Chanakya Neeti – Practical Lessons of Ethics for Everyone

Chanakya Neeti and good governanceA wise man much ahead of his time, Chanakya had made important observations about ethics. ‘Chanakya Neeti Shastra’ is a collection of statements, selected by Chanakya from the various shastras.

Who is Chanakya?

Chanakya (BC 371- BC 283) was an Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra and also wrote Nitishashtra.

  • Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power.
  • He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire.
  • Chanakya was a shrewd administrator and a master statesman.
  • His theories on good governance are very important for doing away with corruption in the society.
  • He was not only a political scientist, but also an economist, a diplomat and a successful war strategist.

Philosophy of Chanakya

Chanakya wanted to create a society where people are not too much engrossed in the material aspects of life. He laid equal emphasis on spirituality too.

  • Equality for all was his motto.
  • Security of the citizens was of prior most importance to him.
  • He supported agriculture to the fullest as he considered it to be a state subject.
  • He believed in the protection of women and hence ended all forms of exploitation against them.
  • He laid utmost important to land as a resource and hence proposed for its maximum utilization.
  • In order to harness the maximum optimization of the resources of the annexed kingdoms and empires, he looked after them very well.
  • He was a strategist and flared a balance between both the states and the citizens. He wanted the trade to flourish and hence bare minimum taxes were levied which benefitted the case of both the states and the citizens.
  • He wanted to build cities for trade both within and outside the state and. He also encouraged building forts to counter against external aggression.
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Ethical qualities in a leader

  • The leader is the face of the nation. He is responsible for everything that is happening in the community and hence is the society’s reflection.
  • The leader should work for the attainment of its goal which is the welfare of its people.
  • The leader will lose the loyalty of its subjects if its disheartens them by his unjust actions.
  • A leader shouldn’t propagate adharma, he should not favour the wicked, should punish the culprit and should not punish the innocent.
  • There should be no wasteful expenditure..
  • An ethical leader should not antagonize the wise and the elders.
  • He should hear all the urgent matters of his subjects and should not postpone them as justice delayed is justice denied.

The king should be a leader – Rajrishi concept

  • The concept of Rajrishi is very similar to that of the Philosopher King by Plato.
  • An ideal leader is a combination of Raja and Rishi. Like a Raja, he is dynamic, active, has decision-making capacity. At the same time, he should be able to connect with the spiritual and higher level of the world by being wise, should focus on philosophy.
  • A king should be promulgator of Dharma.
  • He should be a model for the masses.
  • There should be royal idealism in him
  • He should possess the quality of inviting nature, self-restraint and spirit, intellect and intuition, enthusiasm.
  • He should control his lust, greed and attachment, vanity and pride.
  • Dharma should be considered as a social duty, moral law based on truth, civil law and performance of rituals by the king.
  • Satya, Ahimsa, celibacy and non-stealing should be prescribed for him
  • The king can promulgate new laws, but the basic principles should stick to the idea of Shastras.
  • He should be a affirm believer in the moral order of the universe

Chanakya Neeti: Bounded rationality

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  • It is the idea where one is bounded by the information one has and sticks to it by limiting oneself. One should explore, cognitive minds should be stretched and one should find answers in the unlimited time to come to decision.
  • Kautilya realized the importance of good bureaucracy.
  • A king can walk only with the help of his subjects as one wheel cannot move a chariot.
  • The responsibilities of the ministers are to be stated by the king.
  • A king should supervise and monitor all works of all its subsidiaries.
  • A king should appoint counsellors and advisers and pay heed to them.
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Chanakya’s observations on Corruption

Corruption is not a recent phenomenon. It has been with us for several centuries.

Even at the time Kautilya wrote Arthasastra, commenting on the political economy of the Maurya era, he had said,

  • “ Just as it is not possible not to taste honey or poison placed on the surface of the tongue, even so, it is not possible for one dealing with the money of the king not to taste the money in however small a quantity”
  • “Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so, officers appointed for carrying out works cannot be known when appropriating Money”
  • “It is possible to know even the path of birds flying in the sky, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.”
  • “And he should make those who have amassed (money wrongfully) yield it up and should change them in (their) works so that they do not consume (the King’s) property or disgorge what is consumed.”
  • “But those who do not consume (the king’s) goods and increase them in just ways should be made permanent in their offices, being devoted to what is agreeable and permanent to the king.”
  • Chanakya believed there should not be too much of personal interaction in professional life else it leads to corruption and hierarchy.
  • A man by nature is selfish and brutal. A man is like a horse that roams about when left free and hence fickle mind. One cannot be honest lifelong.
  • Team work is very important.
  • There should not be a waste of labour.
  • Nepotism and favouritism were also mentioned by Kautilya by government officials to favour their family members, friends etc.
  • He also mentioned about the corruption in the judiciary and mentioned about strict punishment if innocents are penalized, else there is pendency of cases.
  • Taxes should be collected by being sweet and manipulative with sugar coated words which serve the purpose of both the state and the citizens.
  • A strict vigilance and monitoring on all the officials were the call of Chanakya.
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Kautilya’s Solution for corruption

  • Kautilya believed in keeping spies to look after if the officials carried forward their work properly.
  • He also mentioned about the whistleblowers. They were given awards and incentives to blow off the corruption.
  • Public honour boosts their confidence and gives them a sense of pride of being more honest in future.
  • However, if wrong information is passed off, they were punished too. The death penalty was given for them.
  • Kautilya believed that government servants should be frequently transferred from one place to other so that corruption cannot start at a place.
  • Certain posts should be made temporary because permanency makes government servants haughty and they can take leverage.
  • Superintendents cannot take new mechanism without informing the king. Hence the concept of accountability was proposed by Kautilya.
  • Chanakya wrote that dispensing with the service of too many government servants is conducive to financial prosperity. This would help in faster and effective decision making. This reduces the scope of bribery and corruption in general.

Article by: Ipsita Mishra

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