'2,000 years later, we all want the same thing -- we want to live a healthy life, a life that has quality.'
'And Chanakya tells you exactly how to do that.'
What is the secret to a happy, successful life?
According to management guru and bestselling author Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai, having big dreams and earning a six figure salary is not it.
"You must have a purpose in life," insists Dr Pillai, whose recent book Art Of Winning: The Chanakya Way offers practical tips and strategies from Kautilya's Arthashastra and Chanakya Neeti. These tips, he says, can lead you to success.
"Whenever there is a challenging situation, I always wonder how Chanakya would solve the problem if he was alive today," says the Mumbai-based management guru, consultant and strategist, who is fondly known as Chanakya Pillai.
Dr Pillai is the director of the Chanakya Institute Of Public Leadership that trains future leaders by using ancient Indian wisdom.
In a career spanning two decades, he has worked with different sections of society and key decision makers of the country.
In 2009, Dr Pillai was honoured with the Sardar Patel Award for his extensive research and work on Chanakya's life.
In a telephone conversation with Divya Nair/Rediff.com, Dr Pillai explains why Chanakya's principles are relevant today.
How and when did you first read about Chanakya?
We have always had the culture of reading Indian sculptures and literature at home.
My parents introduced me to books very early in life. Growing up, I also participated in the Chinmaya Mission programme.
We used to read the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads at school. That's how I came across Arthashastra.
I started studying it to improve my knowledge about business management. It made me so curious that I went to a gurukul in Kerala and studied all the 6,000 sutras in the original Sanskrit.
Slowly, I started writing about Chanakya in magazines and newspapers.
I wrote several columns for Mumbai Mirror and my articles on Chanakya became popular.
My first book, Corporate Chanakya, was released in 2010. Today, I have written 21 books on Chanakya. And each book is different from the other.
With each book, how do you come up with a different theme inspired by Chanakya?
Even I am surprised. I've realised that it is the readers who make a book successful. And there is still a huge readership for these books.
You can write one good book about one person and be successful.
But, after 21 books, I realise there is still so much that can be written about Chanakya; that there is so much that people want to read about him.
I come up with different themes to address different readers.
What makes Chanakya so fascinating?
Chanakya is not the first strategist or author to write the Arthashastra. There were lot of gurus -- purva acharyas -- and leaders before him. Chanakya studied them all and compiled them into one book.
In Arthashastra, he has written about so many different topics.
The book was written centuries ago when the country was ruled by kings. But Chanakya had so much wisdom and foresight that, each time you read it, you will discover something new, something different.
The world has changed so much since he wrote the book. We are in the digital age now. But the basic principles haven't changed. They are eternal.
Even 2,000 years later, we all want the same thing -- we want to live a healthy life, a life that has quality. And Chanakya tells you exactly how to do that.
In his book, he talks about the principles of life at four different levels -- physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual. After reading it, I have reinterpreted these principles in a modern format and settingand applied them to current challenges and situations. And they work.
That, probably, is why he is so fascinating not only for me, but to everyone who has read about him.
How has your personal and professional life changed since you started reading Chanakya?
There is a 1000x transformation.
Before reading Chanakya, I was a simple boy from a middle class family who dreamt of doing well academically, getting a good job and retiring in peace.
I had a career in sales and led a very normal life.
After getting to know Chanakya, my thinking and perspective has changed drastically. Today, I am an entrepreneur, an author and a consultant working with a diverse set of people from different sectors.
When I was young, like most people, I had scribbled down my short and long term goals on paper. This was before Chanakya happened.
A few years ago, when I looked at this list, I realised I had already achieved most of my goals. Everything I am doing now is extra and beyond. None of this was planned.
I am the same person as far as my family is concerned. My friends's circle hasn't changed since childhood.
But I have also met the prime minister of the country. I interact with corporate houses at the top management and leadership levels. I also interact with academic leaders and spiritual gurus. I network with politicians and key decision makers on a daily basis.
Thanks to my knowledge about Chanakya, I can debate political science with a politician, share parenting tips with adults and discuss war strategy with officers from the army, navy and air force.
I am happy to share my learnings with them and curious to learn more with the blessings of Chanakya.
Was Chanakya really the smartest person of his time? What would you say were his weaknesses?
It is important to see both sides of any coin.
There is a good and bad side to everyone. Instead of looking at the bad side, maturity tells me to focus on the strengths and be aware of the weaknesses.
A lot of people have comparisons and criticisms to make about some of Chanakya's choices.
Chanakya was a very different strategist. Maybe the society he belonged to had different challenges. But he made Chandragupta Maurya the ruler of India's first global empire.
And he wasn't just a strategist. Chanakya was a guru, a researcher and an inspiring thought leader. He believed in scientific ideas, he was a good debater and, above all, a go-getter. He believed in the saying: Practice what you preach.
Do share your Chanakya mantra with our readers.
1. Please read a lot.
Unfortunately, our country doesn't have a good reading culture.
Ninety-three per cent of the books sold in India are textbooks.
If you want to be a good leader, if you want to be successful, you must read a wide variety of books.
2. Chanakya would say, 'Never fight a battle alone.' I'd like to modify that to, 'Don't always try to solve a problem alone. Take some friends along.'
- Part 2: 'Failure is not a negative word'