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Sanatan Dharma & the concept of Shatrubodh -
Part 1

Niranjan Bhombe

Madhavi Ojha

25 April 2023

"Shatrubodh in Sanatana Dharma involves understanding and dealing with...."

....enemies, both inner and outer, through a multifaceted approach. It encompasses self-awareness, self-control, philosophical perspectives on the transient nature of existence, and practical approaches to dealing with adversaries.

Sanatana Dharma teaches that the use of violence or aggression towards outer enemies is not encouraged, and that non-violence (Ahimsa) is the ideal approach. However, it also recognizes that there may be situations where the use of force becomes necessary to protect oneself, loved ones, or to uphold Dharma. In such cases, the use of force is considered justifiable, but should be approached with restraint, wisdom, and as a last resort when all other means of conflict resolution have been exhausted. Forgiveness, compassion, and tolerance are also emphasized in dealing with outer enemies, with the aim of resolving conflicts and promoting reconciliation.

Shatrubodh encourages individuals to understand the deeper nature of adversaries, both inner and outer, and to adopt a holistic approach in dealing with them. By addressing and overcoming inner enemies and adopting a righteous and wise approach towards outer enemies, individuals can progress on their spiritual journey and attain personal and spiritual growth.

Shatrubodh, the understanding and dealing with enemies, has been a significant aspect of Sanatana Dharma since ancient times. Here are a few examples:

The Bhagavad Gita:

The Bhagavad Gita, a revered scripture in Sanatana Dharma, is a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna is faced with the dilemma of fighting against his own family and friends in the Kurukshetra War. Lord Krishna, as his charioteer and guide, imparts the teachings of dharma, duty, and righteousness, which include the principles of Shatrubodh. Lord Krishna explains the importance of understanding and dealing with enemies in a righteous manner, emphasizing the need to uphold Dharma and fight against Adharma, even if it means confronting one's own kith and kin.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna about the nature of the true enemy. He explains that the ultimate enemy is not necessarily an external foe, but rather the inner enemies of ignorance, desire, anger, greed, and delusion. Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna that conquering these inner enemies is the first step towards understanding and overcoming external adversaries. This highlights the importance of self-awareness and introspection in dealing with enemies.

He also emphasizes the importance of detachment from the outcome of actions, including actions performed in battle against enemies. He advises Arjuna to focus on performing his duty, or Dharma, without getting attached to the results. This teaching highlights the importance of maintaining equanimity and a sense of detachment while dealing with enemies, so that one can act with clarity and wisdom rather than being swayed by emotions or desires.

Lord Krishna then teaches Arjuna about the importance of compassion towards enemies, even in the midst of battle. He emphasizes that it is the duty of a warrior to fight against injustice and protect the innocent, but also to show compassion and restraint towards enemies who are willing to seek peace or surrender. This teaching highlights the principle of Shatrubodh that encourages understanding and compassionate treatment of enemies, even in the midst of conflict. Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna to cultivate a calm and balanced mind, and to approach enemies with a sense of understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness.

Lastly, Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna about the eternal nature of the self, or Atman, which transcends the temporary nature of the body and mind. He explains that enemies are not just limited to the physical realm, but also include the inner enemies of ego, ignorance, and false identification with the body and mind. By understanding the eternal Self, one can gain a broader perspective on the transient nature of conflicts and enemies, and approach them with a sense of detachment and equanimity.


Lord Rama and Ravana:

Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and his battle against the demon king Ravana, shows the principles of Shatrubodh by adhering to his dharma, upholding truth, and ultimately defeating Ravana to restore righteousness and dharma.

Lord Rama, the maryada purushottam, depicted as an embodiment of righteousness and duty, known for his unwavering adherence to Dharma, or righteous conduct. He is considered the epitome of virtue, and his actions are guided by principles of righteousness, integrity, and fairness. Lord Rama exemplifies the importance of following Dharma in dealing with enemies, as he maintains his commitment to upholding Dharma even in the face of adversity and temptation.

Despite Ravana's abduction of Sita and his malicious actions, Lord Rama demonstrates compassion and forgiveness towards his enemy. He does not seek revenge or retaliate with hatred, but instead shows a compassionate and forgiving attitude. He even offers Ravana a chance to surrender and seek redemption before the final battle. Lord Rama's actions exemplify the importance of cultivating a compassionate and forgiving approach towards enemies, even when faced with grave offenses.

Lord Rama understands that Ravana's actions were driven by his ego, desire for power, and ignorance. He recognizes that Ravana's negative actions were a result of his inner flaws and delusions, and he seeks to address the root cause of the conflict rather than simply reacting to the external actions. This demonstrates the importance of understanding the underlying motivations and causes of conflict with enemies, and addressing them with wisdom and discernment. He makes attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict with Ravana before resorting to battle. He sends emissaries to Ravana to convey his message and offer a peaceful resolution. He even tries to convince Ravana to release Sita and seek forgiveness. This highlights the importance of seeking peaceful resolutions and avoiding violence, even in the face of conflict with enemies, as violence should be the last resort.


Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya:

Chanakya, an ancient Bharatiya economist, philosopher, and advisor to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, is considered a master strategist and diplomat. He was known for his astute understanding of adversaries and employing practical approaches to deal with them. Chanakya's treatise, Arthashastra, includes teachings on various aspects of governance, including the principles of Shatrubodh, which emphasize understanding the nature and motivations of enemies, and employing diplomacy, strategy, and force, when necessary, to protect the kingdom and uphold Dharma.

The relationship between Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya, the renowned strategist and emperor of the Mauryan Empire in ancient Bharat, is often cited as an example of Shatrubodh, or understanding enemies.

The example of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya illustrates the principles of Shatrubodh in several ways:

Strategic Thinking and Planning: Chanakya was known for his strategic thinking and planning. He recognized the threat posed by the powerful Nanda dynasty, the ruling dynasty at that time, to the welfare of the people and the kingdom. He trained and mentored Chandragupta Maurya to rise against the Nandas and establish his own empire. This demonstrates the importance of strategic thinking, planning, and preparation in dealing with enemies. Chanakya's foresight and strategic approach helped Chandragupta Maurya understand the threat and develop a plan to overcome it.

Understanding the Nature of Enemies: Chanakya had a deep understanding of the nature of enemies and the political landscape of his time. He was well-versed in the art of diplomacy and statecraft, and he taught Chandragupta Maurya the importance of understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of enemies. This understanding helped Chandragupta Maurya in formulating his strategies to counter the Nandas and other adversaries.

Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges: Chandragupta Maurya faced numerous challenges in his journey to establish his empire, including powerful enemies, formidable armies, and treacherous situations. With Chanakya's guidance, Chandragupta Maurya learned to overcome these obstacles with courage, resilience, and determination. This exemplifies the importance of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles in dealing with enemies, and not succumbing to fear or setbacks.

Pragmatic Approach: Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya adopted a pragmatic approach in dealing with enemies. They recognized that sometimes practical and strategic actions are necessary to protect oneself and achieve one's goals, even if they may involve some level of deceit or manipulation. This pragmatic approach helped them navigate through complex political situations and adversaries, while staying focused on their ultimate objective of establishing a righteous and just kingdom.

Ethical Governance: Despite their pragmatic approach, Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya emphasized the importance of ethical governance. They sought to establish a just and righteous kingdom that would ensure the welfare and well-being of the people. This demonstrates the importance of upholding moral values and principles in dealing with enemies, and not compromising on ethical governance even in the pursuit of power or victory.

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