Artha Sutra of Kautilya: A Translation

The following is the most authentic translation of the original artha sutras of Kautilya.

Kautilya, also known as Chanakaya and Vishnugupta, is probably the oldest known authority on economics. Arthashastra, the oldest surviving treatise on polity, strategy and statesmanship, has recorded sutras (read: formulae) which, according to its author, holds the key to finding quintessential success in one’s life and all aspects of it. The following is the most authentic translation of the original texts. Some of the sutras have been omitted for lack of relevance in the modern concept. The following 449 formulae are relevant even to this day:

  1. The objective of human life is pursuit of happiness.
  2. Happiness lies in adherence to Dharma.
  3. The foundation of Dharma is economy.
  4. The foundation of economy is nation.
  5. Nations are best administered by people who’ve conquered themselves.
  6. People conquer themselves through humility.
  7. Humility is earned by serving the wise and experienced.
  8. By serving the wise and experienced, knowledge is obtained.
  9. Through knowledge, you understand the world around you.
  10. Through knowledge, you also attain wisdom.
  11. Through wisdom, you attain objectives.
  12. Wealth of resources leads to wealth of people.
  13. Through human resource, a nation is made prosperous even in absence of a leader.
  14. Wrath of people is catastrophic.
  15. It’s better to be without a leader than have one without morality.
  16. After equipping himself with knowledge and wisdom, a leader must find subordinates.
  17. Without competent subordinates, leaders achieve nothing.
  18. A cart goes nowhere with just one wheel.
  19. Subordinates are those who can understand leaders’ well being.
  20. Leaders must appoint only such people as subordinates who are second best to him in respect and credibility.
  21. Nepotism and favouritism are to be shunned while appointing subordinates.
  22. Subordinates must not just be knowledgeable and informative, they must be equally wise.
  23. Policies and strategies must be adopted only after substantial thought and discussion.
  24. It’s only by holding on to commitments that leaders can accomplish their objectives.
  25. By withering away from commitment, leaders are sure to suffer failure.
  26. By not being watchful and through carelessness, a leader is sure to be subdued by his adversaries.
  27. Through all methods and resources, leaders must fix all loopholes in his policies.
  28. By working on right policies a nation/organisation is bound to flourish.
  29. An organisation’s commitment to policies plays a pivotal role in its success.
  30. Policies for subordinates are like lanterns for men walking through the dark.
  31. By protecting the right policies, organisations and nations protect themselves from vulnerability.
  32. One must shun personal jealousy and ego while working on policies.
  33. If the majority gives their approval, such policies must be vetoed.
  34. Only subordinates with wisdom are to be involved in policy making.
  35. Policies framed by listening to too many are bound to fail.
  36. Only those who are loyal are to be considered friends.
  37. By winning friends, influence is gained.
  38. Strong men seek to gain that which they haven’t got.
  39. The idler, bereft of ambitions, seeks nothing.
  40. Idlers, even with substantial strength, will never retain that which they possess for a long time.
  41. Idlers will even fail to protect their inheritance.
  42. Idlers can never take care of those who are dependent on them.
  43. Earning, protecting that which is earned and building upon that which has been earned are three fundamental objectives of any organisation.
  44. The art of management is part of political science.
  45. Internal and external affairs of any organisation are dependent on the political environment.
  46. Internal affairs constitute that which governs resources within an organisation.
  47. External affairs constitute relationship of organisations with the world outside.
  48. Peace and war are often owing to economic and environmental conditions.
  49. Leaders must understand these facts firmly.
  50. A country’s immediate neighbour is often its enemy.
  51. An enemy’s neighbour is often your friend.
  52. Enemies and friends are owing to their needs and conveniences.
  53. A weak must make peace with the strong.
  54. The strong must not befriend the weak.
  55. Need is the only reason for the strong and weak to seek collaboration and treaty.
  56. A non-heated iron can never be joined with a heated iron.
  57. The strong must win over the weak through wars.
  58. It’s stupid to fight with one who’s powerful.
  59. Fighting with the mighty is futile; like an unarmed individual forth a mighty elephant, doom of the weak is often predestined.
