Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mandukya Upanishad

This Upanishad is the briefest of all the Upanishads, yet as per Shankara, if one could study a single Upanishad, it should be this one. Once again, this Upanishad aligns with the mainstream Upanishadic view, that there is a Brahman that is one Reality which became the infinite variety of things around us. But the USP of this Upanishad is in its way of suggesting how to get there, through the dream world.

Amazingly, the stages of sleep that the Upanishad talks about are quite similar to what modern science shows us. Except that the latter derives no higher goal from sleep. As we saw in the Mundaka Upanishad, such a knowledge about the material world is only lower knowledge. (Note: The Upanishads do not despise a lower knowledge) Just as the Mundaka suggests that there is a higher knowledge which is Self Realization, the Mandukya also strives to know about the Self, and the mode of this realization is through sleep.

As per the Upanishad, consciousness is in four stages, awakeness, dreaming, sleep, deep sleep and an even deeper super conscious state. It associates the sounds of the three letters 'AUM' to the first three stages, and the complete "AUM" to the fourth stage. The following is the English translation of the Upanishad.

1) AUM stands for the Supreme Reality.
It is a symbol for what was, what is,
And what shall be. AUM represents also
What lies beyond past, present and future.

2) Brahman is all, and the Self is Brahman.
This Self has four states of consciousness.

3) The first is called Vaishvanara, in which
One lives with all the senses turned outward,
Aware only of the external world.

4) Taijasa is the name of the second,
The dreaming state in which, with the senses
Turned inward, one enacts the impressions
Of past deeds and present desires.

5) The third state is called Prajna, of deep sleep,
In which one neither dreams nor desires.
There is no mind in Prajna, there is no
Separateness; but the sleeper is not
Conscious of this. Let him become conscious
In Prajna and it will open the door
To the state of abiding joy.

6) Prajna, all - powerful and all - knowing,
Dwells in the hearts of all as the ruler.
Prajna is the source and end of all.

7) The fourth is the superconscious state called
Turiya, neither inward nor outward,
Beyond the senses and the intellect,
In which there is none other than the Lord.
He is the supreme goal of life. He is
Infinite peace and love. Realize him!

8) Turiya is represented by AUM.
Though indivisible, it has three sounds.

9) A stands for Vaishvanara. Those who know this,
Through mastery of the senses, obtain
The fruit of their desires and attain greatness.

10) U indicates Taijasa. Those who know this,
By mastering even their dreams, become
Established in wisdom. In their family
Everyone leads the spiritual life.

11) M corresponds to Prajna. Those who know this,
By stilling the mind, find their true stature
And inspire everyone around to grow.

12) The mantram AUM stands for the supreme state
Of turiya, without parts, beyond birth
And death, symbol of everlasting joy.
Those who know AUM as the Self become the Self;
Truly they become the Self.

References & further reading:
[1] The Upanishads - Eaknath Easwaran
[2] Mandukya Upanishad - translated by Vidyavachaspati V Panoli
[3] Mandukya Upanishad - wikisource link
[4] Mandukya Upanishad - Hindu Website link
[5] Mandukya Upanishad - with Gaupada Karika

Admin's note: We will now take a departure from the Upanishads and the reader is directed to follow the rest of the Upanishads from the website of the second link in the references or more online reading. Time for more serious stuff.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka (Sanyasi) Upanishad is one of the most important Upanishads, which is focused on the path of knowledge. The objective of the Upanishad is to make the aspirer of knowledge realize that the Supreme Knowledge is that in which the distinction between the knower, the known and the knowledge disappears.

It starts off with a dialogue between Shaunaka and Rishi Angiras with the question: "What is that by knowing which all is known? " Angiras replies that knowledge is two-fold, the Vedas, linguistics, rituals, astronomy and all the arts are the lower knowledge, while realizing the Self is the higher knowledge. In the rest of the Upanishad, Angiras deals with describing what the Self is and how to get to realize it. In a display of the free thought of that age, he even decries the rituals and people performing them - calling them deluded and ignorant of the higher knowledge.

According to Rishi Angiras, to achieve the Self people must do meditation, be pure in their heart and conquer their senses. A person who desires to achieve it needs to seek a teacher who has realized the Self, and once he fills his heart in love and conquers his senses and passions, the teacher will reveal it to him.

