An Eastern perspective on Soft Power and Invitation

This post is a precursor to discussion in the Soft Power and Invitation week (which is now – you may have to join to view, but hey – it’s free!) and a follow up from a comment Mark made in his post Soft power & invitation resourceswhich included a reference to the Christian concept of Invitation. I’d broaden this out and add that it’s probably more of a Western concept as in my digging there is remarkably little, but I thought I’d share what I’ve found along with a few personal thoughts. These are based only on my (a Westerner’s) studies, so please feel free to add any other resources, thoughts or whatever in the comments.

Note: There will probably be changes to this as it was a bit rushed



Not an easy topic to google on as there’s a lot of noise. It seems there is a concept of “invitation day” in Buddhism:

Pavarana,Invitation day – which is an opportunity to settle any grievances between monks!

This is explained more formally in the Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 16 – Invitation by Thanissaro Bh…. How this all fits in to our concept of invitation is a challenge left to the reader ;-)

Soft Power

Here, we find much more material as much Chinese philosophy is based upon the concept of “Soft Power”

Sun Tzu

I’m not sure what his “official beliefs” were, but he’s oft quoted mostly in a military perspective. There are a few quotes of his that may apply, especially from Section V – Energy:

6.   Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more

. . .

11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle—you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?

Lao Tsu

Reputed to of written the Tao Te Ching. So many quotes, so little time… Googling will be your friend here.


Probably the best know text is the Tao Te Ching which starts out “Tao (The Way) that can be spoken of is not the Constant Tao’”. In other words, everything in this book is not really the Constant Tao, it’s just the normal one which is all most people perceive and can understand ;-) It’s still pretty deep though…

You could say that the whole book is about “Soft Power”, but below are a few gems:

Chapter 8

A person of great virtue is like the flowing water.
Water benefits all things and contends not with them.
It puts itself in a place that no one wishes to be and thus is closest to Tao.
A virtuous person is like water which adapts itself to the perfect place.
His mind is like the deep water that is calm and peaceful.
His heart is kind like water that benefits all.
His words are sincere like the constant flow of water.
His governing is natural without desire which is like the softness of water that penetrates through hard rocks.
His work is of talent like the free flow of water.
His movement is of right timing like water that flows smoothly.
A virtuous person never forces his way and hence will not make faults.

Chapter 28

To know the strong masculine principle, yet abide by the gentle female principle is like being the valley of the world where all rivers will flow into.

Chapter 30

Therefore, one who follows the true nature will understand the principle of cause and effect and shall not rely upon the strength of force.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not brag.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not boast.
By knowing the effect, thus one will not become arrogant.
By knowing the effect, although one has no choice, one still abides with the principle of cause and effect and does not resolve into force.

And finally, the last line from the last Chapter 81:

The Way of a saint is to act naturally without contention.

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