Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Chanakya Pandita > MAXIMS OF CHANAKYA > INTRODUCTION


{Chanakya: His Life, Times and Work)


Chanakya, also known as Kautilya and Visbnugupta, was the  famous Indian Machiavelli who was responsible for the overthrow of  the last ruler of the Nanda Dynasty and the enthronement of  Chandragupta Maurya. Brahmin by caste, he roughly lived during  the period 350-275 B.C. There is an interesting story about  Chanakya's first encoun­ter with Chandragupta, which ultimately  ended in their col­laboration and capture of power.


One day when Chandragupta who had been dismissed from  Nanda's army was walking through the forest he saw a Brahmin  pouring sugar syrup on the roots of Kusa grass. Rendered curious,  Chandragupta asked Chanakya the rationale of his action.  Chanakya replied: "This Kusa grass hurt my leg. 1 hence intend to  destroy it. By pouring sugar syrup, 1 am rendering the root of the  grass sweet. As a result, thousands of ants will be attracted to it.  These ants will nibble at and destroy the root and the grass will die."  Even as he spoke, the ants started collecting and soon there was  an army of ants around the root of the Kusa grass which had hurt  Chanakya. Chandragupta bowed his head before the sagacity  and  foresight of Chanakya and pleaded for his help and advice in  becoming a Ruler. Chanakya, who already bore a grudge against  Nanda, readily agreed.


Chanakya helped Chandragupta in raising a large army and  defeating Nanda. After making him the Emperor of India, Chanakya  functioned as his Counsellor and advised him in all matters of the  State, With the able advice of Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya  ruled for twenty-four years. Biographical details available about  Chanakya are scanty. We have mainly to rely on tradition, and the  Buddhist and Jain texts of later periods.


Chanakya's place of birth is a matter of controversy. The  Mahavamsa Tika. a Ceylonese Buddhist work mentions Taxila as  his birth place, while Hemachandra, the Jain writer in his  "Abhidhanachintamani" says that Chanakya, son of Chanaka, was a  Dramila, that is, an inhabitant of South India. There is another  version that the name Chanakya is derived from the name of his  native land (some place called Chanaka in the Punjab) as per a  statement in the Jayamangala commentary on the Nitisara. A place  called "Gollavishayd" has also been mentioned as the birth place of  Chanakya in the "Parisishtaparvan".  Kerala has also staked a claim  as the homeland of Chanakya on the basis that his tuft was that of a  Nambudiri Brahmin.


Since Alexander's campaigns were predominantly in the Punjab and  Plutarch has gone on record that Alexander had met Chandragupta  as a youth during his campaigns, it would be safer to accept the  version that Takshasila (Taxila) in the Punjab was the native city of  Chanakya, where he and Chandra­gupta spent several years  together. Though the story about the encounter between Chanakya  and Chandragupta mentioned at the beginning of this intro­duction  is the popular one, according to Buddhist texts and traditions,  accepted by historians, the version is that Chanakya found  Chandragupta in a village as the adopted son of a cowherd from  whom he bought the boy by paying on the spot 1,000 "Karsapanas,\  seeing in him the sure promise of future greatness. Chanakya is  supposed to have taken the young Chandragupta with him to his  native city of Takshasila (Taxila), then the most renowned scat of  learning in India and had him educated there for a period of seven or  eight years in the Humanities and the Practical Arts and Crafts of  the time, including the Military Arts. Despite the apparent  contradictions in the various legends and traditions about Chanakya  and Chandragupta, as Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri points out,   vg "There  is   little reason  to doubt the truth of the main story in its  outline: An unusually valiant Kshatriya Warrior and a Brahmin  Statesman of great learning and resourcefulness joined to bring  about the downfall of an  avaricious dynasty of hated rulers, and  establish a new empire which made the good of the people its chief  concern; they freed the land from the foreign invader, and from  internal tyranny, and established a State which, in due course,  embraced practically the whole of India; together they organised one  of the most powerful and efficient bureaucracies known to the  history of the world. Kshatra (impenumj and Brahma (sacerdotium)  came together and engaged in the most fruitful co-operation for the  great good of the land and the people."


