Comparative review: The Art of Peace and The Art of War

Comparative review: The Art of Peace and The Art of War

Something I’m starting is a series of comparative reviews of books. My aim is to compare and contrast these seemingly opposite books.

The first pair of books is The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba.

The Art of War is basically like a general’s guide to war. It was written for generals, and its general principle is simple: STRATEGY. Plan, plan, plan, and that is the way to victory.

The Art of War, which is less well-known, was written by an Enlightened master and founder of the martial art Aikido. His premise is that the Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood as the path to kill, but a true warrior’s quest is to prevent killing by practicing the Art of Peace (Aikido).

On the surface, both books do deal with fighting, and there are some similarities between them. The Art of War advises the general to “let his methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances,” and The Art of Peace says that “the best strategy relies on an unlimited set of responses.” So vary your tactics depending on the situation.

This is really where the similarities end. The Art of Peace reads more like a spiritual book, with some poems included in it, and pointers to the Truth. The Art of War is, well, a war book, and has information pertaining to that field of life.

Let’s examine these books separately now.

The Art of War has some very good advice, especially for the lower levels of PD, some of which appear in the 48 Laws of Power. For instance, according to Sun Tzu, the “essence of war is deception.” War, when you think about it, could also refer to business or other facets of our lives.

I found it to be an excellent book on strategy (not t be neglected even if you’re a spiritual person!), and even lays out the pitfalls many generals fall into.

Now, imagine being the general of your life.

There are five pitfall you can fall into:

  1. “Recklessness, which leads to destruction.
  2. Cowardice, which leads to capture.
  3. A hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults.
  4. A delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame.
  5. Over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.”

There is also a stoic element to this book: “Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage, simulated weakness postulates strength.” Familiarize yourself with the worst in order to reap the benefits of the best.

Finally, there is one golden nugget of advice for anybody, spiritual seekers included:

“In war, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

This applies to spiritual seekers, too. Often, we get so caught up in seeking that we forget that we’re supposed to be “finding” “something.” I prefer the term “finders-to-be.”

Now for The Art of Peace.

The essence of this book is peace and love and practice. An overall much more positive book than the other one.

Its philosophy of fighting is very different from most martial arts. “A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing.” At the highest levels of spirituality, there is no other, and certainly no other to fight. Because the Art of Peace is the principle of non-resistance, “it is victorious from the beginning.” Not wishing for an outcome makes any outcome the right one.

Coming back to the idea of non-duality, Ueshiba says “to injure your opponent is to injure yourself.” Fight without meaning to hurt, fight with the goal to pacify. He even goes as far as to use the beautiful verse in one of his poems: “Guide your partner.”

One last point of the book I’d like to mention. One of the phrases in it says “Always practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.”

We often forget to just ENJOY ourselves sometimes, especially when practicing.

Be happy when you meditate. Be grateful for that you even are able to meditate, and don’t live in a place where you’re in constant physical danger.

That’s it for these books. Both pretty short, easy to read.

The Art of War: The Verdict

Shows how powerful strategic thinking can be, but does not address any other aspects of PD.

Favorite quote:

“Now the general who makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.”

The Art of Peace: The Verdict

Good spiritual read with a lot of the classic pointers.

Favorite quote:

“Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.”

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Traps of Personal Development (#1)

Personal Development is a journey. As with every journey, there are traps along the way. Here I’ll be sharing some that I’ve fallen into or that I’ve managed to avoid.

 

Trap #1: Obsession

The first danger is turning this journey into an obsession or an addiction. This is different than it simply being an interest, which is fine, or a passion, even better.

But if you feel like you’re doing personal development to run away for something or just to have something to do, rethink your priorities and the reasons why you’re doing this.

I’ve fallen into this trap before, not just with personal development. I’ve also become almost anorexic due to my obsession with “healthy” eating. But for PD, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with it, and everyone around me could see that it wasn’t healthy for me. I would have seen the same thing if I had been honest with myself.

Now, PD is a passion of mine, and I know when I’m turning it into an obsession. It’s like your ego gets addicted to this one thing, and your life is centered around that thing, and if anyone attacks, you defend.

 

Trap #2: Judgement

This is associated with the first trap. Basically, when you become obsessed with anything or subscribe too much to one paradigm, you tend to get very judgmental about others. Which no one wants.

The important thing here is to remain open-minded. Realize that PD is just one of many paradigms through which to see the world, and not everyone subscribes to that one. And that’s fine. They don’t have to.

If you want to take it a step further, you could even start to question personal development. What’s the proof that it’s the right way to see the world? This will start to make your mind very tranquil and unaggressive, because you won’t have anything to defend.

 

Trap #3: Individuality

This is more a of a basic trap. This also happened to me when I first got into pickup. You know how everyone in that community says “Don’t care what other people think of you?” (Actually, you hear that a lot in self-help circles as well). Well, your ego can take that use it as an excuse to be a real insensitive dick.

Basically, the individuality that comes with pickup and self-help can be taken to such a degree that you’re inconsiderate. But one of the goals of personal development is compassion and love. How do you strike the balance between compassion and people-pleasing? That’s a tough one to answer… Know that over time, it will work itself out.

 

Trap #4: Getting stuck at lower levels of PD

Most people get into PD for the outward success: money, health, relationships… I know, because I did too! What people fail to understand at the beginning is that these are the lower levels, and they’re only here to provide the groundwork from which to move to the higher levels: all the inner work, questioning, contemplating, and being, that have to be done. This is where the real juice can be squeezed out of the lemon, and it’s the most satisfying life ever!

Many people don’t even know that there are higher levels! They keep operating under the old paradigm of outward success = inner happiness. Which is simply false. And they get caught in that endless cycle.

Understand: The only reason people go through these levels on the PD journey is to be ABLE to do the deeper work. I mean, how effective will you be at meditating if you’re stressed out about paying rent?

If you’re still at these levels, that’s cool. They are necessary. Just realize you will eventually have to move past them.

 

Trap #5: Misinterpreting Information

This is a biggie. This happens when your ego hears advice for someone more or less advanced than you and uses it to justify its own actions.

For instance: You’re a people-pleaser, and you hear someone say that you need to be more compassionate and do benevolent service to the world. But what you don’t understand is that they’re talking to people more advanced than you who have surpassed people-pleasing. They are now too individualistic, and need to be more compassionate.

The problem here is that you have an unhealthy paradigm of love. The people-pleaser thinks that doing benevolent service will get him love from others. It is a selfish motive. The person talking about compassion has moved past this and can truly be compassionate without wanting anything in return.

The same situation arises with determinism and victimhood. Let’s say you’re a victim, but you hear some spiritual teacher talking about no one having free will. Your ego will misinterpret that and justify itself: “See, I don’t have free will, so of course I’m doomed to be a victim.” Again, this teacher was talking to people further ahead of you.

This is one of the main difficulties of personal development: knowing which advice to listen to, because it can be contradictory depending on the level you’re at. This is why it’s difficult to effectively grow through impersonal means like these posts or videos, because we can’t tailor the advice to your problems. (It’s not impossible to grow: I’m just saying you will probably run into this trap a few times).

The best cure for this is just being honest with yourself, and honest with what you need to be focusing on.