Welcome to this new word.
Welcome to a new science.
Welcome to a new subject.
Welcome to a new way of thinking.
Welcome to a completely new world altogether.
Aanvikshiki—I call it the science of strategic thinking. Some people call it critical thinking. R.P. Kangle, one of the profound scholars of the Arthashastra, called it philosophy. Aanvikshiki is also logical thinking, scientific thinking, inquiry and research.
Swami Tejomayananda (the head of the Chinmaya Mission) in his classic composition Mana-shodham calls aanvikshiki a bhrama vidya—it is self-knowledge, enlightenment and a path leading to self-realization, moksha, nirvana and mukti.
Aanvikshiki is a Sanskrit word with various meanings. One has the freedom to interpret, reinterpret and even discover new meanings of the same word.
The only rule is that the meaning of the word should help us elevate our thinking. As long as this is taken care of, one can give new dimensions and perspectives, depending on our understanding.
Let us look at the word ‘dharma’. It means ethics, morale, righteousness, duty, responsibility and many more. One can even give new meanings to it.
However, let us look at the Sanskrit meaning of ‘dharma’ to understand the word better. Dharma comes from the root word dhir, meaning ‘to hold’. So dharayati iti dharma means dharma is ‘that which holds’.
Nothing can exist without something. It is the very essence of a thing, the very nature and property of an object. So, what is the dharma of fire? It is heat and light. Remove heat and light from fire, it will no more be fire at all. Remove sweetness from sugar and it is no more sugar.
Dharma is the very base and foundation of any object. Everything exists based on dharma, including the natural laws.
In a similar way, let us understand what aanvikshiki stands for.
Let us go to the root word in Sanskrit, which most scholars regard as the most ancient, scientific and perfect language of the world. It is also called the mother of all languages.
Aanvikshiki is the combination of two words—anu and ikshiki. Anu means ‘atom’, the smallest part of anything. Ikshiki means ‘a person who wants to know’, an inquirer, a thinker, a researcher, an examiner or a logician.
Therefore, aanvikshiki is the process of enquiring and right thinking, or the science of thinking. Now as a reader you can also offer your own interpretation after studying and practising aanvikshiki yourself.
Aanvikshiki was one of the names of Draupadi in the Mahabharata. She was a brilliant woman who had studied the science of thinking.
We find various mentions of aanvikshiki in other scriptures like the Shrimad Bhagawat, the Ramayana and even in the Upanishads. So, even though for us aanvikshiki is a new word, it was quite popular in ancient times.
Aanvikshiki in Kautilya’s Arthashastra
The first and opening chapter of Kautilya’s Arthashastra talks about aanvikshiki and its importance.
The prathama prakarna (first section), named ‘Vidyasamuddesha’ (enumeration of the sciences), starts with the chapter ‘Aanvikshiki Sthapana’ (establishing the necessity of thinking).
Chanakya wants his students to study aanvikshiki as their first subject. Imagine teaching thinking as the first subject in our education system. What an amazing way to begin.
If at all we could teach our children in schools to think, inquire, ask, question, apply logic and then establish and have their own individual conclusions, what a brilliant generation would come out of our schools, colleges and universities.
What we follow instead is herd mentality. Just do what others are doing. Go to school—study, get a degree, secure a job and education is over. This kind of system rarely helps to get the best out of an individual. From a data- driven education system, we need to move into a process of investigation and inquiry.
Let us teach our children to think and wonder, to imagine, to construct, to create, to dream, to visualize and to build their own future in a unique manner.
This is what Chanakya did in his education system. He wanted his students to be leaders. And the first quality of leadership is to think correctly and clearly. From such clarity comes good decision-making capacity. And sound decisions have an impact on everyone.
Now let us get started and study the first chapter of the Arthashastra, which is about the science of thinking.