Sun Tzu vs. The Wisdom of the Desert
In the many forms it may take, conflict has been with the human race since the beginning of time. Conflict may occur within the self or with other; it has caused wars and created strife throughout whole countries as well as in the lives of individuals. The world has never not known conflict, yet many still seem to be distraught when it occurs in their realm. Conquering conflict then seems to be the conflict itself. Whether the conflict is spiritual or militaristic, resolving and conquering it sometimes uses the same tactics. The Art of War and The Wisdom of the Desert are two books that, though their audiences may lean in opposite directions, the theme of conquering conflict is at the heart of each book.
Resolving conflict successfully can be done in many different ways. At times it may be necessary to engage in forceful or violent methods, other times more subtle means can be employed. The Art of War by Sun Tzu gives instructions on waging a successful war, while The Wisdom of the Desert teaches the lesson of "turning the other cheek" when faced with physical opposition. This is not to say however, that the desert monks did not vigorously fight against internal as well as external conflict, for conquering evil was their main purpose in life. One of the main themes in both these books is using strategy in facing conflict. Military commanders know how important planning and executions to winning a battle, not to mention a war. Sun Tzu explained strategy in his book. He states:
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but a few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat; how much more no calculations at all! (Clavell 1983, 11)
Sun Tzu realized that to conquer the enemy, one must be fully prepared and consider all actions and consequences before going into battle. When speaking of tactics, Sun Tzu wrote:
He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. (Clavell 1983, 7)
So if the commander is thoroughly able to carry out his plans, he will have beaten the enemy before stepping onto the battlefield. Sun Tzu argued that success was in the hands of the commander since, "the consummate leader cultivates the Moral Law and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success." (Clavell 1983, 20) Strategy is key to success, not just in war but in any aspect of life.
The monks who lived in lived in the desert felt strategy was important, but used it in an entirely different context. Their strategy was to avoid conflict at all costs and if it did occur, then it should be resolved peacefully. At the same that they advocated peace, the desert fathers also felt the conflict with evil...