Sun Tzu’s Art Of War is the reference on moving from conflict to harmony at will. It has been a guide for notable stories across different contexts… Inspiring: Bruce Lee to create Jeet Kune Do (the way of the intercepting fist), Bill Belichick to lead the Patriots to win six super bowls, myself to build non-traditional marketing partnerships for global brands and any who from a situation of conflict achieves harmony.
Most studies on why Sun Tzu’s works are true to point out that it is not about dense conflict. Actually the word “force” is only used in 2% of the 392 paragraphs. But none explain what does it take to win while avoiding conflict in a way that considers all of Sun Tzu’s work, I mean all of the 392 lessons across the 13 chapters. For instance, someone could say that because Sun Tzu Art of War is based on deception, one should be deceitful in order to win while avoiding conflict. To reach a conclusion on Sun Tzu based on this one popular phrase (or two or ten) while discarding the remaining 391 lessons is the same as explaining a cake recipe talking only about the proportion of ingredients while discarding the remaining steps: baking, cleaning, mixing…
To find That which explains each of the 392 lessons requires to move from a position of disciple that will at the most understand to a position of Master who will apply as one learns. In a similar way Sun Wu became Sun Tzu, or Master Sun. To achieve that we’ll journey through three phases: explanation, application, implication. Upon explanation we understand from outside the book’s contents what about Sun Tzu’s context connected with his response to conflict. By means of application we are to understand from within the book’s content what Sun Tzu’s response is. Beyond explanation and application each one is to implicate what is discovered in any area of life. I constantly explain, apply, implicate what I learn to accomplish harmony in any situation in my life. I achieve it in my physical health, the marketing partnerships I negotiate, my social life, the sports I play… It is by this merit that I tell you “I have something of value to say”.
Born 544 B.C. with the name Sun Wu. He became a scholar of Military School of Thought (Bing Jia). He convinced Ho Lu, King of Wu, on being allowed to write and teach his response to war in his work “The 13 Chapters”, later named “The Art of War” (Bing Fa).
Sun Tzu competed with more than 100 schools of thought during the end of the Spring & Autumn period, a time of new growth (spring) and death of old ways (autumn). The state rulers challenged the “rule by mandate of heaven” thinking of the Zhou dynasty. They used the same logic against them, questioning “If heaven choose the Zhou, it could also choose me”.
It is in this context that Sun Tzu named his work “The Art of War”, as naming it “The Art of Harmony” (it’s true purpose) would have been discarded by any king. In this way he harmonized his goal and the king’s needs.
We’ll uncover here why Sun Tzu’s proposal works best, but we can say for now that Sun Tzu was a native of Ch’i, location of the famous Jixia academy, where some claim as the editing place of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.
Now, anyone could read Sun Tzu but it takes Mastery to discover that to read Sun Tzu is a conflict in itself. Proven by the fact that Sun Tzu documented false lessons on purpose, for those who wanted to steal and copy from his book as he moved around. This demonstrates total congruence between Sun Tzu and his masterpiece. To remain in conflict would be the case of who tries to explain the entire book’s message with the insights of a few paragraphs. To achieve harmony is to identify the false lessons while discovering the common thread across the true lessons. This is achieved by means of application.
With this said we start the analysis of what Sun Tzu did in what he did. By the way, the key is mentioned in chapter one. The chapter that contains the map to learn each of the 392 lessons and the entire 13 chapters.
In the first paragraph Sun Tzu says “The Art of War is of vital importance to the State”. I admit I ignored the key here for a few years, but by my constant application to achieve harmony I found it: Vitality is not an attribute of a geographical, political state. Vitality is an attribute of living beings. Not a small matter within the culture that brought us the concept of Qi. This distinction changes the focus with which to understand it all. Now I understand: The Art of War is of vital importante to my/your/our state. This first lesson could be read both ways, yes, state of being or geographical state. With this brilliant tactic way Sun Tzu is presenting a conflict for the reader to choose his journey. A conflict he later responds at the end of the chapter.
The second paragraph says: “It is a matter of life and death…” Of course he made it obvious to King Ho Lu that he knows about the severity of the issue at hand. But there’s something more, because someone greater talked about life and death before Sun Tzu’s time and this is evidenced in paragraphs three and four.
He’s talking about Lao Tzu’s work the “Tao Te Ching”.
Lao-Tzu was the curator of the Royal Library of Chou. Disgusted by the ineptitude of the politicians and the endless suffering of the people, he decided to leave. On his way through the western pass, the gatekeeper Yin Hsi said to him “…I beg you to write a book for me.” Lao-Tzu promptly sat down, wrote the Tao-Te-Ching, handed it to Yin Hsi, and walked on through the pass.
Lao Tzu had practiced the Yin-Yang structure so well he was able to write the book on it in one day. He learned this from knowledge that preceded him, to name one “the iChing”. Sun Tzu is referring to Lao Tzu when he mentions Yin (death) and Yang (life). His accomplishment is to discover that reality is a flow or Tao that responds to one’s virtue or Te, through a thread or Ching. His assertiveness way to create one’s own reality became one of the four pillars of Chinese thought. Sun Tzu applies it as a response to conflict.