  60. When two earthen pots with similar qualities collide, both get destroyed.
  61. Efforts and actions of an adversary are to be closely monitored and scrutinised.
  62. After disagreeing with one’s enemy, make arrangements to protect yourself.
  63. When without power, seek help of someone who’s strong.
  64. By taking refuge in the weak, one is sure to face doom.
  65. Always take refuge with a strong leader like a fire in winter.
  66. It’s unwise to act against your own leader.
  67. Don’t dress more grandly than your leader.
  68. Never behave with pomp in front of your leader.
  69. Never insult people, even if they are weak.
  70. Those with vices often face failures.
  71. People under influence of lust and drugs are sure to lose everything they possess.
  72. For a person addicted to gambling, no work seems just.
  73. Those addicted to violence often shun ethics.
  74. Desire for wealth should not be considered a vice.
  75. Lack of desire to work must be considered a vice.
  76. Harsh words can cause pains worse than fire burns.
  77. Leaders will be hated if they use harsh words often.
  78. Any enemy can be restrained by skilfully employing tact and diplomacy.
  79. By adhering to law, a leader is respected by his people.
  80. Law is governed well during prosperity.
  81. Without law, the very fabric of society is sure to perish.
  82. By fear of punishment, people shun violence and follow law.
  83. By protecting law, people protect themselves.
  84. By protecting the self, everything is protected.
  85. Growth and destruction are caused by people.
  86. Law enforcement must be done by applying wisdom.
  87. Even employment of people is protected by enforcement of law.
  88. Aspiration for wealth is the cause of all professions.
  89. All material objects could be earned through wealth.
  90. The rich and wealthy can attain a lot with minimal effort owing to their wealth.
  91. All efforts must be made to make best use of available resources to earn wealth.
  92. All efforts, with proper planning, can attain success.
  93. Without appropriate planning, all efforts are bound to fail.
  94. Success is often best achieved with planning.
  95. Through proper efforts, all human desires are attained.
  96. Blessing of the divine is important.
  97. Without divine grace, even the best efforts are destined to fail.
  98. For unselfish people, life is not a business.
  99. One must think thoroughly before embarking upon a particular task.
  100. Once decided upon, a task must not be delayed.
  101. Those with a dwindling mindset are sure to face failures.
  102. Rejecting what was earned by chance is to be considered a loss.
  103. Work without challenges is rare.
  104. Work which can lead to severe consequences must not be sought.
  105. He who is in tune with time is sure to accomplish his task.
  106. Wasting time has its own consequences.
  107. Even a second wasted can have consequences.
  108. No work should be sought without considering place and time factors.
  109. At times, in absence of luck, even a simple looking work/task becomes difficult to accomplish.
  110. Wise men often keep a tab on country and time.
  111. Wealth stays for a longer time with those who are cautious and calculative.
  112. Wise and smart men can make even a daunting task easier to accomplish.
  113. One must be given a task where he is proficient.
  114. If a person without proper knowledge and skill achieves a particular task, it must be considered unworthy.
  115. One must rejoice only after a particular task is accomplished.
  116. Owing to bad luck, even skilled and knowledgeable people may fail.
  117. Adverse fate can be tamed by adhering to Vedic rituals.
  118. All manmade hurdles can be eliminated.
  119. When challenges arise or when faced with failures, an immature person resorts to blame game.
  120. Achievers, at times, have to be ruthless.
  121. Just like a calf desiring mother’s milk hits against its mother’s breast.
  122. Lack of efforts adds to difficulty in attaining objectives.
  123. The one who rests completely on fate is stupid and achieves nothing.
  124. When there are multiple tasks, the task with greater potential must be given priority.
  125. Failures must be contemplated in solace and never in assembly.
  126. An unemployed person can seldom take care of his dependants.
  127. One who cannot find work for himself is worse than the blind.
  128. Any task can be analysed from three perspectives: one’s own perspective, others’ perspective and logical perspective.
  129. Wealth deserts one who works without substantial thought.
  130. Difficulties can be resolved through proper examination.
  131. One should undertake only that work which, according to him, can match his capacities.
  132. One who enjoys the remainder after satisfying dependants enjoys bliss.
  133. By acting appropriately, profits can be enhanced.
  134. Fear eclipses sense of judgement.
  135. With right judgement, any objective is attainable.
  136. A person must guard his secrets from all, especially from those without character and morals.
  137. When these sutras are followed, the sources of income increase.
  138. Timid leaders are seldom obeyed by subordinates.
  139. Harsh leaders are often treated with contempt behind their backs.
  140. Punishment should be given as one deserves.
  141. Persons with low morals must never be respected even if knowledgeable.
  142. Overload causes managers to be exhausted and disheartened.
  143. The one who announces faults of others in an assembly declares his own.
  144. Anger caused by ego can destroy the self.
  145. Those who keep up their commitment are often successful.
  146. Work cannot be accomplished exclusively by courage.
  147. Wealth is often achieved by risk-taking.
  148. By wasting time, obstacles are born.
  149. Better to eliminate doubts than to excel in harnessing them.
  150. Spending money without consideration neither serves self nor society.
  151. Payment is a duty.
  152. One who covets other’s wealth is selfish.
  153. Prosperity of people we know can lead to pain which is worse than that we feel during our poverty.
  154. Only that is wealth which is earned righteously.
  155. Anything that is earned in an unrighteous way must not be considered wealth.
  156. Desire is that which doesn’t impend one from his own duties.
  157. Anything that impends one from adhering to this own duties invites disaster.
  158. Riches earned at the loss of self-respect are to be considered lowly.
  159. A person who’s completely straight forward by nature is rarest among people.
  160. Serving under a capable leader, even an incapable person becomes capable.
  161. Water, after entering milk, becomes milk itself.
  162. One must never insult great men.
  163. Not once should one transgress one’s limit.
  164. Even faced with dire hunger, a lion seldom eats grass.
  165. Self-confidence must always be preserved.
  166. A malignant leader is insulted even by his own wife and offspring.
  167. When full of wisdom, even words of an ignoramus must be listened to.
  168. The unbelievable, even if true, should not be spoken.
  169. Many virtues in a man can be eclipsed by a single fault.
  170. For a minor fault, a person with many good qualities must not be sacrificed or forsaken.
  171. Faults can be easily found even among the wise.
  172. No precious stone is found without a crack.
  173. Never trust an individual who has crossed his limit.
  174. If something good is done by one who is disliked, it’s not appreciated.
  175. By bowing, even a pot-wheel (ancient water pump) empties a well.
  176. The opinion of a truthful person must seldom be undermined.
  177. For those who are enthusiastic, even enemies become favourable.
  178. For leaders, their charisma is wealth.
  179. Lack of enthusiasm can lead to failures.
  180. One should never reveal his vulnerability.
  181. Those hitting on vulnerable spots are indeed enemies.
  182. Misconduct of one’s people is to be corrected.
  183. Even a small human body ailment can cause destruction.
  184. Leader must never belittle or insult people.
  185. Leaders must never be vindictive.
  186. One must know their limits even with their own people.
  187. Even a mother should be forsaken if found vile, vicious or corrupted.
  188. Just like a limb facing gangrene is amputated.
  189. One who does not desist or oppose must seldom be disrespected.
  190. A benevolent foreigner is a brother and friend.
  191. One must seldom be jealous of a foe’s virtue.
  192. An enemy must seldom be lamented in an assembly.
  193. Good qualities of enemies must be imbibed.
  194. Excessive obeisance of those familiar from a long time must be doubted.
  195. Excessive closeness begets disrespect.
  196. The world is ordained through Dharma.
  197. Empathy is the mother of ethics.
  198. Truth and penance are rooted in ethics.
  199. The desire to be unethical indicates self-destruction.
  200. There exists no enemy which is equal to egotism.
  201. Immoral leaders destroy not just themselves, but also their followers.
  202. Ethical leaders protect themselves, as their followers.
  203. An ethical leader is protector of the masses.
  204. A leader who begets happiness for his followers is happy everywhere.