Indian epigraphical researches confirm 321 B.C. as the year in  which Chandragupta Maurya was enthroned as King. It would hence  be safe to assume that Chanakya's works were produced during  the period 321 B.C. to 290 B.C. The "Arthasastra", a treatise on the  science of politics, is the most famous work of Chanakya. Though it  is more often known as Kautilya's Arthasastra, the authorship of  Chanakya is unmistakable. There is a reference to Chanakya's  Arthasastra in the Panchatantra. In an introduction to his work, the  author of Panchatantra refers to the Dharmasastras of Manu, the  Arthasastras of Chanakya and the Kamasutras of Vatsyayana and  others.


That Kautilya and Chanakya are one and the same person has  been universally accepted by all historians. The Maxims of  Chanakya translated in this book are based on three works:  "Chanakyasutras", "Chanakyanitidarpana", and "Arthasastra".The  similarity of language and the identity of expression discernible in  the first two works and the Arthasastra leaves no doubt about the  common authorship. In Dandi's famous work: "Dasakumaracharita"  there is a reference to the Arthasastra of Vishnugupta. The relevant  passage runs thus: "Learn now the science of politics. This has  been  summarised into six thousand verses for the benefit of  Maurya Kings by the venerable teacher Vishnugupta. Learning this    well   and   practising   it   properly,    one    acquires   the  competence to deal with various tasks."


The fact that the Arthasastra contains 6,000 verses confirms the  identity of Vishnugupta and Chanakya. That Chanakya was the  Chief Minister of Chandragupta Maurya is mentioned in  Megasthenes account of India: "Indika". Since it is generally  accepted by historians that the Greek historian came to India  towards the end of the fourth century B.C., as the Ambassador of  Selukus Nicator, the Greek General of Alexander, who was defeated  by Chandragupta Maurya in battle and with whom a treaty was  signed ceding the territories of Kabul, Kandahar and Baluchistan to  the victor, it would appear unnecessary to doubt the period in which  Chanakya lived and produced his brilliant works dealing with  statecraft and the various facets of public administration and private  life. Efforts have, however, been made by some scholars to prove  that Chanakya's works belong not to the fourth century B.C. but to  the third century A.D. It is hence considered necessary to examine  the grounds on which doubts about the date of the works have been  raised.


Since the period during which Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya  lived has been proved on the basis of historical evidence and  epigraphical researches, the major ground open to sceptics is to  question the authorship of Chanakya and to claim that these  Maxims and Aphorisms are the work of later authors erroneously  attributed to Chanakya. The intellectual genius of Chanakya was so  towering and elicited so much adulation in his own time and  subsequently that attempts were not infrequently made to identify  him as the author of  several works dealing with a variety of  subjects ranging from sex to astronomy and mathematics.


Thus Hemachandra in his "Abhidhanachintamani" propoun­ded the  theory that Chanakya was the same as Vatsyayana, the author of  Kamasutra, apart from being an Astronomer, Mathematician and  Logician. The scope for such assumptions has arisen from some  pass­ages in Kamasutra which are similar to those in Arthasastra.  For example, both Kamasutra and Arthasastra refer to the three  divisions of Artha  or  Wealth: "Artho   Dhcrmah  Kama  lthyarthatrivargah,, ("Riches, righteousness and love are the three  aspects of wealth").


That no aspect of learning was left untouched by Chanakya is clear  from the maxims attributed to him. Thus, while his forte was politics  and administration, he knew enough about ethics, morality,  psychology, sex, dietetics etc. but to attribute thp n]!frhr>r<ih!*A ^f  cnhsprmenf works 'ike Kamasutra to Chanakya and thus create  confusion about the date of his own works would be incorrect.


All knowledge and wisdom is a legacy handed over from one  generation to another—through word of mouth rather than the  written word in the olden days—that not infrequently subsequent  authors borrowed ideas and idioms from their illustrious  predecessors. Thus merely because there are some isolated  passages in Kamasutra reminiscent of verses in Arthasastra, it  would be indefensible to argue that since the date of Kamasutra is  being taken as the fourth century A.D., Chanakya's works could not  belong to a much earlier period. Similar is the case with reference  to the mention of Chanakya's works in Kamandaka's "Nitisara", a  work be­lieved to have been transported into the island of Bali by  Indian immigrants in fourth  century A.D. Efforts have also been  made, on the basis of certain passages in Kalidasa's works, to  prove that Kalidasa and Chanakya belonged to the same period.  Some have even gone to the  extent of claiming that the two were  one and the same person. It is true that the indebtedness of  Kalidasa to Chanakya is proved beyond doubt by the fact that  Kalidasa's "Raghuvamsa" contains many words which are used in  a technical sense in the Arthasastra. Examples are: Sastra, Danda,  Dandaniti, Prakriti, Mantra, Saptanga, Kosa Mandala etc.


