The very first chapter of Arthashatra is named विनयाधिकारिक (VinayAdhikArik) – “Concerning Education”. Right in the beginning, Chanakya states that the objective of this compendium called Arthashastra is to groom the Prince to righteously rule and protect his kingdom. He then talks about the 4 types of knowledge (vidyas) that should comprise a Prince’s education. These are आन्वीक्षिकी (AnvIkshikI) loosely translated as Practical Philosophy, वेदत्रयी (vedatrayI) -> the understanding of vedas to understand Dharma, वार्ता (vArtA) -> knowledge of trade and economics and दंडनीति -> political science and law.
Of the four, he places significant emphasis on Anvikshiki. Chanakya says AnvIkshikI is the lamp illuminating all knowledge and the means of all actions. It is the foundation of all dharmas.
प्रदीपः सर्वविद्यानाम् उपायः सर्वकर्मणाम् ।
आश्रयः सर्वधर्माणां शश्वद् आन्वीक्ष्हिकी मता ||
Anvikshiki, he explains has three aspects – SAnkhya (सांख्य), Yog (योग) and LokAyat (लोकायत) or Charvak (चार्वाक). Sankhya, Yog and LokAyat (Charvak) belong to different schools of philosophy in Indian knowledge systems. It took me some time to absorb this – why should philosophy be so important a branch of knowledge for a king to know, and why Charvak, which unlike the other two, is a school of thought that promotes skepticism and materialism?
Chanakya’s stress on philosophy starts making sense when we refer to the Sanskrit term for Philosophy -> “Darshan” (दर्श् – to see) which literally translates as “seeing” or even better” perceiving”. Right perception and understanding of the situation is key to decision making. A clouded perception can only hinder decision making. Thus Chanakya says that learning the art of perception/thinking is one of the most important aspects of education. Now lets understand why he proposes the 3 Darshanas stated above.
1. SAnkhya is about root cause analysis of physical and mental aspects of life and the ecosystem (Purush, Prakruti, panch mahabhut, tri-gunAs etc.). Helps develop analytical thinking.
2. Yoga is about reflection, concentration and developing a clear perception by learning to take a detached view of things. Helps bring objectivity in thought.
2. LokAyat or Charvak about pratyaksh pramAN, only that which can be proved in any tangible way can be true, or to explain in today’s terminology, LokAyat darshan needs Data to accept a concept as valid. Encourages doubt and fosters critical reasoning.
In essence, these three together are essential to honing decision making skills, developing discretion and wisdom (विवेक बुद्धि). Only through wisdom, can one distinguish dharma from adharma, determine acceptable and unacceptable means for wealth creation (trade and economics) and make nuanced judgements and impart appropriate justice (one of the key expectations from a king). It is therefore of immense importance that a king learns “how to think and make decisions”. Hence, AnvIkshikI!
Let me explain with an example: Say 2 people read GItA. One will understand it as Krishna teaching Arjun his swadharma and do what must be done for the greater good and not giving in to his own selfish interests, even if it means having to fight with kins, for preserving righteosness/dharma is of paramount importance. The same story may be very well interpreted by the other reader as Krishna provoking Arjun to fight with his cousins and elders all for the sake of a petty kingdom, do whatever to gain material wealth. How the 2 readers assimilate knowledge and learn depends on how their mental faculties perceive the context and analyse the situation. This process of thinking, of assimilation and understanding is AnvIshikI. Now you see why it matters?
Our rishis were indeed men of very few words, but such is their depth that even a lifetime is not enough to figure them out. One whole day to grasp ONE page of ArthaShastra! (Or may be its just me, clear lack of AnvIkshikI )