But the most important part from this Upanishad is for Indians and the motto "Satyameva Jayate, Na Anritam" meaning that "Truth always wins, not the untruth", something that is quoted ad nauseum in Indian governmental institutions. This motto has been usually stripped of the rest of the part surrounding it, and hence loses its importance to the general public. People are often seen deriding it, and most say that absolute truth cannot win, you will need to lie in some instances to win. Actually, this statement appears in a section of the Upanishad, saying that the Self is the truth, the Ego is falseness, and one should strive to achieve the Self, since relying on the Ego alone one will be defeated. The practice of truth, penance, brahmacharya and the acquirement of correct knowledge are preparations required to achieve this goal. Nested in this context, the motto acquires a new power in which one might have never seen it before. It also aligns itself with the generic Upanishadic objective of assisting the person to realize the Self. I am quoting below that part of the Upanishad in which the phrase appears. The bolded statement below is the motto in question.

Part III [1]

1) Like two golden birds perched on the same tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body. The former eats
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the latter looks on in detachment.

2) As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow,
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.

3) When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state.,

4) The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest'
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.

5) By truth, meditation and self control
One can enter into this state of joy
And see the Self shining in a pure heart.

6) Truth is victorious, never untruth,
Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life,
Reached by sages who are free from self-will.

7) The effulgent Self, who is beyond thought,
Shines in the greatest, shines in the smallest,
Shines in the farthest, shines in the nearest,
Shines in the secret chamber of the heart.

8) Beyond the reach of the senses is he,
But not beyond the reach of a mind stilled
Through the practice of deep meditation.

9) Beyond the reach of words and words is he,
But not beyond the reach of a pure heart
Freed from the sway of the senses.

10) Sages are granted all the help they need
In everything they do to serve the Lord.
Let all those who seek their own fulfillment
Love and honor the illumined sage.

1) The Upanishads - Eaknath Easwaran
2) The Mundaka Upanishad - Swami Krishnanand

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chandogya Upanishad

The ancient Rishis suggested that the universe is founded on two principles. One is rita, law, order or regularity. Without it, no scientific or moral discovery would be possible, and it would also not be possible to learn from our experiences.

The other is sacrifice or yajna. The Rishis thought that the universe runs on renunciation, and that the most significant human action is the sacrifice of personal gain for the sake of something higher and holier.

And if rita is the moral law, yajna is the human response to live according to that law, taking nothing from life for the self, but always seeking to give up the self for life and use things so much as if only borrowing from life. This awareness leads to great peace. Describing this self and the way to reach it forms a major part of the Chandogya (meaning "the uprising of the sacred song") Upanishad. The major stories that one should read from this Upanishad are:

1) The story of Satyakama: who is a child born out of wedlock but is not ashamed of revealing that. Satyakama is given 400 cows to take care of by Rishi Haridrumata Gautama and swears to not return until they are 1000. Once they reach a 1000, Satyakama goes back to his Rishi and on his way back is taught the four feet of the Brahman by animals, birds and fire.

2)The story of Shvetaketu: who is Uddalaka's son, and is sent out to a teacher for schooling. At the end of the schooling, while Shvetaketu was well versed in the Vedas, but was found to be lacking in the knowledge of the Self. His father finishes this part of Shvetaketu's schooling.

3) Narada's education: Narada approaches the rishi Sanatkumara and tells him that inspite of knowing the four Vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva and the epics, grammar, rituals, mathematics, astronomy, logic, economics, physics, psychology, the fine arts and snake charming, he was still not satisfied as he could not understand the Self and was thus in sorrow. Narada says that as per several spiritual teachers, to overcome sorrow, one needs to understand the Self and requests the rishi to teach him about it. The latter then proceeds to fulfill Narada's wish.

4) The City of Brahman: This story has a very vivid imagery of the city of Brahman, within which there is a lotus of the heart and inside of which there is a space, wherein there lies the fulfillment of desires. The writer directs us to long for and realize this space, which is said to contain the infinite space beyond us. This city of Brahman is impregnable, by old age and is ever fresh, since with old age it is only the body that dies and not the Self. One who finds this city and thus the Self is free of all physical and mental ailments. But only a person who is pure and self controlled can reach the city, and in it, they live a life of perfect freedom.