  205. Authority is when it is respected and followed by his people.
  206. In absence of courage, man achieves nothing.
  207. It’s unwise to associate with evil people.
  208. Eating a balanced and regular diet leads to gain of health.
  209. Illness caused due to unhealthy food cannot be cured by eating healthy food.
  210. After proper digestion, a body is never affected by illness.
  211. It’s a pain to have food during indigestion.
  212. Illness and disease is worse than an enemy.
  213. Penance is a virtue that accompanies a person even after death.
  214. A greedy person, even if competent, could be easily deceived.
  215. By greed, conscientiousness is deceived.
  216. When his work is corrupted, one must fix himself.
  217. Stupid people are often stubborn.
  218. It’s stupid to argue with stupid people.
  219. One must speak the language of stupid with stupid people.
  220. Only iron can cut iron.
  221. Stupid people have no true friends.
  222. One must amass wealth as if he’s to live for eternity.
  223. Wealthy men are respected by masses.
  224. If even the king of gods is a pauper, he too would be looked upon with contempt.
  225. Poverty is often worse than death.
  226. A man with wealth is considered handsome by the masses.
  227. Even if a wealthy man gives no alms, beggars won’t stop stalking him.
  228. With wealth on his side, even a disgraceful man is considered graceful by the masses.
  229. A disgraceful person has no fear of insults.
  230. Wise men have no fear of death.
  231. For saints and savants, no fears exist.
  232. The same is for anyone who has learned to control his senses.
  233. He is a generous person who considers others’ problems as his own.
  234. It’s not a virtue to expect others’ wealth.
  235. By serving a greedy leader, a person does no good for himself.
  236. It’s good to serve a wise leader.
  237. Lust leads to man’s doom.
  238. Wise mustn’t marry unwise.
  239. By marrying an unwise woman, man is sure to lose his respect, longevity as well as charisma.
  240. Ego is man’s worst enemy.
  241. One must never insult an enemy, especially in an assembly.
  242. It’s a pleasure to hear the pain of one’s enemy.
  243. Knowledge of a penniless person is considered worthless.
  244. Even the sensible voice of a pauper is seldom heard.
  245. A penniless person is insulted even by his own wife.
  246. A flowerless plant is seldom visited by bees.
  247. For a person without wealth, knowledge is his wealth.
  248. No thief can steal knowledge.
  249. Respect earned by one’s knowledge is true and lasting.
  250. The charisma of a respectable person is seldom forgotten.
  251. He is a good person who works for others’ interest.
  252. Only knowledge can lead to true pleasure.
  253. When a knowledgeable person gets off track, his knowledge itself is capable of getting him back on track.
  254. Evil people must never be bestowed with knowledge.
  255. Expecting others’ wealth can lead a person to doom.
  256. One mustn’t expect even a petty sum from anyone.
  257. By stealing someone else’s wealth, a person stands the risk of jeopardising his own.
  258. There’s no worse death trap than stealing.
  259. Even a morsel of food can save a life.
  260. But even the best medicine is incapable of bringing back the dead.
  261. If the time is right, prosperity might just come to your doorstep.
  262. Even good knowledge of bad people won’t help them shun their bad habits.
  263. By feeding milk to a snake, one cannot expect the serpent to shun its venom.
  264. There’s no greater boon than having the ability to meditate during distress.
  265. There’s no enemy like hunger.
  266. A person without work is sure to face hunger.
  267. A hungry man could eat anything out of hunger.
  268. By succumbing to hunger, a man could lose control of himself.
  269. Profanity must never be practiced.
  270. One must never be jealous of generous people.
  271. Even a potion could be derived of poison.
  272. A good person is respected even when he loses his position.
  273. A person may be worshipped simply because of his position.
  274. One must learn and follow graceful characteristics of fine men.
  275. Under no circumstances should an individual breach his limits.
  276. A great man is invaluable.
  277. A graceful woman is incomparable.
  278. Fear of disrespect is among the worst fear.
  279. Lazy men could seldom benefit from wisdom of scriptures.
  280. A womaniser is a disgrace; he’s seldom respected.
  281. A womaniser is disrespected even by the women he sleeps with.
  282. A person seeking flowers seldom waters a dead plant.
  283. Efforts to make a disgraceful man graceful is a daunting task.
