Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raj Dharma - 3

Recap: Part 1 and Part 2

In the third part of the series, we will see the qualities of a ruler according to the Arthashastra by Kautilya. My attempt here is to paraphrase material from the rendition of Arthashastra by L.N. Rangarajan, and try to produce a generalized attempt at understanding the conditioning of a king, his self control and his duties as explained in the Arthashastra which are essential parts to understand for people of a democracy, so that they can choose the right kind of leader for themselves. Those aspiring to participate in politics should also have a brush with these topics, since these qualities are to be expected of them as well:

Note: I am only skimming these ideas in brief. For a complete study, I urge you to buy the book I'm reading (click), or another translation of the Arthashastra.

Training a king: (In modern parlance, a PM?)

Importance of self discipline:

The three sciences [philosophy, the three Vedas {four now} and economics] are dependent on the science of government. Without the rule of law, pursuit of learning or vocation would not be possible. The rule of law can guarantee security and welfare of the people, and this rule of law is dependent on the self discipline of the leader. {1.5-2}

This self discipline is of two kinds - 1) Inborn and 2) Acquired. There needs to be a certain capacity of a person to benefit from training in discipline. This includes - obedience to a teacher, desire and ability to learn, capacity to retain, understanding, reflecting and ability to make inferences on what is learnt. A king should be able to acquire discipline and follow it in life.

Self Control:

This part mostly pertains to controlling the senses, not falling prey to lust, anger, greed, conceit, arrogance and foolhardiness. The leaders of a nation should avoid over-indulgence in the pleasure of the senses i.e, hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

Duties of a king:

The King is advised by Kautilya to be a Rajarishi {who is wise like a sage}. The features of such a king include:

- Having self control, conquering the temptations of the senses.
- Cultivates intellect by association with elders (in modern parlance, experts from various fields).
- Keeps a vast spy network.
- Is ever active in promoting security and welfare of the people,
- Ensures observance of dharma by people by authority and example.
- Endears himself to people by enriching them and doing good to them.
- Avoid daydreaming, acting by whims, falsehood and extravagance.
- Respect councillors and purohitas who warn him of bad behavior, make him follow his schedule and caution him when he errs.

Kautilya also advises the king to be energetic. If he is so, the subjects will be equally energetic. If he is slack, the subjects will be too and be a load on the economy. A lazy king as per Kautilya, is of ten a victim of his enemies.

Disaffection among subjects:
Besides, the king also has to control disaffection among his subjects, and must not act in a manner which would cause impoverishment, greed or disaffection among the people. If such a thing were to occur, he should take remedial measures {7.5.28}

The Arthashastra also warns the king against possible behavior which causes impoverishment, greed and disaffection among the subjects. This it says to happen when:

- The king ignores the good and favors the wicked.
- Causes harm by new unrighteous practices.
- Neglects the observation of proper and righteous practices.
- Supresses dharma and propagates adharma.
- Indulges in wasteful expenditure and destroys profitable undertakings.
- Antagonizes the knowledgeable by lying and mischief.

From {7.5.19-26} Such would cause resentment of the people against the King, cause rebellion and an opportunity of mischief in the country for the enemy. (Sounds similar, doesn't it?)

In addition to this, I would also like you to go over the earlier two parts of this series to have a complete review on the topic of Raj Dharma (Part 1 and Part 2) as covered until now. Let this also be a lesson for this Independence day. The pathetic and lax attitude of India's democratic rulers are one reason for our current condition. The other reason is public being unaware of the properties they need to look for in a leader, often getting swayed by petty issues like caste, free food, free electricity, narrow regionalist outlook, quota, etc. From a morally corrupt citizenry, only a morally corrupt leadership can emerge. May the above be a template for us to choose our leaders wisely, and to participate in the democracy with additional fervor than what we regularly show. The solution to a failing democracy as ours is not no democracy, as so many deluded people believe today, but is more democracy. The power is yours people, to be the change you wish to see in the society.

P.S: Some of these ideas have found a better, more fluid and contemporary expression in this article: click. Give them a tribute as well.

|| जय हिंद ||


Dirt Digger said...

Classical texts like Arthashasthra and Vidura Nidhi talk in detail about the guidelines for governance for rulers. You are right that the lack of knowledge among the people, the absence of any significant drive to hold leaders accountable are causes for the cesspool which is our leadership.
Vidura says,
"O king, never make one thy minister without examining him well, for a king’s finances and the keeping of his counsels both depend on his minister. That king is the foremost of rulers, whose ministers know his acts in respect of virtue, profit and desire, only after they are done. The king whose counsels are kept close, without doubt, commands success. He that from ignorance commits acts that are censurable, loses his very life in consequence of the untoward results of those acts. The doing of acts that are praise-worthy is always attended with ease. Omission to do such acts leads to repentance."


Karmasura said...

Thanks for that site. Will have to include that in a Raj Dharma - 4.

PP said...

Hindu model of governance, doesn't depend on democracy. Its monarchy, where duties and responsibility passed from father to son. In today's world, where every vote counts for a respectable person to be elected its not possible to elect a person who is true to the Hindu code of conduct. For eg., a person promising economic wellbeing may not be in a position to talk tough on illegal immigration because he may lose votes from one section of people. Why is there an expectation that people will overlook benefits they get, while electing corrupt leaders? By design, democracy is flawed as it takes advantages of people's vulnerabilities, especially in a multi religious society. That's why a king was never elected by people who had other things to take care of and his power was not limited because he didn't or did promise trips to Jerusalem or Haj on taxpayer money.

Karmasura said...

Democracy might not be a problem, the problem could be first past the post voting system ( , which we could try to take apart in the future.

Monarchy, totalitarianism, benevolent dictatorships, etc. sound good in theory but all of these depend upon the 'good emperor' syndrome. One bad guy at the helm and the whole story goes sour. We therefore do need a system that is much more self regulatory in nature, and democracy is a means to do it.