Acharya Chanakya popularly known as Vishnugupta and Kautilya was a phenomenal statesman, philosopher, jurist, teacher, and economist. Chanakya gave many lessons on life and politics which have guided generations after generations and which hold true even to this day. Chanakya was the reason history describes the glorious Mauryan Empire as one of the biggest in India. Acharya Chanakya guided Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire, in overthrowing the Nanda king and also became the royal advisor of Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. Acharya Chanakya wrote the ancient Indian political treatise, ‘Arthashastra’, which is much celebrated to this day, and the ‘Chanakya Niti’ also called as ‘Chanakya Neeti’, which contains life lessons that he observed his entire life and helps people from all walks of life at any given point when they face difficulty be it any aspect: career, goal, friendship, family, emotions, you name it.
Chanakya Niti contains numerous lessons but here, in this article, we are going to talk about the 15 most prominent teachings of Chanakya that help a person in their everyday lives.
1. “Education is the best friend”
Chanakya emphasizes the need for education in life through his text Chanakya Niti. Chanakya says that whatever you’ve acquired through education is the only thing that will stay with you throughout your life. Your beauty will eventually fade away, youth will gradually be lost, friends will part but education will stay with you forever and help you whenever required. It is education that will help you achieve your goals in life, the calmness of a wise mind, and a sense of completeness in life even your you are alone. One who is not nurtured by education fails to receive respect from society. Education will also guide you when you have no one by your side. Consider it as a long-term investment that will yield results in the long run of life. In today’s scenario, education is not just a choice, but it has become a necessity and a fundamental right for the people. Even the deprived have institutions to educate them. Education is one of the parameters which decide if a country is progressing and flourishing or not.
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2. “Never share your secrets with anyone”
People tend to share their deepest darkest secrets with the ones close to them but that eventually becomes the reason for their destruction. You should never share anything that has the potential of turning your life topsy turvy. You never know when your closest person becomes your worst enemy and you would be giving a weapon to that person to use in the future when your ties get severed. This fits so well in today’s world when everybody tends to lose credibility at some point. People have become so sensitive that they even destroy their entire life’s relationships for a single incident or an argument. Cybercrimes have reached an all-time high and most of the cases concern leaked conversation threads, photos, and many more things which were once shared during a heartfelt and quite private conversation. People do not understand the courage it takes for a person to share something with anybody. They might need to get some incidents out of their system because it has created a loop in their mind, playing, again and again, taking a toll on their mental health or might want to share their emotion which they could not show to anybody else because of the fear of being called weak. And it will only be them on the losing side of it.
3. “Learn from the mistakes of others”
Life is too short to make several mistakes yourself to learn something from it. It will pull you back from your timely success so you need to be extremely observant and learn from your surroundings and the people committing mistakes around you which you could have committed if you had been in that person’s shoes. It is important to analyze the consequence of some actions but nothing can be better and more vivid than real-life experiences witnessed with your own eyes.
4. “Debt is like an enemy”
Chanakya says that like you should destroy your enemy without leaving any traces of existence, you should also pay back any debt to the last penny. Debt makes a person lose respect in the eyes of the lender and the people who get to know about the loan. One must avoid every circumstance that could lead to the creation of necessity to loan money or in the worst scenario, that is when you have already fallen into the pit of debt, you must pay it off as soon as you can to regain that lost status. Debt makes a person feel small in front of others and also pulls you away from celebrating anything in your life because you are constantly irked by that debt.
5. “Do not try to change the people in your life”
Chanakya quotes “An egoist can be won over by being respected, a crazy person can be won over by allowing him to behave insanely and a wise person can be won only by truth.” This means that one must not try to change the people in their life just to be with them. It also means that you should not also change yourself for the sake of someone else in your life. Chanakya says so because all of the frustration and dislike towards changing yourself which will be piled up inside you will eventually erupt and destroy your bond be it with any person. You cannot expect someone to be happy, or even yourself to be happy for that matter when you expect or are expected to behave or act in a certain kind of way you are not comfortable with. The harmony created through such acts does not last long and is soon faced with retaliation.
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6. “Time is insurmountable”
Chanakya quotes, “Time perfects all living beings as well as kills them. It alone is awake when the entire world is asleep.” Chanakya uses this beautiful quote to describe how insurmountable and supreme time is. Time plays many roles in our lives, it heals, it mends, and destroys us too. Only time can demonstrate the consequences of your actions if you do not analyze them beforehand. Time does not stop for anyone and lost time never comes back either. It is this moment that you should seize and own to save yourself from failure, embarrassment, and repent later. If you need to live a meaningful life, a life you do not want to have any regrets about, you need to befriend and respect time. It takes years for your hard work and dedication to show results but all of it can also be shattered in a snap.
