American Institute of Vedic Studies

Kootaneeti: A Forgotten Vedic Art & Science

Mahesh Prabhu with input from David Frawley | From the Authors of Fundamentals of Kootaneeti: The Vedic Approach to Strategic Living now available on,, Apple Books, Googleplay Books, Kindle, Scribd and other major international book sellers. 

Shakti or Power, a term with several levels of application, is the essence of Rajyam or Leadership. There are those who consider themselves to be undeserving of power as they cannot comprehend the dynamics of attaining it. Yet those who may consider themselves to be “deserving” of power are often unable to handle it, as they do so from the standpoint of ego, not because they are truly deserving according to their actual merit and capacities. As a result, such people when they become leaders are easily used or manipulated by those around them by appealing to their arrogance. They are termed as Ashaktas or incompetent by preceptors of Dharma.

Those who have the character and wisdom and are most deserving of handling power, even without having any outer position, are called Shaktas, meaning those who are deserving of power. Such Shaktas can make changes that can define the destiny of a community, country or all humanity.

For those desiring power or Shakti, it is crucial to be deserving of it and capable of handling it. Power is an electrical force that can short circuit those not prepared to wield it. One cannot be a Shakta without Jnana and Vijnana or Knowledge and Wisdom. For without knowledge and wisdom how do we differentiate between true and false or dharmic and adharmic?

Will what is considered to be right today be regarded as right tomorrow? Discriminating between right and wrong on an enduring level is impossible without a deeper knowledge and wisdom. It’s also not possible to do with the correct data or right information alone.

Most people confuse information with knowledge, confusing superficial data about something with an actual expertise in it. Data and information are not knowledge and knowledge is never in itself the wisdom. Unless an individual understands these four key elements a person is seldom a Shakta, a person deserving of power.

Vedic texts on Dharma and Neeti address these topics in detail and lay the foundation for understanding what is good or bad, dharmic or adharmic, such as mentioned in the Rajaneeti Shastras including Artha Shastra.

Artha Shastra is beyond general politics. Although it does speak of many aspects that are unknown to present leaders and thinkers of politics. Authors of Artha Shastra texts including Bharadwaja, Shukracharya, Pishuna, Vamadeva, and Shukracharya predicted that there will be times when this knowledge may become inadequate to address the challenges for those who are dharmic. These will be the times when people of Asuric (adharmic and evil) tendencies hold positions of power, corrupt the system and uproot the foundation of all that is good. In such dark times, a more formidable type of knowledge must be employed; one that is discreet, shrewd and effective as well as adhering to Dharma. This form of knowledge is called Kootaneeti.

Kootaneeti is an advanced art and science built upon the foundations of Rajaneeti. Its objective is to protect and uphold all that is dharmic and work for the welfare of all beings. However, Kootaneeti goes one step further. It doesn’t hesitate to pursue a difficult path for the sake of upholding Dharma.

Kootaneeti comprises of two words, namely: Koota (meaning Covert or Discreet) and Neeti (Conduct).

Consider this: A ruthless dictator has assumed power and is encircled by people driven by greed and ruthlessness. The nation’s resources are exploited and misused while poverty, corruption and abuse of powerless is rampant. The masses are bereft of hope. What should be done to restore the order of law and justice – Dharma? Most modern ideas in diplomacy and politics prove ineffective in this regard. Kootaneeti provides concrete approaches to resolve such complex situation.

For example, one of the ideas suggested in Kootaneeti is to create division among such adharmic forces and conflict in their inner circle. “The worst enemy to those in power are their own selves and the people closest to them.” declares Arthashastra. “An external enemy, no matter how strong, cannot make a dent while the faculties of those in power are working to their fullest potential.” It provides special Tantras or Strategies to penetrate, infiltrate and destabilize those abusing power besides identifying, installing, and empowering the deserving in their place – Shaktas.

