‘Chanakya’ on Truth and Objectivity

Please note: The Devanagari script used in the following post does not render properly in ‘Chromium’ browser, so I suspect same must be the case with ‘Google Chrome’. This problem was not seen with Mozilla Firefox and Opera browsers.

Long back in the years 1991 and 1992, Doordarshan National channel (click) used to telecast a television serial (click) by the name ‘Chanhakya’, which was based on the historical character (click) by the same name – who was a philosopher and a political scientist in his own right. I was between 6 to 7 years old at that time, so obviously had no taste for such heavy stuff. I have come across praise of both Chanakya and the televised series on numerous occasions, but had never tried to venture into his ideas or philosophy. However, a few days back a fellow tweeter – ANIL KUMAR (click) had provided me with a link to a clip of one of the episodes of the serial. And I was positively impressed. In what follows I reproduce the portion that spurred me into link and write about it. I also try to provide a reasonably faithful translation along with my interpretation of it.

You can find the video here:

“…इस लिए दूसरों का मार्ग तुम्हारे मार्ग से भिन्न है तो चिंता मत करो, विचलित मत हो | अपनी आस्था को संजोकर रखो, अपने मूल्यों का जतन करो और समय-समय पर उनका मूलयांकन करो | सत्य के प्रकाश में अपनी परम्पराओं को देखो और उनका विशलेषण करो | जब तक तुम सत्य की रक्षा करोगे, संस्कृति तुम्हारी रक्षा करेगी | यह तो सीधी समझ में आने वाली बात है | अगर आज तुम असुरक्षित महसूस रहे हो तो कारण बाहर नहीं, भीतर है | सत्य का मार्ग तुम छोड़ते हो, तो चुनाव के लिए कौन सा मार्ग शेष रह जाता है? यह तुम्हारे पतन का कारण है,> और यही समाज के पतन का भी कारण है | चुनौती स्वीकार करने बजाये आप द्वेष करते हैं, घृणा करते हैं, दूसरों को चुनौती देते हैं | यदि सत्यनिष्ठ मूल्यों में तुम्हारी इतनी ही आस्था है, तो उन्हें जी के दिखाओ | तुम्हारा क्रितत्व ही तुम्हारा इतिहास हो सकता है, और अपना इतिहास बनाने का तुम्हें अधिकार है | सामर्थ्य है तो उठकर दिखाओ, जीकर दिखाओ, कुछ कर के दिखाओ; उदाहरण रखो, उदाहरण बनो, किसने तुम्हें रोक रखा है? बढ़ो, आगे बढ़ो…”

[“…Is liye dusron ka maarg tumhare maarg se bhinna hai toh chinta mat karo, vichalit mat ho. apni aastha ko sanjokar rakho, apne mulyon ka jatan karo aur samay-samay par unka mulyankan karo. Satya ke prakasha mein apni paramparaon ko dekho aur unka vishleshan karo. Jab tak tum satya ki raksha karoge, sanskriti tumhaari rakshaa karegi. Yeh toh seedhi samajh mein aane waali baat hai. Agar aaj tum asurakshit mehsus kar rahe ho toh kaaran baahar nahin, bhitar hai. Satya ka maarg tum chhodte ho, toh chunaav ke liye kaun sa maarga shesha reh jaata hai? Yeh tumhaare patan ka kaaran hai, aur yahi samaaj ke patan ka bhi kaaran hai. Chunauti sweekar karne ke bajaaye aap dvesha karte hain, ghrina karte hain, dusron ko chunauti dete hain. Yadi satyanishta mulyon mein tumhaari itni hi aastha hai, toh unhein jee ke dikhaao. Tumhaara kritatva hi tumhaara itihaas ho sakta hai, aur apna itihaas banane ka tumhein adhikaar hai. Saamarthya hai toh uthkar dikhaao, jeekar deekhaon, kuchh kar ke dikhaao; udaaharan rakho, udaaharan bano, kisne tumhein rok rakha hai? Badho, aage badho…”]

“…That is why, if others’ path is different from yours, then do not worry, do not get disturbed. Preserve your faith, keep your values intact and from time-to-time, evaluate them (your values). View your traditions in light of (objective) truth, and analyze them. As long as you defend the truth, culture (‘times’) will protect you – this much is a straightforward thing to understand. If today you are feeling insecure, then the cause is not without, it is within. If you quit the path of truth, then which other path is left to choose from? This is the cause of your debasement; and same is also the cause of society’s decadence. Instead of accepting the challenge (of proving yourself to be on the side of truth), you hate, you detest, you provoke others. If your belief in truth-based values is indeed so strong, then show that you live by them. Only your deeds can become your history, and you have a right to make your own history. If you have the ability, then rise above, live it up, accomplish something; place an example, become an example, who has stopped you? Go, go ahead…”

