something else such as Chinese food.  I can withdraw a foot and agree.  Now there is harmony.

Raising arms Without Arms

“This is called marching in formation without formation
Raising arms without arms
Grappling enemies without enemies
Holding weapons without weapons”(2)

The result of the transaction between Fred and myself is both people getting something they want, no losers.  it is marching without formation, there is no structure.  In raising arms without arms is we are without arms, nothing happens;  If we have no enemies then there is no fight.  If we are without weapons there can be no harm.  With arms, weapons and emeries there may be a victory but there is no winner.

”There is no greater disaster than to underestimate the enemy
Underestimating the enemy almost made me lose my treasures

So when evenly matched armies meet
The side that is compassionate shall win”(1)

We need to be careful before going to war.  We have seen this in our history.  In Viet Nam and Iraq we did not understand how many people they had, how they would fight and their desire to win.  We will have a disaster in our personal lives when we can underestimate the power and the mind of someone.  We may judge someone as not being smart based on their clothing and looks.  We will think of ourselves as being  smarter.  We may host an argument with them and they will just “eat our lunch’’ and we will walk away thinking what a disaster.

To look at this from a positive point of view the last sentence lets us know that compassion wins if we are compassionate we will not host a battle.  We may choose to take up a fight for justice or cure a disease, we will be winners not only in the cause, but also in how taking up the fight makes us feel.

There is no greater mistake than looking for a fight. Human life is a treasure, whether it is your enemy’s or your own. Those who forget this causing real and unnecessary suffering. Those who grieve for the losses on both sides Are more apt to survive themselves.

Darrell Denstedt
August 10, 2015

(1) and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006.

Tags : | | |

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Hi Darrell,

    Thanks for the link on your blog. Looks like you are going through the chapters on your blog! That is awesome! A year or so ago, I did a challenge on my blog called Tao Tuesdays – where I invited others to blog about each chapter. I had one guy who did ALL of the chapters. I also have written commentary on all of the chapters. You should check it out. His name is Louis and he wrote a lot about each one as well. His friend, Bob, writes long responses in the commentary. They are old friends so they both write a lot back and forth in the commentary. It’s fun to read. Glad we connected!

    Now, I am working my way through the I Ching – another Taoist text. Fun stuff!

  2. I invite any comments about this chapter. There are many way to interpret the Tao Te Ching. However you interpret The Tao Te Ching is right for you.

Leave a Reply