According to another author of Artha Shastra, Shukracharya, “Those who abuse power might appear to be strong owing to their ruthlessness and cunning. But as a matter of fact, they are not.” According to Bharadwaja, “Only that individual is formidable who has overcome all the six limitations or enemies within the mind (Arishadvargas): Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (ego) and Matsarya (envy).” According to Pishuna, “Even one of the six detrimental qualities (Arishadvargas) is adequate to cause the self-destruction of individuals in power.”

Kootaneeti is important not just in the removal of those who are adharmic but also to sustain the positions of those who are dharmic. “Because Arishadvargas are common to all the people, except great Sadhus, it is important that a ruler employs Mantris (ministers) and Tantris (strategists) to uncover any signs of weakness inside the administration or Rajyam. Kootaneeti played a crucial role in building, sustaining, protecting, and empowering Vedic empires. Counter-intelligence is among the most crucial faculties of this system of knowledge.

A Kootaneetijna or Master of Kootaneeti prefers to work behind the scenes. He assists Rajaneetijna or politicians but seldom takes a position of influence that is visible to other people. This makes him effective and efficient. Your enemy cannot destroy you if they don’t recognize you or know who you are. Discretion and low-key action are the hallmark of Kootaneetijnas. Politicians require the publicity and appreciation of the masses to gain acceptance, which makes them prone to many dangers, deception, plots, and false promises. Since anticipating all such problems is overwhelming, Vedic kings sought the services of Kootaneetijnas to look out for them and protect them from unforeseen threats.

For such reasons a Kootaneetijna was not a known person in the cabinet. He would remain invisible to the public and at times might be confused with an outsider or a spy. Such Kootaneetijna never took credit for any successes or failures owing to his achievements.

This is called Karma Sannyasa – an essential wisdom taught by Krishna to Arjuna in the Mahabharata. Vamadeva, another important author of Artha Shastra, hailed Krishna as one of the finest Kootaneetijna. Krishna was the key strategist for the Pandavas. As the Pandavas did not have powerful army on the battlefield, it was the astuteness of Krishna which won them the war. Krishna was selfless and took no “spoils of war” for himself. He sought neither position nor affluence. He remained above and beyond all mundane concerns.

Qualities of Kootaneetijna

Few individuals would qualify to be Kootaneetijna. It takes years of education, practice and mentoring to gain the necessary skills and connections. There are special qualities necessary to be a Kootaneetijna, such as enumerated in Artha Shastra of Shukracharya:

Jnani – Deep understanding of Dharma and Neeti.

Vijnani – Possession of experiential wisdom.

Yogi – Practitioner of Dharma in all fields of life.

Anuragi – Possessing compassion and concern for others.

Nishkami – Without lust (be it physical or emotional).

Akrodhi – Without any trace of anger.

Nirlobhi – Without greed for anything external.

Nirmohi – Without emotional attachment, illusion, or infatuation.

Nirmala – Without a single blemish in one’s character.

Tyagi – To live without any attachments and be able to renounce all possessions without second thoughts.

Special Kootaneetijnas were consultants and advisors to the rulers of their times. Most swore to remain detached and were seldom known within the government. Such a position was often held by Rishis. It is important to know that the authors of Artha Shastra from Bharadwaj, Shukracharya, Vamadeva, Pishuna, Parashara until Kautilya lived as hermits away from the seats of power and wealth. They provided their counsel and advice only when asked for. They seldom sought publicity, titles, or rewards, and yet made profound contributions to greater welfare.

It is hard to comprehend their sense of modesty and dispassion towards wealth and position. It is difficult in our corrupt world today to believe that such people even existed. Yet, that they lived and achieved great feats without an ounce of vanity is the enduring truth.

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF KOOTANEETI: THE VEDIC ART OF STRATEGIC LIVING by U. Mahesh Prabhu with David Frawley is now available on,, Apple Books, Googleplay Books, Kindle, Scribd and the like. 

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