Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Chapter 31, Violence will never bring peace

Weapons are the tools of violence;
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 peace is his true objective
how can he rejoice in the victory of war?
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?
With the slaughter of multitudes,
we have grief and sorrow.
Every victory is a funeral;
when you win a war,
you celebrate by mourning.

This uncompromising verse has a simple and clear message: peace is to be our highest objective and war is to be avoided at all costs. Even if we are on the winning side of a war, so much death and suffering has been inflicted on both sides that the end result can only be grief and suffering. This message is as relevant now as it ever has been. War is not the way forward and all tools of violence must be set aside.

One of the biggest evils in the world is that of dehumanisation. We demonize our enemies, reducing them to mere caricatures in our minds, thus legitimising our will to fight and kill them. We have to go beyond the labels, stereotypes and generalisations that we plaster over other people and recognize our innate oneness, celebrating all that we share in common and letting go of our perceived differences.

We can put this verse into practice by making a commitment to end all the acts of violence that we casually and often unthinkingly perpetrate in our daily lives. Such acts might include speaking or behaving unkindly or aggressively to another person, being thoughtless or impatient, or dehumanizing another human being by labeling them in some way. Instead we can replace all such acts of violence, however slight they might seem, with conscious acts of peace, kindness and compassion. This is living the Tao.

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