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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chanakya Neeti

CHANAKYA (350-383 B.C.):  Chanakya was undoubtedly ancient India's finest political strategist and thinker. Chanakya is also known by the name of Kautilya and Vishnugupta. Chanakya was the advisor and Prime Minister of Emperor Chandragupta. His famous works include Chanakya Neeti, Arthashastra and Neetishastra.

The basic purpose of Chanakya-Niti is to impart knowledge on every practical aspect of life. And in this context he has touched upon various factors dealing with faith and culture, from the individual's point of view!!

1. Between the wicked and the snake, the snake is less evil because it stings once while the wicked stings on every step. [Snake would sting rarely and once but the wicked would sting repeatedly and even most unobtrusively. Hence the wicked is more dangerous than even a snake.]
2. No instruction can turn a wicked into a noble person; no amount of irrigation by milk and ghee (clarified butter) can turn the Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae) tree sweet. [The basic nature can't be altered.]
3. There is no way on the earth by which a bad man be made a good man. Even if one washes the anus region a hundred times, it can't be made a pious organ. [Chanakya asserts by this sweeping statement that evil can't be made good no matter what means one adopts to achieve this aim. It is as good as trying to wash the anus region to turn it into a pious opening, which it can never be.] 
4. Even till the fag end of his life the wicked continues to be wicked. The indravarun fruit (a very bitter fruit) cannot become sweet even when it is well-ripe. [Wickedness of one's character has no effect of age. The wicked person will remain wicked even if he turns old, like the bitter fruit of Indravarun which doesn't become sweet even when it is fully ripe.]
5. The wicked burns with the fire of jealousy seeing the prosperity of others. Since he cannot progress (due to his shortcomings), he starts deriding others. [He who is jealous at other's prosperity is basically an incompetent person. Knowing his shortcomings he realizes that he can't achieve what others have done. But his wicked nature refuses to admit anyone's superiority.]
6. Keep the distance of one thousand hands between an elephant and yourself, one hundred hands between a horse and yourself, ten hands between the animals with horn and yourself and a full country between the wicked and yourself. [Chanakya has used the measure of the hand's length only to make objective a subjective assertion. In short, he tries to bring home his point that the wicked is far more dangerous than all the beasts. Keeping "full country between yourself and the wicked" means that one shouldn't stay in the land inhabited by the wicked.] 
7. There are only two ways the wicked and the thorns should be dealt with: crush them by your shoes or go away from the. [Meaning either smash them to bits or have no contact with them. They shouldn't be dealt with leniently.]
8. An elephant is kept under control by a goad, (a spiked stick used for driving cattle.) the horse by hand, the animals with horns by hand or stick and the wicked by a sword (or any such weapon). [The emphasis is again on being ruthless in our dealing with the wicked.]
9. Meet obligation with obligation, violence with vengeance and wicked with wickedness. There is no harm in acting foul with the foul persons.  
10. All riches, vitality, life and body are fickle and fey: Only the Dharma is constants and everlasting!!
11. Constantly bounded by death, all power and pelf are fey. Hence one should adhere to one's Dharma which is everlasting.
12. God dwells not in the wooden, or stony or earthen idols. His abode is in our feeling, our thoughts. [It is only through the feeling that we deem God existing in these idols.]
13. Anger is death, lust is ( the river of hell) Vaitarani, Knowledge is the cow of plenty and satisfaction is ( the divine orchard) Nandanvan.
14. Man himself does action and himself bears its consequences. Himself he roams about in the world and himself gets liberated from this cycle of birth and death.[Chanakya says that man is free to act but he must bear its consequences, Whether good or bad. It is only his balance-sheet of the action and its consequence has been set at naught that he becomes liberated. Hence to achieve this liberation is also well within the control of man.]
15. Although man reaps as he sows and his wisdom is also controlled by his action, yet the prudent and wise men act very thoughtfully, fully weighing the good and bad consequences. [It means that though the resultant of the deeds committed in previous life decide the good and bad consequence in this life, still one must act after a thoughtful deliberation].
16. Poverty, disease, grief, bondage and all the infatuate addictions are the fruits of the tree of sin of the person.
17. It is after the constant practice of many lives that man attains to the capacity to learn, to do penance or to dole out alms!!
18. Age, profession, financial status, level of education and death these five basic parameters of human life are ordained when the being is in the embryonic form.
19. It is one's fate that makes a beggar a king or a kin a beggar, a rich man a pauper or a pauper rich.
20. Who gets all that one aspires for? Everything one gets is what is destined for one. Hence all must seek satisfaction in whatever they receive.
21. Death is away till one's body is healthy. Hence one should achieve one's welfare till one is healthy, for death ceases all activities.
22. One gets everything according to one's destiny. One's action, response, reaction- all are guided by the factors of destiny. [Meaning the rule of destiny is supreme in human life. If one is destined to reap a good harvest one would get situation conducive to his receiving good result and vice verse.]
23. Bondage is indulgence in vices and renunciation of them is liberation. Thus it is mind which drives one to bondage or to liberation.
24. One develops aversion to the temporal world by listening to the sacred tales viewing the diseased persons and visiting the crematorium. And if one remains averse to worldly considerations, he is bound to be free of all the bondage's.
25. Even if the destination or the desired object be far away or difficult to achieve one can reach it or get it if one is determined. Nothing is impossible for a determined person.
26. The wise man should put restraint on his sensual desires to control them and then only he should accomplish his work after assessing his strength in the context of time and space.
27. If you want to overcome the entire world merely by just one action, then put restraint upon your tongue speaking ill of others.
28. No penance is great than the one done for maintaining peace no happiness is better than the one received from satisfaction no disease as more damaging than greed and no Dharma (Religion) is better than the one having compassion for all.
29. One should always be satisfied (i) with his wife, (ii) with his diet and (iii) with his wealth; but never with (i) his studies, (ii) his austerity and penance and (iii) with his donations and gifts to the deserving persons.
30. The wife of the king, the wife of the guru, the wife of the friend. the mother of wife and one's mother-these five ladies deserve the status of mother.
31. Rear up your son affectionately till he is five year old then admonish him strictly for next ten years. When he turns sixteen, start treating him as your friend.
32. A wise, well educated and worthy son alone is enough to bring glory to the family like the lonely moon is enough to benighted the night with charms!!
33. One well blossomed and sweet smelling flower is enough to turn the whole garden fragrant. Similarly, one worthy son is enough to bring glory to the whole family.
34. No use producing many sons causing worry and sorrow. One worthy son is enough who may support the entire family.
35. One worthy son is better than a hundred incompetent and useless sons. The moon also is capable of destroying the darkness which  thousand of stars fail to achieve.
36. Just one dry tree on catching fire, can burn the whole orchard to ashes, similarly, one incompetent, bad son ruins the entire family.
37. It is better for a foolish son to die early rather than survive long, because by dying he would give sorrow only once but by surviving he would cause grief and sorrow every moment of his survival by his repeated acts of foolishness. A worthless son is better dead than alive.
38. A women is by nature liar courageous deceitful, foolish, greedy, impious and cruel. These are the innate attributes of a woman.
39. A woman has double of appetite, four times more shyness, six times more courage and eight times more the sexual desire.
40. The foolish man who under the infatuation believes that a particular beautiful woman has fallen for him verily dances to her tune as though he is her plaything.
41. Do not hesitate in getting nectar even from poison if it be available and gold even from the filth. Accept good knowledge even from a pariah and good girl even from a low family.
42. The nectar of satisfaction be getting peace and happiness cannot be available for the people hankering after material riches and physical pleasures.
43. Like gold is tested by rubbing, cutting, heating and beating so also man is tested by his sacrifice, moral conduct, innate qualities and his actions.
44. Residence in the village of wicked persons service to lowly family, undernourished food, foul speaking wife, foolish sons, widowed daughter all, these incinerate the body even without fire.
45. Death of wife in the old age, money under brother's control and the dependence on others for daily bread cause a great anomaly, hence grief in one's life.
46. He whose mind is not steady doesn't get happiness either amongst the people or in the loneliness of the jungle. When lonely he longs for company and when in company he yearns for loneliness.
47. Despite having a well endowed physique, beauty charms and belonging to a high and big family if a man uneducated or ignorant, he looks as useless and unimpressive as the Kinshuk (palash) flowers having only colour but no fragrance.
48. An educated man- a scholar gets accolades from all and earns reputation in the society. Since education helps one get everything one desires in life it is adored everywhere.
49. If one craves for comfort, then he should drop the idea of studying and if one wants to study sincerely then he should stop craving for comfort. One cannot get comfort and education simultaneously.
50. A student desirous of getting education must shun the following eight activities; sexual intercourse, gratification of the tongue, showing anger and greed, caring for personal beautification, moving about the fair and fate for entertainment, excessive sleeping and indulging in anything excessively. [In short Chanakya says that for getting education the student must perform a rigorous penance with all the severe austerities. He who tries to get education in comfort fails to get it in reality and vice verse.]
51. A man devoid of wealth is in fact not a poor man. He might come in wealth. But one who is uneducated is actually a pauper in all aspects.
52. Virtues gleam more when they are in a wise person like a gem adding to the beauty when embedded in gold.
53. It is virtues which enhances one's stature and not the high position. Even if perched atop a royal palace, a crow cannot become Garur (the Aquila bird of mythological origin, believed to be the lord of the birds).
54. He who is aware of the future troubles and who possesses sharp intelligence remains happy. In contradistinction to this stage, he who remains inactive, waiting for the good days to come destroys his own life. [A far-sighted and intelligent person is able to tackle the troubles far more efficiently than that fatalist sluggard who eventually gets destroyed by his lack of foresight and inactivity.]
55. One should cease contact with the fools, regarding them as the biped animals, because they sting us by their senseless speech as though they are piercing an invisible thorn!!
56. That man who fails to achieve even one of the four aims of life, viz. Dharm (faith in his belief), Artha (riches which provide meaning to life), Kaam (fulfilment of the desires), and Moksha (satiation of all wants) is verily born only for dying (as his life is just a waste)!!
57. Those who have no education or knowledge, no determination, no charitable disposition, no manners, no virtuous qualities and no firm faith are just a dead load on this earth. They are verily beasts in human form roaming about on the earth. [i.e., a man should be educated with the capacity to undergo penance to achieve certain objective; he ought to have a charitable disposition, good manners, virtuous qualities and firm faith in his religion or belief. If a man lacks these, he is just a biped inanimate]
58. Fiery temper, bitter speech, poverty, rancor for one's own relations, slavery of the lowly persons and association with the rogues-these are some of the sure signs of a hellish soul. [ A wicked person is invariably very short tempered with bitter speech and rancor and jealousy for his own kith and kin. Moreover he has very bad relations with his own people. He would gladly serve the lowly persons and would move in the company of the rogues. Such a man should be deemed to be an incarnation of some evil spirit.]
59. Never trust even your good friend, let alone the vile one, for in anger your friend can expose your secrets out of vengeance. [Chanakya doesn't advice fully trusting even your best friend. There are certain secrets in one's life which should never be discussed with anyone, even with your best friend who might embrass you by exposing them in a fit of rage.]
60. Shun a friend speaking fair on the face but acting foul in the absence like the pitcher filled with venom but having milk at the opening. [It means shun contact with an insincere friend who does good only to hoodwink you, for such a friend is no friend at all.]
es becomes bad in excessive measure let alone the bad ones. Exe61. Where there be no possibility of eating one's livelihood; where people be devoid of fear, shame, charity and magnanimity. One should not have any attachment for such five places.
62. He who forgoes the certain for the uncertain has his certain also destroyed. The uncertain even otherwise would be destroyed on its own. [The aphorism conveys the same meaning as conveyed by the famous English proverb: "One in hand is better than two in the bush".]
63. The excessive beauty caused Sita to be eloped, the excessive arrogance caused Ravan's slaughter and excessive charitable disposition cause the king Bali to to be duped. Hence excess is bad everywhere. [First two references are quite well known. The king Bali was the famous demon king who was deceived by Lord Vishnu himself in the Vaman form. Chanakya says even the good qualities becomes bad in excessive measure let alone the bad ones. Excess of everything is bad.]
70. Enterprise vanishes poverty and the chanting of Mantra or God's name dissipates sin. Silence ends embroilment and awakening removes fear. 
71. One should be apprehensive of the cause of fear till it is far off. But when it comes close, fight it undaunted. [This is a natural human psychology that we apprehend the danger till it is far off. When it comes close the only way to deal with it is to take on with total might, for in that stage the apprehension vanishes. Chanakya also confirms that this is the only way to overcome the fear.]
72. Deal with the powerful enemy by trying to win its favour (as a part of the strategy), with the wicked enemy by going away and with the enemy of matching power by being submissive or aggressive as the situation may demand on. Direct opposition of the powerful enemy will cause sure defeat. In that case it is always prudent to avoid direct confrontation. [Trying to win favour means keeping him confused of your intention. If the enemy is wicked you never know what he might be up to. It is always better to avoid him and seize your opportunity to smash him in the least blows possible. It is only against an enemy of the matching power that one has to be aggressive or submissive according to the demand of the situation.]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CHANAKYA - A Great Visionary

