Chanakya was the Chief Minster of Chandragupta Maurya between 323 B.C. and 298 B.C. Prior to Chandragupta’s reign Alexander the Great’s legacy had left much of the Indian region under corrupt foreign rule. Chandragupta with Chanakya’s guidance was able to raise an army and eventually seize control of much of what is now known as India and reign over it for the betterment of the people for 25 years. This achievement is considered legendary to this day.
V. K. Subramanian has compiled a collection of The Maxims of Chanakya with both the original Sanskrit and the English translation. Chanakya has been referred to as the “Machiavelli of India”, but I do not regard that as a fair parallel. Chanakya was a pragmatist believing that wealth was both the goal and the cornerstone of the state, however he also believed that wealth should be used to cultivate the best in rulers and the kingdom. Chanakya believed:
Nothing should be allowed to remain of debts, enemies and disease.
But he did not believe in direct confrontation if it could be avoided. He always felt it better to “win over” these three evils than waste the resources of the state. The method was “other people’s money” pitting one opponent against another instead of pitting oneself against either.
The American people consider “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as fundamental rights. Is not life the elimination of disease? Is not liberty the elimination of enemies? Is not happiness the elimination of debt? Perhaps if the United States and every nation made providing disease eliminating healthcare, enforcing inequality eliminating laws and observing debt eliminating economics the only goals of the government, business and people we would all be “healthy, wealthy and wise”.
Chanakya’s only failing was to not have the wisdom to see his legacy preserved beyond his own lifetime.