30th Verse – Weapons turn upon the wielder

Source: brainpickings.org via Adriana on Pinterest

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.

Where armies settle,
nature offers nothing but briars and thorns.
After a great battle has been fought,
the land is cursed, the crops fail,
the earth lies stripped of its Motherhood.

After you have attained your purpose,
you must not parade your success,
you must not boast of your ability,
you must not feel proud;
you must rather regret that you had not been
able to prevent war.

You must never think of conquering others by force.
Whatever strains with force
will soon decay.
It is not attuned to the Way.
Not being attuned to the Way,
its end comes all too soon.

This verse can be taken literally to be a battle cry for the anti-war sects. Or it can be taken for the more deeper meaning that I believe the author was attempting to convey.

The “use of arms for conquest” in the literal sense is referring to weapons of war. In the time of Lao Tzu, this would have been in the form of clubs, swords and knifes. In current times, this could refer to missiles, guns, tanks, explosives, etc.

If we instead look to the deeper meaning, these “arms for conquest” could be anything that oppresses or puts one being beneath another. This would be in the form of negativity, anger, demeaning words, fear inducing actions or any verbal or physical action that one uses to rise against another in the efforts of conquest.

Weapons often turn upon the wielder

Any of these verbal or physical weapons can turn against its wielder because anything that we do to another is done upon ourselves. In other words if I spew my anguish at you, you can accept it and become angry as well or you can choose not to let my anger effect you. However, either way my anger greatly affects my own being because I have created more negative energy within myself, which is detrimental to my own health and well-being.

After a great battle has been fought,
the land is cursed, the crops fail,
the earth lies stripped of its Motherhood

Those that have lived a life full of stress, negativity and anger are naturally more inclined to illness, more visibly aged and tend to pass away at an earlier age. Those that are free from those stressors are visibly younger, more vivacious and healthier. The “great battle” of negativity and anger is like a festering wound that poisons the body and mind that it inhabits.

you must rather regret that you had not been
able to prevent war

If one has acquired his/her goals, but has done it at the expense of others then he/she should not revel in it. One should instead regret going to such lengths as marginalizing another being for one’s own benefit. This “success” should be treated as a learning experience to ensure that such methods are not employed in the future.

Refrain from all acts of violence whether physical or verbal and stay intune with the way of the Universe. The need to struggle for conquest will soon fade away.

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