Tao Te Ching- Lao Tzu – Chapter 69

In using the military, there is a saying:
I dare not be the host, but prefer to be the guest
I dare not advance an inch, but prefer to withdraw a foot

This is called marching in formation without formation
Raising arms without arms
Grappling enemies without enemies
Holding weapons without weapons

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
(Translation by Derick Lin)


This chapter talks about the principle of strategy and tactics in the sense of using troops exclusively. The central idea is to clarify what the previous chapter was about. Lao Tzu demanded that people should not be brave, infuriated easily, avoid confrontation with people, give full play to their talents, be good at using the power of others and not fight for contention. He thought this is in line with the will of heaven, is the ancient principle.

I practice Taijiquan for several years. I always amaze its combat philosophy-yielding, retreating, deflecting and pushing back. The practitioner may appear to be yielding and withdrawing, and yet is devastatingly effective in combat. The master of Taijiquan indeed illustrates the teaching of Lao Tzu the best.

How Lao Tzu wishes the readers to apply his concepts to their daily life, because acting from compassion and humbleness is the secret to the winning.

You may find some translation use “The grieving one will be victorious.” for the last sentence of the text. Yes, the person with virtue who has the grieving heart for the loss on any side will surely bring down the help from heaven; thus he gains nothing but wins.

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