CHANAKYA was an epoch-making personality. His was the time when India was emerging out of the 'Dark Age'. The old values were losing their relevance and the new were yet to be established. It was an age of confusion which permeated every walk of the society. The Dharma, (Decree or Custom) so far a guiding and uniting force, was being subjected to the contradictory interpretations. The factionalism and fundamentalism were raising their ugly head and entering into the vitality of the social and religious norms. Taking the advantage of this confusion, Alexander of Macedon invaded India with the help of the selfish rulers of some border states. Chanakya witnessed and felt the severe trauma of this major invasion by a real foreigner. Earlier, all the invaders who attacked us eventually settled in our country itself. But Alexander's invasion was an attack of totally an alien culture and army which had strong tradition and strength of their own glorious past. But, ironically, this shattering jolt helped efface the prevailing confusion in India and expedited the emergency of a new system which was in essence authored by Chanakya.

Chanakya was the first thinker of the ancient times who nurtured the sense of nationalism and inculcated in the minds of the people that they owed their  basic allegiance to the Raj-ya ( State of Nation) and not to the Dharma.(Decree or Custom). In contradistinction to the earlier concept he made the State paramount.

He had seen that in the absence of any omnipotent religious authority the misconstrued faiths were shattering the very structure of society and morality. What was needed was the total change or renovation of the system. But there were no guiding beacons to enlighten the people about this new system. Then he wrote two significant books the Arthashastra (Known as Kautily's Arthashastra) and a collection of his observation on various practical aspects of life entitled 'Chanakya-Niti'. (policy)

'Chanakya Niti' (policy), in fact, this great thinker's pithy observation to impart the practical wisdom to the people of his time. But these teachings are so fundamental relevance is almost ever lasting. Enshrined in the simple sense. Written in simple lucid language with clear thoughts, these observations have not only withstood the test of time but many of phrases, like an have become the oft-quoted proverbs has been to bring out their full meaning and interpret them in the context of the modern times so that their un decaying relevance may be fully appreciated. To bring home the fundamentalist of these saying we have also compared them with the prevailing modern concept.The need for these rather lengthy explanations was felt owing to the occasional terseness of these observations. Sometimes Chanakya even contradicts his own, earlier observations perhaps to reveal the fundamental truth by sheer contradiction. At times even some of the immoral teaching are part of this book. But they appear immoral only at the prima facie viewing. While telling what we should learn from the other things, Chanakya says:

"Learn from the cock the following four things: getting up at the right time, fighting bitterly, making your brothers flee and usurping their share also !"

Although apparently it appears down right immoral, this teaching is rooted in the instinct of self preservation which is natural. It is in this context that some of such unethical teachings are to be understood.

Although Chanakya is painted as a scheming manipulator who could stoop to even the meanest level to serve his purpose, a few of his Shlokas (Verse) negate this concept and present Chanakya as a sort hearted and imaginative poet. He says:

"There are many a bondage but that of love is entirely different. The black-bee which penetrates thoughts even wood gets inertly enclosed in the fold of the lotus flowers."

Who can consider the author of this Shlok (Verse) to be a hard hearted man? There might be certain Aphorisms (Pithy observation which contains a general truth). which might appear objectionable to some persons, especially those who discuss the role of women in our society. Chanakya shares the same thoughts as these were prevalent during his time or are still prevalent in certain sections of our society. The entire Hindu thought gives only two positions to women: either they are adorable or they are like any other pleasure source, enjoyable. The sense of companionship, which is clearly an occidental concept is missing for obvious reasons. Well, nobody can be perfect in the world. Even the greatest thinkers of the world had some kind of Achilles heel. A man is a product of the social set up. No doubt Chanakya tried to affect a change but even he could not rid himself of some die-hard idiosyncrasies.

Notwithstanding these minor short comings Chanakya's teachings have great sense. One can say this not only from the textual importance of this collection but also from the end result of such teachings. Chanakya believed not only in imparting instructions but in also seeing their practical implementation.

History records that Chanakya not only carved out a massive empire for his pet disciple Chandragupta (340 BC – 298 BC) was the founder of the Mauryan Empire and the first emperor to unify India into one state. He ruled from 322 BC until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his son Bindusara in 298 BC. But also created such an awareness in the general masses that they began to talk about a 'Rashtra' or a 'Nation' instead of a 'State' or a 'Rajya'. And what could be a greater proof of the soled result of Chanakya's teaching than for a coming full millennium no major invasion was undertaken towards the Indian birders. And the social, civil and political norms that he established had the concept of democracy in its embryonic form. Chanakya is one of those few great persons whose greatness enhances with with the passage of time.