Dr. Raghavan, the eminent Sanskrit scholar of the Madras  University in his paper on "Kalidasa and Kautilya" (read before the  thirteenth session of the All India Oriental Confer­ence held at the  Nagpur University in 1946), has cited a number of instances of  parallel ideas in the works of the two and remarks: "All these  presuppose that Kalidasa had before him some texts on Polity in  which there was  a large  mass of technical terms whose meanings  were well defined and which had, therefore, come to be well  understood." By a detailed analysis, Dr, Raghavan has proved that  the most important of the texts on Polity which Kalidasa had before  him was the Arthasastra of Chanakya.


This only indicates that Chanakya lived many years before Kalidasa  and there is no evidence to dispute Chanakya's contemporaneity  with Chandragupta Maurya, whose enthrone­ment in 321 B.C. is  generally accepted by historians. Chanakya functioned as the Chief  Minister of Chandragupta Maurya between 323 and 298 B.C. and it  would not be un­reasonable to assume that Chanakya composed  his great works after retiring from active politics, that is, after he  successfully consolidated the Maurya empire and made his rival  Rakshasa the Chief Minister of Chandragupta Maurya. On this  basis, Chanakya's works belong to the third century B.C.


Since conclusive evidence exists to show that Chanakya's works  could not be later than third century A.D , disputes about the date of  Chanakya's works get narrowed down to a period of six centuries.  We may leave researchers and scholars to sift evidence and come  to some firm conclusion, if and when they desire. As far as we, on  the threshold of twenty-first century, are concerned, we may derive  satisfaction that we have been be­queathed works of wisdom,  which are nearly two thousand years old, and we may attempt to  learn how much of these are relevant to modern times and can be  used with advantage by those who shape a country's destiny or an  individual's future.In this light, all arguments concerning the date of  Chanakya's works or whether he was born in South India or North  India assume less importance than a critical study of the texts  which are available to us and which after editing by various scholars  are broadly attributed to him. Before we attempt to study these  works, we may try to make an assess­ment of Chanakya, the man,  who played a dominating part in the establishment, growth and  preservation of the Maurya empire.


Opinions differ on the type of person that Chanakya was. The   common   concept   is   that   of  a   crafty  politician, the "Brahmin  Fox" who cared little for means in the achievement of ends. The  strongest condemnation of the man who destroy­ed the powerful  Nanda kings and put Chandragupta Maurya on the throne and  consolidated his empire by the fusion of several petty States comes  from Bana, the. author of Kadambari, who says: "Is there anything  that is righteous for those for whom the science of Kautilya,  merciless in its precepts, rich in cruelly, is an authority, whose  teachers are priests, habitually hard hearted with practice of  witchcraft, to whom ministers, always inclined to deceive others,  are councillors, whose desire is always for the Goddess of wealth  that has been cast away by thousands of kings, who are devoted to  the application of destruc­tive sciences, and to whom brothers,  affectionate with natural cordial love, are fit victims to be  murdered?''1 One would realise that Bana's judgement of  Chanakya was harsh when one recalls the historical perspective  and the role of Chanakya with reference to the political conditions  which pre­vailed in the country at that time.


As Dr. R.K. Mukherji narrates in his article, "The Founda­tion of the  Mauryan Empire", "The country had hardly recover­ed from the  shock of Alexander's victorious march through it—a march which  had dislocated its indigenous political organisation. It had already  passed under the grip and strangle­hold of foreign rule. The  atmosphere was full of frustration and depression. The battle of  India's independence against these heavy odds called for a leader  of exceptional ability and vision who would infuse new life and  enthusiasm into the drooping spirits of a defeated people, and  organise a fresh national resistance against alien domination.  Fortunately the country produced such a leader in young  Chandragupta who had already been prepared in advance for his  great mission in life by the Brahmin Chanakya, better known as  Kautilya. Chanakya's superior vision and insight led him to discover  in this youth the disciple who would be able, under his direction, to  free the fatherland of foreign rule."


