|AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - Feb 2017|
Himalayan Tradition in Polity and Economy
by Swami Veda Bharati
[This passage has been taken from the book Sadhana in Applied Spirituality by Swami Veda Bharati, published in 2013 by AHYMSIN Publishers, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama].
In the 4th century B.C. the Indian empire, then as large as the Roman Empire that came several centuries later, was ruled by the emperor Chandragupta, (called Sandrogottos by the Greeks). Chandragupta’s prime minister, named Chanakya, lived in a small hermitage, following the tradition of the Brahmin philosophers. It was the emperor who would dismount from the chariot several miles away and walk to his mentor-and-minister’s hut to receive counsel and advice.
The major work of this prime minister, titled the artha-shastra (Science of Polity and Economy), is a classic in the science of polity. An appendix to this is titled Chanakya’s Niti-sutras, containing five hundred and seventy-one sutras, that is, maxims on the essential principles of polity. The first few sutras are as follows:
The root of comfort and happiness is dharma (virtue).
The root (support) for virtue is polity and economy (artha).
The root of artha is rulership.
The root of (successful) rulership is conquest of senses.
The root of the conquest over senses is humility and discipline (vinaya).
The root of humility and discipline is service to the elders.
Through service to the elders one obtains experiential knowledge and wisdom (vi-jnana).
Let one complete and fulfil oneself through experiential wisdom.
That one has cultivated and fulfilled the self, means that he has conquered the self.
One who has conquered the self finds all his purposes and goals being accomplished.
The word artha incorporates all the worldly affairs that provide the means for living, thus it includes polity and economy which are considered inseparable in ancient Indian political science.
However, we can see from the above maxims that the core of success is in conquest of senses, self-control, humility, and discipline imbibed by serving the wise and the elders.
On the basis of this teaching, we can examine the modern day approach to artha and determine where it fails in following these ancient ideals. One can write a very detailed thesis to discuss this approach to modern problems in the business and the political world. How much of (a) self-control and conquest of senses, (b) humility, (c) discipline at the feet of elders and the wise is practiced to train ourselves for success? How much experiential wisdom actually serves to guide us in our business affairs? What exactly is meant by experiential wisdom? This word, vi-jnana, often occurs coupled with jnana (knowledge) in the texts like the Bhagavad-gita. The great Shankaracharya translates jnana as theoretical and textual knowledge, and vi-jnana as experiential wisdom. Here, however, “experiential” does not mean that which we gain from our daily life experiences. It means a spiritual experience which opens up our intuitive faculty.
This is where yoga and meditation become relevant.
It is not possible to learn to exercise self-control and to conquer one’s senses without the practice of meditation.
It is also not possible to reduce one’s ego, to practice humility, without meditation. It is through meditation that one learns that the elders who have gained intuitive wisdom may be honoured. Then, through meditation one gains access to one’s own inner gates of wisdom.