The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, how a kin should behave towards foe that is mild, towards one that is fierce, and towards one that has
many allies and a large force.'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited, O Yudhishthira. the old narrative of the discourse between Vrihaspati and Indra. Once on a time, that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., Vasava, the chief of the celestials, joining his palms, approached Vrihaspati, and saluting him, said these words.'
"Indra said. 'How, O regenerate one, should I behave towards my foes? Row should I subdue them by means of contrivances, without exterminating them? In a collision between two armies, victory may be won by either side. In what way should I behave so that this blazing prosperity that I have won and that scorches all my enemies may not desert me?' Thus addressed, Vrihaspati, skilled in Virtue, Profit, and Pleasure, possessed of a knowledge of kingly duties, and endued with great intelligence, answered Indra in the following words.'
"Vrihaspati said, 'One should never wish to subdue one's foes by quarrel. Excited with wrath and bereft of forgiveness, boys only seek quarrel. One that desires the destruction of a foe should not put that foe on his guard. On the other hand, one should never exhibit one's ire or fear or joy. He should conceal these within his own bosom. Without trusting one's foe in reality, one should behave towards him as if one trusted him completely. One should always speak sweet words unto one's foes and never do anything that is disagreeable. One should abstain from fruitless acts of hostility as also from insolence of speech. As a fowler, carefully uttering cries similar to those of the birds he wishes to seize or kill. captures and brings them under his power, even so should a king, O Purandara, bring his foes under subjection and then slay them if he likes. Having overcome one's foes, one should not sleep at ease. A foe that is wicked raises his head again like afire carelessly put out making its appearance again. When victory may be won by either side, a hostile collision of arms should be avoided. Having lulled a foe into security, one should reduce him into subjection and gain one's object. Having consulted with his ministers and with intelligent persons conversant with policy, a foe that is disregarded and neglected, being all along unsubdued at heart, smites at the proper season, especially when the enemy makes a false step. By employing trusted agents of his own, such a foe would also render the other's forces inefficient by producing disunion. Ascertaining the beginning, the middle and the end of his foes, 1 a king should in secret cherish feelings of hostility towards them. He should corrupt the forces of his foe, ascertaining everything by positive proof, using the arts of producing disunion, making gifts, and applying poison. A king should never live in companionship with his foes. A king should wait long and then slay his foes. Indeed, he should wait, expecting the opportunity, so that he might come down upon his foe at a time when the latter would not expect him in the least. A king should never slay a large number of the troops of his foe, although he should certainly do that which would make his victory decisive. The king should never do such an injury to his foe as would rankle
in the latter's heart. 1 Nor should he cause wounds by wordy darts and shafts. If the opportunity comes, he should strike at him, without letting it slip. Such, O chief of the gods, should be the conduct of a king desirous of slaying his foes towards those that are his foes. If an opportunity, with respect to the man who waits for it, once passes away, it can never be had again by the person desirous of acting. Acting according to the opinions of the wise, a king should only break the strength of his foe. He should never, when the opportunity is not favourable, seek to accomplish his objects. Nor should he, when the opportunity is at hand, persecute his foe. 2 Giving up lust and wrath and pride, the king should, acting with heedfulness, continually watch for the laches of his foes. His own mildness, the severity of his punishments, his inactivity and heedlessness, O chief of the gods, and the deceitful contrivances well applied (by his foes), ruin a foolish ruler. That king who can conquer these four faults and counteract the deceitful contrivances of his enemies succeeds, without doubt, in smiting them all. When only one minister (without needing any help) is competent to accomplish a secret object (of the king), the king should consult with that one minister only in respect of such object. Many ministers, if consulted, endeavour to throw the burden of the task upon one another's shoulders and even give publicity to that object which should be kept secret. If consultation with one be not proper, then only should the king consult with many. When foes are unseen, divine chastisement should be invoked upon them; when seen, the army, consisting of four kinds of forces, should be moved. 3 The king should first use the arts of producing disunion, as also those of conciliation. When the time for each particular means comes, that particular means should be applied. At times, the king should even prostrate himself before a powerful foe. It is again desirable that acting heedfully himself, he should seek to compass the victor's destruction when the latter becomes heedless. By prostrating one's self, by gift of tribute, by uttering sweet words, one should humble one's self before a more powerful king. One should (when the occasion for such acts comes) never do anything that may arouse the suspicions of one's powerful foe. The weaker ruler should, under such circumstances, carefully avoid every act that may awaken suspicion. A victorious king, again, should not trust his vanquished foes, for they that are vanquished always remain wakeful. There is nothing, O best of duties, that is more difficult of accomplishment than the acquisition of prosperity, O ruler of the immortals, by persons of a restless disposition. The very existence of persons of restless disposition is fraught with danger. Kings should, therefore, with close attention, ascertain their friends and foes. If a king becomes mild, he is disregarded.
