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Tao Te Ching Chapter 31 | Lao-Tzu | Comparative Translations

The Way of Virtue





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.

Weapons are the tools of violence;

all decent men detest them.


Weapons are the tools of fear;

a decent man will avoid them

except in the direst necessity

and, if compelled, will use them

only with the utmost restraint.

Peace is his highest value.

If the peace has been shattered,

how can he be content?

His enemies are not demons,

but human beings like himself.

He doesn't wish them personal harm.

Nor does he rejoice in victory.

How could he rejoice in victory

and delight in the slaughter of men?


He enters a battle gravely,

with sorrow and with great compassion,

as if he were attending a funeral.




Translated by J. Legge





Translated by Stephen Mitchell














 

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