CHENNAI: It is common knowledge that the best wisdom to deal with the many difficulties of life comes from tomes of our ancient past — but if only we knew how to interpret them! Having said that, no other Indian book can compare to Chanakya’s Arthashastra, which tells you how to manage a kingdom. Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai, renowned author of Corporate Chanakya, Chanakya’s 7 secrets of Leadership, and Chanakya in You, has been a lifelong scholar of the sage, distilling the tome to lessons in leadership and effective management. CE chats with him before the launch of his fourth book, Katha Chanakya, at Odyssey, Adyar.
“Each of my previous books, though based on the same philosophy, is different from each other. Katha Chanakya is a collection of 30 stories based on the tenets of the Arthashastra, Chanakya’s treatise on statecraft,” says Pillai, who teaches philosophy at the University of Mumbai and is also the founder-director of Chanakya Institute of Public Leadership.
Though many people know of Chanakya, not all of them connect to his philosophy. Pillai wanted to redress this by using stories that could connect better with methods, and strategies that could be easily understand. “Every story can be read under three minutes, and yet has a profound message. Some of the stories are historical; they are found in the Arthashastra, others are traditional, and may or may not be part of history. Some others are fictional with historical facts. The centre point of all the stories is the concept of give-and-take of knowledge, similar to the one between Chanakya and his eminent disciple Chandragupta Maurya,” he elaborates.
Pillai is a scholar with over 15 years of experience in research and teaching the philosophy of Chanakya. “Arthashastra talks about how to manage a kingdom, and also contains valuable leadership tools and management lessons that can be used in daily life even today,” he says.
So how is the Arthashastra comparable to other treatises? “It is but also incomparable at the same time to other books on governance; because the Indian way of governance differs greatly from the western or oriental method,” he explains. “The ancient Chinese tome The Art of War by Sun Tzu has 300 verses as compared to the 6,000 sutras of the Arthashastra. Several tenets in Art of War are present in Arthashastra too, but the latter is bigger in scope... it includes strategies beyond the ones featured in the former.”
So is there any profound quote of Chanakya’s that he thinks is relevant in the current time? “There is a shloka in the tome that goes...‘In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king’. This is a very important aphorism, since a leader will be respected and hailed only if he is a people’s leader. This is relevant in today’s political and corporate sector as well,” he says.
(Head to Odyssey book store, Adyar today at 7 pm for the book launch and an
exclusive interaction with the author)