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Book excerpt: How to practice the ancient science of Aanvikshiki or logical thinking

In his new book Inside Chanakya’s Mind, Radhakrishnan Pillai makes Chanakya’s ideas on the power of logical thinking and inquiry accessible for a contemporary readership.

books Updated: Apr 14, 2017 08:29 IST

Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya is another name for Chanakya. Artha means ‘wealth’, in a broad sense, while shastra means ‘scripture’.

So, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, a book written by Chanakya, is considered to be a scripture on wealth.

Once a student and now a teacher of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, I have been amazed by this book again and again. Every time I read this book, it makes we wonder, ‘How can one man write on so many subjects in one single book?’ Yes, there are nearly 180 topics that Chanakya has written about in this book.

That is why it is called a scripture—something which contains ancient and eternal knowledge.

During my own research, I found that there were many Arthashastras before Chanakya wrote his own. The word ‘arthashastra’ was not invented or coined by Chanakya – it did exist before him. We find the earliest references to ‘arthashastra’ in the Rig Veda, the oldest Indian text.

The Arthashastra has been dealt with at length in the Mahabharata as well. Bhishma, the great grandsire, is considered as one of the great exponents and teachers of Chanakya’s work.

The Arthashastra is also considered as the science of politics, economics, warfare, and a text that relates to governance, leadership and strategy. It is also a book on law, foreign policy, international relations and how to rule a territory. ...

Aanvikshiki

Welcome to this new word.

Welcome to a new science.

Welcome to a new subject.

Welcome to a new way of thinking.

Welcome to a completely new world altogether.

Aanvikshiki – I call it the science of strategic thinking.

Some people call it critical thinking. R P Kangle, one of the profound scholars of the Arthashastra, called it philosophy.

Aanvikshiki is also logical thinking, scientific thinking, inquiry and research.

Swami Tejomayananda (the head of the Chinmaya Mission) in his classic composition Mana-shodham calls aanvikshiki a bhrama vidya—it is self-knowledge, enlightenment and a path leading to self-realization, moksha, nirvana and mukti.

Aanvikshiki is a Sanskrit word with various meanings. One has the freedom to interpret, reinterpret and even discover new meanings of the same word. ...

Let us go to the root word in Sanskrit, which most scholars regard as the most ancient, scientific and perfect language of the world. It is also called the mother of all languages.

Aanvikshiki is the combination of two words – anu and ikshiki. Anu means ‘atom’, the smallest part of anything. Ikshiki means ‘a person who wants to know’, an inquirer, a thinker, a researcher, an examiner or a logician. Therefore, aanvikshiki is the process of enquiring and right thinking, or the science of thinking. Now as a reader you can also offer your own interpretation after studying and practising aanvikshiki yourself.

Aanvikshiki was one of the names of Draupadi in the Mahabharata. She was a brilliant woman who had studied the science of thinking.

We find various mentions of aanvikshiki in other scriptures like the Shrimad Bhagawat, the Ramayana and even in the Upanishads. So, even though for us aanvikshiki is a new word, it was quite popular in ancient times.

Aanvikshiki in Kautilya’s Arthashastra

The first and opening chapter of Kautilya’s Arthashastra talks about aanvikshiki and its importance.

The prathama prakarna (first section), named ‘Vidyasamuddesha’ (enumeration of the sciences), starts with the chapter ‘Aanvikshiki Sthapana’ (establishing the necessity of thinking).

Chanakya wants his students to study aanvikshiki as their first subject. Imagine teaching thinking as the first subject in our education system. What an amazing way to begin.

If at all we could teach our children in schools to think, inquire, ask, question, apply logic and then establish and have their own individual conclusions, what a brilliant generation would come out of our schools, colleges and universities.

What we follow instead is herd mentality. Just do what others are doing. Go to school—study, get a degree, secure a job and education is over. This kind of system rarely helps to get the best out of an individual. From a datadriven education system, we need to move into a process of investigation and inquiry.

Let us teach our children to think and wonder, to imagine, to construct, to create, to dream, to visualize and to build their own future in a unique manner.

This is what Chanakya did in his education system. He wanted his students to be leaders. And the first quality of leadership is to think correctly and clearly. From such clarity comes good decision-making capacity. And sound decisions have an impact on everyone. ...

How to Practise Aanvikshiki

Investigating, by means of reasoning, what is spiritual good and evil in the Vedic lore, material gain and loss in economics, good policy and bad policy in the science of politics, as well as the relative strength and weakness of these three sciences.

One needs to investigate with reason. It is important to think logically and systematically.

So this kind of thinking is not just an emotional outburst. It is a well-thought-out process.

Practising aanvikshiki requires one to consider three things:

1. Good and evil (according to Vedic tradition—trai)

2. Material gain or loss (according to economics—vaarta)

3. Good policy and bad policy (according to the science of politics—dandaniti)

Additionally, it includes the consideration of the relative strength and weakness of the three sciences mentioned (trai, vaarta and dandaniti).

So, while thinking about something, we need to carefully measure its pros and cons. Is it spiritually good? Will it give any material gain? Is it the right policy decision?

Thus, when we consider various dimensions, we will be able to take the right and correct decision, weighing all the consequences.

What Is the Benefit of Aanvikshiki?

Aanvikshiki confers benefits on the people, keeps the mind steady in adversity and prosperity and brings about proficiency in thought, speech and action.

The best part of aanvikshiki is that it is not just a selfish way of thinking. It does not consider only personal gain. It confers benefits to everybody. It keeps the mind steady in all situations. Keeping ourselves calm and composed is the reward that aanvikshiki brings to a person. Be it adversity or prosperity, loss or gain, good or bad times, sickness or health – in all circumstances, we find that the practice of aanvikshiki helps maintain the balance of the mind.

It brings about proficiency in

1. Thought—it gives clear thinking (clairvoyance)

2. Speech—verbal communication

3. Action—there is perfection in all activities

And finally,

Aanvikshiki is ever thought of as the lamp of all sciences, as the means of all actions and as the support of all laws and duties.

This is the ultimate praise Chanakya accords to aanvikshiki.

Aanvikshiki is the guiding principle for everything in life. It is like a lamp guiding us in darkness. When we travel to an unknown region, we require a road map, a guide and some assistance. That support is aanvikshiki.

It is the guiding lamp (pradeep) of all sciences. It is the means and method of taking the right action. It is the supporter of all laws and duties.

Therefore, whatever we do using aanvikshiki as our foundation will be perfectly planned and executed, and results are guaranteed.

And all this will be ethical, legal, moral and spiritual. It will be completely dharmic, abiding laws and duties.

Inside Chanakya’s Mind: Aanvikshiki and the Art of Thinking
By Radhakrishnan Pillai
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin
Pages: 212
Price: Rs 350

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