  284. Great men must never be laughed at.
  285. Good omens signify success.
  286. Omens have greater value than stars.
  287. Important tasks must never be done by consulting astrologers.
  288. It’s impossible to hide one’s limitations among relatives.
  289. One with limitations looks for limitations in others.
  290. One can seldom stray from his true nature.
  291. Crime must be appropriately punished.
  292. An answer must be in accordance with the question.
  293. Gold must be in proportion to one’s wealth.
  294. One must act in accordance to his status.
  295. Efforts must be in proportion to the work.
  296. Donation must be in accordance to the need.
  297. One must dress according to his age.
  298. A servant must serve the need of his master.
  299. A wife must be in accordance to her husband.
  300. A student must be in accordance to his teacher.
  301. A son must be according to the wishes of his father.
  302. When respect is beyond one’s status, it’s a good reason to be suspicious.
  303. If a master is angry, the servant must be patient.
  304. Even if punished, a child must seek refuge of his mother.
  305. Even people with love have anger.
  306. Even a cheat would look like a gentleman at the outset.
  307. A favour must be returned.
  308. A single cow is better than thousand dogs.
  309. Tomorrow’s peacock is no better than today’s pigeon.
  310. By renouncing anger, man is on a sure path to success.
  311. One must be objective, even with those who may have betrayed him in the past.
  312. It’s stupid to have conflict with intelligent, stupid, friends, teachers and masters.
  313. There’s no wealth without liability.
  314. With the right vehicle, efforts to travel are limited.
  315. When a respected man marries a characterless woman, he’s sure to suffer a life of agony.
  316. Mother is the greatest teacher.
  317. One must always take care of mother.
  318. Even ugliness can be hidden through jewellery.
  319. Knowledge is an ornament of men.
  320. Dutifulness is an ornament for everyone.
  321. Ornament among ornaments is that knowledge which imparts humility.
  322. One must dwell in a peaceful place.
  323. The people living around must be good.
  324. They must be law-abiding.
  325. There can be no greater deity than a good leader.
  326. The wrath of kings could be devastating.
  327. One must never visit a king or his guru with an empty hand.
  328. One must never be too close to the princely class.
  329. One must never look directly into the king’s eyes.
  330. For a householder, a virtuous son is a boon.
  331. One must ensure that his son excels in education.
  332. In the interest of a country, a village may be forsaken.
  333. In the interest of a village, a family may be forsaken.
  334. A person who saves his parents from misery is a true son.
  335. He is a son who brings glory unto his family.
  336. One must never impregnate an unknown woman.
  337. Women seek companionship.
  338. Those destined for doom seldom listen to words of wisdom.
  339. One who has ordained a human body is seldom bereft of pains and gains, happiness and unhappiness.
  340. Like a calf behind a cow, pleasure and pain follow life.
  341. A favour made unto the one who’s graceful is seldom forgotten. He’s ever thankful.
  342. A favour made to the graceful and thankful is seldom forgotten.
  343. There is no greater penance than truth.
  344. Truth is the pathway to bliss.
  345. The existence of the world is truth.
  346. Truth is the essence of life.
  347. There is no greater sin than untruth.
  348. One must never gossip about great men.
  349. Indignity is to be shunned.
  350. Undignified people have no friends.
  351. Impoverished persons often suffer obstacles.
  352. Bravest is he who is charitable.
  353. Faithfulness unto gods, learned men and teachers is a virtue.
  354. Kindness in anyone is a virtue.
  355. With kindness, a lowly born person, too, could be considered worthy.
  356. By good behaviour, an individual increases not just his respect but also wealth.
  357. Even if likeable, an evil deed must never be committed.
  358. If an individual has too many enemies, that individual must not be followed.
  359. Partnership must not be done with evil people.
  360. A gentle person must have no relationship with ungentle people.
  361. Loan, enemy and illness must be kept at bay.
  362. Enduring a path to prosperity is a delightful journey.
  363. A person in need must never be turned away.
  364. Thankless people have no return from hell.
  365. Prosperity and poverty are owing to one’s action.
  366. Potion and poison emanates from one’s tongue.
  367. Those with sweet words have no enemies.
  368. With sweet words, even gods are pleased.