Other gems in the Upanishad include the Prajapati teaching Indra and Virochana, and the Wisdom of Shandilya. I will quote the first part of the Upanishad that explains the significance of the word OM.


Chapter 1: The Word.

1) Let us meditate on OM the imperishable, the beginning of prayer.

2) For as the earth comes from the waters, plants from earth, and man from plants, so man is speech, and speech is OM. Of all speech the essence is the Rig Veda; but Sama is the essence of Rig, and of Sama the essence is OM, the Udgitha.

3) This is the essence of essences, the highest, the eighth rung, the venerated above all that human beings hold holy. OM is the Self of all.

4) What is rig, what is sama, at the heart of prayer?

5) As rig is speech, so sama is song, and the imperishable OM is the Udgitha. Speech and breath, Sama and Rig, are couples,

6) and in the imperishable OM they come together to fulfill each other's desire.

7) For those who, knowing this, meditate on the imperishable OM, all desires are fulfilled.

8) With the word OM we say, "I agree," and fulfill desires.

9) With OM we recite, we give direction, we sing aloud the honor of that Word, the key to the three kinds of knowledge.

10) Side by side, those who know the Self and those who know it not do the same thing; but it is not the same: the act done with knowledge, with inner awareness and faith, grows in power. That, in a word, tells the significance of OM, the indivisible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad - The Path to Immortality

{Reproduced from "The Upanishads" by Eaknath Easwaran. Comprises of notes from his introduction & a short passage from the Upanishad.}

"Brihad-aranyaka" means "the great forest" and is the longest and the most revered Upanishad. The story revolves around Yajnavalkya, a saint famous for his dialogues with his wife Maitreyi, a contemporary Gargi and for being Guru to the famous king Janaka of the Ramayana fame.

The basic feature of Yajnavalkya's teachings in the first part of the Upanishad is to realize the self, which is identical in all of us. If we discover this self, he tells his wife, in our own consciousness and see that when we love, we love this self, then there would be no more parting and sorrow in this world. This teaching forms the first part of the Upanishad.

In the next two sections, Yajnavalkya enters a discourse with Gargi and explains how all existence is woven with the Akshara, the Imperishable, which has no size, cannot be sensed, does not have senses, has no attachment, cannot consume nor can be consumed. As per him, all physical phenomena is grounded in this Akshara. To know this Akshara, according to Yajnavalkya is to achieve immortality at death. (I am yet to understand the concept of Akshara, but it seems to me that this was one of the first attempts to write a theory that explains everything, similar to the general theory of relativity or today's upcoming string theory.)

In the closing, the Upanishad reveals what to do after realizing the realities of life, with the three syllables "da-da-da" that is "damyatta, datta, dayadhvam" - translated as be self-controlled, give, be compassionate.

We have thus summarized the Upanishad. I'll close the post by quoting a passage that I most identify with, something that is relevant today in this age of nuclear families, loved ones separated by compulsion of occupation, children studying in a far off country and shaping their future. That is, the parting of Yajnavalkya from Maitreyi.

The Path to Immortality
1) "Maitreyi", Yajnavalkya said to his wife one day, "the time has come for me to go forth from the worldly life. Come, my dear, let me divide my property between you and Katyayani."

2) Maitreyi: " My lord, if I could get all the wealth in the world, would it help me to go beyond death?"

Yajnavalkya: "Not at all. You would live and die like any other rich person. No one can buy immortality with money.

3) Maitreyi: "Of what use then are money ane material possessions to me? Please tell me, my lord, of the way that leads to immortality.

4) Yajnavalkya: " You have always been dear to me, Maitreyi, and I love you even more now that you have asked me about immortality. Sit here by my side and reflect deeply on what I say.

5) A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

A husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Wealth is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

Brahmins are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Kshatriyas are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

The universe is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

The gods are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Creatures are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

This Self has to be realized. Hear about this Self and meditate upon him, Maitreyi. When you hear about the Self, meditate upon the Self, and when you finally realize the Self, you come to understand everything in life.

