Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bheeshma on Leadership (Duties of a King)

At the end of the Kurukshetra war Yudhisthir goes to the great warrior prince Bheeshma, his grandfather, who is awaiting the hour to die on his bed of arrows, to learn about the duties of a king. Some of them are applicable to the leader as well. Obviously it is a tough call, and one has to learn the art of fine balance to stay ahead of others. To trust and not trust, to be righteous and unrighteous, to be compassionate and yet not be too forgiving, to gather information on his own trusted aides - its interesting.
Clearly the leader must be ahead of the game at all times, at all costs. And never forgetting that his core duty is to his subjects. (Let's see how our leaders compare these days.)

On duties and behavior of a King:
  • Be a man of action. Action is equally powerful as destiny. It is in fact more potent. (Low on action)
  • Be a man of truth. It inspires confidence in the minds of subjects. (Low on truth)
  • Behavior should be above reproach. Self-restraint, humility and righteousness should be practiced. Must keep your passions under control. (Low on all the above)
  • Justice should be your second nature. (Medium)
  • Should know how to conceal weakness (in the kingdom) and should find the weakness in the enemy kingdom. Should be secretive about your plans. (We're making all our plans public)
  • Should have straightforward conduct. (Low on this)
  • Should not be too mild - nor too fierce. Both send the wrong signals. (Neither, we don't even know if they exist)
  • Should know the art of choosing servants. Compassion should be the mental make up. Should guard against being too forgiving a nature. (Very forgiving, especially the death row prisoners)
  • Should be constantly alert. Should study his friends and foes incessantly. (High on this)
  • First duty is to his subjects and should guard them as a mother guards her child in her womb. Their welfare is the only concern. (High on vote bank subjects. Primary duty seems to be to stay in power at any cost)
  • Should not place implicit confidence in anyone. Innermost thoughts must be concealed. Should not tell anyone of his decisions. (Leak everything to the media)
  • Should be wise in making peace with a foe who is stronger, making war on an equal and invading one who is weaker.
  • Should seek protection in the fort when position is weak.
  • Should have clear clever spies to find the secrets of the enemy. Should bribe and cajole officers of the enemy to his side.
  • Should be pleasant in his speech. (Impassive and worried faces)
  • Should have about him men who are like him in nature - with noble qualities. (All kinds of bed fellows)
  • The best king is one whose subjects live in freedom and happiness as they do in their father's home. Peace and contentment will be theirs. (Discontent, suspicion and apprehension rules)
  • Should know how to choose honest men to hold important offices. Should have skill, should be clever and be truthful. (Truthful guys are instantly sent away to other postings)
  • Should remove old and fallen buildings. (Exist in old and fallen buildings)
  • Should know how to inflict corporal punishment on miscreants. (Low)
  • Treasury should always be full. (Low)
  • Supervision of the works of all his officers should be done by the king himself. (Low, as seen in the corruption cases)

On warfare
  • Should never trust the guardians of the city or fort implicitly. (Low)
  • Must produce disloyalty among people in a hostile country and must have friends and allies there. (God knows what they are doing)
  • He should amass troops in secret. 
  • He should be both candid and crooked.
  • Must employ crooked and wrong acts when he wants to subdue the enemy. These must be hidden behind a candid and open exterior.
  • Should first conquer his five senses which is his greatest victory. Only then is he capable of conquering the enemy.
  • Should have immense numbers of soldiers in his forts, cities, frontiers and important spots.
  • Thoughts, actions, decisions and spies should be kept secret from everyone.
  • Spies should look like imbeciles, blind and deaf, but should be capable and wise. They should be able to handle cold, heat and hunger.
  • King should set spies on his counsellors, friends and even his sons. Spies should be strangers to each other.
  • When foe is stronger he should make peace.
  • If he is stronger, he should wage war.
  • Should not hesitate to afflict the enemy with weapons, fire and poison.
  • Should take a 6th of the income of the subjects for the army.

On administration, economy, taxes
  • Honest men should be appointed to administer justice. The state has her strong foundations only on proper administration of justice. (Low)
  • King makes the age, not age making the king.(Need younger men at the top)
  • King has to be righteous and unrighteous according to circumstance.(Low)
  • No one should be trusted at all times.(Low)
  • Entire reliance on ministers is not wise.
  • A king should therefore trust and not trust.
  • A king should mistrust his kinsmen at heart but behave as if he trusts them completely.
  • Punishment should be given according to immensity of offence.
  • Taxes should not be so high as to hurt the subjects. Like a leech he should draw blood painlessly. (Low)

As an individual
  • Be righteous. A righteous king can conquer the world. Should bear no malice.
  • Worship of mother, father and preceptor most important.
  • When a man amasses wealth through dhrama, the 3 - dharma, artha, kama are together. All three have their root in will.
  • Virtue for purification of soul, wealth so it is spent without desire to fruit and pleasure for supporting the body and not gratifying it
  • Self restraint is the highest duty and leads one to glory. it has a number of good qualities borne of it - forgiveness, patience, impartiality, truth
  • Truth is the duty of every human.
  • Eternal duty is of 13 kinds - impartiality, self control, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, goodness,contemplation, dignity, fortitude, compassion and abstinence from injury.
  • A wise man retains his senses. rises above desires. treats pain and pleasure alike,
  • A man who is dear to all will be good and pious, his blood will never heated with pride. no discontent or wrath, his sense never lead him astray and he has peace of realisation of supreme truth
  • Desire makes man a sinner.

On friends and foes
  • Make friends with intelligent men who desire your welfare.
  • Friends should be examined fully
  • Foes should be studied, their strengths and weaknesses known.
  • Self interest is the most powerful factor in the world. everyone has a purpose he serves.
  • Should not show fear.
  • Should show trust - even though he feels otherwise. (Low)

On emancipation
  • A man fit for emancipation passes beyond the ken of world of senses, Hunger and thirst do not bother him. He is unaffected by wrath, cupidity and error.
  • Need not give up kingdom to attain emancipation.
  • The 1st part of one's life - wealth should be earned, righteousness next, pleasure come last
  • Man is born alone and dies alone.

 On Prosperity
  • The goddess of prosperity resides in an eloquent person, an active person, an attentive person. Free of wrath, his passions under control. should be high minded. a man of little energy is spurned by her.

Duties of subjects
  • To elect the king and coronate him
  • To give one fifth of their animals and precious metals, a tenth of their grains (Only a few give)
  • Should choose those proficient in the use of weapons and help maintain the army
  • A 4th of their merit and their evil goes to the king. (High)
  • Should be humble to the king because a king who is honoured by his subjects will be respected and feared b his foes.

Duties of legislators

  • Legislators should be modest, self restrained, truthful and sincere. Should have courage to speak what is proper. (Low on most counts)

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