I do not think all of what ‘Chanakya’ says in above video (and is also written) is practicable in today’s world without bringing upon the self immense harm, however the line I like the best (and because of which the serial and the above quote find a place on my blog) is this: “सत्य का मार्ग तुम छोड़ते हो, तो चुनाव के लिए कौन सा मार्ग शेष रह जाता है?” [satya ka maarg chhodte ho, toh chunaav ke liye kaun sa maarg shesha reh jaata hai?]. It roughly translates as “if you quit the path of truth, then which other path is left to choose from?” This might sound a very generic-righteous statement, but the fact is it is one of the most logical and yet philosophically profound things to say. Many times we try to delude ourselves. But that creates a cognitive dissonance. In a few matters we think it alright to ignore truth or to compromise upon it if it does us appreciable amount of ‘good’. But the next question that arises is: if it is alright to deviate from the path of truth and righteousness, what is the limit for it? Or is there no such limit?

The above idea analogously holds particularly true in case of faith-based theism (basically, all theism is faith-based!). If we stick to the path of objective truth, we have an idea of what to accept as truth and what to reject (as falsehood). But once we start accepting non-verifiable assertions as truth, and especially so, if they are contrary to what logic and evidence suggest, then where do we stop with such a belief-system? If I choose to believe that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, all-good God despite the fact that this assertion explains zilch about the Universe, despite the fact that no supporting verifiable evidence exists, and also despite the fact that most philosophical arguments have rejected possibility of such existence, then is there something I would disbelieve as a matter of philosophical obligation? Why would I disbelieve anything ever? If the very basis of rejection of existence of something (God, in this case), i.e., objectively verifiable evidence was disregarded, how will I keep my honesty intact and use the same as basis to reject some other assertions, say, “you won’t die even if you jump unaided from the 10th floor of your building” or “the Earth is flat” or “eating paracetamol causes those belonging to the ‘Aries’ zodiac to turn into frogs”?

Atheist and a teacher of philosophy – Matt McCormick had explained the above hypocrisy very well in his article – Open the Floodgates (click).

I had also done a very short post in the past highlighting the utter hypocrisy one needs to indulge in to believe in the existence of God purely based on faith: Missing Marble’s Mystery (click).

The basic concept holds true not just in matter of theism, but everywhere where a criterion for ‘perfection’/’accuracy’ exists. If we once decide that imperfection and inaccuracy are alright, what degree of imperfection and inaccuracy are alright – that is an important question to be asked. Of course, the clever reader would point out, that I myself had brought up the idea of ‘Chanakya’s’ ideas to be not completely practicable. Meaning, am I assigning a degree to which it is alright to not follow what ‘Chanakya’ had suggested? Yes. I’m keeping that limit to be how much pain could or would I like to bear for siding with the truth. If siding with truth causes me more pain than I can or would like to bear, I would give up! But have we thought, why it is so difficult to live with and by truth? I think ‘Chanakya’ has answered it well, and it is a nested answer. If we are ready to deceive ourselves, we would naturally detest others who try to live truthfully. We will create obstacles in their path. Their (those who try to be truthful and righteous) truthfulness and righteousness are challenges thrown at us. Instead of appreciating their effort and challenging them back with even greater truthfulness and righteousness, we end up hating them, detesting them. Imagine but, this “we” is not just you or I, but the entire society. If the entire society deviates from the path of truth and in addition also creates obstacles in path of those practicing it, what would be the fate of such a society? And more important, what would be the ultimate source of such decadence? It would be the seemingly innocuous deliberate individual ‘compromises’ with truth that every member of the society makes. Isn’t this explanation elegant?

Above were the ideas that had crossed my mind as I watched ‘Chanakya’ speak in that video. Needless to say any further, I found the words quite profound. I ended up ruing the fact that I was not old enough to have appreciated the serial when it used to be aired. I was actually quite surprised to note that the quality of direction of the serial, the acting of the cast, the background score were all superlative. I made a mistake of mentally comparing the above video with serials that one gets to see nowadays on Hindi TV channels! I felt sorry for the generations that are subjected only to these and not ‘Chanakya’. I fortunately happen to be from a generation that knows what I had missed. And perhaps, if I try hard enough I might actually be able to watch all the 40 or so odd episodes. 😀


7 thoughts on “‘Chanakya’ on Truth and Objectivity

  1. This has been on my list for some time .. infact i have to soon arrange to have thie series in my laptop ! my mom been waiting for me to do that too !!

