Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Chanakyaniti primer

This was something that was meant for our recent Yuva varg in our part of the 3rd rock. Unfortunately, it was rejected by our superiors as "too intellectual" for newbies to grasp. Therefore, I am posting it here, in the hope that somebody would pick it up and live these great quotes from the timeless master. Basically, these are quotes from Chanakya's nitishastras that I found to be relevant for our time. The reorganization into different groups was to make reading through them more convenient. Chanakya had classified them chapterwise, and each chapter had quotes related to various parts of life, which made it a bit complicated to 'capsule' views.

I have divided these shlokas into four groups, viz: (1) Money matters (2) Family and Friends (3) Learning (4) Miscellaneous. In most shlokas, I have included an explanation that would describe it appropriately.

Money matters: In this section, we will understand Chanakya’s attitude towards wealth.

a) Chapter 1.6: One should save his money against hard times, save his wife at the sacrifice of his riches, but invariably one should save his soul even at the sacrifice of his wife and riches.

Explanation: This quote not only advises a person to be frugal in terms of spending money, but tells him/her that it is more important to be a stable life partner and foremost, be a sensible man/woman having a pure soul

b) Chapter 1.7: Save your wealth against future calamity. Do not say, “What fear has a rich man of calamity?” When riches begin to forsake one even the accumulated stock dwindles away.

Explanation: Always live frugally and save for the future. In this regard, we are reminded of one line from the Native Americans “we always borrow the present from our future generations.” Corollary: we have to save in the present for them.

c) Chapter 3.11: There is no poverty for the industrious sin does not attach itself to the person practicing japa. Those who are absorbed in maunam have no quarrel with others. They are fearless who always remain alert.

Explanation: For the people who work hard, there is no disadvantage that can put them out of action, and whether they are poor or otherwise, it doesn’t matter. Similarly in other cases a person with discipline can come through adverse circumstances.

d) Chapter 12.21: He who is not shy in the acquisition of wealth, grain and knowledge and in taking his meals, will be happy.

Explanation: Food, wealth and knowledge are important aspects of life, and must not be given up at any cost.

e) As centesimal droppings will fill a pot so also are knowledge, virtue and wealth gradually obtained.

Explanation: Knowledge, virtue and wealth are to be gained gradually.

f) Chapter 15.5: He who loses his money is forsaken by his friends, his wife, his servants and his relations; yet when he regains his riches, those who have forsaken him come back to him. Hence, wealth is certainly the best of relations.

Explanation: Total negligence of monetary wealth is not a good idea. Wealth is a natural part of family life and has to be given its due importance.

g) Chapter 15.6: Sinfully acquired wealth may remain 10 years, in the eleventh year it disappears.

Explanation: All wealth one acquires in his lifetime must be through honest means.

h) Chapter 16.11 I do not deserve that wealth which is to be attained by enduring much suffering or by flattering an enemy.

Explanation: Wealth should be desirable only if it is earned with some honor.

Family and Friends: In this section, we will see Chanakya’s views on how to pick friends, and how to raise offspring.

a) Chapter 1.2: He is a true friend who does not forsake us in time of need, misfortune, famine or war in a king’s court, or at the crematorium.

Explanation: Not needed.

b) Chapter 2.5: Avoid him who talks sweetly before you but tries to ruin you behind your back, for he is like a pitcher of poison with milk on top.

Explanation: Just as too much sugar is bad for the health, too much sweetness in a person should raise doubts. You can make out that this person is a backstabber when he starts criticizing others before you. It is possible as a corollary that he could also be criticizing you when he is with others.

c) Chapter 2.6: Do not put your trust in a bad companion, nor even trust an ordinary friend, for if he should get angry with you, he may bring all your secrets to light.

Explanation: Be choosy in picking friends, since a bad might not be able to keep secrets when he is angry. Pick friends that can keep secrets. Such persons can hold their cool even when they get angry with you.

d) Chapter 3.14: As a whole forest becomes fragrant by the existence of a single tree with sweet smelling blossoms in it, so a family becomes famous by the birth of a virtuous son.

e) Chapter 3.15: As a single withered tree, if set ablaze, causes a whole forest to burn, so does a rascal son destroy a whole family.

f) Chapter 3. 16: As night looks delightful when the moon shines, so is a family gladdened by a learned and virtuous son.

Explanation: Above quotes show how a worthwhile offspring benefits the family and how a rascal destroys the whole family.

g) Chapter 13.6: He who is overly attached to his family members experiences fear and sorrow, for the root of all grief is attachment. Thus one should discard attachment to be happy.

Explanation: This can aid people who stay far away from their families for work or some other purpose. Short term distance from families can generate a lot of longing for people who are overtly attached to their family members. They can do better without such attachment, both at work and in maintaining their peace of mind.

h) Chapter 12.17: Realized learning (vidya) is our friend while travelling, the wife is friend at home, medicine is the friend of a sick man and meritorious deeds are the friends at death.

Learning: In this section, we will try to discuss Chanakya’s views on education.

a) Chapter 2.10: Wise men should always bring up their sons in various moral ways, for children who have knowledge of niti shastra and are well behaved become a glory to their family.

Explanation: Never lose focus on educating your offspring in moral sciences. Only a properly disciplined one can bring glory to the family.

b) Chapter 2.12: Many a bad habit is developed through over indulgence and many a good oneby chastisement therefore beat your son as well as your pupil; never indulge them.

Explanation: Loving a child/student is not the same as not hitting/chastising/scolding them. Parent’s teacher’s first purpose is to ensure the spread and retention of knowledge, behavior and discipline and where these are interrupted, some chastisement should be done.

c) Chapter 4.18: Fondle a son until he is five years of age, and use the stick for another 10 years but when he has attained his 16th year treat him as a friend.

