Offstumped – Commentary on India


Politics, Policy and all things Digital about India

The enlightened pursuit of self interest

It is unfortunate that those who dream of a mythical Rama Rajya have little appreciation of that native tradition of economic and strategic thinking  rooted in

#1 – limited role for the State in economic activity

#2 – freedom and autonomy to local community/government in economic choice

#3 – enlightened pursuit of self interest

While we we commonly associate this tradition with Kautilya’s Arthashastra it does appear to be of even older vintage.

Here are some verses from the Ramayana highlighting the same.

Rama on the enlightened pursuit of self interest   Ayodhya Kaanda, Chapter 1 – verses 26, 27 and 28

satsaMgrahapragrahaNe sthaanavinnigrahasya cha |
aayakarmaNyupaayajJNaH saMdR^ishhTavyayakarmavit ||

He knew the ways and means of getting income as well as the system of spending, as perceived by economic sciences.

shraishhThyaM shaastrasamuuheshhu praapto vyaamishrakeshhu cha |
arthadharmau cha saMgR^ihya sukhatantro na chaalasaH ||

Rama could obtain great skill in the groups of sciences along with their subsidiaries. He was interested in enjoying comforts only after understanding the economic realities. He never remained inactive

Rama on the enlightened pursuit of self interest   Aryana Kaanda, Chapter 43 – verse 34

arthii yena artha kR^ityena sa.mvrajati avicaarayan |
tam artham artha shaastraj~naH praahuH arthyaaH ca lakSmaNa ||

Those well versed in Arthashastra or economics and the other financially well-off people say that with which aspirational activity an aspirant unhesitatingly scurries and achieves it, that achieved target alone is lauded to be worthwhile, or, as real wealth

On Taxation and the contract with the State - Aranya Kaanda Chapter 6 verse 11

adhaarmaH sumahaan naatha bhavet tasya tu bhuupateH |
yo haret bali SaD bhaagam na ca rakSati putravat ||

Oh! , very great a-dharma, wrongness, will occur to that king who takes the sixth part of the country’s produce as cess, but does not safeguard his subjects like his own sons

On Taxation and the contract with the State - Ayodhya Kaanda Chapter 75 verse 25

bali SaD bhaagam uddhR^itya nR^ipasya arakSataH prajaaH |
adharmaH yo asya so asya astu yasya aaryo anumate gataH ||

“May the guilt of a king, who taking the sixth part of the revenue of his people fails to protect them, be fallen on them with whose counsel my elder brother went to exile.”

Vasishta on Commerce, Private Property and the Rule of Law – All of Chapter 67 Ayodhya Kaanda

Verse 22. araajake= in a ruler less; janapade= land; vaNijaH= traders; duura gaaminaH= who go to distant places; bahuvaNya samaachitaa= along with several merchandises; na gachchhanti= can not travel; kshhemam=safely; adhvaanam= on the path.”

“In a rulerless land, traders who go to distant places, carrying with them several merchandises, cannot travel safely in their voyages.”

Verse 31 – araajake= in a rulerless; janapade= land; na bhavati= there is no; svakam= one’s own property; kasyachit= for any one; naraaH= persons ; nityam= always; bhakshhyanti= eat away; parasparam= each other; matsyaah iva= like eating fishes .

“In a rulerless land, there is no one’s own property for any one. Like fishes, persons always eat away each other.”

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Filed under: Dharma-debates, economic freedom, Flat World Hindutva, Internet Hindus, Shveta Chhatra

20 Responses

  1. Vinay says:

    Great piece. It is absolutely true that Hindutva and free enterprise go hand in hand. Original ideologues of free enterprise such as Jay Dubashi (who were writing articles on the benefits of free enterprise at a time when Mrs. Gandhi had nationalized most of the production in India, leading to huge loss making enterprises) were associated with the Hindutva movement. We need to understand that Hindutva is really India’s conservative, right-center movement.

  2. Govind says:

    The pursuit of “Artha” has always been recognized as a legitimate and indeed irrepressible natural objective of human existence. However, that does not mean that in the Hindu scheme of things it was ever considered the primary motive, as it is in Capitalist societies. That would unbalance humans, unhinge minds and ultimately lead to social and ecological disaster. This kind of rabid market-based freeloading has destroyed several societies in the past that have, proverbially speaking, cut the very branches that they were sitting on in their greed for the wood. We witness this happening on a global scale today with the geo-cidal oil-based free-market capitalism that nobody seems to be able to put the brakes on. So if Rama rajya is a myth then this so-called “enlightened” self interest of your white intellectual masters is an even bigger one. What is truly unfortunate is that we brown coconuts cannot seem to help ourselves when it comes to regurgitating borrowed world-views. If it is not Karl Marx’s “laal topi” then it’s Adam Smith’s “oil-soaked chaddi” that we proudly sport. Thanks, but not thanks. The Ramayana is quite capable of standing on its own without either the Marxist or the Capitalist crutch, which is apparently not something that can be said about you my friend.

  3. offstumped says:

    Shri Govind – enjoys the comforts of American Capitalism while pontificating on “borrowed world views”. Shame on you for your hypocrisy (and I am not even reacting to your racist remarks).

