Strong armed forces are tools of misfortunate, disliked by the people.
Thus, those who possess the Dao will not deploy them.
Those noble men, when at home (i.e., during peacetime), value the left,
and while deploying the armed forces (in wars), value the right.
Armed forces are tools of misfortunate, not noblemen’s tools,
used only when necessary.
Tranquility should be the first priority; though victorious, be without glory.
Those who are glorified are those who like to kill people;
those who like to kill people,
will not achieve their ambitions in this world.
Auspicious matters are appropriate on the left while inauspicious matters are appropriate on the right.
Lieutenant generals are positioned on the left, while the chief generals are positioned on the right;
War should be regarded as a funeral.
The many who were killed should be mourned with sadness;
Even in victory, war should be regarded as a funeral.
Any powerful weapons developed, and any powerful army are the tools of the devil and bring the people misfortune. Wang, An-Shi (王安石) said: “Military commanders employ cunning as their foundation, use cheating as their talent, commit killing as their accomplishment, and conquer as their routine event. Thus, (armed forces) are the tools of misfortune.”1
Those leaders who have followed the Dao will not deploy armed forces unless it is absolutely necessary. Traditionally, the Chinese consider the place on the right as the major position in any arrangement while the left is considered the minor position. War or killing is serious and should be decided by the chief general or the lord who is positioned on the right. Those military advisers or lieutenant generals who offer advice to the leaders are positioned on the left. He Shang Gong (河上公) said: “Those lieutenant generals are humble and position themselves on the yang side (i.e., left side) because they don’t have the power of killing. However, those supreme generals are noble and position themselves on the right side because they have authority to kill.”2
Thus, those leaders who follow the Dao will value the left during peaceful times. However, if there is a necessity to deploy the military, then they will consider the events with grave seriousness. Mencius (《孟子‧梁惠王上》) said: “Among the leaders of today's world, there is no one who doesn't favor killing people. If there is one who does not favor killing people, the people of the world will be anxious to follow him. As such, all the people will belong to him. It is just like the water that is flowing downward with such a power, and no one is able to stop it.”3 That means those leaders who follow the Dao will be loved and respected by their people.
Culturally the position on the right belongs to the sadness and unfortunate events. It was written in Li Ji (《禮記‧檀弓》): “Confucius was standing with his students and politely positioned himself on the right. All his students thus also positioned on the right. Confucius said: ‘All of you really love to learn. However, the reason I positioned on the right is because my sister has just passed away.’ All students then repositioned themselves on the left.” From this, you can see that sadness or any unfortunate events should be treated seriously.
Even when war is necessary, it should not be celebrated if victory comes. It should be treated as a sad thing since so many people have to sacrifice their lives for the war.
The general on the right is the one who makes decisions. Advisers who offer advice are on the left and cool down aggressive actions. In qigong practice, the general is the emotional mind (xin, 心) while advisers are the wisdom mind (yi, 意). The emotional mind makes your thinking and actions aggressive but often out of focus. With the wisdom mind’s assistance, you will be able to keep your momentum, but on the correct path. When you practice qigong, you must have patience, strong will, and perseverance. However, you cannot be emotional. Often the emotional mind is the cause of qigong injury.
When you use the army (aggressive qigong practice), usually you have a problem. If you don’t have any problem, you should not have an aggressive attitude in your qigong practice. Aggressive practice is harmful and should not be encouraged. It often brings harm. But when it is necessary, aggressive qigong has to be deployed. For example, if you have already had lung cancer or breast cancer, then your qigong practice would be aggressively targeted on healing. Even after you have resolved the problem, you must remain in a state of high alertness and awareness, deploying the wisdom mind’s attitude and treat things like you still have cancer. You will then be able to prevent it from happening again.
The emotional mind is aggressive, but decisive in action. The wisdom mind is calmer and executes the policy more gently and wisely. If you are able to coordinate your emotional mind with the wisdom mind, then you will be on the correct path of qigong practice.
Normally, you practice qigong for sickness prevention (maintaining health). However, if you have a special purpose such as treating illnesses or conditioning your body, then you need to be become more aggressive. Even though this is the case, you must be cautious.
The above is an excerpt from The Dao De Jing: A Qigong Interpretation Lao Tzu, Translation and Commentary by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Publication Date 2018, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN:9781594396199