By Swami Harshananda
Caturguṇa literally means ‘the four qualities’.
The scriptures have given a very high status to the king. They even refer to him as ‘pratyakṣa-devatā’ (‘visible deity’). His primary duty and responsibility was to protect the lives, properties, honor and religion of his subjects at any cost. Whatever he did for doing this, was considered dharma or righteousness, as long as he had no selfish or impure motives.
For this, he was advised to employ four kinds of ‘upāyas’ or means which were technically called ‘guṇas.’ They are:
- Sāma - Conciliation
- Dāna - Concessions, favors and gifts
- Bheda - Dissensions
- Daṇḍa - Conflict and war
The enemies of the State could be active internally as well as externally. The internal enemies are considered as the more dangerous ones. If any problem arise, king should first try for conciliation through sweet words, concessions, favors and gifts. If these tricks do not have the desired effect, then only he should secretly try to bring about dissensions among the enemies through spies of proven loyalty. Daṇda or war was to be the last resort.
Manu and Kauṭilya have dealt with this subject in details.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore