A commentary on the vairin-s and the like of Viṣṇuśarman’s tradition
In one sense Viṣṇuśarman’s political presentation was nothing short of revolutionary. One may rightly ask: why so? One could say after all he was merely encapsulating in tales the principles already laid out by the ancient ārya-s and thoroughly presented by Viṣṇugupta Cāṇakya before him. To counter it one may say the proof is in the pudding it – brilliant as it was, the Arthaśāstra was forgotten even by the Hindus (although much to their detriment). But the tantra-s of Viṣṇuśarman were widely appreciated as a serious educational text, be it by the Zoroastrian Iranians, the Syrians, or even our enemies, the marūnmatta-s of Arabia and Turkey. For example, it was part of the “curriculum” of Sultan Suleyman the Osman Amir al-Momin who carried marūnmāda deep into the lands conquered earlier by pretonmāda.
Yet the primary reason why we stress the revolutionary nature of Viṣṇuśarman’s teaching is because of this:
iśvarāṇām idaṃ tantraṃ prāyeṇautsukyam āvahet |
yatas tiraścāṃ caritair nītimārgaḥ pradarśyate ||
This text of the gods might appear puzzling due to its teachings;
However, it intends illustrating by actions of animals the path of right politics.
Human politics is ultimately biological in origin; hence, other examples from the biological world, examples from fellow animals as Viṣṇuśarman used, should be taken seriously. As we have briefly pointed out before Viṣṇuśarman was a keen observer of biological conflict in nature. It is with this lesson in mind one can understand this story fully. Likewise, an example is also expounded in this story. Human conflict is just another animal conflict and should be analyzed with the same lens rather than creating constructs that have no foundations in the world of the living.
So what Viṣṇuśarman was doing was to put the nature of politics back into its primal context. He was not the first to do this among the ārya-s though he was perhaps one of the most effective in presenting this. The history of this tradition goes back to our national epic the Mahābhārata, where one encounters the tale of the long-necked camel’s death at the jaws of the jackal couple. This is a lesson in optimization seen in nature: the camel by acquiring a very long neck greatly increased the ease with which it procured food; however, this made it clumsy and vulnerable to predation, which ultimately brought its end. Indeed, such teachings were provided even earlier by king of the gods Indra in the ṛgveda itself albeit in a very cryptic form to Vasukra; e.g.:
idaṃ su me jaritar ā cikiddhi
pratīpaṃ śāpaṃ nadyo vahanti ।
lopāśaḥ siṃham pratyañcam atsāḥ
kroṣṭā varāhaṃ nir atakta kakṣāt || RV 10.28.4
Know well this [teaching] of mine O chanter [of mantra-s] (i.e. Vasukra),
the resisting debris is borne away by the rivers,
the fox stealthily (atsār Vedic luṅ of the latterly rare verb tsarati) proved a match for the lion,
the jackal charged at the boar from its [secret] hiding place.
Here we merely present this to indicate the presence of such tales in the teachings of the gods in the RV itself (i.e. iśvarāṇām idaṃ tantraṃ) but shall not get into the cryptic intricacies of the RV text.
Returning to Viṣṇuśarman we shall now look into an important teaching regarding conflict in the second tantra. Now any student of the Pañcatantra should realize that in learning lessons from it one needs to keep dharma in mind – that it has many textures and contextual wrinkles that are important for its correct application, else one may look like a “vasudhaiva kuṭuṃbakam ।” mouthing Indian politician or the bābājī of this story. The point we are going to talk about is presented in the conversation between the mouse Hiraṇyaka and the crow Laghupatanaka.
hiraṇyaka āha: aho tvaṃ bhoktā | ahaṃ te bhojya-bhūtaḥ | tat kā tvayā saha mama maitrī ? tad gamyatām | maitrī virodha-bhāvāt katham ? uktaṃ ca-
The mouse Hiraṇyaka said: Well, you are the eater. I am among those who become food. Thus, how can my friendship be with you. You ought to leave. What friendship can exist between opposite natures. It has been said [in the texts]:
yayor eva samaṃ vittaṃ yayor eva samaṃ kulam |
tayor maitrī vivāhaś ca na tu puṣṭa-vipuṣṭayoḥ || (1)
Only the two whose wealth is similar; only the two whose clans are of similar [standing],
can have friendship and marriage; indeed, it cannot be between the well-endowed and unendowed.
yo mitraṃ kurute mūḍha ātmano ‘sadṛśaṃ kudhīḥ |
hīnaṃ vāpy adhikaṃ vāpi hāsyatāṃ yāty asau janaḥ || (2)
tad gamyatām iti |
Moreover: The dim-witted idiot who makes friends with those unlike himself,
with a lesser or a greater one, such a person ends up as a laughing-stock.