  369. Bad words, even if untrue, live for eternity.
  370. Never speak anything which is disliked by kings.
  371. One who is true unto his duty is happy.
  372. Beggars are bereft of respect.
  373. Aging doesn’t guarantee wisdom.
  374. Like seed, the sampling.
  375. Like knowledge, the intellect.
  376. Like upbringing, the conduct.
  377. A neem tree can seldom be a mango tree.
  378. Happiness reaped without efforts is short-lived.
  379. Advice must be sought exclusively from experts.
  380. People can find fault even in strangers.
  381. Scriptures must be followed.
  382. When scriptures are absence, wise men must be followed.
  383. Good conduct is beyond scriptures.
  384. A king observes his subjects through spies.
  385. Those who have helped must never be betrayed.
  386. Ability to control one’s self is a hallmark of meditation.
  387. It’s very difficult to get rid of lust.
  388. There’s no greater pain than fall from grace.
  389. It is worth being enemies with the wise than being friendly with the                                                                                                                                                                   stupid.
  390. One must contemplate at dawn.
  391. It’s not recommended to contemplate at dusk.
  392. When doom is predestined, a person will do everything contradictory to one’s own interest.
  393. There’s no greater penance than being truthful to one’s duties.
  394. Wealth accumulated by sinners is enjoyed by other sinners.
  395. An ocean can seldom quench thirst.
  396. Good men can seldom enjoy the company of the wicked.
  397. A swan can seldom dwell in a crematorium.
  398. Circumstances can change men.
  399. Every person is bounded by desire.
  400. Wealth can seldom dwell in a person bereft of desire.
  401. Those without desire need no courage.
  402. Poverty is worse than death.
  403. Desires can hijack dignity.
  404. One must not boast about himself.
  405. Rich men often despise great words.
  406. An enemy can often be confused for a friend.
  407. Evil scriptures are often endured by evil people.
  408. Companionship of good men is like that of heaven.
  409. Compassionate people see themselves in everyone.
  410. Personality reflects one’s character.
  411. Where one can live in peace is a place one must live.
  412. Betrayers are bereft of guilt.
  413. Fine men consider the pain of others as their own.
  414. Evil people can never speak their heart out.
  415. Men without knowledge are worth nothing.
  416. One must never walk a deserted path alone.
  417. One must never brag about one’s son.
  418. Workers must seldom brag about their master.
  419. The order of a king must seldom be disobeyed.
  420. Intelligent people have no enemies.
  421. One must never speak of one’s fears.
  422. Patient people are capable of achieving great feats.
  423. One must always save money for tomorrow.
  424. One must always make a helpful person happy.
  425. Tomorrow’s work must be done today.
  426. Afternoon’s work must be done in the morning.
  427. One must push oneself to comply with one’s duty.
  428. The ability to understand the world is wisdom.
  429. A person with knowledge who fails to understand the world is foolish.
  430. The utility of scriptures is to understand the world.
  431. It’s only in application that utility of knowledge is understood.
  432. One must never show partiality while doing justice.
  433. Work is more important than worship.
  434. Only our conscience provides testimony to our work.
  435. Conscience is the eternal witness to all our doings.
  436. One must never give false witness.
  437. False witness is a path to hell.
  438. Those who sin in secret, their conscience still bears testimony.
  439. One has to suffer his sins sooner or later.
  440. Body language can defy one’s words.
  441. One must save his wealth from thieves and politicians.
  442. Leaders who aren’t in touch with their followers are often failed by their subjects.
  443. By being in touch, leaders give their followers happiness.
  444. A good leader is like a mother to his followers.
  445. Non-violence is a sign of great men.
  446. Vegetarianism is good for everyone.
  447. All knowing people have no fear of the world.
  448. Forgiveness leads to penance and divinity in a person.
  449. By penance, great feats become possible.
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U. Mahesh Prabhu is a media, management and political consultant. He’s also Consultant & Columnist with BW Businessworld and Business Goa. He’s also a Member of International Federation of Journalists (USA) and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (UK). Twitter- @indiamahesh