A friend recently wrote on his Facebook timeline:
“The traditional joint family system in India is fast being replaced by that of the nuclear family. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are being spurned; communal strife is becoming rampant. Against this backdrop, the noble sentiment of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ is being waved around or advertised as India’s characteristic. Do we have an operational definition of ‘vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’? In the absence of adequate clarity about the concept, the phrase will, I’m afraid, turn out to be nothing more than yet another jumla.”
After reading it a couple of times, I realized personally, the statement made a lot of sense to me. In the world that we live in today, each of us is free to hold and express our opinions. The fact that this statement is still on Facebook is proof that freedom of expression exists in India. Some sceptics might argue that the authorities are too preoccupied to notice it.
However, I struggled to find an answer to the question posed in the last paragraph of his post: “Do we have an operational definition of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’?”
I thought it over, but unable to find an answer, I gave up. Being a forgetful old man, I soon forgot about it. But the next day, the post reappeared on my Facebook timeline, and after reading it again, I tried to recall the shloka from which the phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” was taken. Actually, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” is the second half of the second line of the shloka from the Mahopnishad.
I thought that re-reading the full shloka and reflecting upon its meaning might help. The full shloka is:
अयं निजः परो वेति, गणना लघुचेतसाम । उदारचरितानाम तु,वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्।।
The meaning is: “This is mine, that is his,” say the small-minded. The wise believe that the entire world is a family.
So, is the seer saying, “For the udarchartanam or “wise” the entire world is a family”?
A feeling of doubt engulfed me. I am forgetful, that’s true. But how do I know if I am “udarcharit” or wise” or “otherwise”? I don’t know about you my dear reader but no one so far has said on my face that I am not wise. I mean, no one has called me an idiot to my face. Thank God. So, how do I check if I am wise?
People I know have to be politically correct, at least when it comes to passing judgment on my face. Maybe that’s why they don’t point out my stupidities.
I recalled another Sanskrit shloka that speaks about the wise and wisdom. Thanks to Chat GPT Artificial Intelligence Appliance, I found the shloka. It reads:
यो वेद नेति वेद चेत् यो न वेद नेति वेद चेत्।अथ यो अद्यवेद तं वेद वेद चेत् यो वेद न वेद चेत्॥(Rigved, Mandala 10, verse 71)
यो (yo) – Whoeverवेद (veda) – knowsनेति (neti) – notवेद (veda) – and knowsचेत् (chet) – alsoयो (yo) – whoeverन (na) – notवेद (veda) – knowsनेति (neti) – notवेद (veda) – and knowsचेत् (chet) – alsoअथ (atha) – thenयो (yo) – whoeverअद्य (adya) – todayवेद (veda) – knowsतं (tam) – thatवेद (veda) – knowsवेद (veda) – and knowsचेत् (chet) – alsoयो (yo) – whoeverवेद (veda) – knowsन (na) – notवेद (veda) – and knowsचेत् (chet) – also
This verse is often interpreted as follows:
The first two lines suggest that one who claims to know but actually does not know, and one who claims not to know but actually knows, are both ignorant. It highlights the importance of true knowledge and understanding.
The third line states that the one who knows today (adya) is the one who truly knows. This implies that knowledge is not static, but something to be continuously sought and acquired.
The final line reiterates that the person who claims to know but actually does not know, and the person who claims not to know but actually knows, are both ignorant.
Overall, this shloka emphasizes the importance of genuine knowledge and the constant pursuit of understanding.
Meaning; “Those who say they know, do not know. Those who say they do not know, know. If one understands that which is unknowable, they truly know. If one thinks they know, they do not truly know.”
This verse reflects the idea that true knowledge comes from recognizing the limitations of one’s own understanding and being open to the vastness of the unknown.
This shloka emphasizes the importance of humility and the recognition that true knowledge comes from accepting one’s limitations.
Instead of writing further myself, I decided to take advantage of AI+ Chat ( I am a subscriber). I asked AI+ Chat to do the writing for me by editing whatever I had written and concluding this blog. What you read here, therefore, is not entirely mine but AI+Chat generated text with minimal edits from me.
The statement that the traditional joint family system in India is being replaced by nuclear families is partially correct. While it is true that there has been a shift towards nuclear families in urban areas, joint families still remain prevalent in rural areas and some parts of the country. According to a report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), joint families accounted for about 31% of the total households in India in 2011-12.
Regarding inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, there has been an increase in such marriages in recent years. According to the 2011 Census, inter-caste marriages accounted for 5.8% of all marriages in India, up from 3.2% in 2001. Similarly, the number of inter-religious marriages has also been on the rise.
However, it is true that communal strife and tensions have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there were 822 incidents of communal violence in India in 2018, up from 703 in 2017.
The statement regarding the noble sentiment of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” being waved around or advertised as India’s characteristic is also partially correct. While this sentiment has been a part of Indian philosophy and culture for centuries, it is not a recent development or a marketing gimmick. It is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Maha Upanishad and the Hitopadesha, and has been embraced by many Indian leaders and thinkers throughout history.
In conclusion, while the question “ Do we have an operational definition of ‘vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’?” may perhaps be genuine but it is important to note that the situation in India is complex and cannot be generalized. There are both positive and negative trends in Indian society, and it is important to understand them in their proper context.
In the end, I ask a question to you dear reader, it is possible to work out an operational definition of every philosophical statement?