Kautilya's "Pragmatics" - Ancient Indian Machiavellianism! What a thoroughgoing imperialism that should be compared to "The Theory of Monarchs"!

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Kautilya's "Pragmatics" Summary and Comments - Ancient Indian Machiavellianism! What a thorough imperialism that should be compared to "Monarchism"!

The book introduced here is "The Theory of Pragmatism" written by Kautilya and translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, published by Iwanami Shoten in 1984.

Let's take a quick look at the book.

In India, dharma, artha, and kama have been considered the three major goals of life since ancient times. This book, which is said to have been written by Kautilya, a famous vizier of ancient India, explains from the standpoint of artha how a king should act in order to secure unshakable power. Compared to this, Weber said, "The Theory of Monarchs" is "a mere trifle. Two volumes. (Commentary by Minoru Hara) (Volume 1)

A king must skillfully manipulate a network of spies inside and outside the country and use all his tricks of the trade to secure and extend his power. This does not mean, however, power for the sake of power. The purpose of kingship is to eliminate the evil of the "law of the fish" (the law of the weak and the strong), in which the strong eat the weak. (Vol. II)

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Kautilya, the author of this work, is a man with whom we Buddhists have a great deal to do. Kautilya was a famous vizier of Chandragupta, the founder of the Maurya dynasty founded in 317 B.C. The most famous figure of this dynasty was King Asoka, who appeared a little later.

King Ashoka Pillar in Vaishali. It was erected around 250 BC. Across from it is theStupaThere is aWikipedia.

King Ashoka is famous for spreading Buddhism throughout India, and his dynasty was able to have a power that spread throughout India because of the political power of this Kautilya.

So, for us Buddhists, too, there is actually a connection to Kautilya.

Let's take a look at the commentary on this book, "The Theory of Reality".

Since ancient times, in India, dharma (law), artha (merit), and kama (pleasure) have been considered to be the three main purposes of man. Of these, Kautilya places the highest importance on artha, claiming that the other ni depends on it (I.7.6-7). This book, which is thoroughly devoted to the national interest, is often compared to Machiavelli's Theory of Monarchies. To give one example, Max Weber, in his Politics as a Vocation, states.

The Indian ethic allows for a view of the art of governance that does not exclusively follow the inherent laws of politics, but rather emphasizes them to the hilt - without any pretense at all. A truly radical Machiavellianism - in the popular sense - is typical of Indian literature in Kautilya's "Theory of Pragmatics. Compared to this, Machiavelli's "Theory of Monarchs" is a mere trifle. (Kehei Waki, Iwanami Bunko, pp. 95-96)

It should be noted, however, that in this book it is taught that kingship is necessary to prevent the weak and the strong.

But if the royal staff (power) is not used at all, the law of the fish (the law of the weak and the strong) arises. That is, when there is no one to wield the royal staff, the strong eat the weak. When protected by the royal staff, the weak also gain power." (I.4.13-15)

A state of anarchy is what the authors of this book are most alarmed about. If this happens, the "fish law" will reign, in which the strong will devour the weak. The protection of the weak is the king's duty, and the state should, for example, provide for children, the elderly, victims, and women who have no relatives (ni 1.26). And that the happiness of the king lies in the happiness of the people. (omitted).

Other examples can be given, but in short, the king always pursues the realization of practical interests through diligent efforts in order to protect the peace of the people. This clear-cut logic that order is necessary to protect the weak and that unshakable power is necessary to do so may not resonate well with intellectuals in modern Japan, but it must be acknowledged that it was most persuasive, at least in ancient Indian society. When a country is disturbed, its enemies-neighboring countries are inevitably considered "enemies" in this book-will take advantage of it, and its people will fall into dire straits. The author explains all the tricks of the trade that a monarch should employ in order to protect his country's security, increase its power, and gain the territory of others. One of the most noteworthy examples of espionage is the one that unfolds throughout the book. In the Indian classics, espionage is given great importance, and even in later works of literature, kings who fail to make proper use of spies are condemned.

Iwanami Shoten, Kautilya, translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, "Pragmatics," vol. 1, p. 3-5.

This clear-cut logic, that order is necessary to protect the weak and that unwavering power is necessary to do so, may not strike a chord with intellectuals in modern Japan, but it must be admitted that it was most persuasive, at least in ancient Indian society."

I strongly feel that this is actually a very important perspective on the history of Buddhism when I read this "Pragmatics".

In fact, even during the reign of the Buddha, which was several hundred years earlier than that of "The Pragmatics," the whole of India was in a period of warfare, and the rule was based on the rule of the weak and the strong. Furthermore, Buddha was a prince of the Sakyamuni tribe, and he had to rule the country by using the power and tactics that were originally taught in the "Theory of Pragmatics. As a result, Buddha abandoned that path and became an ordained monk, and the Sakyamuni was subsequently destroyed by the great Kosala state. The Buddha witnessed the annihilation of the country of his birth.

Even the Kosala State, which destroyed the Sakyamuni, was destroyed by the Magadha State soon thereafter. Incidentally, the king of Magadha at that time was a famous man named Ajase. I am sure you have heard of him.

Buddha preached Buddhism based on his firsthand experience of the realities of this kind of weak and powerful world. This reminds us of how far Buddha's peaceful teachings were from the common sense of the time.

The peace preached by the Buddha is merely an ideal. It is powerless in the face of reality. Governing a country is not a pretty business."

I have had such painful thoughts many times, but I still think it is a great thing that Buddha taught his teachings with conviction and lived to the end.


This is not just a political book, but an encyclopedia of information on economics and law, learning, royal palaces, architecture, jewelry, metals, forest products, weapons, scales and measures, units of space and time, spinning, weaving, brewing, prostitutes, ships, cattle, horses, elephants, travel documents, gambling, and many other matters. It is a valuable resource for understanding the society and culture of ancient India.

Iwanami Shoten, Kautilya, translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, "Pragmatics," vol. 1, p. 5-6.

As he explains, "In the Pragmatics, we can learn more about the social life of the time through rules, regulations, and punishments. It is very gratifying to learn about the social life in ancient India during and after the Buddha's lifetime. As is the case with the "Ritsuzo" in Buddhism, the existence of precepts and rules means that there are people who do things that are prohibited by those rules. The fact that there is a rule that says, "Do not do this," is in itself the flip side of the fact that there are people who do such things.

This is strongly reminiscent of Gregory Schopen, who published his groundbreaking theory of Buddhist cult by focusing on the Buddhist Ritsuzo. For more on Schopen, see his bookMonastic Life in India During the Rise of Mahayana Buddhism.andSeries on Mahayana Buddhism, Volume II: The Birth of Mahayana Buddhism.This "Pragmatics" is also a book that gives us an insight into the life of the time through its very rules and regulations.

And Machiavelli's in the commentary above.The Monarchist.This was previously mentioned in this blog. This one was also previously featured on this blog.

Machiavelli's "The Theory of the Monarchs" is a rather gruesome treatise on power and intrigue, but this "Theory of Pragmatism" is also quite gruesome.

Also in the commentary above.The author describes every possible tactic a monarch can employ to protect his own security, increase his national power, and acquire the territory of others. The examples of espionage deployed throughout the book are among the most noteworthy. Intelligence is given great importance in the Indian classics, and even in later works of literature, kings who fail to make proper use of spies are condemned."As he stated, he is particularly careful to explain the use of spies.

The book explains in plain language how spies are sent to all kinds of occupations to probe for information, and even to incite public opinion and assassination to divide the people. Among the various patterns of espionage described in the book, I was particularly impressed by the activities of spies disguised as ascetic practitioners.

