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Chanakya Ethics And Fact
All things begin with counsel. Chanakya loyalty and obedience of his people. Before taking office, the sovereign needs assistance from experienced and knowledgeable teachers.
Once instated, a wise sovereign does not rely solely on his own wisdom but can turn to trusted ministers and advisors for counsel. In Chanakya’s view, such individuals are as important as the sovereign in governing the state. In Arthashastra, Chanakya states: “Governance is possible only with assistance—a single wheel does not move.” This is a warning to the sovereign not to be autocratic, but to arrive at decisions of state after consulting his ministers.
The appointment of ministers with the necessary qualifications is therefore just as important as the people’s choice of leader. The ministers can provide a range of knowledge and skills. They must be utterly trustworthy, not only so that the sovereign can rely on their advice, but also to ensure that decisions are made in the interests of the state and its people—if necessary, preventing a corrupt ruler from acting in his own interests.
The end justifies the means It was this recognition of the realities of human nature that distinguished Chanakya from other Indian political philosophers of the time. Arthashastra is not a work of moral philosophy, but a practical guide to governance, and in ensuring the welfare and security of the state it often advocates using whatever means are necessary. Although Arthashastra advocates a regime of learning and self-discipline for an ideal ruler and mentions certain moral qualities, it doesn’t flinch from describing how to use underhanded methods to gain and maintain power. Chanakya was a shrewd observer of human weaknesses as well as strengths, and he was not above exploiting these to increase the sovereign’s power and undermine that of the sovereign’s enemies.
This is particularly noticeable in his advice on defending and acquiring territory. Here he recommends that the ruler and his ministers should carefully assess the strength of their enemies before deciding on a strategy to undermine them. They can then choose from a number of different tactics, ranging from conciliation, encouraging dissent in the enemy’s ranks, and forming alliances of convenience with other rulers, to the simple use of military force. In deploying these tactics, the ruler should be ruthless, using trickery, bribery, and any other inducements deemed necessary. Although this seems contradictory to the moral authority Chanakya advocates in a leader, he stipulates that after the victory has been achieved, the ruler should “substitute his virtues for the defeated enemy’s vices, and where the enemy was good, he shall be twice as good.”
Intelligence and espionage Arthashastra reminds rulers that military advisors are also needed, and the gathering of information is important for decision-making. A network of spies is vital in assessing the threat posed by neighboring states or to judge the feasibility of acquiring territory, but Through ministerial eyes, others’ weaknesses are seen. Chanakya goes further, suggesting that espionage within the state is also, a necessary evil in order to ensure social stability. At home and in international relations, morality is of secondary importance to the protection of the state. The state’s welfare is used as justification for clandestine operations, including political assassination, should this be necessary, aimed at reducing the threat of opposition.
This amoral approach to taking and holding on to power and the advocacy of strict enforcement of law and order can be seen either as shrewd political awareness or as ruthlessness and has earned Arthashastra’s comparison with Machiavelli’s The Prince, written around 2,000 years later. However, the central doctrine, of rule by a sovereign and ministers has more in common with Confucius and Mozi, or Plato and Aristotle, whose ideas Chanakya may have come across as a student in Takshashila. A proven philosophy The advice contained in the pages of Arthashastra soon proved its usefulness when adopted by Chanakya’s protegé Chandragupta
Elephants played a big role in Indian warfare, often terrifying enemies so much that they would withdraw rather than fight. Chanakya developed new strategies for warfare with elephants.
Maurya, who successfully defeated King Nanda to establish the Mauryan empire in around 321 BCE. This became the first empire to cover the majority of the Indian subcontinent, and Maurya also successfully held off the threat from Greek invaders led by Alexander the Great. Chanakya’s ideas were to influence government and policy-making for several centuries until India eventually succumbed to Islamic and Mughal rule in the Middle Ages.
The text of Arthashastra was rediscovered in the early 20th century, and regained some of its importance in Indian political thinking, gaining iconic status after India won independence from Great Britain in 1948. Despite its central place in Indian political history, it was little known in the West, and it is only recently that Chanakya has been recognized outside India as a significant political thinker.