The classic work on the goal of material success is the Artha Shastra by Kautilya, who is identified with Chanakya, the advisor of Chandragupta, first king of the Mauryan dynasty. This treatise is a collection of political, legal, and economic advice from earlier sources put together and commented on by Kautilya. Unfortunately it is another step down ethically from the Dharma Sutras and traditional law codes to a worldly strategy of how to enhance one's own kingdom often at the expense of others. The complete text of this work was discovered in 1905 and has been translated into English.
In the third chapter Kautilya repeated the traditional views of the Vedas, the caste system, the four stages of life, and lists the duties common to all as harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, freedom from spite, abstinence from cruelty, and forgiveness. However, he then goes on to analyze government as the art of punishment based on discipline. Kautilya saw his work as the science of politics, which deals with the means of acquiring and maintaining the earth. The study of any science depends on the mental faculties of obedience, hearing, perception, memory, discrimination, inference, and deliberation.
Princes were to be celibate until they came of age at sixteen at which time they were expected to marry; girls came of age at twelve. Restraining the senses depends upon abandoning lust, anger, greed, vanity, haughtiness, and joy. Kautilya begins to reveal his value system when he places wealth above charity and desire, because these two depend on wealth. He seemed to forget truthfulness and harmlessness when he recommended the institution of spies using fraud and duplicity.
Although Kautilya declared that the prince should be taught only justice (dharma) and wealth (artha) and that he should do what pleases his subjects, to his rational mind this may mean warfare and treachery against their enemies. After describing the villages, land, and forts, Kautilya goes on to delineate the duties of the chamberlain, the collector general, account keepers, and the superintendents of gold, storehouse, commerce, forest produce, armory, weights and measures, tolls, weaving, agriculture, liquor, slaughterhouse, prostitutes, ships, cows, horses, elephants, chariots, infantry, passports, pasture land, and the city.
Brahmins, ascetics, children, the aged, the afflicted, royal messengers, and pregnant women are to be given free passes to cross rivers. Diplomatic negotiation is to be carried out by praising the other's qualities, discussing mutual benefits, future prospects, and the identity of interests. Law is based on justice, evidence, history, and the edicts of kings; but for Kautilya the royal will is the most important though the justice of the sacred law takes precedent over history when they disagree. Marriage cannot be dissolved by the husband or wife against the will of the other; but if there is mutual enmity, divorce may be obtained. Neighborhood elders may be consulted to settle disputes about fields.
Kautilya recommended cooperation with public projects and suggested, "The order of any person attempting to do a work beneficial to all shall be obeyed,"10 and those disobeying may be punished. The native Mlecchas, who were considered barbarians, may sell their offspring into slavery, but Aryans may not. A person who has voluntarily enslaved oneself and runs away is to be enslaved for life, and one who has been mortgaged into slavery is enslaved for life for running away twice. Violation of female servants, cooks, and nurses earns them their liberty at once. If a master fathers a child with a slave, both the child and the mother are to be recognized as free. Slaves can buy back their freedom for their sale price, and Aryans captured in war can also purchase their freedom.
Kautilya described the various punishments for offenses which can include torture, mutilation, and capital punishment, though fines were most often applied. Verbal abuse was punished with a fine whether it was true or false, and the penalties for assault were halved if the offense was due to carelessness, intoxication, or loss of sense. Fines generally varied according to the rank of the person and the seriousness of the offense. "No man shall have sexual intercourse with any woman against her will."11 Mercy was to be shown to pilgrims, ascetics doing penance, those suffering disease, hunger, thirst, or fatigue, rustic villagers, those suffering punishment, and paupers. People were to be honored for their learning, intelligence, courage, high birth, and magnificent works.
Revenues were to be collected like fruits, only when they were ripe; to try to collect revenue when unripe may injure the source and cause immense trouble. In addition to the usual services, artists, and musicians, the court also supported a foreteller of the future, a reader of omens, an astrologer, a reader of the Puranas, a story-teller, and a bard. Advisors are to tell the king what is good and pleasing but not what is bad; though when the king is ready to listen, he may be told secretly what is unpleasant but good.
For Kautilya the elements of sovereignty were the king, the minister, the country, the fort, the treasury, the army and its ally, and the enemy. A good king was described as born of a high family, godly, virtuous, courageous, truthful, grateful, ambitious, enthusiastic, not addicted to procrastination, powerful in controlling neighbor kings, resolute, with a good assembly, having a taste for discipline, with a sharp intellect and memory, trained in various arts, dignified, with foresight, discerning the need for war, not haughty, free of passions and bad habits, and observing traditional customs.
The acquisition of wealth and its security was dependent on peace and industry. Kautilya defined three kinds of strength as the ability to deliberate being intellectual strength, a prosperous treasury being strength of sovereignty, and martial power being physical strength. The traditional six forms of state policy were peace, war, neutrality, marching (preparing), alliance, and the double policy of making peace with one and waging war against another. Although Kautilya was not reluctant to use warfare, at least he did recognize that if the situation is equal, peace is preferable, because war involves loss of power and wealth, traveling, and sin. Kautilya used rational calculations of self-interest in deciding whether to march against enemies.
In my opinion Kautilya is to be severely criticized for recommending the use of war as a political instrument in disregard of human welfare. His position can clearly be seen as a degeneration from his own teacher's more humane views in the following passage:
teacher says that in an open war, both sides suffer
Kautilya believed that peace dependent on honesty or an oath is more immutable in this world and the next than that based on security or a hostage which is for this world only. Kautilya thought that he and those who know the interdependence of the six forms of policy can play at pleasure with kings bound round with chains skillfully devised by himself; but I would submit that those chains based on human violence and suffering bind such an advisor as well and cause untold misery.
Once again Kautilya valued wealth most of all, for with money one can buy treasure and an army. Kautilya, who has been compared to Machiavelli, believed that the skill of intrigue is more important than enthusiasm and power when invading another country. He coldly calculated whether the expected profit will outweigh the loss of trained men and diminution of gold and grains when deciding whether to march. By conciliation and gifts the conqueror should use corporations (mercenaries) against an enemy; but if they oppose him, he should sow seeds of dissension among them and secretly punish them. He may also use rewards for those who help him fulfill his promises to his people. Kautilya did believe the king should follow the will of the people.
acts against the will of the people
He then went on to recommend that spies be used to persuade the local leaders of the hurt inflicted on enemies in contrast to the good treatment they receive from their conqueror. He advised the extensive use of spies even in the guise of ascetic holy men. Various descriptions of magical remedies and superstitions are based on traditional folklore. Though worldly wise, the ethics of Kautilya leaves much to be desired.