[paragraph continues] If he becomes fierce, he inspires people with dread. Therefore, do not be fierce. Do, not, again, be mild. But be both fierce and mild. As a rapid current ceaselessly cats away the high bank and causes large landslips, even so heedlessness and error cause a kingdom to be ruined. Never attack many foes at the same time. By applying the arts of conciliation, or gift, or production of disunion, O Purandara, they should be ground one by one. As regards the remnant, (being few in number,) the victor may behave peacefully towards them. An intelligent king, even if competent for it, should not begin to crush all (his foes) at once. 1 When a king happens to have a large army consisting of sixfold forces 2 and teeming with horse, elephants, cars, foot, and engines, all devoted to him, when he thinks himself superior to his foe in many respects upon a fair comparison, then should he openly smite the foe without hesitation. If the foe be strong, the adoption of a policy of conciliation (towards him) is not worthy of approbation. On the other hand, chastisement by secret means is the policy that should be adopted. Nor should mildness of behaviour be adopted towards such foes, nor repeated expedition, for loss of crops, poisoning of wells and tanks, and suspicion in respect of the seven branches of administration, should be avoided. 3 The king should, on such occasions, apply diverse kinds of deception, diverse contrivances for setting his foes against one another, and different kinds of hypocritical behaviour. He should also, through trusted agents, ascertain the doings of his foes in their cities and provinces. Kings, O slayer of Vala and Vritra, pursuing their foes and entering their towers, seize and appropriate the best things that are obtainable there, and devise proper measures of policy in their own cities and dominions. Making gifts of wealth unto them in private, and confiscating their possessions publicly, without, however, injuring them materially, and proclaiming that they are all wicked men that have suffered for their own misdeeds, kings should send their agents to the cities and provinces of their foes. At the same time, in their own cities, they should, through other persons conversant with the scriptures, adorned with every accomplishment, acquainted with the ordinances of the sacred books and possessed of learning cause incantations and foe-killing rites to be performed.'
"Indra said, 'What are the indications, O best of regenerate ones, of a wicked person? Questioned by me, tell me how I am to know who is wicked.'
"Vrihaspati said, A wicked person is he who proclaims the faults of others at their back, who is inspired with envy at the accomplishments of others, and who remains silent when the merits of other people are proclaimed in his presence, feeling a reluctance to join in the chorus. Mere silence on such occasions is no indication of wickedness. A wicked person, however, at such
times breathe heavily, bites his lips, and shakes his head. Such a person always mixes in society and speaks irrelevantly. 1 Such a man never does what he promises, when the eye of the person to whom he has given the assurance is not upon him. When the eye of the person assured is on him, the wicked man does not even allude to the subject. The wicked man eats by himself (and not with others on the same board), and finds fault with the food placed before him, saying, 'All is not right today as on other days.' His disposition shows itself in the circumstances connected with his sitting, lying, and riding. Sorrowing on occasions of sorrow and rejoicing on occasions of joy, are the indications of a friend. An opposite behaviour furnishes the indications of an enemy. Keep in thy heart these sayings, O ruler of the gods! The disposition of wicked men can never be concealed. I have now told thee, O foremost of deities, what the indications of a wicked person are. Having listened to the truths laid down in the scriptures, follow them duly, O ruler of the celestials!'
"Bhishma continued, 'Having heard these words of Vrihaspati, Purandara, employed in subduing his foes, acted strictly according to them. Bent upon victory, that slayer of foes, when the opportunity came, obeyed these instructions and reduced all his enemies to subjection.'"
223:1 i.e., ascertaining everything regarding him.
224:1 The French had taken Alsace and Lorraine. That was an impolitic step, though, perhaps, Germany also, by taking back those provinces after they had been completely Frenchified, has committed the same mistake. Such injuries rankle in the heart and are never forgotten.
224:2 i.e., ruin him outright.
224:3 Brahma-dandah is the chastisement through the gods. When foes are not seen, i.e., when they are at a distance, the king should employ his priest to perform the rites of the Atharvan for bringing destruction upon them. In the case, however, of foes being seen, i.e., when they are near, he should move his troops without depending upon Atharvan rites.
225:1 Nipunam is explained by Nilakantha as Kusalam; and after drabhet pestum is understood.
225:2 The sixfold forces are foot, horse, elephants, cars, treasury, and traders following the camp.
225:3 I adopt Nilakantha's explanation of this verse. Loss of crops, etc. are the inevitable consequences of expeditions. The king, on such occasions, is obliged also to take particular care of the seven branches of administration. As these are all unpleasant, they should be avoided.
226:1 i.e., starts such subjects for conversation as do not arise naturally, for what he has in view is the proclaiming of the faults of other people, a topic in which he alone is interested and not his hearers.
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