Thoughts around attacking vulnerable opponent and natural enemy

We spoke about opponents and friends earlier in rAja maNDalam. In 5th chapter of shADguNyam, kauTilya deals with three different topics. This post summarizes the first topic called “yAtavya-amatrayOH-abhigraha-cintA”

In the group of opponents there are two categories that can be attacked. An opponent who is vulnerable due to his own internal problems is called yAtavya. If the opponent is a natural enemy who harms regularly is amitra.

In a situation of both the yAtavya and amitra have similar troubles then first one should attack amitra. Only after conquering the enemy one should attack other vulnerable opponent i.e, yAtavya.

It is probable that yAtavya may extend his help in conquering amitra. But never a amitra helps in the battle with yAtavya.

In case if the yAtavya is in deep troubles and very vulnerable and amitra is in lesser problems then one should attack yAtavya – say other teachers of artha SAstra. But kauTilya disagrees with this opinion. Even if the enemy (amitra) is in lesser troubles, one should first attack the enemy alone. With the attack, the enemy’s troubles increase. If one goes to attack vulnerable king (yAtavya), the amitra more likely to go and support the yAtavya by remedying his troubles. Otherwise, the amitra can attack you when you are busy attacking yAtavya. So, even if the amitra is in lesser troubles than the yAtavya the first attack should be on amitra only. This is the conclusion of kauTilya.

The next question is when there are multiple yAtavyas, who should be attacked first?
a. One who is in more troubles but who is righteous in nature?
b. One who is in less troubles but is non-righteous? or
c. One whose prakRtis (constituent elements) are turned against?

When such a question arises, one should attack the yAtavya whose prakRtis have developed dislike towards their leader. (option c above)

Next question is: One should attack whose constituent elements are weak and selfish? or whose prakRtis are angered by the actions of their leader?

kauTilya’s opinion is “even thought the prakRtis are weak if they are loyal to the king it will be difficult to conquer. So, the best option is to attack the enemy with angered prakRtis in the above case.

The final question regarding whom to attack is: When there is a powerful but unrighteous opponent and weak and righteous opponent, then who should be attacked first? Answer is clear. One should attack the unrighteous one even though he is powerful. Due to his unrighteous attitude his power will diminish. The prakRitis will help the righteous king.

So, attack is always focused on bringing the righteousness. Not the other way around. The unrighteous enemy whose powers are angered by his actions is the first target for the attack! That is conclusion of kauTilya in artha SAstra.

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