In the previous verses, Narada Muni delicately reminded Yudhishthira that he has to use the six royal qualities to deal with the seven means of engagement. The six qualities were cleverness of speech, readiness to deploy resources, intelligence in dealing with the enemy, good institutional memory, knowledge of dharma shastras, and astute state policy. The emphasis through the section was on maintaining dharma as well as protecting one’s kingdom. Swami Chinmayananda called this the act of being ‘aggressively good’. Do not harm others, but never compromise your safety as well. Be rooted in righteousness and never permit compromises.
One of the best examples of this is Sri Krishna. Even though Sri Krishna was a cowherd, and not fighting the Mahabharata war, he was ever-prepared to counter the vile acts of the Kauravas. Sri Krishna could predict the moves of cunning Shakuni and also outwit him at his own game. The difference between Sri Krishna and Shakuni in using their cunning was that Sri Krishna would employ his tactics only for the cause of dharma. It would never be misused. It is from this standpoint that Sri Krishna could also advise Arjun to fight the war without the intention to harm. Sri Krishna instructed Arjun to stand and fight, to shoot his arrows, but never with hate. ‘Do it as your duty’, Sri Krishna implored, ‘because it is the right thing to do; not because you hate them’.
This is the clarity that is required of the leaders as well. We need to be aware of the opponent’s ploys and tactics, but never to misuse it or appropriate it for a wrong end. If we do not have this holistic understanding of dharma, it is very easy to misinterpret just one instruction and meet with our downfall.
Thereafter, Narada Muni goes on to ask Yudhishthira, ‘Do you test your own strengths and as well as the enemy’s in the fourteen ways?’ The sage asks Yudhishthira if he is aware of his own strengths and weaknesses against fourteen parameters. He demands that Yudhishthira also perform that check for his enemies.
There are fourteen possessions for a leader as well as for their opponents. Some of these would apply to all of us, whereas some would only apply to those in administrative or combative roles. The fourteen departments are:
Forts: In those days it would be the final bastions, however, today it could mean geo-sensitive zones. It could also include defense factories, where artillery is stored, etc.
Chariots: This could refer to tanks and missile carriers of these days.
Foot soldier/infantry: Also the population that is eligible to serve in the army.
Officers: The decision-making cadre.
Shelter homes: Especially during wars, shelter homes are necessary. Keep an eye on whether the enemy is building new ones, too.
Food supplies: Understand well the source, supply chain and the quality of food served to the soldiers. Know how many granaries your enemy has
Audit of the army: Be aware of the investments, expenses and the revenue being utilised by the army. Study the impact and consequences of military exercises and war.
Religious treaties: Even before foreign invasions, the kingdoms of India fought with one another. But they never faltered as a civilisation, they all adhered to religious and cultural principles. Women, children, the elderly and spiritual leaders wouldn’t be attacked. Places of worship, education and food storage shouldn’t be harmed. All these principles were violated when we were invaded by outsiders. These should never be compromised.
Treasury: The king must always be aware of the strength of his coffers and how much wealth is at his disposal.
Watering holes: Alcoholics and those who tend to visit wine shops let a lot of secrets and information spillover. It is important to keep information tight and restricted.
Secret enemies: The state’s intelligence team must spot these spies and know how to disengage them.
With these pointers, Narada Muni subtly reminds Yudhishthira that he should be ever-prepared in the event of a war.