A correct assessment of Chanakya's personality is given by  Jawaharlal Nehru in his "Discovery of India". He writes: "Chanakya  has been called the Indian Machiavelli and to some extnet the  comparison is justified.    But he was a  much bigger  person in  every way, greater in intellect  and  action.   He  was no mere  follower of a King, a humble adviser of an all power­ful emperor.    A  picture of hirh emerges  from  an  old  Indian play,  "The Mudra   Rakshasa" which deals  with  this  period. Bold and scheming,  proud and revengeful,  never forgetting  a slight, never forgetting his  purpose, availing  himself of every device to  delude and defeat the  enemy, he sat with the reins of empire in  his hands and looked  upon the emperor more as a loved pupil than as a master.    Simple  and  austere  in  his life, uninterested   in the pomp and   pageantry    of high   position, when he had redeemed his pledge  and  accomplished his pur­pose, he wanted to retire, brahminlike, to a  life of contemplation. "There was hardly anything Chanakya would  have refrained from doing to achieve his purpose; he was  unscrupulous enough, yet he was also wise enough  to know that  this very  purpose might be defeated by means unsuited to the end.    Long before Clausewitz, he is reported to have said that war is only  a  con­tinuance of State policy by other  means.    But he  adds, war  must always serve the larger ends of policy and not become an end  in itself.   The statesman's objective must always be the betterment  of the State as a result of war  and  not  the  mere defeat and  destruction of the enemy.


"If war involves both parties in a common ruin, that is the bankruptcy  of statesmanship. War must be conducted by armed forces but  much more important lhan the force of arms is the high strategy  which saps the enemy's morale and disrupts his forces and brings  about his collapse or takes him to the verge of collapse before  armed attack. "Unscrupulous and rigid as Chanakya was in the  pursuit of his aim, he never forgot that it was better to win over an  in­telligent and high-minded enemy than to crush him. His final  victory was obtained by sowing discord in the enemy's ranks and in  the very moment of his victory, so the story goes, he induced  Chandragupta to be generous to his rival chief. Chanakya himself is  said to have har.ded over the insignia of his own high office to the  Minister of that rival whose intelli­gence and loyalty to his old chief  had impressed him greatly. So the story ends not in the bitterness  of defeat and humilia­tion, but in reconciliation and in laying the firm  and enduring foundations of a State, which had not only defeated  but won over its chief enemy."


Chanakya's amazing knowledge of human psychology, his masterly  insight into every facet of human life—and not merely his political  wisdom and statesmanship—can be seen reflected in the Maxims,  translated in this volume. There is an ethical undertone in his  thought and teaching. In the Arthasastra, which, like Machiavelli's  Prince, has often been misunderstood, he says: "Kritsnam Hi  Spstramidamindri-yajayah"  ("The crux of this political science is  control over senses").The ideal ruler, according to Chanakya,  should have absolute mastery over himself and be "pre-eminent in  virtue"— not very different from the ideal monarch, Aristotle, a  contem­porary of  Chanakya envisaged or the philosopher king  which Plato visualised. The effect of the quality and character of the  ruler on the people he rules over has been repeatedly emphasised  by Chanakya:


"If rulers are righteous, people are righteous, if they are sinners,  people are also sinners, like ruler, like people."

"A ruler with character can render even unendowed people happy. A  characterless ruler destroys loyal and prosperous people."

"It is better not to have a ruler than a bad ruler. Where is happiness  for the people in  a  State  ruled   by a   bad   ruler?"

It is not enough for the ruler to have merely good character. He  must be well-versed in the various sciences of State. He must be  adept in political science. Only by practising political science can he  protect the people. A ruler not proficient in the various sciences is  not fit to hear ministerial counsel, he will act indiscriminately, be  obstinate in decisions and will be led by others.

Chanakya has likened the ruler devoid of learning, advised by an  unwise minister to "A mad elephant, mounted by an intoxicated    mahout,   which   tramples  on  everything it comes



Even a well-endowed, intelligent and learned ru'er needs counsel  and advice. Says Chanakya: "Governance is possible only with  assistance.   A  single  wheel does  not   move.   Hence ministers  should be appointed and their counsel listened to." This is  reminiscent of Zoroaster's dictum:  "A knife of the keenest steel  requires the whetstone and the wisest  man needs advice."

What type of persons should be appointed as counsellors? "A ruler  should appoint as counsellor one who respects him, one who is  learned and who is free from fraud", advises Chanakya.