You ought to go.
vāyasa āha: bho hiraṇyaka ! eṣo ‘haṃ tava durga-dvāra upaviṣṭaḥ | yadi tvaṃ maitrī na karoṣi tato ‘haṃ prāṇa-mokṣaṇaṃ tavāgre kariṣyāmi | athavā prāyopaveśanaṃ me syāt iti |
The bird said: Hey Hiraṇyaka! I have [just] alighted at your fort-door. If you do not make friendship then I will give up my life in front of you or else I may starve to death.
hiraṇyaka āha: bhoḥ ! tvayā vairiṇā saha kathaṃ maitrīṃ karomi ? uktaṃ ca-
Hiraṇyaka said: Hey! What friendship can I make with you an enemy. It has been said [in the texts]
vairiṇā na hi sandadhyāt suśliṣṭenāpi sandhinā |
sutaptam api pānīyaṃ śamayaty eva pāvakam || (3)
Never enter an entente with with an enemy however strongly tied he may be by the alliance
[for] water even if well heated puts off fire.
vāyasa āha: bhoḥ ! tvayā saha darśanam api nāsti | kuto vairam ? tat kim anucitaṃ vadasi ?
The bird said: Hey! I have not even had a glimpse of you. What enmity? Why are you uttering such unfitting [words]?
hiraṇyaka āha: dvividhaṃ vairaṃ bhavati | sahajaṃ kṛtrimaṃ ca | tat sahaja-vairī tvam asmākam | uktaṃ ca-
Hiraṇyaka said: There are two types of enmity: natural and incidental. Now, you and us are natural enemies. It has been said [in the texts]:
kṛtrimaṃ nāśam abhyeti vairaṃ drāk kṛtrimair guṇaiḥ |
prāṇa-dānaṃ vinā vairaṃ sahajaṃ yāti na kṣayam || (4)
Incidental enmity comes to an end swiftly with specifically made reparations,
[however,] natural enmity does not come to an end without the death [of the foes]
vāyasa āha: bhoḥ ! dvividhasya vairasya lakṣaṇaṃ śrotum icchāmi | tat kathyatām |
The bird said: Alright! I wish to hear the characteristics of the two types of enmity; sir, may they be described.
hiraṇyaka āha: bhoḥ ! kāraṇena nirvṛtaṃ kṛtrimam | tat-tad-arhopakāra-karaṇād gacchati | svābhāvikaṃ punaḥ katham api na gacchati | tad yathā nakula-sarpāṇāṃ, śaṣpabhuṅ-nakhāyudhānāṃ, jala-vahnyoḥ, deva-daityānāṃ, sārameya-mārjarāṇāṃ, īśvara-daridrāṇāṃ, sapatnīnāṃ, siṃha-gajānāṃ, lubdhaka-hariṇānāṃ, śrotriya-bhraṣṭa-kriyāṇāṃ, mūrkha-paṇḍitānāṃ, pativratā-kulaṭānāṃ, sajjana-durjanānām | na kaścit kenāpi vyāpāditaḥ| tathāpi prāṇān santāpayanti |
Hiraṇyaka said: Yes! Incidental [enemity] is produced by particular causes. Thus, it goes away when a suitable act reparation is made. Again, natural enmity never ever goes away. Thus, it is like that between: mongooses and snakes, herbivores and carnivores (literally armed with claws), fire and water, deva-s and daitya-s, dogs and cats, rich and poor, between competing wives, lions and elephants, hunters and deer, Vedic ritualists and rite-breakers, fools and scholars, chaste wives and sluts, good and evil people. Though no one of these has harmed the other [in the pair] with a particular [cause] they still fight to take the others life (What is being implied is their conflict does not arise due a particular redressable affront (as in the kṛtrima enmity) but it is natural, i.e. by their very existence they are enemies of each other).
tac ca svābhāvikaṃ vairaṃ dvividhaṃ bhavati । ekāṅga-vairam ubhaya-vairaṃ ca ||
And then natural enmity is of two types: unilateral enmity and bilateral enmity.
vāyasa āha: kas tayor viśeṣaḥ?
The bird said: What are the special features of the two?
so ‘bravīt: yo vihanyāt parasparam । anyo’nyena bhakṣyate । parasparāpakārāt tad ubhayavairam । yathā siṃha-gajānāṃ । yaḥ pūrvam eva hatvā bhakṣayati na ca+asau tasya+apakaroti na hinasti na bhakṣayati । tad ekāṅgavairam akasmāt yathā aśva-mahiṣāṇāṃ mārjāra-mūṣakānām ahi-nakulānām । kim aśvo mahiṣasya sarpo vā babhro muṣako vā mārjārasya+apakaroti । tat sarvathā kim aśakyena samayakāraṇena ?
He (Hiraṇyaka) said: Bilateral [arises] enmity from the killing of each other, when the two eat each other, from the harm each causes the other, like that between lions and elephants (i.e. they attack each other). When one kills and eats the other, though the other does not harm it or injure it or eat it then it is unilateral enmity without [reciprocal] reason, like that between horses and buffaloes, cats and mice, snakes and mongooses. Why does a horse harm a buffalo or a snake a mongoose, or a mouse a cat? Then why [use] all means to create an impossible alliance?
• The first major white scholar of the Pañcatantra Hertel produced critical editions of several Pañcatantra recensions. In white indological enterprise he was followed by Edgerton who attempted to reconstruct the original Pañcatantra of Viṣṇuśarman, whom he without any strong reason thought to be fictitious. While Edgerton’s judgment that the original was a more coherent piece than many of the later recensions was correct, we do not consider his reconstruction to be perfect. In this particular case we have not followed his reconstruction but provide a more extended narrative including parts Edgerton has left out from the reconstructed ancestor (the verses are numbered serially). We have taken this material from Ramchandra Jha and DD Kosambi’s editions (the latter being quite a good effort despite the author’s ideological leanings). We believe it is difficult to be sure of the exact form of the original for this narrative.
• A naturalist might see conflicts forming the frame of Viṣṇuśarman’s narratives in real life. For example, in our youth as we were stumbling out into the then well-wooded parking lot of our university campus we saw a white laboratory mouse, which had escaped and was scurrying away towards the undergrowth. It was targeted by a crow-couple, which was actively cooperating in the hunt. One, swooping down, created a distraction with its wings and caused the mouse to run in the opposite direction into an ambush laid by the other crow, which with one strike of its beak disemboweled the mouse. Then two crows tore into their little meal. The mouse in a very general sense represents a baseline mammalian body-plan, which has been present since the near contemporaneous rise of the dinosaurs and mammals in the Mesozoic. Indeed, small fossil mammals have been found the fossilized gut contents of more than one dinosaur. Thus, such a conflict between a mammal of such a form and a dinosaur have been now playing out for over 225 million years: a true svābhāvika-vairam as Hiraṇyaka terms it.
• Viṣṇuśarman also mentions the bilateral conflict between lions and elephants, which may appear unfamiliar to the modern Hindu. While lions are today nearly gone in India, in his days such conflicts must have been known in the wild. We do have examples of such today in Africa as can be seen from this video. [http://www.arkive.org/lion/panthera-leo/video-11b.html] We do not know much of the buffalo-horse conflict in real life though we have, much to our terror, experienced more than once the sudden violent behavior of domesticated Indian buffaloes – something which could also easily spook horses. Moreover, in Viṣṇuśarman’s days wild buffalo was common in India and must have been quite an aggressive animal like the African buffalo, which has been reported to be a threat to horses.
