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Posts Tagged ‘Kautilya’

 

A deluge of homage thru editorials, articles, opinions, blog posts poured in after Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee left his mortal coil. The electronic media was abuzz with discussions on the tallest leader that India has ever produced. After those exhaustive and emotional encomia showered by everyone, the opposition included, what else is there to write? After every paean has been sung what is left for me to say?

But it is believed that a tribute is truly paid only when you emulate the leader and walk his path. For doing that one has to understand Atalji’s exemplary leadership style.

Despite many thousands of empirical studies, leadership remains a tantalizing enigma for many – me included. Is it possible to annotate Atalji’s actions? Is it at all possible to codify the colossus called Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

To fit his great persona into a frame, to capture his myriad methods and to titrate his thoughts would greatly tax even a scholarly brain – but the practical value of that exercise will be invaluable for the country. Therefore I will make an attempt.

His Leadership Style – Elusive yet Effective

All the leadership theories espoused by the west are inadequate to describe Atalji’s style. His style straddles the oldest to the latest western theories effortlessly – but the core of his unique leadership style is completely elusive. Not much has been understood about the guiding ‘force’ behind his style.

When Atalji addressed the ISKON meeting on Ram Navami 5th April 1998, he said “I am all in favor of globalization of the message of the Gita and messages of all the sacred books of the world with which the message of Gita bears close conformity” – This openness expressed by him would have been categorized at best as a collaborative or an inclusive style by the Western theories but ‘NITI Shastra‘ of Kautilya would elevate the same to a higher level of ideological depth – ‘Which country, which faith is foreign to a man of True Learning?’ it says.

After the 1999 Pakistan coup, Prime Minister Atalji had to deal with the crafty general Musharraf. Atalji persisted with his offer of friendship but when that was resisted by Musharraf, he made another attempt at Agra which also failed. But three years later, it was Musharraf who made the long walk at the SAARC Summit in Islamabad to greet him. He made a commitment then not to allow any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorist activities against India!

No western style, however contemporary, explains this persistence and patience of Atalji.

However, the eastern tradition of TAOism highlights this kind of engagement. “The leader who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical groups without experiencing harm. The wise leader is like the water that can YIELD yet LEAD!”

A RAJARISHI Leads the Coalition

Atalji was the great harmonizer. He aligned different coalition partners and managed to drive major reforms during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He was the great unifier who built bridges between different ideologies, political parties and countries.

What made the Coalition partners align with Atalji? Why was he was fondly referred to as the  ‘Gentle Giant’and ‘Ajatahshatru’ (someone who has no enemies)?

According to Kautilya, a leader will turn into a ‘Rajarishi-a King Sage’ through purity of speech, of the mind, of heart and of the senses – all these can be acquired only through ‘Indriyajayah’ – control over the senses- lust, anger, pride, arrogance and fool hardiness.

The traditional philosophies Taoism and Buddhism also explain how leaders deal with the complex dilemmas of the real world. Taoism explains this craft beautifully – “Because the leader does not push, the group does not resent or resist: A moderate ego demonstrates wisdom: remain open and receptive, no matter what issues arise: Learn to lead without coercion. Both praise and criticism should not excite – Interestingly Indian scriptures too praise ‘Sthitaprajna (to remain stable through intellect) as a great leadership trait !

Atalji was known for long spells of silence and contemplation. The Tao principle, ‘Wu-wei’ generally translated as non-action or non-doing is the most powerful of all. Paradoxically it’s not about inaction but is about ‘Action without Effort’. All the tenets of Tao resonate with our very own ancient prayer to the universe “Samastha Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu” (May everyone in all the worlds be happy).

No wonder Atalji the Rajarishi could lead the largest coalition effortlessly.

His style was HARMONY in WAR

Atalji’s biggest success in foreign affairs was in bringing relations with the US back from the brink after the US imposed sanctions on India– This cannot be explained effectively by any theory, only AIKIDO can.

AIKIDO, a Japanese martial art, is where practitioners defend themselves while protecting their attacker from injury. The tactic of blending with an attacker’s movements for the purpose of controlling their actions resembles a dance rather than a fight. How Atalji restrained the US to protect India, yet rallied support for the US later by controlling China’s nuclear aggression, is but the skill of an AIKIDO Master!

His style is BEYOND THEORY

No theory spoke about how ‘silence’ can silence the enemy or how ‘contemplation’ can control the situation. No leadership theory spoke about poetry paving pathways into people’s hearts. No theory praised a dignified ‘retreat from public life’ as a laudable leadership trait.

ALT is the key for India

His leadership style, call it the ‘Mother Leadership’ that is intuitive and all giving or the ‘Mother of Leadership’ styles that straddles all existing theories is the key for India’s progress.

The exercise to codify his leadership style will have far reaching implications for the country’s progress. For patriots it should be a blueprint to follow. For people in power it should be taught as a refresher course and for the newly elected politicians, it should be introduced at the orientation training.

ALT – Atal Leadership Theory – is as much about ALT key of change as it is about Altruism– it is a theory about Impact, Influence and Inspiration. A Master Class on leadership paradoxes- for ALT, WHEN I GIVE MYSELF I BECOME MORE is but the MOMENT OF TRUTH !

