The Ultimate Master

My English translation of a conversation between Chanakya and Chandragupta in the 2011 T.V. series, Chandragupta Maurya (the YouTube subtitles shall vastly differ).

(Seated beneath a tree in a forest, in the early hours of the morning, ere the sun rose, was Chandragupta. To his reminiscence came the memories of his late mother Moora, slain by the wicked Dhanananda, the mightiest emperor in Bhārata, and possibly in the world. Asudden he heard the rustling of leaves; the perspicuous sign of one who walked with purposed gait, approaching him from afar. Chandragupta, of nimble brawn, forthwith unsheathed his sword and turned to confront the mystery man. It was his guru, his mentor, Āchārya Chanakya.)

Chandragupta: Forgive me, Āchārya! (and he knelt on a knee, in customary greeting to his mentor)

Chanakya: Āyushmāna Bhava! (blessed the āchārya, wishing long life on his pupil)

(The āchārya, now long having known his pupil, discerned the storm within him)

Chanakya: Chandragupta! Needlessly indeed would one flay oneself over emprises past, or be unquiet about the future. That which now betides is the truth, and you must hearken to it. How, indeed, might you so do? Obtest to the power of the past, and with vigilance must you shape the present. Well then shall the morrows be.

Chandragupta: The morrows; the past. Verily do such matters grace your counsels, Āchārya. Yet a grey mist is about my morrows. That alone which I descry is the now, which vexes me without cease. A year and a half has it been, Āchārya, since my inroad into the Greek forces. (Pause) But how longer, Āchārya? Their uniforms gnaw at me, Āchārya! Fury enswathes me as I behold the Greeks tread over my motherland. A strong desire possesses me, that I may destroy them to the uttermost. Day or night, in slumber or awake, I feel disquiet; what if I am by now a slave to the Greeks, Āchārya?

Chanakya: Perchance you recall, Chandragupta! Erst had I had said that courage consists not in the absence of fear. Courage consists in facing fear, unyielding.

Chandragupta: Fear, you say. All of my fears vanished in that fateful moment, Āchārya, when the softest part of my mind — my mother — met her utter end. No longer does fear abide in me. That which dwells within is a fire; that of vengeance against Dhanananda!

Chanakya: Forswear not patience and mastery of the self, Chandragupta! For I have bidden you to keep the fire within in a temperate glow, and not to feed it the victual of destruction. It is whilst we master the flame that it serves our purpose. Fuel it but a little, and the uncurbed flare shall invite woes of untold measure. Therefore, O Chandragupta, proceed with calm forbearance.

Chandragupta: Must it be so by reason of my pledge to you?

Chanakya: Not to me alone was your word given, O Chandragupta! For to your mother also you owe such word.

(Memories flooded Chandragupta, of his dying mother as she lay in his laps, as his friends stood battling Dhanananda’s small contingent atop a cliff, when he was yet a boy. It was part of the āchārya’s design against the wicked emperor, purloining a lot of his treasured wealth, that it may be cast off the cliff into the flowing waters wherefrom it may be replevied and apportioned amongst the poorest. The design had succeeded but for Moora’s life, and the cunning āchārya, who had designed the arrival of Dhanananda atop the cliff nigh the enfolding of the fog, profited from that mist, that he, Chandragupta and his group may escape Dhanananda’s befogged men. “Slay that fiend, and liberate the people of Magadha, my son! You are destined to achieve Akhanda Bhārata! Give me your word, Chandu, promise me!” And he had said, “I promise, mother! Indeed I shall fulfill your dream!”)

Chanakya: Of many a trouble that might assail the homely peace, the greatest, speak the wise, must first be answered. It is thus that from the answer to the threat of Greeks shall there emerge a clearer path to subdue Dhanananda; a path of which you shall soon learn. Erelong after the Greeks depart shall we head for Pataliputra, and of this must you have faith.

Chandragupta: Then pray reveal, Āchārya, in what wise might the two of us evict those Greek forces by which Puru the Valiant himself was subdued.

Chanakya: Not with brawn but with cunning shall we fight the Greek pestilence.

(The āchārya walked a few steps towards an anthill, staring at it with purpose, as he bethought himself of a strategy)

Chandragupta (after a while): What have you designed, Āchārya?

Chanakya: That of which I have thought is not mere fancy, but stratagem. A twofold stratagem shall it be that foils Alexander’s attempts to cross the Vipasha River.

Chandragupta: Impossible is the quest you have set, Āchārya!

Chanakya: The wheel of time demands of us that we make the impossible, possible, Chandragupta! Naught short of Pralaya shall betide should Alexander cross the Vipasha River. Lakhs of denizens of Bhārata shall be slain. Thousands of valiant warriors of this country shall be martyred. Women of incredible count shall too soon be widowed. Slaughter shall betide. That which befell Sakala shall recur, and recur it shall on a larger scale.

