Lao Tzu

Commentator's Introduction

The Art of War was compiled over two thousand years ago.
The author, Sun Tzu, was a mysterious Chinese warrior-philosopher.
This is probably the most influential book of strategy in the world,
studied by politicians, executives, and military leaders.
Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership!

In Japan, contemporary students of The Art of War
have demonstrated Sun Tzu's lesson "To win without fighting is best,"
by transforming Japan from a feudal culture to their post-World War II successes in a capitalist economy.

Studying this text applies to all organizations, from competition and conflict in general,
to the understanding and improving oneself, no matter where or when you live.
The goal of this book is invincibility:
Victory without battle by understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

The Art of War has its background from Taoism, which includes classic traditions of humanism.
For example, this book is not only about war but also of peace--a tool
for understanding the roots of conflict and resolution.

According to the old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician
(who was from a family of healers), Which of them was the most skilled as a physician/healer?
The physician (whose reputation in China was synonymous with medical science) replied,
"My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape,
so his name does not get out of the house.
My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute,
so his name does not get out of the neighborhood.
As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin,
so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords."
This ancient Chinese tale captures the essence of The Art of War,
as healing arts and martial arts may be worlds apart, this story illustrates how they are parallel.

Sun Tzu's philosophy is an effecient use of knowledge and strategy
that makes conflict altogether unnecessary:
The superior militarist foils enemies' plots; next best is to ruin their alliances;
next after that is to attack their armed forces; worst is to besiege their cities.
So his ideal strategy is to win without fighting, accomplish the most while doing the least,
which again captures the essence of Taoist knowledge--fosters both the healing arts
as well as the martial arts.
Ancient Taoist masters in China showed how a man of aggressive violence
appears to be ruthless but is really an emotionalist,
and emotionalists can and do get slain.
How does the latter appeal to the 'humane' traditions of Taoism?
That teaching is not used by these original philosophers as a justification for the 'ruthless' aggression,
but as a meditation on the ultimate meaningless of the greed (possessiveness)
that underlie such aggression.

In India, Buddhist aspirants used to visit burning grounds
and watch the corpses of those whose families could not afford a cremation rot away.
They did this to scare the greed (possessiveness) out of themselves,
after that they turned their minds toward thoughts of ideal invividuals and ideal societies.
In this text, Master Sun has readers dwell on the casualties of war,
from phases of treachery and alienation to extreme forms of attack and siege,
so as to depict (his point of view) of mass cannibalism of human and natural resources.
Thus, he gives the reader an enhanced feeling for the significance of individual
and social virtues that Taoist traditions lends itself to: humanitarians.

Paradox is a standard device of Taoist pyschology...the paradox in The Art of War
is its opposition to war--it is a war against war by doing so through principles:
It infliltrates the enemy's lines, uncovers the enemy's secrets,
and changes the hearts of the enemy's troops.

Notice I call myself 'Commentator"...this is because after initially reading The Art of War
several years ago, I came up with my own conclusions on the meanings of each chapter,
and I thought I would include them as an explanation in each chapter.
But then I realized that most likely, even while reading this introduction,
that YOU came up with your own interpretation of hidden/alternate meanings,
as they apply to your situations.
I am a teacher, so I might apply Sun Tzu's teachings towards engaging my students
and when dealing with their parents or my administrators.
But you might be a business person, lawyer, judge, doctor, nurse, cop, in the military, or however,
whenever, wherever this may apply to you--I think you'll agree
that each time you read this you will find new meanings to it,
just as each person will come to understand it differently.
I believe that is the point, therefore I will include only the text in each chapter.

Lao Tzu

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