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Steer Clear of Life’s Pitfalls with Master Strategist Chanakya’s Niti

In the rather complex history of our vast nation, the name Chanakya symbolizes the worldly aspects of India’s ancient thought and knowledge while being synonymous with legendary wisdom and political skill. Chanakya’s numerous sayings on life deal with subjects ranging from family and social surroundings, friends and enemies, adequacy or absence of wealth, official and personal encounters to benefits of knowledge and the inevitable end of everything. These sayings have been compiled in collections and anthologies with the entire corpus referred to as Chanakya Niti.

The aphorisms, written in straightforward language devoid of the ‘alamkara’ or embellishments which were used in traditional Sanskrit verse, belie the depth of the content which, in a way, is reflective of Chanakya’s position as despite being an indispensable ally to the ruler Chandragupta Maurya, he led a simple life.

A.N.D. Haksar writes ‘ …Chanakya has been described as a poor but learned person of unattractive appearance, but nonetheless skilled, determined and cunning, with a strong, vengeful personality.’

Read on to know what Chanakya Niti teaches us about friends and foes:

Know him to be your friend who stands next to you when you are beset by danger and difficulty

In times of sickness or bad luck,

in famines and enemy attacks,

at the ruler’s door or in the cemetery,

the friend is one who stands by you.

Be wary of the one whose tongue drips honey while his hand wields a dagger

He speaks before you sweetly,

but spoils the work behind your back:

such a friend should be discarded—

 like a poisoned pot with milk on top.

Value all that adds meaning to your life and aids your passage through this world

In foreign lands, one’s friend is learning,

at home it is the wife,

in sickness, the friend is medicine,

 in death it is the virtuous life.

Know those to be your enemies who give in to their weakness and stray from their righteous path

The father in debt is one’s enemy,

and the mother who is adulterous,

a beautiful wife is also a foe,

as is a son without education.

Guard your wealth as floundering fortunes cause friends to turn fickle

Friends leave one who has no money,

also servants, kinsfolk, even one’s wife,

but all come back when he has wealth—

that is man’s real friend on this earth.

Sharpen your intellect so it can become your shield against enemies

What can enemies do to one

who very intelligent may be?

They are like raindrops or the heat,

  on a chariot with a canopy.

Devise your strategy so you can turn a weakness into strength

A sharp foe may be neutralized

with the help of another enemy:

a thorn that gets stuck in the foot

with another thorn can extracted be.

A.N.D. Haksar, a well-known translator of Sanskrit classics, offers a roadmap into Chanakya’s Niti with selected aphorisms which continue to be recalled and quoted in many parts of India.

To learn how to manoeuvre through life, read Chanakya Niti!

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