(Bravely, it is said, did the small kingdom of Sakala fight against Alexander, but the invader proved too strong, and such was the bloodbath that the waters of the Vipasha turned crimson.)

Chandragupta: Plentily of zest are the Greeks blessed, Āchārya.

Chanakya: It is wise, then, first to destroy their reserves of these gifts. By this twofold stratagem shall be wrought the defence of the vast swathes of Bhārata yet untouched by Alexander, and by it shall the willpower of his army be reduced. His forces shall then be hollow from within. For such alone is the policy to which we have recourse. Should the thirst of his army for further conquest be subdued; should fear cast its spell on his soldiers, know that Alexander’s own strength shall fade.

Chandragupta: On what plinths does your twofold stratagem rest, Āchārya?

Chanakya: Two are the plinths of this stratagem, of which the first is thus: Beseech such soldiers in Alexander’s army as are from Bhārata, that their service be towards Bhārata, and not towards Alexander. Ponder, Chandragupta! Who are these soldiers in his army, who hail from Bhārata? They are soldiers who served in armies of regions in Bhārata that were vanquished. Cause them to bethink that they fight against their very brethren, serving the designs of a foreign conqueror, who has plundered their very regions; and who, with their very succour, seeks also to plunder the remnant regions of Bhārata. Impress so upon them. The second plinth of the two-pronged stratagem is thus: Instil fear within the Greeks. Affright them you must; by recourse to superstition and notions of ill fate, enswathe their minds with fear.

Chandragupta (turning away in vexation): For a year and a half I have been part of the Greek army, Āchārya! It is not with facility that their zest may be shattered by recourse to superstition. Worn nigh death might the Greek forces be, and yet but one cry of battle by Alexander stirs them to war.

Chanakya (after a pause, conspiratorially): Should matters be so, foremost must you enfeeble the morale of Alexander himself. I bid you wound his faith.

(A stunned Chandragupta turned to face his āchārya.)

Chanakya: Indradutt has told me that the Greeks are elementally a race of people who fear God. He who fears God must harbour superstition concerning God. I bid you manipulate their faith in and fear of God, and shatter their zest. As an instance, such soldiers in his camp as hail from Bhārata have deserted him.

(As if to signify the destruction of Greek forces once the soldiers in Alexander’s camps from Bhārata returned to fight for their motherland, the cunning mentor lit the anthill with a piece of blazing wood.)

Chanakya: Much trouble you shall not confront in morphing their faith into blind faith. You have free rein, Chandragupta! You could disseminate any number and any forms of untruths. (with a purposed pause) And discharge your designs in the name of Dhanananda.

Chandragupta (with a note of defiance and ire): Dhanananda?

Chanakya: The Greeks have knowledge, that the most powerful kingdom in Bhārata, is Magadha, which is ruled by Dhanananda. Of the potency of Dhanananda, and of his army, disseminate tall tales amongst the Greeks.

Chandragupta (defiant but not loud): Of him whom I ever dream of killing; you will that I must sing praises of that very Dhanananda?

Chanakya: Two enemies you may confront, and yet prevail you shall should you wisely keep them in confrontation with one another. It was but a few days ago that you cauterized their weapons depot in Sakala. Let tales of that affair be the beginning of your quest. Tell them tall tales of the mystical powers of the army of Magadha. Vividly describe to them the dance of destruction performed in Sakala by Maurya. Scare them with the name of Maurya.

Chandragupta: Maurya? Who, pray, is Maurya, Āchārya?

(Chanakya recalled that fateful night, when, hours after he had outwitted a hunter who had enslaved a very young Chandragupta, and rescued him, he had brought him home to his mother and sought shelter for the night at her humble abode. After the boy had drifted off to calm repose, the āchārya had conversed with Moora, convincing her to entrust the boy to his care; that he may take him to the university of Takshashila to mentor him, and make him the suzerain of all Bhāratavarsha. When she had relented, he had blessed her with the words, “History shall ever remember your sacrifice. In Akhanda Bhārata, by your name shall your son be remembered. The son of Moora, Chandragupta Maurya!”)

Chanakya: The son of Moora, Maurya. Nonce use this name, and none shall identify him. But ere too long shall this name be a by-word for valour, for sacrifice, and shall epitomize Akhanda Bhārata. And this name shall history for ages remember.

Chandragupta (to himself): Maurya!

(On a sudden impulse, he glanced at his guru, and discerning the determined blaze in the eyes of the ultimate master that the āchārya was, he knelt before him, and the guru raised his hand in a blessing as the sun dawned on the day of a new hope; the day when began the shrewd master’s stratagem against the invading Alexander).

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Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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Samved Iyer

Samved Iyer

Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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