C20 Speech on Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
My speech on the essence of the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the C20 International Conference.
A philosophical perspective to Vasudeva eva kutumbakam.
Leadership of G20 coming to India at a time when the world needs very high quality of leadership to handle diverse issues arising from the politico-economic and socio-cultural scenario of today.
India is not just a nation. India’s richness can be appreciated only if it is seen as ancient civilization. India’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage can give the world the philosophy, practical action pointers and guidelines not only to usher peace and expand the happiness of the nation’s today on this earth but also ward of creation of sources of the evil forces within humanity.
India’s offering to the world as articulated by the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi Ji “Indian culture is very rich and has inculcated in each one of us great values, we are the people who have come from Aham Brahmasmi (I am divine) to Vasudha eva Kutumbakam (One Earth, One Family, One Future).” It is this timeless current of thought that gives India an unwavering belief in multilateralism and globalization
Vasudha eva Kutumbakam is one of the several themes of the current G20. This is the most beautiful Vedantic thought, found in our Upanishad which says that the world is one family, all living beings on this planet are one family. Vasuda means earth, eva means certainly and Kutumba means family. Thus the combined meaning of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is “The Earth is one family”.
Though born in certain parts of the world with different ethnic , religious and cultural backgrounds, we all have one common thing to say. “We are all born on one earth and share one and only earth to live” .
There is no meaning to the idea of a family without father, mother and children. In a successful family there is recognition and respect for a father who is the head of the family having a fatherly influence on members of the family. Similarly there is no meaning to Vasudeva kutumbakam, the world family without a head of that world family. That is the recognition of Supreme fatherhood of God as the Supreme proprietor or creator, controller, maker of laws of living or at least recognize an invincible force that reigns over the consequences of morals and ethics that make life sustainable. All major religions have some concept of Supreme fatherhood of God over all that be and adherence to appropriate code of ethics and morality prescribed according to their respective time, place and circumstances. The concept of a family is personal concept and without the recognition and respect for common fatherhood of God, the idea of vasudeva eva kutumbakam will just remain an empty slogan.
Let us come the feature of mother in Vasuda eva kutumbakam. In the philosophy of Vasudeva-kutumbakam there is recognition of earth as one of the seven mothers of every living being. The concept of earth as the mother evokes respect for her who nurtures us all instead of recklessly exploiting her. And the citizens of this world are the children of the world family.
The feeling that arise out of the paradigm that the world is one family automatically brings forth so many wonderful interpersonal relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect among the citizens with a sense of belongingness to each other. From such a paradigm of life on earth there arise virtues of equality and justice for everyone in the world family. The family spirit easily brings in a spirit of sacrifice in everyone. There is cooperative division of labor among the citizens who are children of this world family which keeps the world going. There is the culture of sharing of fruits of one’s labour with fellow beings as among the children of this one family. There is acceptance of multi-faceted individualism without jealously and envy . All in background of togetherness under universal fatherhood of the Almighty and common motherhood of earth.
The internal workings of a Vasudeva-kutumbakam is based on the inter relationships between four pursuits of life. The four pursuits of life are pursuit of dharma, artha, kama, moksha. Dharma, artha, kama and moksha are considered to be common universal life purposes that man pursues.
Let us look into each of them. What is dharma? They are non sectarian universal principles that uphold, nourish or support the stability of the society, maintain the social order and secure the general well-being and progress of mankind. This is called dharma. It is said “ dharmeṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ. If there are no principles of dharma, then that is animal society.
The dharmic codes of conduct for human being within the world family of Vasuda eva kutukbakam is based on four cardinal virtues of a human being. They are satyam—truthfulness: śaucam—internal and external cleanliness; dayā—compassion to fellow being tapaḥ—austerity; They are called four pillars of dharma in Srimad Bhagavatam, considered to be the natural commentary of Vedanta.
Artha means pursuit of economic development and kama means pursuit of material enjoyments in life. The key idea of eternal dharma or Sanatana dharma is that artha and kama are to pursued only within the confines of dharma with the goal of achieving the larger purpose of life called moksa or liberation from all sufferings of this world- ātyantika-duḥkha-nivṛtti.
In the world family of Vasudeva kutumbakam, every member pursues artha and kama by staying within the confines of dharma, the code of conduct as to what one can do and what one cannot do in a manner that life is sustainable on the earth. When all these four factors works harmoniously, the world family will flourish.
