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Whenever, in India, we get into a conflict with someone, we use the phrase "Sam-dan-danda-bhed" to resolve the matter. What is it? Please explain it with references from primary sources.

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I always learned this as Sama, Dana, Beda, Danda, but I suppose that the meaning is the same. It's a more advanced version of the English 'carrot-vs-stick' idea.

Basically, these are forms of convincing someone to do something. Saam is persuasion through coniciliation, Dan is persuasion through money, Danda is persuasion through force, and bhed is persuasion through exploitation. Collectively, these are known as the chaturupayas, or the four approaches. It was developed by Chanakya in his Arthashastra as a way for kings to subdue their enemies, but the logic and applicability result in them being used for everyday conflicts. Since you asked for references, below is an analysis of Arthashastra 2.10, which is the relevant section:

1.

“evaṃ vijayamānasya ye'sya syuḥ paripanthinaḥ | tānānayedavaśaṃ sarvān sāmādibhirupakramaiḥ ||

“When he is thus engaged in conquest, let him subdue all the opponents he may find, by the four expedients, conciliation and the rest."

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The four expedients are the (chatur)upayas. It goes on to name them:

“evamukkaprakākāreṇa vijayapravṛttasya nṛpate ye vijayavirodhino bhaveyustān sarvān sāmadānabhedadaṇḍairupāyaiḥ vaśamānaye

3.

“yadi te tu na tiṣṭeyurupāyaiḥ prathamaistribhiḥ | daṇḍenaiva prasahyaitān śanakairvaśamānayet ||

“If they cannot be stopped by the three first expedients, then let him, overcoming them by force alone, gradually bring them to subjection”.

Here we learn that the last expedient, danda, is the one that uses force. More specifically,

vadhaḥ parikleśo'rthaharaṇaṃ daṇḍaḥ iti |

“Killing, tormenting and seizure of property constitute force."

4.

te ca vijayavirodhino yadyādyaistribhirupāyairna nivartante tadā balāddeśosampadādinā yuddhuna śanakairlaghugurudaṇḍakrameṇa daṇḍena vaśīkuryāt

A commentator is saying that "the learned always recommend conciliation and the employment of force for the prosperity of kingdoms." Thus, sama is always the best option to try first. More specifically,

“tatra sāma pañcavidham—guṇasaṃkīrtanaṃ samvandhopākhyānaṃ, parasparopakārasandarśanam, āyati pradarśanam,ātmopanidhānamiti | tatrābhijanaśarīra karma—prakṛti—śruta—dravyādīnā guṇāgrahaṇaṃ praśaṃsā stutirguṇasaṃkīrtanam | jñātiyaunamaukhastrauvakula—hṛdayamitrasaṃkīrtanaṃ samvandhopākhyānam | svapakṣa parapakṣayoranyonyopakārasaṃkīrtanaṃ parasparopakāra—sandarśanam | “asminnevaṃ kṛta idamāvayorbhavatī’tyaśājananamāyati pradarśanam | yo'haṃ sa bhavān, yanmama dravyaṃ tadbhavatā svakṛtyeṣu prayojyatām ityatmopanidhānamiti |

“Among them, conciliation is five-fold praising of merits, mention of relationship, pointing out mutual benefits, showing (advantages in) the future, and placing oneself at the (other’s) disposal. Amongst these, appreciation of the merits of birth, body, occupation, nature learning, property and so on, praise adulation, this is praising of merits. The praising of (common) kinship, marriage relationship, Relationship through teaching, relationship through sacrificial performances (common) family, (affection of the) heart, and (common) friend, this is mention of relationship. The praising of mutual benefits according to one’s party and the party of the other, this is pointing out mutual benefits. If this were done in this way, this will happen to us (both)’ this raising of hope is showing (advantage in) the future.

5.

“ajñātadoṣairdoṣajñairuddūṣyobhayavetanaiḥ | bhedyā śatro'bhivyaktaśāsanaiḥ sāmavāyikāḥ ||

“The ministers of the enemy are to be alienated by those whose character is not known to the enemy, who are cognisant of the weak points of the enemy; who takes salary both from his own master and alarm from the enemy after denouncing them publicly.

This is bheda, or exploitation, trickery. If a person knows his enemy's weaknesses, that person can get what they want.

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upapradānam arthopakāraḥ |

“Conferring benefits of money is making gifts”

The translation here isn't excellent, but this is danam, which is the giving of money or gifts to achieve a goal.

Thus, these are the forms of persuasion, ranked in order of recommended usage- always try first to reconcile, then try to gift, then try to trick, and only after that should one resort to force.


Source | I adapted and abridged quite a bit, but the analysis there is excellent and thorough.

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