This is a special article by U. Mahesh Prabhu, author of the latest book Fundamentals of Kootaneeti: The Vedic Approach to Strategic Living | The book is now available on Amazon INDIA, Amazon.com, Apple Books,Googleplay Books, Kindle, Scribd, Instamojo and other major international booksellers.
There are two critical Vedic Sanskrit words one must know before comprehending or understanding the utility of, Kootaneeti; they are Neeti and Rajaneeti. You may find it surprising to know that Neeti has existed across families, societies, nations, and even relationships since time immemorial as a set of rules (written and unwritten), mannerisms, and etiquettes to ensure harmonious and peaceful coexistence.
It is important to note that no two Neetis are similar. More than often, Neetis also contradict each other. Neeti that is acceptable in one family may not be acceptable in another. What is found acceptable by one society may be termed contemptible by another. Neeti considered “decent” by one religion could be interpreted as otherwise by another one. In many ways, Neeti also describes and defines the character and personality of a specific group of people. Hence, understanding the Neeti plays a crucial role in establishing peace and prosperity.
No civilization has had a greater understanding of the Neeti than the Vedic. The Vedic people, who looked within for finding answers for sustainable health, wealth, prosperity, and peace, propounded the importance of Neeti for thousands of years. However, instead of creating stringent rules or commandments, Vedic people emphasized universal compassion in individual and collective actions. That is because, without compassion, humans are sure to fail to understand and even misunderstand each other. Without understanding Neeti, misunderstandings become a norm, and chaos is rampant.
To ensure that the Neeti is adhered to by its people towards ensuring peace and prosperity, societies and nations created a political system to administer them. The Neeti accepted and followed by one, and all in society, state, or nation in Vedic Sanskrit is Rajaneeti. Rajaneeti is also better understood as a Vedic approach to Politics when in compliance with the precepts of Dharma without malicious conduct, furthering self-interest through manipulation of power.
In various Indic languages, today, while the Policy has become the apparent translation of Neeti, Rajaneeti is often translated as Politics. While Neeti could also be translated as Policy in Vedic Sanskrit, the scope of the word is significantly greater. Neeti forms the cohesive and practical understanding of individual behavior in a specific social environment and uses this behavioral understanding to alter people’s responses to achieve the desired outcome during interactions, particularly negotiations. Besides, Neeti, from a Vedic point of view, is considered deserving when driven by compassion. In Vyasa’s Mahabharata, Vidura says, “If everyone in this world acted out of compassion, kings and kingdom would be redundant.” He further adds, “… Since people are often skeptical and doubtful of one other, universal compassion is not just difficult but, often, impossible. That is why Rajaneeti is crucial for greater welfare and wellbeing.”
Niyati V/s Neeti
When people are wrongfully hurt, they retaliate with more wrongdoings creating, or simply adding to, disharmony and chaos. Such kneejerk responses are what is interpreted by the Rishis as Niyati. Niyati, in Vedic Sanskrit, can be translated as the Obvious as well as Undeserving Responses. Any knowledge or skill that helps in undoing a wrong without more wrongs is Neeti. Any thoughts, plans, strategies, or actions to be called Neeti must comply with Dharmic standards. When any Neeti fails to heed the precepts of Dharma, it is known as Kuneeti. Hence, even politics with vicious or malicious intent was called as Kuneeti, and not Rajaneeti.
According to Krishna in Vyasa’s Mahabharata, all humans have three qualities: Satva or Sagely, Rajas or Middling, and Tamo or Lowly. The intensity of these qualities often defines the inherent character and personality of the particular individual. The people with Sagely qualities are ones with little or no desires and often seek solitude. Vicious greed drives the people of Lowly qualities, and since they often act on it, they are the cause of most pains in a society. The people with middling Rajas qualities are the ones who try to be reasonable; while they fail to embrace the sage qualities, they do try to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by their inherent lowly qualities. The quality of Rajas is about balancing. And since the objective of kings or rulers is to restore, establish, and ensure balance in his domain – they are often referred to in Vedic Sanskrit as Raaja, and the Neeti deserving of them is thence called Rajaneeti. Like Neeti, every nation and society has had some form of Politics which is essentially about achieving political power to ensure social, economic, and military stability.
Even though Politics is the world’s oldest profession, there have never been any definitive intellectual and actionable knowledge system on this subject matter in the West. Even the most premier schools today on “Political Science” teach either history of politics or economics but never Politics – per se. More effective teachings on politics have continued to exist in the Indian subcontinent for at least 10,000 years – The Arthashastra and Artha Sutras. When people with social influence attain political power, more than often, they tend to either become like the people they succeed or worsen than their predecessors. Often it becomes increasingly difficult to remove such autocratic dictators from power leading to more blunders. To address such an adverse situation in politics is Vedic knowledge of Kootaneeti.
The word Kootaneeti is of two Vedic Sanskrit words, namely: Koota or Discreet and Neeti imply approach based on Dharmic standards. Koota also implies Covert; hence Kootaneeti is also Covert Tactics. Even though like Rajaneeti, Kootaneeti is about political power, Kootaneeti is principally about playing with power without getting into the position of power.
Kootaneeti in Practice
Kootaneeti has been practiced by the Rishis (Vedic sages) when the people in power are drunk with power and cause absolute chaos in the society. Chanakya, a.k.a. Kautilya, utilized Kootaneeti to install the Maurya dynasty on the throne of Magadha, whereas his disciple Sharanga utilized it to integrate the Indian subcontinent. Madhvacharya, a.k.a. Vidhyaranya, used the Kootaneeti to install Hakka and Bukka on the throne of Vijayanagara in the south. What is critical about Kootaneeti is that while it does seek military power, it often uses it as a last resort.
Kootaneeti is the only knowledge discipline available to humankind that can comprehensively empower individuals to understand individual and collective human minds, resulting in political power as a science and art to be manipulated in ways for universal welfare. Unlike Art of War of Sun Tzu, which cannot be utilized without disastrous consequences in non-military scenarios, Kootaneeti can be employed in every conceivable adverse situation – personal, professional, and institutional.
Why Kootaneeti remained unknown?
Kootaneeti works like Arthashastra, Artha Sutras, Neeti Shataka, and the like never yield sensible interpretation when following the prevailing Panini Sanskrit, since they follow Vedic Sanskrit, which is much older and different from Panini’s Sanskrit. Apart from the inappropriate language, Kootaneeti follows the principles of Dharma – which was never religion. And since Panini’s Sanskrit often translates and interprets it as a “religion,” most of the teachings of Neeti, Rajaneeti, and Kootaneeti have been laid to waste.
Owing to the adverse times we live in, there is an urgent need to find sustainable solutions to social, economic, and political challenges facing humanity today. Every hundred years, there has been a pandemic, often incurring economic collapse resulting in wars. We are already witnessing military escalation on a global scale alongside social and political unrest. And the fact that modern economists, policymakers, and leaders have almost little to nothing to even predict such scenarios – let alone find a credible solution – Kootaneeti has become crucial, now more than ever before.
Fundamentals of Kootaneeti: The Vedic Approach to Strategic Living | The book is now available on Amazon INDIA, Amazon.com, Apple Books, Googleplay Books, Kindle, Scribd, Instamojo and other major international book sellers.