Chanakya, one of the most intelligent political strategists of all time offered his advice in the Arthashastra. Here are 21 Chanakya quotes from this seminal book.
You may also be interested in the Spiritual Quote of the Day Android App, which includes quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Gautama Buddha and many more great beings.
Chanakya Quotes on administration
Whoever imposes severe punishment becomes repulsive to the people; while he who awards mild punishment becomes contemptible. But whoever imposes punishment as deserved becomes respectable.
Punishment when awarded with due consideration, makes the people devoted to righteousness and to works productive of wealth and enjoyment.
No deliberation made by a single person will be successful; the nature of the work which a sovereign has to do is to be inferred from the consideration of both the visible and invisible causes. The clearance of doubts as to whatever is susceptible of two opinions, and the inference of the whole when only a part is seen is possible of decision only by ministers. Hence the king shall sit at deliberation with persons of wide intellect.
He shall despise none, but hear the opinions of all. A wise man shall make use of even a child’s sensible utterance.
The king shall singly deliberate over secret matters; for ministers have their own ministers, and these latter some of their own; this kind of successive line of ministers tends to the disclosure of counsels.
Chanakya Quotes on integrity
A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first.
Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions: why I am doing it, What the results might be and Will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.
Once you start working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest.
The biggest guru-mantra is: Never share your secrets with anybody. If you cannot keep a secret with you, do not expect that others will keep it? It will destroy you.
The king shall lose no time when the opportunity waited for arrives.
If a king is energetic, his subjects will be equally energetic. If he is reckless, they will not only be reckless likewise, but also eat into his works.
The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind but the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.
A man is great by deeds, not by birth.
One whose knowledge is confined to books and whose wealth is in the possession of others can use neither knowledge nor wealth when the need for them arises.
Time perfects men as well as destroys them.
We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future; men of discernment deal only with the present moment.
There is no austerity equal to a balanced mind, and there is no happiness equal to contentment; there is no disease like covetousness, and no virtue like mercy.
Chanakya Quotes on education
Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is useful to a blind person.
Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.
He who is overly attached to his family members experiences fear and sorrow, for the root of all grief is attachment. Thus one should discard attachment to be happy.
A man is born alone and dies alone; and he experiences the good and bad consequences of his karma alone; and he goes alone to hell or the Supreme abode.
Do not be very upright in your dealings for you would see by going to the forest that straight trees are cut down while crooked ones are left standing.
The wise man should restrain his senses like the crane and accomplish his purpose with due knowledge of his place, time and ability.
Purity of speech,of the mind,of the senses, and of a compassionate heart are needed by one who desires to rise to the divine platform.
He who lives in our mind is near though he may actually be far away;but he who is not in our heart is far though he may really be nearby.
The happiness and peace attained by those satisfied by the nectar of spiritual tranquillity is not attained by greedy persons restlessly moving here and there.
There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth.
The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all direction.
The earth is supported by the power of truth;it is the power of truth tht makes the sun shine andthe winds blow; indeed all things rest upon truth.
The biggest guru-mantra is: never share your secrets with anybody. It will destroy you.
Purity of speech, of the mind, of the senses, and of a compassionate heart are needed by one who desires to rise to the divine platform.
He who lives in our mind is near though he may actually be far away; but he who is not in our heart is far though he may really be nearby.
Chanakya Quotes on religion
God is not present in idols. Your feelings are your god. The soul is your temple.
Do not reveal what you have thought upon doing, but by wise council keep it secret being determined to carry it into execution.
As a single withered tree, if set aflame, causes a whole forest to burn, so does a rascal son destroy a whole family.
A man is born alone and dies alone;and he experiences the good and bad consequences of his karma alone;and he goes alone to hell or the Supreme abode.
He who nurtures benevolence for all creatures within his heart overcomes all difficulties and will be the recipient of all types of riches at every step.
All the creatures are pleased by loving words; and therefore we should address words that are pleasing to all, for there is no lack of sweet words.
A man attains greatness by his merits, not simply by occupying an exalted seat. Can we call a crow an eagle (garuda) simply because he sits on the top of a tall building.
Sinfully acquired wealth may remain for ten years; in the eleventh year it disappears with even the original stock.
He who wears unclean garments, has dirty teeth, is a glutton, speaks unkindly and sleeps after sunrise – although he may be the greatest personality — will lose the favour of Lakshmi.
Eschew wicked company and associate with saintly persons. Acquire virtue day and night, and always meditate on that which is eternal forgetting that which is temporary.
We should always speak what would please the man of whom we expect a favour,like the hunter who sings sweetly when he desires to shoot a deer.
He who is prepared for the future and he who deals cleverly with any situation that may arise are both happy; but the fatalistic man who wholly depends on luck is ruined.
Even as the unborn babe is in the womb of his mother, these five are fixed as his life destiny: his life span, his activities, his acquisition of wealth and knowledge, and his time of death.
Chanakya Quotes on wisdom
The man who remains a fool even in advanced age is really a fool, just as the Indra-Varuna fruit does not become sweet no matter how ripe it might become.
The cuckoos remain silent for a long time (for several seasons)until they are able to sing sweetly(in the Spring)so as to give joy to all.
We should not feel pride in our charity, austerity,valour,scriptural knowledge, modestyandmorality for the world is full of the rarest gems.
Drop the idea that attachment and love are one thing. They are enemies. It is attachment that destroys all love.
Wealth, a friend, a wife, and a kingdom may be regained; but this body when lost may never be acquired again.
Poverty, disease, sorrow, imprisonment and other evils are the fruits borne by the tree of one’s own sins.
There are three gems upon this earth; food, water, and pleasing words — fools (mudhas) consider pieces of rocks as gems.
As a calf follows its mother among a thousand cows, so the (good or bad) deeds of a man follow him.
Who realises all the happiness he desires? Everything is in the hands of God. Therefore one should learn contentment.
He who forsakes his own community and joins another perishes as the king who embraces an unrighteous path.
Generosity, pleasing address, courage and propriety of conduct are not acquired, but are inbred qualities.
A learned man is honoured by the people.A learned man commands respect everywhere for his learning. Indeed,learning is honoured everywhere.
Beauty is spoiled by an immoral nature;noble birth by bad conduct; learning, without being perfected; and wealth by not being properly utilised.
Moral excellence is an ornament for personal beauty;righteous conduct,for high birth; success for learning;and proper spending for wealth.
Purity of speech, of the mind, of the senses, and a compassionate heart are needed by one who desires to rise to the divine platform.
Our bodies are perishable,wealth is not at all permanent and death is always nearby.Therefore we must immediately engage in acts of merit.
What good can the scriptures do to a man who has no sense of his own? Of what use is as mirror to a blind man?
Those base men who speak of the secret faults of others destroy themselves like serpents that stray onto anthills.
Beauty is spoiled by an immoral nature; noble birth by bad conduct;learning, without being perfected;andwealth by not being properly utilised.
Low class men desire wealth;middle class men both wealth and respect;but the noble,honour only;hence honour is the noble man’s true wealth.He who has wealth has friends and relations; he alone survives and is respected as a man.
Accumulated wealth is saved by spending just as incoming fresh water is saved by letting out stagnant water.
Swans live wherever there is water, and leave the place where water dries up; let not a man act so — and comes and goes as he pleases.
The power of a king lies in his mighty arms;that of a brahmana in his spiritual knowledge; and that of a woman in her beauty youth and sweet words.
He who gives up shyness in monetary dealings, in acquiring knowledge, in eating and in business, becomes happy.
Time perfects all living beings as well as kills them; it alone is awake when all others are asleep. Time is insurmountable.
By means of hearing one understands dharma, malignity vanishes, knowledge is acquired, and liberation from material bondage is gained.
The poor wish for wealth; animals for the faculty of speech; men wish for heaven; and godly persons for liberation.
Learning is a friend on the journey; a wife in the house; medicine in sickness; and religious merit is the only friend after death.
The learned are envied by the foolish; rich men by the poor; chaste women by adulteresses; and beautiful ladies by ugly ones
A thing may be dreaded as long as it has not overtaken you, but once it has come upon you, try to get rid of it without hesitation.
She is a true wife who is clean (suci), expert, chaste, pleasing to the husband, and truthful.
When one is consumed by the sorrows of life, three things give him relief: offspring, a wife, and the company of the Lord’s devotees.
Learning is like a cow of desire. It, like her, yields in all seasons. Like a mother, it feeds you on your journey. Therefore learning is a hidden treasure
As long as your body is healthy and under control and death is distant, try to save your soul; when death is imminent what can you do?
He who runs away from a fearful calamity, a foreign invasion, a terrible famine, and the companionship of wicked men is safe.
Do not keep company with a fool for as we can see he is a two-legged beast.Like an unseen thorn he pierces the heart with his sharp words.
At the time of the pralaya(universal destruction)the oceans are to exceed their limits and seek to change,but a saintly man never changes.
He who befriends a man whose conduct is vicious, whose vision impure, and who is notoriously crooked, is rapidly ruined.
Avoid him who talks sweetly before you but tries to ruin you behind your back, for he is like a pitcher of poison with milk on top.
Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.
Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you any happiness.
As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.
The earth is supported by the power of truth; it is the power of truth that makes the sun shine and the winds blow; indeed all things rest upon truth.
The world’s biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman.
Purity of speech,of the mind, of the senses,and the of a compassionate heart are needed by one who desires to rise to the divine platform.
Don’t forget, more great quotes can be found in the Spiritual Quote of the Day Android App, which includes quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Gautama Buddha and many more great beings.
Chanakya is known by many names. Kautilya and Vishnugupta are two of them. Though some historians still dispute if he was an actual person, the majority have conclude that he indeed lived around 320 BC and came from the ancient university of Takshashila or Taxila in modern-day Pakistan. He was the prime minister to Chandragupta Maurya, India’s first emperor and Ashoka’s grandfather. Thanks to Chanakya’s advice and statecraft, and aided by his own military acumen and energy, Chandragupta conquered a large swath of what is today known as Northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The entire subcontinent was more or less one entity at that time of course, and was called Bharat or Bharatvarsha. He laid the seeds for Ashoka’s expanion of the empire later on, when it would become on of the largest in the world.
Chanakya put into writing most of what he told the emperor. Or rather, he condensed all of it into some pithy advise and named the whole thing “Arthashastra.” This work on statecraft covers everything from security and diplomacy to public welfare and taxation. It offers advice on economics, ethics and legalese. He also penned the Chanakya Niti or Nitishastra, a set of 455 sutras or aphorisms that cover every aspect of life, including Rajaniti or governance.
The Arthashastra was quite influential among Indian political circles until the twelfth century, when it disappeared under the growing assault of Muslim armies. It was rediscovered in 1904 by R Shamasastry and was published in 1909. And English translation was published in 1915. Today, Chanakya is doing the rounds again corporate circles and is often quoted by businessmen and managers.
Quite an eternal piece of work to be valid even 2500 years after it was written!
The Arthashastra in Brief
Here is a brief of the Arthashastra as put down in the first chapter of the book, by Chanakya. It beings with Om, an invocation, and a namaste.
Salutation to Sukra and Brihaspati.
This Arthasástra is made as a compendium of almost all the Arthasástras, which, in view of acquisition and maintenance of the earth, have been composed by ancient teachers. Of this work, the following are the contents by sections and books:
BOOK I. Concerning Discipline.
The end of Sciences; association with the aged; restraint of the organs of sense; the creation of ministers; the creation of councillors and priests; ascertaining by temptations purity or impurity in the character of ministers; the institution of spies. Protection of parties for or against one’s own cause in one’s own state; winning over the factions for or against an enemy’s cause in an enemy’s state; the business of council meeting; the mission of envoys; protection of princes; the conduct of a prince kept under restraint; treatment of a prince kept under restraint; the duties of a king; duty towards the harem; personal safety.
BOOK II. The Duties of Government Superintendents.
Formation of villages; division of land; construction of forts; buildings within the fort; the duty of the chamberlain; the business of collection of revenue by the collector-general; the business of keeping up accounts in the office of accountants; detection of what is embezzled by government servants out of state-revenue; examination of the conduct of Government servants; the procedure of forming royal writs; the superintendent of the treasury; examination of gems that are to be entered into the treasury; conducting mining operations and manufacture; the superintendent of gold; the duties of the state goldsmith in the high road; the superintendent of store-house; the superintendent of commerce; the superintendent of forest produce; the superintendent of the armoury; the superintendent of weights and measures; measurement of space and time; the superintendent of tolls; the superintendent of weaving; the superintendent of agriculture; the superintendent of liquor; the superintendent of slaughter-house; the superintendent of prostitutes; the superintendent of ships; the superintendent of cows; the superintendent of horses; the superintendent of elephants; the superintendent of chariots; the superintendent of infantry; the duty of the commander-in-chief, the superintendent of passports; the superintendent of pasture lands; the duty of revenue collectors; spies in the guise of householders, merchants, and ascetics; the duty of a city superintendent.
BOOK III. Concerning Law.
Determination of forms of agreements; determination of legal disputes; concerning marriage; division of inheritance; buildings; non-performance of agreements; recovery of debts; concerning deposits; rules regarding slaves and labourers; co-operative undertakings; rescision of purchase and sale; resumption of gifts, and sale without ownership; ownership; robbery; defamation; assault; gambling and betting, and miscellaneous.
BOOK IV. Removal of Thorns.
Protection of artisans; protection of merchants; remedies against national calamities; suppression of the wicked living by foul means; detection of youths of criminal tendency by ascetic spies; seizure of criminals on suspicion or in the very act; examination of sudden death; trial and torture to elicit confession; protection of all kinds of government departments; fines in lieu of mutilation of limbs; death with or without torture; sexual intercourse with immature girls; atonement for violating justice.
BOOK V. Conduct of Courtiers.
Concerning the awards of punishments; replenishment of the treasury; concerning subsistence to government servants; the conduct of a courtier; time-serving; consolidation of the kingdom and absolute sovereignty.
BOOK VI. The Source of Sovereign States.
The elements of sovereignty; concerning peace and exertion.
BOOK VII. The End of Sixfold Policy.
The sixfold policy; determination of deterioration, stagnation, and progress; the nature of alliance; the character of equal, inferior and superior kings; forms of agreement made by an inferior king; neutrality after proclaiming war or after concluding a treaty of peace; marching after proclaiming war or after making peace; the march of combined powers; considerations about marching against an assailable enemy and a strong enemy; causes leading to the dwindling, greed and disloyalty of the army; considerations about the combination of powers; the march of combined powers; agreement of peace with or without definite terms; and peace with renegades; peace and war by adopting the double policy; the attitude of an assailable enemy; friends that deserve help; agreement for the acquisition of a friend or gold; agreement of peace for the acquisition of land; agreement for undertaking a work; considerations about an enemy in the rear; recruitment of lost power; measures conducive to peace with a strong and provoked enemy; the attitude of a conquered enemy; the attitude of a conquered king; making peace and breaking it; the conduct of a Madhyama king; of a neutral king and of a circle of states.
BOOK VIII. Concerning Vices and Calamities.
The aggregate of the calamities of the elements of sovereignty; considerations about the troubles of the king and his kingdom; the aggregate of the troubles of men; the group of molestations; the group of obstructions; and the group of financial troubles; the group of troubles of the army; and the group of troubles of a friend.
BOOK IX. The Work of an Invader.
The knowledge of power, place, time, strength and weakness; the time of invasion; the time for recruiting the army; the form of equipment; the work of arraying a rival force; considerations of annoyance in the rear; remedies against internal and external troubles; consideration about loss of men, wealth and profit. Internal and external dangers; persons associated with traitors and enemies; doubts about wealth and harm; and success to be obtained by the employment of alternative strategic means.
BOOK X. Relating to War.
Encampment; march of the camp; protection of the army in times of distress and attack; forms of treacherous fights; encouragement to one’s own army; the fight between one’s own and enemy’s armies; battle-fields; the work of infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants; distinctive array of troops in respect of wings, flanks and front; distinction between strong and weak troops; battles with infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants; the array of the army like a staff, a snake, a circle or in detached order; the array of the army against that of an enemy.
BOOK XI. The Conduct of Corporations.
Causes of dissension; secret punishment.
BOOK XII. Concerning a Powerful Enemy.
The duties of a messenger; battle of intrigue; slaying the commander-in-chief, and inciting a circle of states; spies with weapons, fire, and poison; destruction of supply of stores, and of granaries; capture of the enemy by means of secret contrivances or by means of the army; and complete victory.
BOOK XIII. Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress.
Sowing the seeds of dissension; enticement of kings by secret contrivances; the work of spies in a siege; the operation of a siege; restoration of peace in a conquered country.
BOOK XIV. Secret Means.
Means to injure an enemy; wonderful and delusive contrivances; remedies against the injuries of one’s own army.
BOOK XV. The Plan of a Treatise.
Paragraphical divisions of this treatise. Such are the contents of this Science. There are on the whole 15 books, 150 chapters, 180 sections and 6,000 slokas. This Sástra, bereft of undue enlargement and easy to grasp and understand, has been composed by Kautilya in words the meaning of which has been definitely settled.