He is against the appointment of classmates as ministers; for,  though trustworthy, they will not respect the ruler, having been  playmates. According to Chanakya, a country prospers out of  abundant ministerial advice, "which should be kept secret from all  quarters." The ruler is advised to take a decision on the unanimous  opinion of three counsellors. How does a ruler win over the people?  "Exercise of power and achievement of result should be properly  matched by the ruler in order to win over the people. He should  adopt the same mode of  life, same dress, same language and  same customs as those of the people." Factors which create  discontent among the people have been listed by Chanakya as  under:


"Disrespect shown to good people and encouragement of the  unrighteous; acts of unprecedented and unrighteous violence,  stoppage of righteous and appropriate customs, encouragement of  vice and discouragement of virtue, not punishing the guilty and  severely punishing the innocent, doing what ought not to be done  and preventing what ought to be done, arresting those who should  not be arrested and not arresting those deserving to be arrested,  undertaking schemes which result in loss and stopping those which  would result in gain, accepting donations which should not be taken  and not giving donations which ought to be given, harming important  leaders of the people and dishonouring respectable ones,  estrangement of elders, nepotism, falsehood etc. etc."


Even today we find Governments indulging in the tabooed activities  listed by Chanakya becoming unpopular and falling from power due  to the discontent of the people. Unlike Louis XIV who identified  himself with the State and came to ruin, Chanakya stresses the  importance of the people vis-a-vis the State. He asks: "Without  people what will the State yield?   Like a barren cow, nothing."   Though the ruler should be righteous, Chanakya does not want him  to be either weak or impoverished.


A weak ruler, even if learned, is not respected by the peo­ple. Apt  punishment, the root of discipline, should be meted out by the ruler,  so that the people do not commit crime and function properly in their  respective spheres. "He who puni­shes mildly is despised", was the  view held by Chanakya, which tallies with Napoleon's theory that  "When men call a king a kind man, his reign has been a failure."  Both in internal administration and foreign policy, Chana­kya  recommended the deployment of the fourfold policy of "conciliation,  donation, division  and punishment"  


In Chanakya's times, neighbouring States were most rele­vant in  foreign policy. Chanakya makes the significant obser­vation: "A ruler  with contiguous territory is a rival. The ruler next to the adjoining one  is to be deemed a friend", which has proved to be mostly true even  in modern times, which has witnessed major conflagrations flare up  from clashes between bordering States.

In the matter of war, Chanakya's advice is: ' One should fight with  an inferior but sign a treaty of peace with one's equal and superior."  What are the weak States to do in the circumstances?   "The weak  should seek refuge in the strong."

Chanakya gives elaborate advice as to how enemies should be  tackled. "When there are many enemies, treaty should be entered  into with one." "One should offer to one enemy that which is likely to  be taken by force by another enemy."


It is interesting to compare'Chanakya's approach in this regard with  Clausewitz's. Both are agreed that attention should be concentrated  on one enemy, among the many. But while Chanakya advises  stratagem and treaty with one, Clausewitz advocates    outright    war:    "We   may . - . establish   it    as   a principle that if we  conquer all our enemies by conquering one of them, the defeat of  that one must be the aim of the war, because in that one we hit the  common centre of gravity of the whole war."


Chanakya sought to achieve without bloodshed what Clausewitz  aimed at through war.Chanakya attached great importance to  efficient administra­tion and speedy accomplishment of tasks "The  ruler should attend to all urgent matters promptly and never  postpone them. A matter deferred consideration and decision  becomes more difficult or impossible to tackle." 'Every morning the  day's tasks should be planned. Tomorrow's deed should be done  today. What is to be done in the afternoon should be done in the  forenoon." As a rational intellectual, whose emphasis was always  on result-oriented action, Chanakya scorned blind belief in stars and  destiny. He said: "One who desires speedy accomplish­ment of  tasks does not look to the stars to know his fortune. Rational  prognostics are superior to stars in guidance."


