Kautilya’s Rajarshi: Unmistakable Qualities of an Ideal Leader According to Kautilya

This article recollects the qualities of an ideal leader according to Kautilya aka Chanakya which could be relevant even to this day in any organization, be that political, social or economic.

Almost every Vedic Rishis (sage), starting from Bharadwaja, Parashara, Manu, Shukracharya, Pishuna until Chanakya a.k.a. Kautilya lay significant emphasis on earning Gynana or Knowledge and realizing Vigyana or wisdom in our lives. One of the most standard teachings of all Vedic text is that: Without wisdom, life is a living pain. Right, knowledge helps us to achieve material wealth, but that material wealth is no guarantee for happiness. For with wealth comes its own set of challenges that often takes a toll on mind, body, and life. Wisdom is the only thing in life that is capable of helping you remain aloof from pains and in a state of perpetual bliss. Until a person has realized the wisdom in his life, that person can only be in pain and, if in the position of leadership, will make the life of his people a living hell.

As Chanakya a.k.a. Kautilya says in his Arthashastra:

Those with wealth fear losing it, those without wealth fear, not having it. It is a pain when without the wealth, a pain retaining the wealth and a more significant pain losing the wealth realized after daunting efforts. Without wisdom, everything is a pain, and with wisdom, everything is bliss.

While other Rishis broach the topic of wisdom broadly for an audience hailing from different walks of life, Kautilya’s focus is on knowledge and wisdom relating to Leadership. He considers effective leaders as the wise one, first and foremost. He calls such leader – Rajarshi – or the wise deserving position of leadership.  And he defines the qualities of such wise leaders in the following 15 lines:

आत्मज्ञानं समारंभस्तितिक्षा धर्मनित्यता  यमर्थान्नापकर्षन्ति स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

They who are not overwhelmed by the challenges of life owing to their knowledge, persistence, patience, and virtue are the wise deserving position of leadership.


निषेवते प्रशस्तानि निन्दितानि न सेवते अनास्तिक: श्रद्दधा एतद् राजर्शिन: लक्षणम् |

The wise are those who adhere to their duties, who stand by their words, who praise the deserving, criticize the undeserving, who untouched by selfish interest and who is revered not for their virtues. Such people deserve the position of leadership.


क्रोधो हर्षश्च दर्पश्च ह्रीस्तम्भो मान्यमानिता यमर्थान्नापकर्षन्ति स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

That person who overwhelms his anger, joy, sorrow, and pride, who has no false modesty, neither confusion nor vanity, who can stay equanimous in mind at all times, is undoubtedly a wise deserving position of leadership.


यस्य कृत्यं न जानन्ति मन्त्रं वा मन्त्रितं परे कृतमेवास्य जानन्ति स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

That person whose envisioned plans and strategies remain obscured from their adversaries, they whose acts become known after they are achieved is undoubtedly wise. Only such a person deserves the position of leadership.


यस्य कृत्यं न विघ्नन्ति शीतमुष्णं भयं रति: समृद्विरसमृद्विर्वा स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

That person who can achieve things beyond the limitations of external and internal circumstances, whose judgments are not impaired by attachments, who remains sane in prosperity or adversity is an undoubtedly wise person capable of the position of power.


यस्य संसारिणी प्रज्ञा धर्मार्थावनुवर्तते कामादर्थं वृणीते य: स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

That person whose judgment dissociated from desires follows both virtue and profit; who disregarding fleeting pleasures seeks to achieve everlasting bliss, is to be known as wise and deserve the position to lead.


यथाशक्ति चिकीर्षन्ति यथाशक्ति च कुर्वते न किंचिदवमन्यन्ते राजर्शि:|

They who exert their best of might, and also act to the best of the strength, and disregard no threats as insignificant, are most certainly the wise and have great potential in them to be just leaders.


क्षिप्रं विजानाति चिरं श्रृणोति विज्ञाय चार्थं भजते न कामात्  नासम्पृष्टो व्यौपयुङ्के परार्थे तप्प्रज्ञानं प्रथमं राजर्शिर्यस्य |

That individual who understands effortlessly heeds unwearyingly, pursues his objective with a keen sense of logic and not from desires or blind beliefs, is sure to be a person who has realized the greatest of wisdom and therefore deserving of leadership.

नाप्राप्यमभिवाञ्छन्ति नष्टं नेच्छन्ति शोचितुम् आपत्सु च न मुह्यन्ति नरा: राजर्शि: बुद्धय: |

They who do not strive for things with detrimental consequences, who do not grieve for what is lost, who do not suffer in their minds even while facing severe calamities, are to be regarded as intellectuals who have realized the wisdom in their life. Only such a person make the most exceptional leaders.


निश्चित्य य: प्रक्रमते नान्तर्वसति कर्मण: अवन्ध्य कालो वश्यात्मा स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

They who, once having commenced a task, keep striving and never stop until it has achieved, who seldom wastes their time brooding, and who have their mind under their control is undoubtedly a wise.


आर्य कर्मणि राज्यन्ते भूतिकर्माणि कुर्वते हितं च नाभ्यसूयन्ति राजर्शि: |

They who are wise always delight in honest deeds, they are inclined to seek their happiness and prosperity without hurting others, and they never sneer at virtues.


न हृष्यन्तयात्मसंमाने  नावमानेन तप्यते गाङ्गो ह्रद इवाक्षोभ्यो य: स राजर्शि: उच्यते |

They, who never overwhelmed by pride, even on receiving highest honors, and those who remain relaxed and unagitated like a lake in the course of Ganga even amid the greatest of their crisis are verily the wise. Only such individuals are deserving of the position of leadership.


तत्त्वज्ञ: सर्वभूतानां योगज्ञ: सर्वकर्मणाम् उपायज्ञो मनुष्याणां नर: राजर्शि: उच्यते |

That individual who lives realizing the ultimate truth that everything that is born must die, who is aware of the law of cause and effect (Karma), and who is proficient in the ways to achieve one’s just goals without compromising on integrity are deserving to be called as wise. They are the ones who deserve the position of leadership.


प्रवृत्त वाक्क्रित्रकथ ऊहवान्प्रतिभानवान् आशु ग्रन्थस्य वक्ता च स वै राजर्शि: उच्यते |

They who speak honestly, who can converse on various subjects, knows the ways of just criticism and arguments, who have indifferent perspectives on all matters and are well-read are the wise deserving of power.


श्रुतं प्रज्ञानुगं यस्य प्रज्ञा चैव श्रुतानुगा असम्भिन्नार्य मर्याद: राजर्शाभ्यां लभेत स: |

That individual whose studies are regulated by rationale, and whose reason follows objectivity, and who seldom fails to respect those who are kind, is very a wise person. And such a person alone deserves to lead.

Learn the deeper and practical aspects of Chanakya a.k.a. Kautilya with our KAUTILYA LEADERSHIP PROGRAM – FOUNDATION COURSE.

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