Alliance? Or war?

That owl has always won when fighting us, and hence fighting him again is futile. We should seek an alliance with him…

It is said…

अनेक-युद्ध-विजयी सन्धानं यस्य गच्छति ।
तत्-प्रभावेण तस्याशु वशं गच्छन्त्य् अरातयः ॥ १० ॥

aneka-yuddha-vijayī sandhānaṃ yasya gacchati |
tat-prabhāveṇa tasyāśu vaśaṃ gacchanty arātayaḥ || 10 ||

If a king has an alliance with a powerful enemy, the other enemies of the king also come under control.

“Friendship with a king who was once a powerful enemy has it’s advantages, since our other enemies would think twice before attacking us, knowing that we now have a strong ally.

सन्धिम् इच्छेत् समेनापि सन्दिग्धो विजयी युधि न हि सांशयिकं कुर्याद्…the results of war are usually unpredictable. A king should not take part in a war whose result is uncertain. In this situation, it is better to enter into an alliance with the enemy, even if both are equally powerful.”

सन्दिग्धो विजयो युद्धे जनानाम् इह युद्ध्यताम् ।
उपाय-त्रितयाद् ऊर्ध्वं तस्माद् युद्धं समाचरेत् ॥ १२ ॥

sandigdho vijayo yuddhe janānām iha yuddhyatām |
upāya-tritayād ūrdhvaṃ tasmād yuddhaṃ samācaret || 12 ||

Since the results of war are unpredictable, one should go to war with an equally powerful enemy only if all other strategies fail.

“A king who is blinded by a false sense of prestige and hence does not enter into an alliance with an equally powerful enemy, causes mutual destruction, like two half-baked pots that are struck together. In case a weaker king chooses to go to war with a stronger enemy, the result is the same as what would happen when a stone strikes a clay pot – destruction of the weaker king is assured.”

भूमिर् मित्रं हिरण्यं वा विग्रहस्य फल-त्रयम् ।
नास्त्य् एकम् अपि यद्य् एषां विग्रहं न समाचरेत् ॥ १५ ॥

bhūmir mitraṃ hiraṇyaṃ vā vigrahasya phala-trayam |
nāsty ekam api yady eṣāṃ vigrahaṃ na samācaret || 15 ||

There are three possible gains from war – land, friendship or riches. If there is no hope of getting at least one of these, going to war is futile.

खनन्न् आखु-बिलं सिंहः पाषाण-शकलाकुलम् ।
प्राप्नोति नख-भङ्गं हि फलं वा मूषको भवेत् ॥ १६ ॥

khanann ākhu-bilaṃ siṃhaḥ pāṣāṇa-śakalākulam |
prāpnoti nakha-bhaṅgaṃ hi phalaṃ vā mūṣako bhavet || 16 ||

A lion who digs a rat’s hole in rocky terrain will only break his nails. And the only possible reward he would get for all his efforts, is just a small rat.

“And so, why waste one’s efforts on a fight when there is nothing to be gained?”

बलीयसा समाक्रान्तो वैतसीं वृत्तिम् आश्रयेत् ।
वाञ्छन्न् अभ्रंशिनीं लक्ष्मीं न भौजङ्गी कदाचन ॥ १८ ॥

balīyasā samākrānto vaitasīṃ vṛttim āśrayet |
vāñchann abhraṃśinīṃ lakṣmīṃ na bhaujaṅgī kadācana || 18 ||

When attacked by a stronger enemy, one should act a reed in the wind and not like a snake that raises it’s hood to fight back. That is the only way to stay prosperous.

“A reed in the wind bows when a strong wind blows, and hence survives. A snake that raises it’s hood to fight a strong enemy, perishes. And that is why a wise king should…”

कौर्मं सङ्कोचम् आस्थाय प्रहारान् अपि मर्षयेत् ।
काले काले च मतिमान् उत्तिष्ठेत् कृष्ण-सर्पवत् ॥ २० ॥

kaurmaṃ saṅkocam āsthāya prahārān api marṣayet |
kāle kāle ca matimān uttiṣṭhet kṛṣṇa-sarpavat || 20 ||

Withdraw into a shell like a tortoise, and patiently bear the attack of an enemy…and when the time is right, raise his hood like a snake and strike back.

“And that is why, o king”, continued Ujjeevin, “even when a state of war arises, one should make all attempts at conciliation. Since the outcome of war is unpredictable, there is no use of getting overenthusiastic for it. If things can be resolved through an alliance, then why would one try to go to war?”

प्रतिवातं न हि घनः कदाचिद् उपसर्पति – the clouds do not attempt to challenge the wind, which is stronger. They always flow in the same direction as the wind”, concluded Ujjeevin. ” And that is why I recommend Sandhi as the only way forward.”

MeghaVarna thanked Ujjeevin for his advice, and respectfully led him out of the chamber. He then called Sanjeevin inside.

“Tell me, respected Sanjeevin”, said MeghaVarna, “what is your recommended course of action?”

“My dear king”, said Sanjeevin, “I don’t think that seeking an alliance with a stronger enemy is a good idea.”

“And why do you say that?”, asked MeghaVarna.

Sanjeevin replied…

to be continued…

The Panchatantra is also known for presenting conflicting views.

It starts with strategies for creating divisions between friends. Just as one reconciles with this idea, the second book of the Panchatantra speaks about how to win friends. MeghaVarna will also face this predicament. His first minister advised him to seek an alliance with the enemy, and now the second is set to completely contradict him. And remember, there are three more to go.

So why does the Panchatantra present such diametrically-opposite views? Why can’t it just recommend one way – the ONLY way?

In my opinion, the reason has a lot to do with Sanatana Dharma, or Hinduism, as we commonly (and incorrectly) know it. Sanatana Dharma presents a lot of seemingly irreconcilable contradictions, There are six darshanas, or schools of thought. One speaks about Dvaita, or duality, the other speaks about Advaita – or non-duality…and so on.

Even the Bhagavad Gita has many confusing paths. Sri Krishna speaks of Karma Yoga, and then in the next chapter says Jnana Yoga is the better way. Just as one warms up to that thought, he comes along and says that Bhakti Yoga is the best way.

So why is this? Why can’t there be just one way, so that it is easier to follow??

Well, the answer lies in that question. The key word is – FOLLOW. Sanatana Dharma is about SEEKING, not following.

The ways are presented before you. Do you like a meditative God? Here is Shiva for you. Oh, you prefer a God who is deep-rooted in worldly matters instead? Here, let me introduce you to Vishnu. A handsome God? Enter Karthikeya. Naughtiness? Bal Gopal. You want to fear God? Kali-rupa. You want to love God? Gannu:)

I can go on and on. But you have a glimpse of the answer. The Panchatantra describes us, our nature, our shortcomings, our strengths, and how our interpersonal relationships play out over time. It gives us a deep insight into human behaviour, but stops short of preaching morality.

You want to know the right way? You have to decide for yourself. Be a leader, take your own decisions. Do not follow. Use your own discretion. Your own judgement, after considering all the facts presented to you.

And that, is the only way.

The Panchatantra way – the way of the five strategies. Keep reading!