An illustration helps to understand. The Tao or flow of reality considers the Yin-Yang complements moving in harmony. The Ching or thread considers the Yin-in-the-Yang and the Yang-in-the-Yin connection between both. The Te or virtue considers the delimitation of each of the components, giving distinction to each while also unity to all.
To this point we’ve learned that Sun Tzu’s focus is on vitality and that his reference is the Tao Te Ching. In the third and fourth lesson (still the first chapter) Sun Tzu says that The Art of War is governed by five constant factors: moral, heaven, earth, commander, method. He’s saying that this is the map, what governs the entire book and each lesson.
When I began to analyze Sun Tzu some years back my goal was to convert this all time best seller into an infographic. To get there I codified these five factors into one symbol, imagining how Sun Tzu would’ve drawn them with the least pencil strokes. I came up with the following: Heaven is an upper dotted line, Earth a straight lower line, Commander a vertical straight line (uniting heaven & earth), Method being the arrangement of smaller lines behind the commander, Morale being the common spirit among all.
The code is beautiful in that it positions the factors from the most dense: earth, to the most subtle: heaven. And guess what?There is another code following the same subtle-dense logic: The Tao Te Ching! With Yang as the most subtle and Yin as the most dense.
Sun Tzu applied the Tao Te Ching to move from conflict to harmony, and in doing so shows the way to apply it in any area of life. What Lao Tzu in the Tao considers Yin and Yang are for Sun Tzu Heaven and Earth. What for Lao Tzu in the Ching considers Yang-in-Yin and Yin-in-Yang are for Sun Tzu Method and Morale. What for Lao Tzu in the Te considers Virtue to unify all is for Sun Tzu the Commander who unites Heaven and Earth to manage method through morale.
Now we know why Sun Tzu’s Art of War works to achieve harmony. With a response to conflict using the structure of reality, no part is left behind, meaning there are no half-way solutions, meaning one shouldn’t come short of one’s goal. This is a monumental discovery: to solve any conflict through the five factors that define it on its entirety. This is the What one should analyze in a situation of conflict. The how to solve for harmony depends on the circumstances of each individual-situation, and will always come forth when one moves forward considering all factors.
This key that Sun Tzu hid across the first chapter, in the first four lessons to be precise, is the map with which to read the other twelve chapters. Of which six are about subtle approach, strategy; and six are about dense approach, tactics. Using the same logic, strategy is about hidden or Yin movements, while tactics are about open or Yang movements.
Sun Tzu’s prupose is to solve for conflict because it is vital, a matter of life and death. He proposes to solve the dense conflict outside by solving the subtle conflict inside. In the twenty fifth lesson that completes chapter one, Sun Tzu proves, again, that one is to first solve the subtle conflict inside while also understand the reason why a connection with the conflict outside was made. The lesson reads:
Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple where the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.
By now we’re aware on reading Sun Tzu with caution… This way we’ll understand that the one who wins, fights the battle in one’s own temple. It doesn’t not say “the first battle” it says “the battle”, the real battle is within oneself, generated from the disharmony between the factors that generate reality. Sun Tzu’s solution is that when one connects with a situation of conflict, the solution starts when one dissolves the conflict within oneself, when one harmonizes the five factors of reality. Then and only then, I protect myself from the conflict outside and thus will find the way to win harmony from the start.
We’ve completed the analysis to find the key concept, the map that explains in its entirety Sun Tzu’s message. With this code in mind it is easier to discern, learn and live the 392 lessons on the art of harmony.
We’ve done so in an extra-ordinary way: in congruence with what we’ve studied today. We started with the visible, Yang, Explication element. Then we moved into the hidden, Yin, Application element. During the Explication we remained practical about the facts relevant to Sun Tzu’s discovery. During the Application phase we made sure the Theory is understood. All to arrive to the end of this journey and the start of the next one: to implicate oneself in what is learned.
It is my wish that you continue to explain why Sun Tzu did what he did, apply the lessons to your own strategy-tactics and implicate yourself in the move from conflict to harmony, in any area of life, at will.
“The greatest form of generalship is to win from the start transcending conflict by being present, praise by designing a strategy, recognition by varying tactics”.
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♦ Discover the hidden logic of Sun Tzu’s code to win from the start.
♦ Learn when Strategy (Yin) & Tactics (Yang) start, and when each is complete.
♦ Uncover who is the only enemy in any situation of life, and how to dissolve it.
♦ Bonus: analyze the life of four key characters: Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu, Confucius & Yu the Great.
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Why read Sun Tzu’s Art of War Codified?
♦ Discover the hidden logic of Sun Tzu’s code to win from the start.
♦ Learn why it works? By demonstrating that it is an application of the Yin Yang structure.
♦ Map each of the 392 lessons to the three forms of Sun Tzu’s code.
♦ Available for Kindle reader. Uses the original text translated by Lionel Giles in 1910.
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