Explanation: Thisis about rearing a child. A child below five years might be too fragile to undergo a beating, so he must be treated with care. As the child reaches 5, his true learning, process begins, and to instill in him those values that will form the base of his future, he might be needed to be beaten. At some age, when he develops his compass for life, he must be treated as a friend. Intimidation in this phase can stunt his maturation and delay his emergence as an independent player in the society.

d) Chapter 10.3: He who desires sense gratification must give up all thoughts of acquiring knowledge and he who seeks knowledge must not hope for sense gratification. How can he who seeks sense gratification. How can he who seeks sense gratification acquire knowledge and he who possesses knowledge enjoy mundane sense pleasure.

Explanation: Sense gratification and knowledge acquisition cannot go hand in hand. To gain knowledge, renunciation of worldly pleasures is a must.

e) Chapter 11.10: The student should completely renounce the following eight things: his lust, anger, greed, desire for sweets, sense of decorating the body, excessive curiosity, excessive sleep and excessive endeavor for bodily maintenance.

Explanation: Chanakya wants the student to renounce the above items in order to get disciplined and to aid his learning process.

f) Chapter 13. 17: As the man who digs obtains underground water by use of a shovel, so the student attains the knowledge possessed by his preceptor through his service.

Explanation: Continued service of his master in a disciplined fashion aids a student in learning.

g) Chapter 10.1: One destitute of wealth might not be entirely destitute, but a man devoid of learning is destitute in every way.

Explanation: The most important wealth in the world is a good education, without that a person is really poor.

Miscellaneous: These are shlokas on various topics, ranging from the need for dharma, charity, organization, control, and other such objects that consist of small, but very vital pieces of human nature that should not be neglected.

a) Chapter 5.2: As gold is tested in four ways by rubbing, cutting, heating and beating, so a man should be tested by these 4 things, his renunciation, his conduct, his qualities and his actions.

Explanation: Herein, Chanakya lists 4 criteria according to which a man should be tested. What a man renounces indicates what he is ready to forbid himself of for the greater good of a particular cause. His conduct indicates what kind of leader he can be. Qualities of a man would indicate how others should deal with him. And lastly, his actions would indicate the focus he has towards getting to the goal in an organized fashion.

b) Chapter 5.12: There is no disease (so destructive) as lust, no enemy like infatuation, no fire like wrath, and no happiness like spiritual knowledge.

c) Chapter 8.2: Low class men desire wealth, middle class men both wealth and respect but the noble honour only, hence honour is the noble man’s true wealth.

d) Chapter 8.15: Moral excellence is an ornament for personal beauty, righteous conduct for high birth; success for learning and proper spending for wealth.

Explanation: An ornament is a piece of jewelry that beautifies a woman. When a personal feature is an ornament, it serves to beautify an already existing trait. With this principle, Chanakya suggests ornaments to the above mentioned traits.

e) Chapter 8.16: Beauty is spoiled by an immoral nature; noble birth by bad conduct; learning by not being perfected and wealth by not being properly utilized.

Explanation: The above are features persons possessing a particular trait should not develop. Beauty is only skin deep when somebody’s nature is immoral. Similarly, an ill-mannered prince is of no use. Education must be perfect and a person should be able to apply all the basic tenets learned. When a person is a spendthrift, there is no advantage of his being rich.

f) Chapter 11.2: He who forsakes his own community and joins another perishes as the king who embraces an unrighteous path.


g) Chapter 11.3: The elephant has a huge body, but is controlled by a goad; yet is the goad as large as the elephant. A lighted candle banishes the darkness; but does that mean the candle is as vast as the darkness. A mountain is broken even by a thunderbolt, but is the thunderbolt as big as the mountain? No, he whose powers prevail is really mighty, what is there in bulk?

h) Chapter 12.20: The wise man should not be anxious about his food; he should be anxious to be engaged only in dharma. The food of each man is created for him at his birth.

i) Chapter 13.2: We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future, men of discernment deal only with the present moment.

j) Chapter 13.11: The hearts of base men burn before the fire of other’s fame and they slander them being themselves unable to rise to such a high position.

k) Chapter 13.16: He whose actions are disorganized has no happiness either in the midst of men or in a jungle – in the midst of men his heart burns by social contacts and his helplessness burns him in the forest.

Charity and Control:

a) Chapter 5.11: Charity puts an end to poverty, righteous conduct to misery; discretion to ignorance and scrutiny to fear.

b) Chapter 16.10: Even one who by his qualities appears to be all knowing suffers without patronage, the gem though precious requires a gold setting.

c) Chapter 14.13: If you wish to gain control of the world by the performance of a single deed, then keep the following fifteen , which are prone to wander here and there from getting the upper hand of you; the five sense objects, the five sense organs and organs of activity (hands, legs, mouth, genitals and anus)

d) Chapter 15.17: There are many ways of binding by which one can be dominated and controlled in this world, but the bond of affection is the strongest. For example, take the case of the humble bee which although expert at piercing hardened wood becomes caught in the embrace of its beloved flowers.

e) Chapter 16.20: One whose knowledge is confined to books and whose wealth is in the possession of others, can use neither his knowledge nor wealth when the need for them arises.

f) Chapter 17.3: That thing which is distant, that thing which appears impossible and that which is far beyond our reach, can be easily attained through tapasya for nothing can surpass austerity.


BHAVIN said...

Well Done ! It was really good, u put ur best . Thank you very much.

Karmasura said...

Thanks for appreciating the post brother.

Aman Shrotriya said...

Awesome...Great work. These principles tells the true aspects of life.