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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Violence..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself."






Lao Tzu did not speak of violence as such, but he was clear about his dislike of armed forces and war, and pointed it out more than once in Tao Te Ching. Chapter 31 starts (my version):


Weapons are ominous tools.
They are abhorred by all creatures.
Anyone who follows the Way shuns them.


       In chapter 30 Lao Tzu described his reason for condemning war further. Simply put, the price is too high for both the loser and the winner:


Those who advice the ruler on the Way,
Do not want the world subdued with weapons.
Such deeds bring on retaliation.
Thorn bushes grow where armies have camped.
Battles are followed by years of famine.



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       This is actually the chapter from which the quote discussed here is taken, but in the widely popular Tao Te Ching version by Stephen Mitchell from 1988. His rendering of the above part, ending with the quote, reads:


Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn't try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.


       His whole interpretation of this part of chapter 30 is confusing. He focused on the mutual losses in battle, but Lao Tzu worried more about what it did to the land and the people. His interpretation is not shared by other versions. To give another example, here is James Legge's from 1891 (page 72):


He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the To will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return.
Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.


       Mitchell missed the powerful imagery of the thorns and the dire consequence of bad years and famine, and in particular he neglected the suffering of all those who were not soldiers in the war. In every war, they tend to be the majority.

       For more about Stephen Mitchell and his version of Tao Te Ching, see the chapter A good traveler has no fixed plans.

Stefan Stenudd
September 22, 2020.



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Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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