• Other observations by Viṣnuśarman elsewhere in the PT also point to his keen eye for conflict in nature. For instance he says:
arito ‘bhyagato bhṛtyaḥ śatru-saṃvās-tatparaḥ ।
sarpa-saṃvāsa-dharmitvān nityodvegena dūṣitaḥ ||
A follower defecting from the enemy-side intent on living with his [former] foemen,
has the problem of causing constant worry [like] having to cohabit with a serpent.
plakṣa-nyagrodha-bījāśāt kapotād iva śālmaleḥ ।
mūlotkhātakaro doṣaḥ paścād api bhayaṃkaraḥ ||
Like the [danger] of the silk-cotton tree from a dove
which has eaten seeds of a plakṣa or banyan tree,
of being strangled to death by their roots
this indeed possess a future threat.
Here the possibility of a defecting enemy (coming in peace like a dove) turning against one is compared to the danger to a silk-cotton tree of accepting a dove which has feed on the figs of a Ficus virens or Ficus benghalensis tree and defecates on it. This illustrates Viṣnuśarman’s knowledge of strangler figs. In practical terms if Hindus had kept this in mind they would have perhaps avoided the debacle at Talikota caused from accepting the foes into their camp.
• The concept of the natural enmity expounded by Viṣnuśarman is something very apparent to any student of biological conflicts. There need not be a proximal reason for the conflict: it comes from something very deep or encoded in the biology, like in conflicts associated with interactions of prey-predator, host-parasite, or resource competitors. By their very existence the two organisms are vairin-s. Indeed, here extinction of one of the players can be only outcome and the constant arms race can continue over millions of years. The great biologist Leigh van Valen’s Law of Extinction is a manifestation of this: the probability of extinction for clade is constant and is independent of how long a species or clade might have existed. Unless a species constantly develops new weaponry to survive conflict it becomes extinct. But then what ever its adaptations it might encounter a predator or a parasite or a competitor that it lacks of the defenses against and can go extinct.
• This concept has bearing even in human conflict within with a memetic component. Modern leftism-liberalism, almost as thought to conceal its Abrahamistic roots, tries to paint all conflict in terms of proximal causes or causes stemming from nurture, as though they were kṛtrima-vairam. Thus, it hides and actively provide cover for the svābhāvika-vairam that is intrinsic to Abrahamism. In this context, it is notable that the Pañcatantra sees the īśvara-daridrāṇāṃ vairam as belonging to the svābhāvika type. This is rather distinct from Marxian view of it where the class-struggle results from the particular cause of the bourgeoisie appropriating the surplus value of the wealth generated by the proletariat without participating in the labor. The view of the Pañcatantra puts it back in the more primal category of the natural conflict, which exists in primate societies between individuals of different rank with fitness consequences. Thus, lower ranked individuals might try to overthrow the higher ranked ones to acquire their rank and the corresponding fitness benefits. This is what we see when Marxian doctrines are actually practiced rather than their flattened non-biological utopia.
• Again Viṣnuśarman classifies the natural enmity into two types – bilateral and unilateral. One might see this as the “hawk-hawk” versus the “hawk-dove” conflict scenarios. However, this also has implications for human conflicts. When two heathen groups fight it might be from a particular cause (kṛtrima-vairam) or svābhāvika-vairam. When the two heathen groups vastly differ in their social, racial or technological backgrounds the outcome is typically a svābhāvika-vairam. Thus, the Moriori being eaten by the Maori is a typical prey-predator interaction type of svābhāvika-vairam. Such interactions might have played out many times in the pre-modern and even modern tribal conflicts, like the Paleo-Eskimos probably being destroyed by the Neo-Eskimos and in recent times the pygmies being eaten by large-bodied tribal groups in Africa. Indeed, this illustrates the wisdom of the advice provided in the first of the verses in the above-quoted section.
• But where an Abrahamistic power is involved in a conflict it almost always needs to be analyzed as a svābhāvika-vairam. This is a natural consequence of the Mosaic distinction (vide Assmann) element of the Abrahamistic meme-complex. Indeed, such a type of enmity had already been foreseen by the wise Viṣṇuśarman when he presents śrotriya-bhraṣṭa-kriyāṇāṃ vairam in the svābhāvika category. This enmity between the Vedic ritualist and those of who have given up ritual mirrors that arising from the militant “New Atheists”, liberal rationalists, and other variants of today. Moreover, when the conflict involves two Abrahamistic powers, say USA and the Moslems or Judaists and Moslems, it should be analyzed as the bilateral type of the svābhāvika-vairam. On the other hand when it involves an Abrahamistic power and a heathen power (e.g. India) it should be analyzed primarily as the unilateral type of the svābhāvika-vairam. These details are exactly, what the leftist-liberalist authors (e.g. Jared Diamond) try to obfuscate and keep out of sight.
