Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 31 was originally featured on the 2nd week in August, 2004.
Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.
It is because arms are instruments of ill omen and there are Things that
detest them that one who has the way does not abide by their use.
The gentleman gives precedence to the left when at home, but to the right
when he goes to war. Arms are instruments of ill omen, not the instruments of
the gentleman. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without
relish. There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to
exult in the killing of men. One who exults in the killing of men will never
have his way in the empire.
On occasions of rejoicing precedence is given to the left; on occasions of
mourning precedence is given to the right. A lieutenant's place is on the left;
the general's place is on the right. This means that it is mourning rites that
When great numbers of people are killed, one should
weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in
war, one should observe the rites of mourning.