6) For brahmins confuse those who regard them as separate from the Self. Kshatriyas confuse those who regard it as separate from the Self. Gods and creatures confuse those who regard them as separate from the Self. Everything confuses those who regard things as separate from the Self.

Brahmins, kshatriyas, creatures, the universe, the gods, everything: these are the Self.

7) No one can understand the sounds of a drum without understanding both drum and drummer;

8) nor the sounds of a conch without understanding both the conch and its blower;

9) nor the sounds of a vina without understanding both the vina and the musician.

10) As clouds of smoke arise from a fire laid with damp fuel, even so from the Supreme have issued forth all the Vedas, history, arts, sciences, poetry, aphorisms, and commentaries. All these are the breath of the Supreme.

11) As there can be no water without the sea, no touch without the skin, no smell without the nose, no taste without the tongue, no form without the eye, no sound without the ear, no thought without the mind, no wisdom without the heart, no work without hands, no walking without feet, no scriptures without the word, so there can be nothing without the Self.

12) As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves and cannot be taken out again, though wherever we taste the water it is salty, even so, beloved, the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness, infinite and immortal. Separates arises from identifying the Self with the body, which is made up of the elements; when this physical identification dissolves, there can be no more separate self. This is what I want to tell you, beloved.

13) Maitreyi: I am bewildered, Blessed One, when you say there is then no separate self.

Yajnavalkya: Reflect on what I have said, beloved, and you will not be confused.

14) As long as there is separateness, one sees another as separate from onself, hears another as separate from oneself, speaks to another as separate from oneself, thinks of another as separate from oneself, knows another as separate from oneself. But when the Self is realized as the indivisible unity of life, who can be seen by whom, who can be heard by whom, who can be smelled by whom, who can be spoken to by whom, who can be thought of by whom, who can be known by whom? Maitreyi, my beloved, how can the knower ever be known?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Isha Upanishad: Summary

Expressing in detail each verse of the Isha Upanishad gets too long for a blog, so I will only make a brief summary of the ideas behind the Upanishad as translated in the previous post. The Isha  Upanishad follows the principle of reconciliation of extremes such as:

1) The Conscious Lord and phenomenal Nature.

2) Renunciation and Enjoyment

3) Action in Nature and freedom in the Soul.

4) The One Stable Brahman and the Multiple Movement.

5) Being and Becoming

6) The Active lord and indifferent Akshara Brahman.

7) Vidya and Avidya.

8) Birth and Non-birth.

9)Works and Knowledge.

The Upanishad doesn't glorify any extreme over the other. Renunciation is to go to the extreme, but it should be integrated with enjoyment. Action has to be complete, but so has there to be freedom of soul from its works. And while unity is the goal, it has to be brought about through experience of the multiplicity. This is much unlike later thought where God, Renunciation, Quietism, the One, Cessation of Birth, the Knowledge, were praised and the concepts of the World, Enjoyment, Action, the Many, Birth, the Ignorance were subdued, which culminated in Illusionism and the thought that existence in the world is a snare and a meaningless burden imposed on the soul by itself, which must be ended asap. The concept of seeing multiple things as one is not an insignificant one and is the basis of much science that is prevalent today. As Aldous Huxley wrote: "All science, is the reduction of multiplicities to unities."  

Going through each of the above mentioned 9 groups:

1) The Conscious Lord and the Phenomenal Nature:

  • The Nature is described as a movement of the Conscious Lord.
  • The objective of this movement is to create forms of his consciousness so that He can enjoy the multiplicityby occupying many bodies as the one soul and enjoy the movement by their relations.

2) Enjoyment & Renunciation:

  • Enjoyment of the above mentioned movement depends upon renunciation of the principle of desire founded on the principle of egoism and not a renunciation of world existence.

3) Action & Freedom:

  • In this regard, the Upanishad believes that actions are not inconsistent with the soul's freedom, and that it only appears that man is bound by his works.
  • He has to recover his freedom by recovering the consciousness of unity in the Lord, unity in himself, unity with all existence.
  • After this, he should embrace life and work completely, and work towards manifestation of Lord in them, since that is the law and objective of our life.

4) The quiescence and the movement:

  • The Quiescence of the Supreme being and his movement are just one Brahman and to discriminate between them is a function of our consciousness.

