Taoteching 37

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The eternal nameless void appears to signify inactivity, yet it enables the completion of all things. If the sovereign rules from his undifferentiated "mind-at-its beginning," the people become without desire.

Without desire, the people attain serenity. And affairs naturally grow calm.

In the thirty-ninth year of the reign of King Stronghammer, war was come to the Land We Know. Once again, the King dispatched Master Ji to lead his army and defend the kingdom.

A disciple asked, "General Ji, why have we camped on this plain and let the Army of Nath go for the high ground?"

General Ji replied, "Because in this war, even though we fight on our home turf, we are the guest, and the Army of Nath is the host. Therefore I yield the hill of honor to him and accept this low station."

"But General Ji! The Mouth of Koth can see our entire force, while we cannot know what strength he has hidden behind the ridge!"

Master Ji said, "That would only be important if we were the attacker. In that case we would tire ourselves fighting uphill and possibly be surprised by hidden forces waiting to ambush. Instead, my army is like water, dwelling in the low places considered of negligible value."

"So you're saying the enemy will come to us, General Ji?"

Master Ji replied "By our mere continued presence on this plain the enemy will begin to covet this plain."

"But General Ji. we are ringed by hills all around. When he attacks, we will not know from which direction he will come!"

Master Ji answered, "Yes, but his forces are spread like a ring all around us while we have the interior lines of communication. Anywhere he attacks, I can order reinforcements within minutes. Anywhere I attack, he will be weak. Do you see why we humble ourselves by keeping to the lowland?"

"To best survive the battle?" the disciple guessed.

Master Ji said, "A coward thinks only of his personal survival, and as a result he endangers himself and his entire unit. But a warrior of the Nameless Way advances on the battlefield already reconciled with Death. He goes into battle as though he were already doomed to die. When the thought of dying has already been accepted, this frees my soldiers to focus only on fighting. And therefore he retains his life. Keeping his life, he gains victory. Gaining victory, he preserves the life of the people."

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