    About this post, its still bit heavy stuff for me 😉 but i do appreciate the fact that more you deviate from truth, more harm you bring to yourself ! a few bylanes here and there seem ok ut forgetting the path, not done !

    • ladynimue,

      Thanks for dropping by! I don’t know which part in particular you found difficult to understand.

      I’ll give a small example. If I ask you what is 2 + 2? Ordinarily you would say that the answer is 4. But let us say, for some reason you do not want to accept the answer as 4. Now, you would be confused as to what to choose as the ‘correct’ answer. You have infinite number of options to choose as ‘correct’ for minus infinity to plus infinity. Let us say, you would choose your answer as 3.99, then you would be at loss to explain why not 4.01 as both of them differ from the correct answer only by 0.01, right? But see, your choice would have been so simple had you accepted the ‘real’ correct answer as the correct one, right? 🙂

      So, applying this example to the matter of theism, the argument is like this: the moment one claims that the God exists despite the fact that God cannot be detected through our senses nor through any of the instruments and nor is the hypothesis of God necessitated to explain anything one is saying that: “our senses are unreliable, our instruments are unreliable and unreliable are our logic and philosophy”. So, just like in our above example you had rejected arithmetic, likewise I could ask that on what bases does one decide in which specific situations are our senses, instruments and logic are reliable or unreliable? If your father is diagnosed with hypertension, will he say the sphygmomanometer (instrument used to measure blood pressure), the doctor’s eyesight and medical science are inherently unreliable? Or will he consider them reliable and take medicines? Similarly, you have placed ‘daal’ on cooking stove, and you get a burning smell, you go to the kitchen and see that some daal is overflowing out of the utensil and the burning smell intensifies, will you turn off the gas or you will argue that the sense of smell and sight are unreliable? So, once we reject the truth that there is no reason to believe in the existence of God, then how can we keep on relying upon our senses, instruments and logic in other areas of life, if we are to keep our intellectual honesty intact? 🙂

      I think similar analogies could be applied to the field of ethics, though ethics do involve lot more subjectivity.

  2. Hey!
    Thanks a trillion for sharing that BEAUTIFUL paragraph of Chanakya. BRILLIANT WORDS! Damn, I hate myself for now knowing about this series..I will start watching these episodes from today itself!

    I agree with almost each and every line of yours except that God thing 🙂 I’m a theist now 😛 The most beautiful line in your post (besides the Chanakya one) was this:

    “Instead of appreciating their effort and challenging them back with even greater truthfulness and righteousness, we end up hating them, detesting them. ”
    That is what everyone does! If we try to be truthful,our peers mock us! “Tu Harishchandra kyun ban raha hai” and all that.
    I must admit that I’m not always truthful..but I try my best to be on the path of the truth..but my parents and the society discourage me! It is really sad that we live in such a world where people don’t have the courage to be truthful and put down others who are trying to be truthful!

    • Sushmita,

      Yes, that is a brilliant serial. And might I add, much better than F.R.I.E.N.D.S.? 😉

      Though I speak a lot against theism, for me, more than whether a person believes in God or not, much more important is reason for their belief, or its rejection. So, in your case I would like to know the reasons. Of course, if it is too personal you need not do that.

      I am glad you could quite accurately get what I meant by resistance offered by the society to honesty and sincerity, and how more importantly, it is rooted in individuals’ insecurity, who go on to compose the society ultimately.

      Thanks and take care! 🙂

  3. Wonderful article. Yes, Chanakya serial is not to be confused with other. I have watched the serial over and over. I keep it on my lappy and watch it every now and then. Somehow, I have fallen in love with Vishnu. The most confusing part of the serial is towards the end when Chanakya is forcing (by all means) the marriage of Chandragupta. Those are the moments, somehow, we fall apart and start cursing Chanakya. But then we can understand him better when we know he was just acting as a politician and not as Chanakya during that time.

    Wish every youngster sees the serial. Even the DVDs are available.

    • Dinesh,

      Sir, Thanks for letting me know that DVDs are available!

      What you told about Vishnu Gupta is interesting. I do not know if this happens because power corrupts, or because when we get too caught up with life, we forgo the same principles we would have expounded. It is good to know that the serial’s director did not portray him to be all black and white but rather full of grays. It is such stories that arrest my interest the best, because we can relate to such people.


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