Karuna Gopal

President, Futuristic Cities

Global Thought Leader, Advisor on Smart Cities, Governance & Policy

Published on 22-Aug-2018

The Hans India

 

(Note: Sh Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the 10th Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004)

(Permission from the author to blog this piece here is gratefully acknowledged. Details about her work can be seen at http://www.karunagopal.com)

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(Here are some excerpts from a blog by Mr N Harihara Subramaniyan. The full version can be found at his own blog site: http://www.visionhari.com/chanakya.php.

Permission to reproduce it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

 

Chanakya was an Indian teacher, philosopher, and royal advisor. Originally a professor of economics and political science at the ancient Takshashila University, Chanakya managed the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta’s rise to power at a young age. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire, which was the first empire in archaeologically recorded history to rule most of the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. Chanakya is traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthasastra (Economics). As such, he is considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.

Brief About Chanakya

Son of Rishi Chanak, Chanakya, also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, was born in Pataliputra, Magadh (modern Bihar), and later moved to Taxila, in Gandhar province (now in Pakistan). At a very early age little Chanakya started studying Vedas. The Vedas considered being the toughest scriptures to study were completely studied and memorized by Chanakya in his infancy. He was attracted to studies in politics. In politics Chanakya’s acumen and shrewdness was visible right from childhood. He was a student of politics right from child hood. Known as a masterful political strategist, He knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp and spy the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. Chanakya was an ace in turning tables in his favor irrespective of the circumstances. He never budged to pressure tactics by the ruthless politicians. In this way after studying religion and politics, he turned his attention to economics, which remained his lifelong friend. “Nitishastra”, a treatise on the ideal way of life shows his in depth study of the Indian way of life. He was a professor (acharya) of political science at the Takshashila University and later the Prime Minister of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. He is regarded as one of the earliest known political thinkers, economists and king-makers. He was the man to envision the first Indian empire by unification of the then numerous kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and provide the impetus for fights against the Greek conqueror Alexander.

Leadership Qualities

  • He was brave enough to speak from his heart to any ruler at any situation.
  • His strategic movement based on information from enemy side using his spies
  • He administered well on various faculties like law & order, taxation, revenue, foreign policy, defence, war, strategy formation and foreign relations etc.
  • He worked at the total annihilation of problems by the roots.
  • As a person, Chanakya had been described variously, as a saint, as a ruthless administrator, as the king maker, a devoted nationalist, a selfless ascetic and a person devoid of all morals.
  • Some of his stark views made him into an ambivalent personality for the world like the observance of morals and ethics was secondary to the interests of the ruler.

Principles & Practices

Chanakya advocated the following for the welfare of country

  • Self-sufficient economy not dependent on foreign trade.
  • An egalitarian society where there are equal opportunities for all.
  • The efficient management of land is essential for the development of resources.
  • The state should take care of agriculture at all times.
  • Government machinery should be directed towards the implementation of projects aimed at supporting and nurturing the various processes; beginning from sowing of seeds to harvest.
  • The nation should envisage constructing forts and cities.
  • Internal trade was more important to Chanakya than external trade.
  • The state should collect taxes at a bare minimum level, so that there is no chance of tax evasion.
  • Laws of the state should be the same for all, irrespective of the person who is involved in the case.
  • Destitute women should be protected by the society because they are the result of social exploitation and the uncouth behavior of men.
  • Antisocial elements should be kept under check along with the spies who may enter the country at anytime.

Chanakya envisioned a society where the people are not running behind material pleasures. Control over the sense organs is essential for success in any endeavor. Spiritual development is essential for the internal strength and character of the individual. Material pleasures and achievements are always secondary to the spiritual development of the society and country at large.

Achievements

His work on Arthashastra transcends the time broadly covers fourteen areas

  • Deals with the King – his training, appointment of minister etc.
  • Describes the duties of various officers of the state and gives a complete picture of the state activities.
  • Concerned with law and administration of justice.
  • On suppression of crimes.
  • A sundry collection of topics including salaries of officials.
  • On foreign policy and constituent elements of state.
  • The way in which each of the six methods of foreign policy may be used in various situations
  • Relates to calamities.
  • On preparations of war.
  • Concerned with fighting and types of battle arrays.
  • How a conqueror deal with a number of chiefs rather than one king.
  • Shows how a weak king when threatened by a stronger one must overpower him.
  • Concerned with the conquest of the enemy’s fort by fighting.
  • Deals with occult practices.

Literary Works

Chanakya is perhaps less well known outside India compared to other social and political philosophers of the world like Confucius and Machiavelli. His foresight and wide knowledge coupled with politics of expediency helped found the mighty Mauryan Empire in India. He compiled his political ideas into the ‘Arthashastra’, one of the world’s earliest treatises on political thought and social order. His ideas remain popular to this day in India. In Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli. Three books are attributed to Chanakya: Arthashastra, Nitishastra and Chanakya Niti. Arthashastra (literally ‘the Science of Material Gain’ in Sanskrit) is arguably the first systematic book on economics. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in details. Many of his nitis or policies have been compiled under the book title Chanakya Niti. Nitishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya’s in depth study of the Indian way of life.

 

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