Limiting the Use of War—Ways of Treating People

Translated and Interpreted by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

















Those who use the Dao to advise the ruler,

            do not (advise to) conquer the world with an army.

The use of an army tends to cause retribution.

            Wherever armies stay, thorns and brambles grow;

            after the great armies’ (action), there must be an inauspicious year.

A skillful leader stops after achieving the goal,

            dares not demonstrate his power (for domination).

Achieves the goal without bragging,

            achieves the goal without flaunting,

            achieves the goal without arrogance,

            achieves the goal out of necessity,

            and achieves the goal but without dominance.

When objects have reached the peak of their strength, and then get old,

            this is contrary to the Dao. Without the Dao, things soon perish.

As a leader, your mind must be confident and firm and your spirit must be strong. However, you must also be humble enough to take counsel from others before your final decision. Advisors around a leader are crucially important. Often a wise leader is successful due to his humility and willingness to listen. A stubborn leader will usually fail. Good and wise advisors would offer suggestions to their leader to follow the Dao. This is because when the leader follows the Dao, the country will be peaceful and harmonious. Mencius (《孟子.公孫丑下》) said: “The people cannot be kept within by relying on the border. A country cannot be safe just relying on the mountains and rivers. Showing a country's prestige to the world does not rely on sharp weapons. Those who have acquired the Dao will receive much help while those without the Dao will receive less.”

Sometimes, force is necessary. For example, when enemies have invaded your homeland, negotiation has failed, and you need to use force to protect your country. In this case, as a leader, you must firmly lead the troops and work to keep morale high. However, you must recognize that it does not matter if it is offense or defense; war will only bring disaster and misfortune to the country. That is the reason any leader should always avoid war. Wang, Bi (王弼) said: “Talking about deploying troops is a fiercely harmful matter. It does not offer any help but brings harm. It brings injuries and death to the people and barrenness to the fields. Thus, it is said: ‘thorns and brambles grow.’”

Even if you have defeated your enemies, you should not brag, flaunt, and be arrogant. You should remain calm and kind to your enemies without dominating them. If possible, you should help your enemies regain their normal lives. If you do so, you will build up friendships instead of eternal enemies.

The Chinese have a saying: “What you don’t desire, you should not apply to others.” How you treat others is how others will treat you. Ceng Zi (曾子) (《孟子.梁惠王下》) said: “Be aware! Be aware! How you treat others is how others treat you.” Wang, An-Shi (王安石) said: “If you kill someone’s father, someone will also kill your father; if you kill someone’s brother, someone will also kill your brother.”

One of Lao Zi’s philosophies is “using good deeds to repay the resentment.” That means when there is fighting, the losing side will be filled with resentment. However, if you are able to treat them kindly and provide them generous help, then you are using good deeds to repay resentment. In this case, your enemies will become friends. Sun Zi (孫子.謀攻) also said: “Thus, a hundred battles with a hundred victories is not the best (policy) of goodness. To be able to defeat the opponent without battling is the best (policy) of goodness.” Wang, Bi (王弼) also said: “This is taking the world without using troops.”

From this, you can see the best policy is not using force to solve the problem. However, if it is necessary to deploy force, then even if you win, you should—again—not be proud, brag, flaunt, and be arrogant. You should follow the Dao and treat your enemies as friends and help them. He, Shang-Gong (河上公) said: “Those who do not follow the Dao, die early.” Mencius (《孟子.離樓上》) said: “To initiate a battle for taking a land, the deaths of people are full in the field. To fight for a city, the deaths of people are full in the city. This is what is called to consume humans for occupying land. This crime cannot be forgiven even when punished by death. Therefore, those who like war should suffer the most severe punishments.”

Often the way of healing or practicing qigong is through softness, gentleness, and gradual progress, but with consistency instead of aggression. This is simply because the body takes time to heal, adjust, and condition. If the practice or treatment is too aggressive, often the mind becomes chaotic, and the qi flows into the wrong path. This is called “walking into the fire and entering into the devil.” Walking into the fire means the qi has entered the wrong place and caused fire. Entering into the devil means the mind has entered the state of fantasy.

All of these reversed reactions are the rebound of aggression. For example, use of aggressive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and many other methods to treat cancers, may just cause more problems. From past experience, these methods have been proven to not work effectively. Even if there is some small percentage of success, cancer often comes back and kills the sufferer. However, if you improve the qi circulation, provide a healthy lifestyle, have an optimal diet, and get adequate exercises, often the effectiveness of treatment is much higher. Naturally, it takes time, patience, and perseverance to accomplish the treatment with the qigong way. But with the reestablishment of a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, health can be long lasting.

Emotions are always one of the biggest obstacles of treating cancer effectively. From a qigong understanding, the mind leads the qi. Your body’s qi status is closely related to your mind. If your mind is under the conditions of fear, distress, and sadness, your qi status will be suboptimal; thus, cancer cells continue to survive and spread.  Studies have shown that a positive outlook is associated with increased levels of healing. Set your mind free from emotional bondage. With your mind free, you can develop a healthy lifestyle and make yourself happy again. This will bring the qi’s circulation to its normal healthy state.

From a Chinese medical understanding, lumps (cancers) are developed due to the qi’s abnormal circulation. The way to remove cancer cells is to resume your healthy and smooth qi circulation. After all, cancers are not problems caused by viruses or germs. It is the cells' restructuring of your body. The physical body is yang while the qi body is yin. One is a mechanical part and the other is the energy part. Both must be in balance. If one of them has a problem (for example, the qi supply is excessive or deficient) the physical part will be changed and possibly sickened.

However, in some cases, you need to treat the problem more aggressively. For example, suppose you have already been attacked by breast cancer. In this case, your enemy has already invaded your homeland. You need to take care of it by focusing on treating the problem. You need to enhance the qi circulation at the breast area and then release it. Through this repeated set of exercises, you will remove the cancer cells gradually. However, once you have recovered from sickness, you should still pay attention to the area and take good care of it. Not only that, you should establish a healthy lifestyle so further problems can be prevented.


Your mind is the leader, the body is the country, and qi is the people. As a leader, you should take care of people with care, softness, and kindness. If you abuse your lifestyle, you will be invaded by the enemies and become sickened. However, when you are sick, you must take care of the problem. After the problem is solved, you should treat it carefully and nicely and continue to take care of it.

The above is an excerpt from The Dao De Jing: A Qigong Interpretation, Lao Tzu, Translation and Commentary by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Pub Date September 2018 by YMAA Publication Center, ISBN 13: 978-1-59439-619-9.