  4. Govind says:

    Look who is talking about pontificating. I’m not the one with the preachy blog here. :-) I did not criticize any race, simply the slavish mindset that extolls the myth of American Capitalist comforts, while devaluing ones own historical heritage as mere myth. There have been instances in the past where kingdoms approximated a certain ideal eg the Israel of Solomon and the Persia of Cyrus. I don’t see patriotic Jews and Iranians running around delegitimizing their traditions as myth and condescendingly pooh-poohing other members of their community for believing. That seems to be the exclusive disease of intellectually colonized Indians fascinated by and striving to measure up to their great western standards.

  5. Balaji says:

    lol! Offstumped being criticized for not being loony enuf on Hindutva and some fancied Rama theory!

    Ramayana, ArthaSastra and Hindutva. None of these are about spirituality/religion. All three are about politics and statecraft. So comparing Ramayana with Arthasastra seems like a good exercise. Nobody need take any offense.

  6. Govind says:

    Yes, Balaji, it was indeed an appeal for more looniness from Offstumped. How perceptive of you. :-)

    As for the Ramayana not being about spirituality and religion, that assertion, in itself, takes the cake for looniness. Either that or you are a Hindu from a different cosmic dimension where Valmiki, Tulsidas, Vishwatmitra, Vashishtha etc. were political philosophers and not spiritual/religious poets.

    Certainly, lessons in politics and statecraft can be found in abundance or drawn liberally from the Hindu epics. However, that does not change the fact that these works are meant primarily to serve a moral, religious and spiritual purpose. In the Ramayana Rama is not held up merely as a shrewd politician or a great statesman, but as an Avatar, an embodiment of the Divine whose absolute insistence on right conduct is meant to serve as a morally uplifting ideal to his devotees and worshipers. And that is what he means to the vast body of Hindus who still worship him.

    Of course, one is free to interpret or misinterpret any literary work according to one’s own inclination. That does not make the Ramayana itself a political treatise or Shakespeare’s Hamlet a rip-roaring comedic farce.

  7. Bagas says:

    Judging by the responses to comments, looks like this theory is not open to dispute. Dogmatic and conservative. Anything goes I guess.

  8. offstumped says:

    You have an intellectual point to make go ahead my friend, don’t expect racist hypocrisy to be dignified with comments

  9. Govind says:

    And you my friend are free to live in the fantastic wonderland of yours where criticism of your intellectual slavery to western ideologies is racism, where Rama Rajya is a myth and where everyone who lives in your father land U.S.A (like the U.S.S.R once was for other Hindus before you) is just rolling in Capitalist comforts. Happy grovelling!!

  10. offstumped says:

    Shri Govind – Clearly Reading Comprehension is not your forte, you my friend are forgiven, time to move on.

  11. Govind says:

    The excuses keep coming. :-)

  12. psecular says:


    Nice compilation. Wow, how did you cherry pick these individual verses from vast ocean of slokas.Did you refer to any work which talks about statecraft & economics from our Itihasas perspective. ?


    Been observing your strong protests whenever Rama & Ramayana come into discussion.Wanted to confirm if your hatred for Rama, the epitome of Dharma & boot licking psychopathic love for villain, womanizer Raavana is based on baseless Aryan theory, built up hatred for sanskrit & viewing Rama and Ramayana as book of only a particular caste. Your reactions clearly show why many Tamils continue to vote for DMK. Interested in knowing how the DMK rationalist movement really succeeded, did people really have anger against certain classes & castes,how was it tapped, how were people rallied to shed common sense and age old traditions. Any place that you can refer me to. Thanks.


    whats your problem dude ?. Looks like the phrase “Mythical Rama Rajya” in this blog post pissed you off the most and threw u off the track ?. Take a deep breath and look around to see ground reality, stop using cliches.

  13. Pub Chick says:

    Govind, I’ve long wanted to do the looniest nut. You qualify I think.

  14. offstumped says:

    @psecular – no independent source just verse by verse reading aided by google for keyword search of the English transliteration and translation.

    A worthwhile project to undertake would be to transliterate all manuscripts and make them google searchable

  15. Govind says:

    @psecular I said my piece and held my peace. Hope no hard feelings.

    @Pub Chick Anytime, anywhere ma cherie ;-)

    @offstumped I second the motion!

  16. [...] In closing let us not forget that Rama stood for the enlightened pursuit of self interest – Dharma + Artha. [...]

  17. I fail to understand what Rama has to do with “enlightened self interest”. Where is the connection? Bunch of comments on taxation does not connect Rama and this thing in quotes above. Or am I missing something? Thanks for letting us know though that there was 17% tax in Rama’s Raajya!

  18. Pramod Kushwaha says:

    There is Communist/Leftist/Socialist funda that the social evils are because of lack of money. Doesn’t it mean that availabilty of money causes evils to disappear? The Capitalists have this same belief about the importance of money. A Socialist is nothing but a Capitalist with zero investment. The Socialist view that re-distribution of money can revive the economy is same as saying re-arranging things in your home can revive a dying man (another type of Vaastu!!)

  19. [...] borrow a phrase from the Left, a “neo-liberal” reading of Valmiki’s Ramayana and Vyasa’s Mahabharata would indeed possess “dangerous and unprecedented authority” as it [...]

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