Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
How can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
He enters battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.
The above is the S. Mitchell translation of the Daodejing, which is much more readable, but looser with the original meaning of the text. Below I’ll also include D. C. Lau’s translation of the same passage, which I have on good authority is the most accurate translation of the Daodejing available in English. Note that Lau’s translation presents it as a single paragraph, but I’ve attempted to space it similarly to Mitchell’s translation for readability.
It is because arms are the instruments of ill omen and there are Things that detest them that one who has the way does not abide by their use.
The gentleman gives precedence to the left when at home, but to the right when he goes to war. Arms are instruments of ill omen, not the instruments of the gentleman. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish. There is no glory in victory and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men. One who exults in the killing of men will never have his way in the empire. On occasions of rejoicing precedence is given to the left; on occasions of mourning precedence is given to the right. A lieutenant’s place is on the left; the general’s place is on the right. This mean that it is mourning rites that are observed.
When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in war, one should observe the rites of mourning.