7. “Act tough whenever needed”
Chanakya says,” A snake should pretend to be venomous even when it is not.” By this quote Chanakya means that an easy person can be stepped on quite easily, the world has the habit of crushing the weak and worshipping the strong. So, you must act tough and dangerous even when you are not so that people do not take you lightly or disrespect you. In yet another quote, Chanakya writes,” A swan lives wherever there is water and leaves the place where water dries up.” He warns us not to give space to any such person in our life who is just like that swan because he would come and go as and when he wants. Harden yourself, quit being all malleable and ductile. People should get the notion that it is dangerous to mess with you so that they do not stampede on your feelings. Self-respect should be the priority for you irrespective of what environment you are in. In this time and date, this quote benefits so much when the strong start to encroach on the rights and lives of the weak people.
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8. “Humbleness is the root of self-control”
Chanakya says that being humble untangles many problems in your life. It keeps you free from the clutches of desire and prevents unhappiness from entering your life. Being humble also helps you develop a sense of self-control which in turn helps you in controlling your anger because anger can be the reason for your destruction. Only the person who does not let anger overpower senses can be peaceful in life. People tend to regret many actions which they did out of anger and that makes their hearts heavy with the sense of guilt. Self-discipline or self-control not only prevents you from letting your emotions drive your mind but also stops you from committing any mistake that could destroy the results of your hard work. It is the self-control that keeps pushing people towards their goals in life. Always keep in mind that when you have control over yourself, you have control of your life and your surroundings or say your small universe.
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9. “A man is not great by birth but by his karma”
Chanakya enlightens us that it does not matter what our place of origin is, what our status is, do we have wealth piled up or not, whether we belong to the elite 1% of the population or not. The only thing that matters is your work, your dedication to it. You can manifest anything in your life if you strive relentlessly. Your work defines your worth in this world. Success does not judge you with your possessions and class but it surely judges you based on whether you deserve it or not. Chanakya says that you should not feel small in front of people who have more than you in every aspect of life. Most of the people in this world want to get it easy and continue with their lazy lethargic attitude and hence, lead a plain, simple and normal life. You need to build your self-confidence and self-worth so that not only others but you too see yourself worthy of that goal you have set in your life. In the world where people are more into glamour and show and depicting only a positive image on social media, people who do not have enough resources tend to feel intimidated and become reluctant to portray their talent and achievements because they think they would be overshadowed by these so-called “elite people.”
This lesson of Chanakya gives assurance and support to those people in this modern age also rather the need to remember this particular lesson has increased in recent times. Many people who had everything in life failed to establish their identity other than that attached to them by birth but on the other hand, some people rose from the soil to the throne of success and had inspired millions with their attitude of not letting a single drawback, a single failure or their background to determine the extent of their success.
10. “Do not get excessively attached to any person”
According to Chanakya, attachment devastates people be it with friends, family, or love. If you ever get attached to a person, that person will ultimately become your weakness which would be like a wound that is exposed. Your enemies would know exactly where to strike to let your guard down. Secondly, when you get too attached to others, you start to develop some expectations in return which eats your relationship like a termite because you can get your heart shattered when the person does not live up to your expectations. The person might become gradually distant from you as they fear that they won’t be able to make you happy just because you have set your expectations too high.
Chanakya advises that no relation in this world is permanent, families may sever ties with you, friends might get lost in the long battle of life, you would get wary of the materialistic pleasure and in the end, you will have no one and nothing but you. You do not have to go out of your way to please people just so they desire to be with you because the moment you stop, they won’t have a reason to stay close and you would realize that you set your self-respect so low that they found it easy to trample it. We are born in this world alone and we die alone leaving everything and everyone behind. So it is our sole responsibility to respect our soul first and then satisfy the emotional needs of somebody else.
11. “The Three-question rule”
Chanakya cleverly frames three questions of utmost importance to ask oneself: Why am I doing it? What results will the action yield? And will I be successful? Through these three questions, Chanakya wishes us to become far-sighted and choose our actions wisely. If there is no reason for you to undertake any task, you should not do it in the first place. Actions that do not add to the meaning of your life are not worthy of your time. The next question reminds you of the possible consequences of your action. If it has the potential of harming you, or belittling yourself or cannot be justified as the right thing to do and has the capability of disturbing your mental peace, you should avoid it by any possible means. Just because someone else did it, you do not have to fall into the same pit. Consider each action of yours as a step in your life, that step might be in the forward direction or backward and it will all depend on what you do and what you decide to do. Every event has a consequence in life and the nature of your action will determine the nature of its reaction.