Everything new in this world has begun with a thought or idea. Even in science discoveries and inventions began as a seed thought in the mind of scientists. Then it grew into tree of thought and turned into actions which started bearing fruits for humanity. Similarly, this idea of a world family circumscribed by the circle of dharma i the ‘seed’ of the philosophy of Vasudeva kutumbakam. This seed has developed over ages as a gigantic thought system by Indian sages which the modern world including India should study deeply and implement to bring about peace, prosperity and happiness in this world.
A world family of Vasuda eva kutumbakam is not the family of humans. It encompasses all life on earth. It is designed on the foundation of universal principles of dharma, artha, kama ,moksha which can guide humanity towards of life of peace, prosperity and happiness to all living beings on this earth including animals not only in this life and but future lives too. Such is the farsight of this philosophy of Vasudeva kutumbakam.
According to the Vedic texts of ancient India, most civilized people value the fundamental ethical principle of not only the loka hita or “ doing good to all fellow human beings” but even a more enlightened ethical principle which is sarva-bhuta-hita, or "the good of all species," for this is a more inclusive worldview of Vasudeva-kutumbakam. World view of caring for the welfare all species of life on earth. Loka-hita is contained in sarva-bhuta-hita. Ie; If one cares for all living entities one also cares for one's own human species. But the converse is not necessarily true. Thus, if the world cultivates sarva-bhuta-hita, one will be more conscious not only of his relationship with his fellow man but also of his bond with all of nature-the animals, the trees, the waters, the earth, the world. Only this kind of comprehensive ethic for a world family leads to sustainable life on earth.
The need for a more broad-based alternative to the Western sense of world view and ethics is eloquently expressed by Robinson and Garratt in their book, Introducing Ethics.
“ The failure of western utilitarian arguments to produce moral answers suggests to some that we need a newer, more complex kind of ecological ethic which is more radically "holistic." It is going to be difficult for us to grasp this new kind of ethic, because it does require a considerable effort of the imagination, and a readiness on our part to reject our own immediate material desires in favour of something remoter and grander……”
The idea of seeing ourselves as part of something greater, as part of the vast complex we call earthly existence, with its various life forms, is new to the West, but age-old in the East. The idea of Shreyas of choosing actions for long term benefits by foregoing the immediate benefits called preyas or sense gratification is ingrained in the Indian traditions.
Many western social historians and philosophers are turning to east for resolution of the problems faced by modern man. Buddhist and Jain ethics, with their stress on simplicity and ahimsa. The Vedic tradition's emphasis on the seventeen fundamental virtues or items of dharma to be cultivated in the community known as yamaas and niyamaas, i.e., restraints and observances are bring studied by them with great interest. The first four are primary and the other 13 virtues are secondary. The primary four are: satya (truthfulness), saucham (cleanliness), daya (compassion), tapa (austerity). The secondary are asteya (nonstealing), kshama (patience), brahmacharya (celibacy), dhriti (steadfastness), arjava (honesty), mitaahara (moderate desires), hri (re-morse), daana (giving),), saatikya (faithfulness), mati (awareness), , shravana (hearing from scripture), vrata (sacred vows), and japa (verbal repetition of the name of God).
The society would do well to embrace them with great earnestness. No doubt, all great traditions of the world endorse some form of the qualities mentioned above. But the Vedic literature, which gave rise to highly sophisticated theistic traditions, offers mankind information that illuminates moral concerns to a profound degree.
Over hundreds of centuries, the life on earth went on with minimal interconnectedness between the people living in one town to the next town, state to state and country to country. Local units thrived as almost self-sufficient units with land and livestock as the basis of economy. It was simple life vis-à-vis material comforts. But that simplicity of artha and kama moderated by dharma left human energies freer for spiritual pursuits of life called moksha or ultimate freedom from all sufferings. There was a greater spiritual cross currents flowing in the community in such a decentralized social system of past. The peace and happiness index in a society was definitely much higher than today with even much lesser material comforts.
But only in last century life on earth has suddenly changed significantly in its intense activity of artha and kama due to scientific and technological advancement. More so because technology has connected us into global village. However the sad part is that the awareness of dharma and its application among the leaders required to moderate artha and kama, even in India, has not kept up with the accelerated of growth in activities of artha and kama. Focussing largely on only two of the four life purpose is creating an imbalance for the world due to short sightedness of leaders. Today humanity has increased its needs from simple to more complex ones which has turned our lives into complex one demanding much more from mother earth. Consumerism encourages material greed and it is resulting in complex material needs. Life has become highly interdependent. No community or no nation in the world can say it is completely independent. On one side become richer are become richer and poor are becoming poorer. Today even nations are dependent upon each other for even basic needs like food, oil, clothes, medicines etc.
