Friday, 8 January 2010

A King's Education Completed: Final Injunctions for a Successful King

Okay folks, sorry I've been remiss in posting stuff here, but the call of the holiday season was a little too insistent. In any case, as a dutiful member of the second stage of life, I was following Chanakya's injunctions of feeding and taking care of friends, family and other members of the community.

Book 1, Chapter 2, concluded

The final verses of this chapter lay out a general set of rules for all four ashrams and varnas. These are interesting as they almost entirely contradict the exigencies of being a ruler:

1. One must not harm another being either in thought, word or action. This seems to go against the need for martial action or indeed punishment that a ruler must necessarily exercise. I think this one makes more sense when considered in the context of the Bhagwad Gita's view of warrior dharma where violence is acceptable when carried out without anger, fear, hatred or greed. Again this seems to suggest that its not the act itself but the motivation for it that matters most within the Hindu tradition.

2. To remain truthful and reject any form of deceit. Ummm, not sure how this impacts the very complex discussion on espionage and deception that Chanakya takes up later. But at this stage, I am assuming this links to the point above where this is about a person's internal integrity and truth rather than what they do externally. Thus a ruler may lie as long as he/she is aware of the need for deceipt and is practising it in line with their duty as a ruler. Wonder if I am getting this one right?

3. Retain integrity although my Hindi translation uses the term pavitra which is not quite the same as pure or sacred. In fact no classic Indian language appears to contain the word for sacred, thus rejecting the Western/Semitic distinction between the sacred and the profane. Classical Indian texts only distinguish between clean and unclean, thus suggesting that all of life can be rendered from one to the other through pollution or cleansing. Thus nothing in the universe occupies a stable sacredness. Cool! I like this idea.

4. To eschew envy and not hold grudges. This one seems again to go back to the idea of acting without fear or greed, or actively solely for the purpose of fulfilling one's dharma rather than for greater gain.

5. And of course, tolerance and compassion! I can foresee an entire post on the issue of warrior's compassion and its philosophy.

Chanakya further points out that following one's dharma leads to happiness and moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirth), while straying from it leads to social disharmony and damages one's karmic progression.

And now comes the whammy! Chanakya explains that a king's duties include not only following his/her individual path of duty but also creating the necessary political and social structures to ensure that the realms subjects also follow their dharma.

Part of this may be achieved by honouring those who are virtuous (ie follow the rules for varna and ashram laid out earlier) and punishing those who stray from those. Only when these laws are maintained may a king be counted as successful.

Ah! I suddenly am beginning to see why "saam, daam, dand, bhed" (mind, money, force and secret) are going to be employed by this rather well-educated king!

Well, that concludes this chapter. Chapter 3 appears quite short although again fairly dense. I am beginning to realise that Chanakya is just setting the philosophical stage for the realpolitik thats to follow.