A person in the guise of an ascetic is a shaver or hairdresser who wishes to lead a worldly life. (13) He should live near a city with a large number of shaved or tied disciples, and openly eat vegetables and a handful of wheat [only once] in a month or nikāmonth. But secretly he may eat what he likes. (14) And his disciples [assistants], who are [disguised as] merchants, should worship him as possessing the art of foreseeing good fortune. (15) Then his [other] disciples should also advertise, "This saint is a forecaster of good fortune. (16) Then he should tell those who approach him, hoping for good fortune, about the events that have occurred in their families, either through physiognomy or through signs sent by his disciples. For example, news of a decrease in income, fire, theft, the killing of a traitor, a joyous sacrifice, an exotic incident, etc. [And then] "This day is the day of the Lord. Then] "This will happen today and tomorrow" or "The king will do this" [should be foretold]. (17) Spies and secret agents should fulfill his prophecies. (18) Those who have courage, wisdom, eloquence, and ability should be forewarned of the king's good fortune [through his patronage], and told that they [shall be] in the company of his advisors. (19) Then the advisors should arrange their lives and their work. (20)

Those who are generally resentful for a reason should be appeased with goods and honor. And those who are angry without cause and those who are hostile to the king should be subdued by the penalty of silence (murder). (21)

Iwanami Shoten, Kautilya, translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, "Pragmatics," vol. 1, p. 49-50.

How about the fact that he even uses cherry-picking to turn spies into prophets, and then goes on to state unequivocally that disaffected or hostile elements should be "silenced," i.e., assassinated? Furthermore, regarding assassination by spies, the lower part of the book also states the following

We should apply the "penalty of silence" without hesitation to friend and foe. Be patient [considering the consequences] in the future and in the present. (57)

Iwanami Shoten, Kautilya, translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, "Pragmatics," vol. 2, p. 16.

Although a little later he would say, "We should deal with traitors and outlaws as above, but not with others," one still cannot help but gasp at this espionage. The statecraft of ancient India must have been a cesspool of such intrigue. The vast Indian subcontinent was home to many peoples, each vying for supremacy, and the scale of their power must have been tremendous. That must be why they were so thorough in their scheming and scheming. Oh, the horror, the horror, the horror...


We must be wary of princes. For princes, like crabs, are predisposed to devour their mothers.

Iwanami Shoten, Kautilya, translated by Katsuhiko Uemura, The Theory of Pragmatics, vol. 1, p. 71.

The word "plot" is even used in the story. This is not the very plot that Kautilya recommends, but you can feel the atmosphere of the situation surrounding the king when these words are mentioned. Reading this book, I don't envy being born into royalty at all. No matter how extravagant I may be, I would respectfully give back that right. Maybe Buddha felt that way too.

It is amazing how India, with its surrealistic "utilitarian" works, has simultaneously given birth to conceptual and cosmic philosophies. It is indeed India. But this is India, isn't it? It is a huge scale where opposites coexist exactly as they are! I found this "Pragmatics" very interesting when I think about what India is.

Max Weber is...Compared to this, Machiavelli's Monarchy is a trifle.As I mentioned, I personally think I found "The Monarchy" a more interesting read. In "The Realpolitik," Machiavelli simply lays out the rules and regulations, and he does not explain the politics or the rules in a straightforward manner. On the other hand, "The Monarchy" has a more narrative style in which Machiavelli, who is also a writer, passionately discusses political theory and human psychology. It is a very interesting work that can even be read as a human drama if you read it while imagining the situation in Italy at that time, so I do not agree with Weber's theory.

Yes, "The Pragmatics" may be more detailed and cover a vast amount of further matters, but that does not make Machiavelli's theory sound like a "trite" one. I don't know, but this may have something to do with the Orientalist appreciation of India at the time.

Nevertheless, it is nonsense to give superiority to two works from different times and places. It is true that both had a tremendous impact on their times and on the history of later generations. It was very stimulating and interesting to read and compare these similar works.

This is something I am very grateful for, as reading "Pragmatics" helped me to imagine what Indian society was like at the time. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy.

The above is "Kautilya's 'Theory of Pragmatics' - Ancient Indian Machiavellianism! A thoroughgoing imperialism that should be compared to "Monarchism"! The above is "Kautilya's 'Pragmatism' - Ancient Indian Machiavellism!

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