This world is taking mother earth for granted leaving little respect for her. The perspective of only exploiting and controlling earth is prominent instead of look at ourselves as children of this mother earth. Along with all the good that has come out of science and technology, there has been misuse of the very same thing. This is largely due to lack of awareness today of principles of moderation or dharma, the universal principles of wellness of life on earth. This lopsided growth of humanity is causing huge pinpricks to humanity. Man has become more and more materialistic and self-centered. The virtue of selflessness is practically unknown.
From the vedic paradigm earth is not lifeless. It is a huge self-regulating biological organism. Every mass action and life styles, if it is in consonance with principles of dharma, it evokes a good response from mother earth and mass actions and life styles of reckless exploitation that violate the restrictions placed by dharma will create a devastating response from this angry mother earth. These reactions become manifest in the form of new diseases, wars, earth quakes and other natural calamities. The vedic paradigm put the blame on man’s own action for mass suffering called adidaivica kleshas.
The world leaders hold the steering wheel of development on this earth. To steer the world family towards peace, prosperity and happiness there is an urgent need for a philosophy from which they can derive the road map. The simple philosophy of Vasudeva kutumbakam with its internal workings of artha, kama, guided by cardinal principles of dharma consisting of satyam, suacham, daya, tapah provides that effective philosophy.
It is high time we take deeper look into what is good and how much of that good is really good for the healthy sustenance of earth as a whole from not only material perspective but also from perspective of culturing basic spiritual values in mankind that can sustain life on earth. There is urgent need for humanity to put serious efforts to culture spiritual human values of love, respect, compassion, tolerance, patience, sharing, kindness, cooperation etc that alone sustain life on earth. The so called growth of humanity with these human qualities is not progress of humankind but degradation of life on earth.
We all seek changes in the present world. Changes that allows humanity to exist on this planet harmoniously not only with nature but interpersonal harmony among people of different nations , inter-nation harmony within the diversity of politico-culture and social-cultural eco-system. That is undisputedly the desirability of those seeking a more equitable and peaceful life on earth.
Now is the time for the leaders of this world to embrace the universal philosophy of Vasuda eva kutumbakam that will help us direct and moderate growth and development of humankind for good and filter out the bad and excesses. It is a philosophy that embraces all that is good and eliminates all that is bad on the basis of looking at the world as one family and well being of the maximum member of world family. The philosophy of Vasuda eva kutumbakam is a paradigm which makes us see the world differently than for merely being meant for insensitive selfish exploitation for humankind’s enjoyment by competing for power, knowledge and pleasure .
Having said this, the vedic perspective of life is very practical and is not just idealism. It admits that there exists in this world at all times, two kinds of forces, good and evil, despite constant effort to bring maximum good to the maximum. And principles of dharma also prescribes methods like war for the sake of keeping the evil at bay when its negative influence exceeds the limit. And the war at kurushetra is the example of such a dharma yuddha. And message of dharma enunciated by Krishna in Bhagavad Gita in the battlefield of Kurukshetra can be the guiding light for humanity. Humanity has to be cleansed by wars by the arrangement of the Almighty Father of this world family Vasudeva Kutumbakam whenever there is prominence of adharma or lawlessness.
Noble thoughts have guided humanity all along. The philosophy of Vasuda eva-kutumbakam with all its internal social workings through which the world is to be organized as one family based on sustainability of life on earth is something that Indian sages can contribute to the world.
What should be our plan for way forward? The answer is to educate the worlds youth in the universal concepts of Vasuda eva kutumbakam from the perspective of teaching the universal scientific social principles of non-sectarian dharma directed towards wellness of life on earth as one family. There should a concerted effort to take all good things from cultures all over the world and create body of knowledge of adopting the principles of dharma to todays context. Formal education of human values and spirituality should be included right from the school. There is the famous saying that ‘child is the father of man’. It means man is a product of values, habits and behaviour that he learns in his youth. We should look ahead for the good of future generations and not just recklessly exploit earth for ourselves .
I will end with two verses from the Upanishads
We are birds of the same nest
We may wear different skins,
We may speak different languages.
We may believe in different religions.
We may belong to different cultures,
Yet we share the same home- Our earth
Born on the same planet
Covered by the same skies,
gazing at the same stars,
the same air,
we must learn to happily progress together,
Or miserably perish together,
For man can live individually but can survive only collectively.
Thank you very much. lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu- Let the entire world be happy- Hare Krishna.