Reflecting on Col.PK.Gautam’s One Hundred Years of Kautilya’s Arthasastra

Reflecting on Col.PK.Gautam’s One Hundred Years of Kautilya’s Arthasastra

This is the first time I am reading a Monograph on Kautilya’s Arthasastra. I am really grateful to author for showing a direction to younger generation to look in to wisdom given to us by our forefathers.

Few years ago I have been habitually doing an unguided reading which took me to Shama Sastry’s translation of Arthasastra for the first time and as a first time reader with no stated goals and specific object in reading it apart from satisfying the adrenaline started reading few pages, I already got a sense that this is highly advanced treatise on governmental and state affairs. One of the topics that did attract me was “Ascertaining by temptations Purity or Impurity in the character of Ministers” and this must essentially be followed in the appointment of ministers in modern day governments. But sadly on all such appointments loyalties take precedence than honesty. Especially in a coalition era choices of ministers are being imposed. Then due to vagaries of time I could not keep up the reading, but looking to revive my interest.

And this is the first time I get a clear explanation of the term sama, dana, beda, danda (conciliation, gifts, rupture and force), that was simply enlightening, a method which is still alive in the practice of Foreign policy and diplomacy. The leftist rhetoric has done a considerable damage by showing the indigenous knowledge in low light. Because all the ancient literature is apparently the work of Hindus and their vague worry is that speaking truth about a treatise like Arthasastra would revive the Hindu glory which will become a detriment to their propaganda industry and will impact their communist support base, whose cadres are drawn mainly from Hindus.

We would do well by reading a Supreme Court judgment on what Hinduism is, if we ever have to gauge its secular credentials.

I am quoting an excerpt from the judgment of Justice J S Verma on this question.

The development of Hindu religion and philosophy shows that from time to time saints and religious reformers attempted to remove from the Hindu thought and practices elements of corruption and superstition and that led to the formation of different sects. Buddha started Buddhism; Mahavir founded Jainism: Basava became the founder of Lingayat religion; Jnaneshwar and Tukaram initiated the Varakari cult: Guru Nanak inspired Sikhism: Dayananda founded Arya Samaj: and Chaitanya began Bhakti cult; and as a result of the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Hindu religion flowered into its most attractive, progressive and dynamic form. If we study the teachings of these saints and religious reformers, we would notice an amount of divergence in their respective views. but underneath that divergence, there is a kind of subtle indescribable unity which keeps them within the sweep of the broad and progressive Hindu religion.

There is no dearth of great men in Hindu religion and it will not be an exaggeration to call it a religion of 1000 prophets.

The Judge goes on and says that:

The Constitution-makers were fully conscious of this broad and comprehensive character of Hindu religion: and so, while guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion, explanation II to Art. 25 has made it clear that in sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jam or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” (from pages 259-266)

There should be no worry in accepting the truth that Hinduism is the only secular religion, and the word secularism does not in any way contradicts with Hinduism. In India and abroad there is some kind of an unofficial embargo on those who speak for Hinduism or on any classics which even has a remote connection to Hindus and their glory. And the Hindu scholars are chastised for their stand in their work. There is of course a grand conspiracy which constantly obstructs processes through which the history can be set right, ie., where we can get a rightful place in the world for our knowledge and wisdom.

For Europeans who endured the pain of religion which controlled their very private affairs the secular/Non-secular question was more relevant to them not for us, because implicitly Hindus are secular. Hence for Europeans age of enlightenment is some kind of higher calling but people in this sub-continent have always lived in enlightenment. With sages and seers walking this land by foot teaching values which benefits and befits humans and imparting practical wisdom for a day to day life was a routine. But for Europeans and others it was new.

If there is one thing that propelled westerners in the forefront of supremacy it is because they are organized and it is our curse that we could not organize ourselves and even after enduring 1000 years of enslavement from Islamic and Christian aliens from distant lands we are still busy with our petty internal fights which arise out of Ego and prejudice. After his whirlwind tour of west when Swami Vivekananda returned Bharath he acknowledged the fact that we are not organized like England. Moreover the only reason why a tiny Island ruled most of this world is because it is organized.

It is a matter of grave concern that the Indian political thought is not promoted on par with the western political thought. When the outsiders are taking a serious interest in all that is Bharath and India we are yet to learn what our roots are. It will be a great service to this country if governments can take serious note of this and promote our residual knowledge.

US state department paying $50,000 grant to digitize our manuscripts shows where we stand and what our priorities are not to mention that it highlights our indifference. It is a sad state of affairs.

At the end author suggested many research themes based on Arthasastra and students should very well pick up some cues from this and bring this trove of knowledge to the fore with their new, intriguing and brilliant interpretations. Thanks for Author’s service to a greater cause.

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