Kautilya’s approach to conflict resolution: Sam, Dam, Dand & Bhed

Mahesh Prabhu

Mahesh Prabhu

Udupi Mahesh Prabhu is a seasoned media, management & political consultant. He is a Founder and Chairman of Vedic Management Center and Vivaswaan. A fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, London (UK) and member of the International Federation of Journalists(USA), he also holds a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing. For more info visit www.indiamahesh.com

This article by U. Mahesh Prabhu is a part of The Kautilya Project of Vedic Management Center

Arthashastra, compiled, edited and commented by Kautilya a.k.a. Chanakya a.k.a. Vishnugupta, speaks more about administration, organization, clandestine operations, economy and diplomacy than war. Considering this, many political and diplomatic commentators often consider(ed) Arthashastra to be of lesser significance than the likes of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Now, could that be considered logical? Does it make Arthashastra “less significant” in modern times?

To answer this question, we need to understand the idea of war. War, as a noun, is a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country. The apparent objective of war is to uproot the cause of conflict. For example, if a ruler of a nation is creating too much of a nuisance and limited strikes prove futile, then it becomes essential to push that ruler into submission or, even, slay him. But, what if even his successor retorts similarly? Once you’ve won a war, you could install a handpicked ruler in his place or annex that nation. Annexing a foreign land is often mired in conflict and chaos. It gives rise to dissent and often results in rebellion. Therefore, even if you win the war, the solution is far from achieved.

Vyasa, in Mahabharata, speaks vehemently about the costs of war. Krishna, the principal advisor, and strategist of the Pandavas, too was against the war. He tried to avert the war, but when there was no viable solution at hand, it became increasingly necessary to wage war to attain a solution. Before the great battle of Mahabharata, Pandava prince Arjuna got cold feet. He argued with Krishna “I don’t need a kingdom soaked in the blood of my relatives… although they are up in arms against me.” Krishna, eventually, convinced Arjuna to rise and fight. Some may call Krishna a hypocrite – but they’ve certainly not understood his teachings compiled in Bhagavad-Gita. 

War yields disastrous consequences, true, but it’s also the last resort. In the Arthashastra, Kautilya proposes three approaches before the war: साम: or Sam (implying patience to understand your adversary), दाम् or Dam (persuasion through gifts or material wealth) and दण्ड: or Dand (imposing apt punishments). When these three fail, a ruler is advised to use भेद: or Bhed (or brute force) to force the adversary into submission.

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3 responses on "Kautilya’s approach to conflict resolution: Sam, Dam, Dand & Bhed"

  1. What if bhed doesn’t work as well. E.g pakistan.

    • The strategy works only if applied correctly. In case of Pakistan- there have been more than one blunders. We stuck with Ahimsa and the went to UN and cried. The strategy was seldom adopted. We were either too foolish or too naive as a nation while dealing with Pakistan. We care more about international PR than actual result on th ground. Pakistan is pain because this strategy was never understood let alone followed.

  2. My thoughts on Synergy Vs Conflict.
    ———
    Synergy vs Conflict between two parties A & B is determined by three dimensions.
    Parties A and B can be two people, two teams, two organizations, two products, two cultures, two chemicals, two foods

    Compulsion 0——-[3——-5——-7]———10 Strong Affinity
    No Opinion 0——-[3——-5——-7]———10 Strong Opinionated
    No Voice 0——-[3——-5——-7]———10 Highly Vocal

    Synergy to accomplish extraordinary is achieved when the two entities sit at the centre of above 3 dimentions.
    The goal of a manager is to assess these qualities of people in the team and bring them to the centre.

    – Good food is a result of synergy of good quality ingredients merged using Heat/Cold
    – Good product is a result of synergy of good quality minds merged using Direction, Communication, Co-ordination, Enrichment
    – Just like bad/low quality ingredients or bad/low quality cooking or conflicting ingredients make bad food,bad/low quality minds or bad/low quality management or conflicting minds make bad products.

    In the end, what a manager should be and should do?

    – Have Clarity of Thought to achieve the Vision of his Director
    – Trust those associates who has Clarity of Thought and History of Qualitative and Quantitative accomplishments.
    Bring Synergy in the Team

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A unique Vedic Management Centre Initiative specially devised to rekindle the lost art and science of Vedic leadership for management, politics, and diplomacy.
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