Shanti Parva 5 - Bheeshma Niti
Bheeshma then told the story of King Ambarisha, who went to heaven after death and saw that his commander Sudeva was in an exalted position. He asked Indra how his commander was in a higher position than him when he had done so many sacrifices and done charity. To this, Indra told him that Sudeva was ready to sacrifice himself for his king. He never showed fear and showed valour in battle, which is why he was in an exalted position in heaven.
Bheeshma then advised that a king must use crooked means where necessary to fight the enemy. Leather from boa, bull, and elephant skin with thorns and iron should be used to make the armour for soldiers. Sufficient axes, leather shields, spears, and swords must be stored. Wars should be fought in Chaitra and Margashira months when the weather is good.
Camps must be set up near water sources. Forest clearings must be identified where soldiers can hide to regroup. The army should have more foot soldiers. The use of Suchimukha or needle army formation is helpful when a small army is fighting. The enemy should spread propaganda that the enemy is routed. Use of drums and trumpeting elephants helps to confuse the enemy.
War should not be the first option, and conciliation should be attempted. Victory through war should not be preferred by a king. Spies should be used to create dissent among the enemies. A king should neither be too fierce nor too mild. A good king is one who is ready to endure both victory and defeat.
Bheeshma advised Yudhishthira that a wise man should ignore the words of a stupid man. Bheeshma narrated the story of a faithful dog that lived with a sage. The dog, which was scared of a leopard, requested the sage to turn it into a leopard, and the sage obliged. When the leopard saw a tiger, it was scared and asked the sage to make him into a tiger. The sage turned the leopard into a tiger.
In this way, the tiger became an elephant, and then a lion. When a deadly Sharabha came to the forest, the sage turned the lion into a sharabha. The sharabha then tried to eat the sage, and the sage turned him back into a dog and threw him out. Bheeshma told Yudhishthira that servants appointed by the king must not be like the dog who was not faithful.
Bheeshma then explained about Apad Dharma. In apath or an emergency situation, where a weak king has to face a strong enemy, the king must ensure he is not taken captive. The king must try to make a pact with the enemy or retreat and protect oneself. It is also possible that the king can win the war with the help of brave and committed soldiers.
The path of dharma is not easy to follow, and the examples set by rajarshis who have practiced dharma should be followed by kings. The king must protect his treasury, and one who loses his treasury loses everything.
Dharma comes from strength. Dharma provides strength like a tree provides support for a creeper. Even a bandit will obtain success if he follows dharma and does not commit sins. In times of danger, one must not waste time and act fast.
…. to be continued