Despite his involvement in political manoeuvring and State  stratagems, Chanakya never lost sight of the larger perspectives of  life. To him, as to his fellow countrymen even to this day, life had its  fourfold objective: Dharma (righteous duty), Artha (acquisition of  wealth), Kama (enjoyment of pleasures) and Moksha (liberation  from worldly bondage).On each of these objectives of life,  Chanakya dwells at length and renders sound advice. According to  him, equal attention should be paid to the performance of righteous  duty, acquisition of material wealth and enjoyment of physical  pleasures. "Any one of the three, if excessively indulged in, harms  itself and the other two." Also, material wealth is the most important,  since performance of righteous duty and enjoyment of pleasures  are dependent on it. Hence all types of riches should be amassed  by all means, so as to enable the attainment of other objectives in  life,


A society or country is composed of various elements: the ruler and  the ruled, the men and women, the husbands and wives, the  parents and children, the teachers and the taught, the intellectuals,  the soldiers, the business class and the people  engaged in  services.The harmony and happiness of the whole country and the  community depend on the proper discharge of duties by the people  functioning in their respective spheres. Any discordant element  anywhere disrupts the whole structure.Thus the duty of the ruler is  to keep the people happy and prosperous, while the people in their  turn should obey the orders of the ruler and not go against  him.Similarly, the preceptors, the soldiers, the business class and  the people engaged in services should perform their assigned  duties.


Parents should provide maximum education to their child­ren. "Jhat  mother and that father are enemies, who do not give education to  their children", says Chanakya. The children should obey their  parents and look after them, when they are in difficulties. Teachers  should teach only those things which conduce to righteousness and  material prosperity. "Teaching wrong things is a great crime." The  student should respect the teacher, serve him well and be ever  grateful to him for the knowledge imparted. Husbands should  sexually satisfy their wives and wives in their turn should be "pure  and chaste" and serve their husbands well. Chanakya stresses the  need for ceaseless activity for the acquisition of wealth, "the root of  righteousness". "By under­taking all kinds of activities, the ways to  profit develop." "One should earn  wealth as if one is immortal." He  despises the inactive who look to the stars for fortune. "Wealth will  desert the childish man who always consults the stars."


Righteous means are, however, not to be disregarded in acquiring  wealth. "Wealth earned through unlawful means lasts for ten years.  In the eleventh year it is completely lost", says Chanakya. "Wealth  earned should not be stored, but spent." "Spending riches earned is  saving, like the removal of water stored in the body of a tank." In this  advice, Chana­kya is in the good company of George Washington  who said: "It is not a custom with me to keep money to look at."  Chanakya    went    further    and   pointed  out:   "Enjoyment adorns  wealth." He also advocated liberal donation of enjoy­able wealth  to-good recipients. In the enjoyment of material pleasures,  Chanakya advocated moderation and adherence to the path of  righteousness. While a happy home with a good wife, obedient  sons, good friends were all  considered as essential elements of  happiness, excessive addiction to women, gambling, hunting etc.  was frowned upon.


Control over senses is a theme constantly stressed as a  prerequisite for all achievement. The sage-statesman, who helped  establish the first Indian empire and was ruthless in dealing with  enemies, was himself an austere bachelor and retired to a life of  seclusion and contemplation, as soon as his political objectives  were achieved. The philosophic emphasis on the transience of life  and the need for liberation from worldly bondage and the cycle of  birth and death, the constant exhortation to give up sensory  pleasures and develop qualities of patience, kindness, purity and  truth may sound unreal, coming as they do from the lips of the man  who advocated the amassing of wealth, "as if one is immortal", but  can be understood, if one bears in mind the Indian concept of the  four stages of life, through which one is expected  to proceed from  birth to liberation.


The first stage is Brahmacharya, the stage of celibacy during which  one is expected to acquire learning, with single-minded devotion to  the teacher and leading a life of discipline and purity.

The second stage is Garhastya, the stage of the house­holder,  when one enjoys physical pleasures and domestic bliss, in the  prime of one's life, when the senses demand satisfaction.

The third stage is called Vanaprastha, the life of retirement in the  forest, where the husband and wife live in each other's company,  leading a life of prayer and meditation, having tasted the sweetest  pleasures, begotten children and grand­children, the body's hungers  having been satisfied fully, the need now being to seek mental  solace and spirituality.

The fourth stage rs Sannyasa, the stage of renunciation when  everything is given up and one feels completely detached from the  world, ready to merge with the Supreme, of which the individual is a  part,


 It is in the light of the above that the fourfold objective of life  becomes meaningful: One performs righteous duty, whether that  duty is ruling a State or an organisation, teaching in a university,  serving in the armed forces, running a business or serving the  community. In the due discharge of such duty one earns wealth and  enjoys all the pleasures which the body desires and needs and  finally in the ripeness of age, tries to seek moksha or liberation from  earthly bondage by leading a life of prayer, meditation and  spirituality. It is not necessary, according to Indian tninking with  which Chanakya entirely seems to agree, to keep the different  objec­tives of life in watertight compartments. One could lead an  integrated life, properly balancing the sensual and the spiri­tual  needs.