By the third question, Chanakya does not ask you to quit doing something that you think is a vain task. There is no doubt that you can achieve anything in your life if you put your mind to it but he asks you to make a cerebral choice of your goal. Being successful does not only mean acquiring wealth, or reaching a top-notch position in any industry but it also means gaining respect, peace of mind, and living a life with which you will feel satisfied when it’s time to leave everything behind.
Stability is not always a good aspect of your life; in fact, you should not be happy and cozy in your comfort zone but try new things and feel that thrill of life even in your daily routine. But it also does not mean that you storm your life with problems because you did not like the kind of stability you attained. Always remember that the time you invest in solving the problems you created yourself by either not paying attention to your actions or overlooking the consequences, could have been put in making some progress in your life or enjoying your life. You have got this one life which you have to utilize to the fullest and that is not what you call making the most of it.
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12. “Grab every chance of learning something new“
Chanakya quotes,” learn one thing from a lion, four from a cock, one from a crane, five from a crow, six from a dog, and three from an ass.” By this statement, Chanakya wants us to realize that there is not a single being on this planet from whom you cannot learn anything. You just need to be observant of your surroundings. Even the dumbest person on the earth will have something to share with you which will guide you in your life. Just because you think they are inferior to you, it is not right to ignore what they have to say. Even our enemies teach us some values and share experiences of their life. It is never too late to learn anything new nor is it ever too early.
In another quote, Chanakya says, “Let not a single day pass without you learning a verse, half a verse, or a fourth of it, or even a letter of it; nor without attending to charity, study and other pious activities.” It is neither necessary nor possible to grab the entire world’s knowledge in one go. Take your time, absorb it slowly but retain it till the end of your life. As Chanakya says, “learning is a friend on a journey, a wife in the house, medicine in your sickness and religious merit is the only friend after death.” What Chanakya means is that whatever you have learned in your life is a powerful weapon and a necessity at every stage when you need some advice. You just need to look back and you will get a solution right there.
13. “He who befriends a man, whose conduct is vicious, rapidly gets ruined in the company.”
Chanakya quotes,” he who befriends a man whose conduct is vicious, whose vision is impure and who is notoriously crooked, is rapidly ruined.” This witty observation that Chanakya shared in his text, Chanakya Niti, should act as a reminder for people to choose their company wisely. As is also said, a single rotten apple can contaminate the entire basket. This lesson is especially to be learned by the people who remain constantly in denial when accused of supporting or promoting vile activities.
A classic instance that fits perfectly with the quote of Chanakya is when, the #MeToo movement took the internet by storm and many girls came out with their tragic and unpleasant experiences, there was another hashtag trending which read #NotAllMen. But these people failed to understand, that though definitely not all men are guilty of these acts they sit, drink and eat with the people who find it perfectly normal to objectify another gender, mock the other gender, reduce them to certain stereotypes and so they encourage such acts and in turn are a part of the guilty lot.
Chanakya throws light on the fact that if you remain quiet and continue to keep the company of a person whose intentions are never pure, you should not be shocked when you notice yourself turning into the same monster.
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14. “You should not be too honest in your dealings”
Chanakya said in his text, Chanakya Neeti that you should be shrewd in your dealings with others as he so beautifully quotes,” the straight trees are chopped down first.” An honest man will never misuse your honesty but a dishonest and cunning one will never miss one chance. You conduct your businesses as an open book and it would attract parasites who will suck whatever they can out of you. In this world where it is quite easy to become a victim of deception, it is very crucial to let certain things be hidden from the limelight. Being brutally honest is one thing but being honest where it can turn brutal is a real threat people don’t see coming.
15. “Never befriend a person who is not at par with you.”
This might seem a statement that is morally wrong and shallow as we should never judge people by whether they are at par with us or not. But, it is important to understand that such relations or friendships which are structured on the fact that you have to bend down to them or they have to do the same, do not last long. There is a world order that should not be disturbed. Chanakya observed it in that ancient period, and it holds even to this day, that society and the world at large have a paradigm order if observed closely. People are mostly divided into categories like class, caste, religion, knowledge, and even personal interest. When people engage in such a relationship which requires them to interact with a different paradigm altogether like different interests, different ideologies, and different goals, they cannot sustain the relationship for too long because problems like misunderstandings, ego, clashes, etc arise.
Any quote that you pick up from the text Chanakya Niti even known as Chanakya Neeti has stood the test of time and it will continue to remain true till eternity because these are universal experiences by people from any part of the world or any ideology. Chanakya has often been criticized for his brutally honest and cunning teachings but one cannot straight up deny the validity of these “life lessons.”