As India celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate its 75 years of Independence, I would like to highlight the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Earth is one family), one of the core philosophies of Indian civilization since ancient times.
While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver the keynote address at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 23, 2018, Prof Klaus Schwab, the president of the World Economic Forum very eloquently put forward, "India's philosophy of the world being one family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — is closely aligned with the mission of this annual meeting."
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech at the same plenary session elaborated upon Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam while speaking about the oneness of the universe quoting Purnamadah Purnamidam from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad saying - "In terms of physical world also, ages ago, we echoed the same thing by saying Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking at the World Culture Festival in March 2016 had said, "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 to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we are the people who have come from Upanishads to Upgrah (Satellite).”
Though there were hardly any means of reaching from one part of the world to another; still the feeling of oneness existed. This is because the spirit of co-existence was strong enough to overcome any barriers of knowledge or distance. The search for peace in the universe was paramount. This is the reason that our sacred prayers always end with a prayer for peace. Not only that, a meaningful prayer always starts with a prayer for the well-being of all."
On January 26, 2018 on the eve of the 69th Republic Day, President Ram Nath Kovind in his address to the nation again evoked Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as he said, “And of course the highest stage of India’s nation-building project is to contribute to building a better world – a composite and cohesive world, a world at peace with itself and at peace with nature.
World is one family
This is the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – of the world being one family. It is an idea that may sound impractical in today’s times of tensions and of terrorism. But it is an ideal that has inspired India for thousands of years – and that ideal can be felt in the very texture of our constitutional values.
The principles of compassion, of assisting those in need, of building capacities of our neighbours, or even of those further away, underpin our society. These are the very principles that we bring to the international community."
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a lofty Vedantic thought from Maha Upanishad, an ancient Indian scripture. Mahatma Gandhi's Ahimsa (non-violence) both as a creed and a strategy is considered an extension of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It envisions unity of mankind as one single family. Nothing validates this ancient thought more than today's interconnected world with instant satellite communication, swift air transport and the internet.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam imparts a sense of oneness to our common humanity, our common development goals, and our common quest for a rule-based global order and international peace. It conveys succinctly that we prevail or parish together as one family. In the light of these noble thoughts India's political leaders decided to engrave Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the entrance hall of Parliament of India.
As evident from the above three instances Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is now a very often-quoted term. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking at the World Culture Festival in March 2016 had said, "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 to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we are the people who have come from Upanishads to Upgrah (Satellite).”
Earlier, addressing the UNGA in 2014, he had said: "Every nation's world view is shaped by its civilization and philosophical tradition. India's ancient wisdom sees the world as one family. It is this timeless current of thought that gives India an unwavering belief in multilateralism."
Former External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had also used Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in her speech at the UNGA on September 24, 2017: "We truly believe that the world is one family and we hope that every member of this family deserves that elixir of life, happiness."
India's Vaccine Maitri
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has been and continues to be invoked by Indian leaders on different occasions in different contexts. In a tumultuous year ravaged by a health crisis, this principle took its most profound shape in the “Vaccine Maitri” campaign, spearheaded by India’s Ministry of External Affairs under which India delivered vaccine doses to more than 90 countries .
Under India’s Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC prohramme) over 200,000 professionals from 161 partner countries have benefited since 1964. Indian Council of Cultural Relations awards scholarships to approximately 3940 students annually from 140 countries across the world.
The adoption of the resolution for the International Yoga day by the UNGA with the support of an overwhelming majority of 177 countries is an example of the practice of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Africa’s philosophy of Ubuntu, which means ‘I am because we are’, also highlights inherent interdependence of our existence. At the root of Vasudhaiva is Vasudha, our planet earth, and therefore, an extension of the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which highlights India's concerns for the environment and the whole planet.
The philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam could also guide countries to adhere to sustainable development, prevent biodiversity loss and work towards mitigating climate change.
As India celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam may find even greater resonance among the nations and people all across the world.
Abhay K. is a poet-diplomat. His ‘Earth Anthem’ inspired by the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has been translated into over 120 languages. Views expressed are personal.