This brief introduction would be incomplete if a tribute is not paid to  the sweep and range of Chanakya's wisdom and his keen  observation of natural phenomena, from which ethical and moral  conclusions are drawn and lessons in human psycho­logy  imparted. A few of his maxims would illustrate this point:


"Just as a calf goes to its mother, seeking her out from among  thousands of cows, so every action follows the doer."

"Even the fangless serpent should raise its hood, for with or without  poison, a raised hood is frightening."

"From the cock one should learn four things: getting up in time,  fighting, division of responsibility among relations and enjoyment  after attacking oneself."

"From the crow one should learn five things: sex in secrecy, secret  action, catch in time, unruffled behaviour and distrust of everyone."

"Just as a pigeon which has lived on the holy fig tree is a source of  constant danger to the silk cotton tree, so a person who has come  after living with the enemy is a source of constant danger."

"Six are the qualities of the dog: desire for much, satisfac­tion with a  little, deep slumber, quick awakening, devotion to master and  bravery."

"From the donkey three things should be learnt: to carry the  burden   even  though  tired, not to mind   heat or cold and to trudge ever  satisfied."


"The mirage looks like water. An enemy can look like a friend."

"The cloud whieh rains heavily is defeated by a cluster of grass."

"The enemy can be defeated by a combination of good people."

"In the fight between the dog and the pig, the ultimate victory is that  of the pariah who gets the meat to eat."

"A dog on land drags the crocodile. A crocodile in water-drags the  dog. The place of fight is important."

"Unheated metal does not coalesce with metal. Power is the cause  of an alliance."

"If the bees seeking a gift were thrown away by the wild elephant  with his ears, only his temples lost their adornment. The bees live  again in full-blown lotuses "

"The fish, the toad and the birds protect their infants by sight,  thought and touch—so do good men."

"If one goes to the lion's den, one gets ivory. If one goes to the  jackal's hiding place, one gets goat's tail and donkey skin."


"Sandalwood does not give up its fragrance even if broken, the  elephant does not give up sex even if old, sugarcane does not give  up its sweetness even when thrown into the crushing machine.  Great ones do not give up their good qualities even when they are  weakened."

"One should learn from the lion to undertake a task well prepared  even if it be a big task."

"The bee is capable of cutting wood, but it is harmless in the  lotus-bed. There are many bonds. But the bond of love is something  different." "Swans stay at a place when there is water. They  abandon it when it dries up. Men should not be like swans  abandoning and seeking places."

"As the fisherman catches fish from water, utilisable resour­ces  should be captured."

"As the tortoise withdraws its limbs, the ruler should try to hide any  part of his which might have been exposed."

"An entire forest gets fragrant by a single flowering tree, like a family  by a good son."

"The milk-seeking calf strikes at the mother's udders. Those who  seek to achieve tilings should show no mercy."

"One should not place trust in rivers, in animals with horns, in  armed ones, in women or in ruling families."


The sweep and range of Chanakya's razorsharp intellect would be  self-evident by the variety of subjects dealt with in his works, from  sex to scholastics, ethics to economics, politics to philosophy.  What amazes one, however, is not merely the versatility of the man  but the accuracy, relevance and applica­bility of his dicta, even after  the lapse of t»vo thousand years

For example, his cryptic observation: "Lack of sex ages women"  cannot be controverted even by modern psychologists, and is an  anticipation of the work of Freud, Havelock Ellis, Kinsey, Marie  Stopes and beveral others who have only recently unravelled the  mysteries of the human mind and body. The eternal wisdom  contained in. the rraxim: "Anger is the origin of all legal disputes . . .  murder also results from anger", holds good for all time and in all  countries.


The advice that "One should not argue with the intelli­gent, the  foolish, friends, teachers and the beloved" is Dale Carnegie's  philosophy transmitted two thousand years in advance.

The dictum that "There is no attraction equal to a gift" is made  capital of by commercial concerns and publicity agents the world  over to sell products with gift incentives—an appreciation of the  human failing, which looks forward to free gifts, even if they be of  such a trivial nature as new year calendars and diaries or pencil  sets or keychains. The maxim that "No other wealth can equal  foodgrains" is a right reminder to nations not to neglect their  agriculture, as without adequate food production, a nation's  economy cannot be set on the path to prosperity.


The observation that "The treasury has its source in the mines"  stresses the need for the State to exploit its natural resources,  whether these comprise coal, iron, oil or non-ferrous metals.

One could go on and on with such illustrations to prove Chanakya's  farsightedness, keenness of perception and infalli­bility.   It   would,  however, be incorrect to assume that Chana-kya's thinking was not  limited, in certain aspects, by the social milieu of his time. This is  specially true of his views on women. Chanakya lived in a  patriarchal, male-superior society and this  naturally coloured his  views on women. A similar failing can be noticed among most of the  master thinkers of the world, from Socrates to Shakespeare, from  Seneca to Shaw.


If Chanakya says: "Women are fickle-minded", so has Shakespeare  remarked: "Frailty, thy name is woman!" Feminists may, however,  derive satisfaction that Chanakya has also said:   "'Men s minds are  not steady."  While Chanakya has listed the weaknesses of the  "Weaker Vessel" (that they Cannot judge men etc.), he has also  paid a tribute to the "Crown of creation", by pointing out that "There  is no jewel equal to a good woman."


Our disagreement with some of the views of Chanakya need not  deter us from admiring the intellectual capacity of one, who could  express himself so forcefully and effectively that even while  disagreeing, we are forced to enjoy his remarks, full of wit and  wisdom. The message of Chanakya, stripped of all external  embellish­ments, can be summed up in a few words: "Develop  character and self-control, be ceaselessly active, be fearless and  endlessly strive to attain your objectives." This is a message,  ageless in quality, inspiring both for individuals and nations, a  message which has come from the lips of great leaders, of all  countries and all climes who have led their countrymen from  darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from poverty to  prosperity.

In China, a few hundred years before Chanakya, the lenrned  Confucius said: "There are three marks of a superior man; being  virtuous, he is free from anxiety, being wise, he is free from  perplexity, being brave, he is free from fear." In Greece, almost at  the same time, Pythagoras taught.: "It is only necessary to make  war with five things: wiih the maladies of the body, the ignorances ol  the mind, with the passions of the body, with the seditions of the city  and the discords of families."


Chanakya's wisdom contains enough ammunition to fight the wars  mentioned by Pythagoras and to become the  superior man of  Confucius' vision. In our own times, in India, the action-oriented  philosophy of Chanakya has been restated by Swami Vivekananda,  in his memorable words: "Can anything be done unless everybody  exerts himself to his utmost? It is the man of action, the lion heart  that the Goddess of wealth resorts to. No need of looking behind.  Forward! we want infinite cneigy, infinite zeal, infinite courage and  infinite patience. Then only will great things be achieved."


To historians, Chanakya is the intriguing, fascinating,  statesman-diplomat, who along with Chandragupta Maurya, helped  establish the first-unified State in Indian history and prevented the  balkanisation of a continent, ravaged by foreign invasions. To  students of political thought and science, Chanakya compels  comparison with Machiavelli, Plato and Aristotle. In fact it would not  be inappropriate to say that Chanakya was to Chandragupta, what  Aristotle was to Alexander. But such assessments would be  incomplete and partial. Myth and legend, tradition and history have  enveloped Chanakya, the man, in mists of glory, awe, wonder and  fear. It is difficult to sift fact from fiction and arrive at a true picture of  the man. This need not make us despair. As Gustave Flaubert  wrote to George Sand, "L'Homme C'est Rien, Uoeuvre C'est Tout"  (' The man is nothing, his work is every­thing"). While the material  about Chanakya, the man, may be fragmentary, his works are very  much with us, handed down from generation to generation during  the last two thousand years, aided by the great Sanskrit language,  in which his thoughts were expressed. (In terseness of expression,  no language, with the possible exception of Latin, can excel Sanskrit  and the great master has used this wonderful language to such  perfection that one is awestruck by the volume of message often  conveyed in a couple of words.)


Chanakya, the thinker, belongs not only to India, "his dear and  precious native land" to which he held and from which he derived  the strong roots of his strength, but to all the world, which needs his  wisdom, even in this age of the space and the atom. With  pride    and  humility,   1 offer "Maxims of Chanakya'^ to my readers.

SimIa, 1978     V.K. Subramanian