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.