Śhānti Parva broadly elaborates the duties of the ruler, dharma, compassion and good governance. It contains lessons on these virtues given by dying Bhīṣma to Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers. It also contains words from sage Vidura. Śānti Parva has three parts or sub-books: Rājadharma Anuśāsanaparva Parva, elaborating the duties of kings; Apadharma Anuśāsanaparva Parva, focusing on the rules of conduct while facing adverse situation; and, Mokṣa Dharma Parva, elaborating behavior and rules to achieve Mokṣa. One can argue that peace remains the central theme of the book, amidst conflict and war. The book goes deep into the roots of hatred and war and focuses on ahiṃsā or non-violence as imperative for a happy life. It adopts a philosophical and spiritual approach to war while arguing that war ends neither in victory nor defeat, but in great destruction and death. It discusses the legitimate source and use of power, and moral duty to revolt when it turns into tyranny. While accepting conflicts as inevitable parts of human life, it argues that truth is the supreme guiding principle for the kings. According to Bhīṣma, “There is nothing which leads so much to the success of kings as Truth, the king who is devoted to Truth enjoys happiness both here and hereafter. Even to the Rishis, O king, Truth is the greatest wealth. Likewise, for the kings, there is nothing that so much creates confidence in them as Truth.” In many ways, the book holds a mirror image of our contemporary society in which corruption and misuse of power have created myriad conflicts and reveals how Truth, particularly in the relations between the states, can help resolve many of these conflicts.
In this course the students will be able to:
- Recognize the centrality of this ancient document, created in a battlefield, in a discourse on conflict and peace.
- Find many key elements of statecraft in this document, which are relevant to interstate relations in the modern world.
- To explore the ethical underpinnings of statecraft and how to uphold Dharma in a chaotic time.
Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies
Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study
Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra