This article by U. Mahesh Prabhu is a part of The Kautilya Project of Vedic Management Centre
Kings from the early Rig Vedic period had mentors who were held in highest regard. They were called Rajaguru. Rajaguru essentially translates to Guru of the King.
King Bharat, after whom India is also called Bharath, had Bharadwaj. King Rama had Vashistha, Mauryan King Chandragupta had Kautilya a.k.a. Chanakya a.k.a. Vishnugupta, founder of Vijayanagara Empire – Hakka and Bukka – had Vidyaranya, the list goes on. These Rajagurus never stayed in the capital or in grand palaces. They weren’t priests, as some portray them to be. They were men of commensurate knowledge and great wisdom. They preferred to stay secluded from masses in hermitages closer to the forests. They wouldn’t leave their hermitages for a long time as a cardinal rule.
When these Rajaguru visited capital, the kings would vacate their seats for them, treat them like deities and seek their counsel in matters considered to be relevant. Their wise counsel is well documented well in many Vedic texts. For example, the counsel provided by Vashistha to then Prince Rama is well documented in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Arthashastra of Kautilya documents many details of administration and government during the Mauryan era. This knowledge and wisdom continue to provide unparalleled insights even to this day to those who seek them.
Given their spartan lifestyle and low profile it’s hard for people today to comprehend why they were held in the highest regard. There are many reasons, including their great accomplishments, wealth of knowledge, aversion to greed, power as well as publicity – but more importantly their ability to comprehend things unimaginable to the common mind. Of the many things these sages taught the most important is the nature of power – Politics.
Many may find it strange that today’s most sophisticated schools of political science teach little of the principles of politics – only history of politics. There are no practical textbooks that explain how politics function – or the science behind it. Arthashastra of Vedic era, last edited by Kautilya around 300 BC, was originally documented by Bharadwaj – the Rajaguru of King Bharath at least 4,000 years ago.
Citing the development of modern Political systems, election practices, mass media, social media and the like, some may dismiss these ancient texts and question their relevance. But that would be a big mistake. True, in the past few hundred years much has changed. Democratic systems of governance have come into being along with the development in technology. But has there been any change with respect to the people’s approach to power?
Has the human mind changed? Desire, anger, greed, infatuation, ego and envy continue to infest people in power – be their position democratic, socialist, or dictatorships. Great leaders are rarely born and most of the “greatness” proposed for modern leaders is owing to propaganda. Even today we are unable to define or differentiate, between “good” and “bad” politics.
What is good? Is that which may appear to be good now, at this moment, good in the long run? Is that which is disregarded by the many as bad truly wrong? Must politicians speak words that appeal to the majority to win them power? What are the qualities a good leader must possess? What qualities differentiate a good leader from a bad leader?
Crucial questions like these have been asked but seldom answered by modern political thinkers, writers or even visionaries. As compared to rapid developments in technology – we haven’t moved very far in improving our political minset. And this is the reason why it’s crucial to relook at ancient Vedic texts on political science.
According to Rajagurus, power is first a manifestation of mind. According to them any person with the ability to think and body to work can gain power. They regard power as of three kinds according to its deep qualities – Sattvic (Good), Rajasic (Middling) and Tamasic (Evil).
Sattvic Power resides in not assuming a personal position of power. It begins with bettering one’s own self first. It comes to fruition when the six main detrimental qualities of the human mind are overcome; namely Kama (desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (Ego) and Matsarya (Envy), also called as Arishadvargas, or the six group of enemies. Unless they are conquered Sattvic power can seldom be attained. All the Rajagurus are believed to have been in possession of Sattvic powers. This is also called as Brahmabala – power of wisdom. Possessors of this power, therefore, were also called Brahmans. Sattvic power is the power of deeper intelligence and is regarded as the greatest power, exceeding physical power for its ability to overcome others without using brute force.
Rajasic power is of those whose intent is right but who have no control over their Arishadvargas. People by sheer persistence can achieve great things. Achievements are often reflection of intent. Most kings and rulers, were slaves of their minds and infested with one or more of the detrimental qualities of the Arishadvargas. As a result, they felt significant amount of stress, strain and pain. Therefore, when things were beyond their ability to handle their difficulties – they would seek the guidance their Rajaguru, who held the power of Sattva. Power of Sattva can calm not just one’s own mind – but also the minds of the others – another manifestation of subtle but powerful influence influence. It’s also referred to as Tapo Bala or the Power of self-control.
Tamasic power belongs to those whose mind are full of selfishness. It holds the full manifestation of Arishadvargas. Tamasic powers reign supreme through ruthlessness, deception, violence, and absolute determination. They even have the potential to restrain Rajasic powers. But they have a major flaw – such power cannot reign supreme for long. Tamasic powers can be overwhelmed either by the pure Sattvic energies, or by Rajasic with the Sattvic energies.
Corrupt politicians today usually fall into the category of Tamasic power, and the leaders with good intent, but no power of introspection, into Rajasic. For the people of Sattva, their inner intelligence is their primary source of power, for Rajas it is their material power and wealth (also called Bahu Bala or Muscle Power), for Tamasic it is their ruthlessness and deception. Intelligence that is pure can see through everything and destroy anything. It is capable of creation and sustenance that is just.
It is the mind that has made humans to create civilization. It’s the mind that started the concept of currency and money. But since the mind was let free to reign supreme it began to be ruled by its own creations, desires and delusions. Money and physical force are but tools. They are worthless when unused and can be a trouble when misused or, even, unused. To use them well it’s important to have a balanced mind.
The mind cannot be balanced without wisdom. Wisdom isn’t knowledge, information or data. For the mind to properly work it needs understanding. To understand, the mind needs to think deeply, to think deeply it needs time, and time that is not shadowed by worry or demands.
According to the great Rajagurus, the mind is our main source of power as well as peril. Understanding this mind according Dharma, is the key to power that is not only just, or Sattvic, but also enduring. Since we fail to understand this power, we often find our minds in stress, strain and, even, chaos.