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Katha Series – Hanumān Teaches Humanity: Strategic Approaches in Conflicts

When we study current affairs in the geo-political, economic and military fields, we find that the lessons from itihasas are very much relevant for our times. This series will focus specifically on what we can learn from Hanumānji.

So many theories are being floated on how terrorists or dictatorial regimes of today should be handled. Hanumānji teaches a great lesson from the Sundara Kānda.

After an eventful crossing of the ocean and exploring the glorious Lankā, Hanumānji meets Sitāji in the Ashoka vana. Sitāji is moved to tears seeing Sri Rāma’s ring, and cries in both anxiety and hope. Hanumānji reassures her that Sri Rāma will come immediately to rescue her, and takes her leave.

Now, he thinks. “Having come all the way, can I do something productive before heading back? Why cannot I try to meet Rāvana and understand what he is thinking? I can also find out the true prowess of the Rākshasas to inform Sugreeva to prepare for the war.” Hanumānji then ponders on the best way to accomplish the above goals.

The four upāyas – the strategies – of sāma, dāna, bheda and danda are very popular through our itihāsās, dharma shāstras all the way up to Kautilya’s artha shāstra. Sāma indicates peaceful negotiations, dāna relates to giving incentives/gifts to diffuse the situation, bheda is using strategies to trick or create discord and confusion within the enemy, and finally, danda is a physical attack. Typically, dharma shāstras recommend we start with sāma, and proceed with subsequent steps only if the previous fails. The guidance is to keep danda only as a last resort.

However, when pondering on his strategy, Hanumānji analyzes the situation and decides he has to go directly to danda. Why?

He thinks aloud.

“न साम रक्षह्सु गुणाय कल्पते |

न दनम् अर्थ उपचितेषु वर्तते |

न भेद साध्या बल दर्पिता जनाः |

पराक्रमः तु एष मम इह रोचते ||”

“In the case of demons, sāma – the strategy of negotiation is not aligned to their character. For those persons having abundant wealth, dāna – the strategy of incentives or bribery is not suitable. For persons who are proud of their strength, bheda – the strategy of sowing dissension is not amenable. Danda – prowess alone is agreeable for me here.” (Adapted from

Having decided, he creates havoc in the Ashoka vana, uprooting trees, breaking the walls, then fights with the rākshasas… and the story goes on!

Before that, Hanumānji also states an important fact –

यो हि अर्थम् बहुधा वेद स समर्थो अर्थ साधने ||

“Whoever knows how to do a task in all the ways – sāma, dāna, bheda, danda – he alone is capable of achieving that task.”

What is our take away from this episode for today?

Significant time, money and effort can be lost if we do not pick the strategy that serves the situation best. Countries lose time with sāma, squander money with dāna, find themselves in a political mess with bheda and finally decide to use danda. While this may be the appropriate approach in some cases, depending upon the enemy, it may not always be the optimal approach. Hanumānji was able to clearly assess the enemy and skip the first three strategies to go directly to danda.

We need to be smart – “samartha” – in all four strategies and need to know when to use what. This above is true especially for governments when dealing with foreign powers or terrorists. They need to be “samartha” in all four strategies and need to pick and use the right strategy decisively.

Katha Series

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