• Unfortunately, modern Hindus have lost the wisdom of their wise forebears like Viṣṇuśarman. Hence, they were unable to correctly discriminate svābhāvika-vairam from kṛtrima-vairam. A stark e.g. is presented by events concern the partition of Jambudvīpa. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was very clearly presenting his case, which Hindus should have realized as being from svābhāvika-vairam. Instead, addled with secularism they thought it was something proximal about people who wanted to go to Pakistan or the territorial separateness of Pakistan relating to political aspirations of marūnmatta-s. Furthermore, by treating the problem with the Abrahamists as one of kṛtrima-vairam the Hindus are hiding from themselves one of the most dreadful truths of svābhāvika-vairam i.e. “prāṇa-dānaṃ vinā vairaṃ sahajaṃ yāti na kṣayam |”
• One can ask if there are extensions to the old Hindu discourse on vairam from biology or modern geopolitics. One well-known conflict is that between the myxoma virus and rabbits in Australia. Here, after starting with a bang and decimating rabbits by the millions the myxoma virus settled to a much milder form. This was because the highly virulent forms were selected against as they exhausted their hosts too quickly to sustain further transmission. Thus, the milder forms eventually won out. Some might ask could this not happen to pretonmāda and marūnmāda. Being parasites of the mind such hopes are limited because they, these days marūnmāda in particular, can be bloody within and without. So even if there is a civilizational decline upon exhaustion of the heathen prey (e.g. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the European Dark Age) there are no major fitness consequences for the meme, thus making attenuation of virulence towards heathens unlikely. One can compare this scenario to the arrival of Austronesians on certain Pacific islands where they quickly drove the native fauna to extinction (e.g. the many birds of New Zealand) without any attenuation of predatory practices. After they had exhausted such prey cannibalism seems to have been prevalent – an analogy to the “bloody within and without (vide Huntington)” state.
• One geopolitical example one can consider is Japan a heathen nation following its defeat by white Christians and Marxians. Did their enmity not largely end some might ask. We would say that the enmity has not really ended – it is only a period of quiescence – like a pride of lions fleeing from an irate herd of elephants attacking them for the cost of pursuing the conflict at that point is to high for one side. It is not as if the US did not try to impose pretonmāda on Japan. It tried and continues to try, as major pretabhāṇaka outfits continue to call for volunteers to go east and achieve what they did in Korea. On the other hand, some have also felt that Japan has retaliated by means such as the automobile industry against their conquerors. So because of the power differential we say that the battle-ground has shifted for now but the svābhāvika-vairam has not ended.
• Finally, one wonders why, as Monier-Williams had remarked, the Hindus have failed to put their ancestors’ teachings into practice. Perhaps, a part of the answer lies in Viṣṇuśarman’s words themselves. Among the svābhāvika-vairāṇi he lists mūrkha-paṇḍitānāṃ vairam. It is notable that this is termed svābhāvika because a modern might reason that when a mūrkha receives appropriate education he would become a paṇḍita thus putting this enmity in the kṛtrima category. However, from our observations on fellow Hindus we suspect that Viṣṇuśarman was correct. As we have remarked before on more than one occasion (also see this ākhyāna) there are several H who are well-educated and seemingly even intelligent (as in possessing markers of above-average IQ) but exhibit a very natural animosity towards any meaningful pāṇḍityam. Moreover, the Hindu mass tends to gravitate with great celerity towards the inane and the erroneous while ignoring the perspicacious – this after all might be a sign of that deep svābhāvika divide between the mūrkha and the paṇḍita which the text talks about. Moreover, as civilizations reach old age the mūrkhatā perhaps tends to win in this mūrkha-paṇḍitānāṃ vairam, but then that is a story for some other time.