5) Being and Becoming:

  • Being is one, Becomings are many, but this simply means that all Becomings are one Being.
  • The individual is urged to see the One Being, but we have not to cease to see the many Becomings and are included in the Brahman's view of Himself.

6) The active and the inactive Brahman:

  • Both of these are simply two aspects of the one self, the one Brahman, who is the Lord.
  • The inaction is the basis of the action and exists in the action. This inaction is actually His freedom from all He does and becomes.

7) Vidya and Avidya:

  • The consciousness of unity is Vidya and the consciousness of multiplicity (which is the result of the movement of the one consciousness) is Avidya.
  • This consciousness sees all things as one in its truth idea. but differentiate in mentality and formal becoming.
  • The cause of the ego-sense is recognition of only Avidya and avoiding Vidya.

8) Birth and Non-Birth:

  • The self is uniform and undying and in itself always possesses immortality. 
  • It does not need to descend into Avidya and Birth to get the immortality of Non-birth; for its possesses it always. 
  • It descends in order to realize and possess it as the individual Brahman in the worldly life.

9) Works and Knowledge: 

  • Works and knowledge oppose each other only until they are of the egoistic mental character.
  • Mental activity is essentially fragmentary, & only when the ego is diminished does it see the Oneness behind everything.
  • It is then, that True Buddhi (Vijnana) emerges from the Buddhi which is possible on the basis of the senses.
  • Vijnana leads us to pure knowledge (Jnana), pure consciousness (Chit). There, we realise our entire identity with the Lord in all.
  • In Vijnana, Will & Sight are combined and no longer as in the mind separated from each other.
  • Thereafter our will becomes the law of truth in us, and knowing all its acts and their sense and objective leads to the human goal, which is the enjoyment of Ananda, the Lord's delight in self being the state of Immortality.
  • In our acts also, we become one with all beings and no longer proceed on the path of egoism based on divisiveness.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Isha Upanishad: Translation

We will end our discourse on the Isha Upanishad started earlier with this post and the next. First, we will start with the translation of the Upanishad from the renowned saint Aurobindo.

(Note that the invocation to the Upanishad starts with the shloka mentioned in the earlier post. This translation is meant for the rest of the Upanishad.)

All this is for habitation by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion. By that renounced thou shouldst enjoy; lust not after any man's possession. (1)

Doing verily works in this world one should wish to live a hundred years. Thus it is in thee and not otherwise than this; action cleaves not to a man. (2)

Sunless are those worlds and enveloped in blind gloom whereto all they in their passing hence resort who are slayers of their souls. (3)

One unmoving that is swifter than Mind, That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run. In That the Master of Life establishes the Waters. (4)

That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this. (5)

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught. (6)

He in whom it is the Self Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness? (7)

It is He that has gone abroad - That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil. The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self existent has ordered objects perfectly according to the nature from years sempiternal. (8)

Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone. (9)

Other verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding. (10)

He who knows That as both in one, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, by the Ignorance crosses beyond death and by the Knowledge enjoys Immortality. (11)

Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Non-Birth, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Birth alone. (12)

Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Birth, other that which comes by the Non-Birth; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding. (13)

He who knows That as both in one, the Birth and the dissolution of Birth, by the dissolution crosses beyond death and by the Birth enjoys Immortality. (14)

The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer, for the law of the Truth for sight (15)

O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illuminating Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is they most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold. The Purusha there and there, He am I. (16)

The Breath of things is an immortal Life, but of this body ashes are the end. OM! O Will, remember that which was done remember! O will, remember, that which was done remember.(17)

O God Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose. (18)

With this, I will end this post. I will return tomorrow, with a summary of the whole Upanishad.

P.S: Do let us know if you need an expansion of one of the shlokas. I will provide it for you in the comments section.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - What it was and what it is made out to be.

A few days ago while blog hopping, came across two great posts [(1) and (2)] by fellow blogger Bharatendu on the well known homily of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam and how it has been misinterpreted by our socialist and secular mainstream intellectual thought which has made it out to be some kind of vision of global village by ancient India. In fact, it is nothing of the sort, and had little importance in the day to day lives of our ancients. I found these great pieces by Bharatendu spread very little, and hope to bring more attention to this topic by posting it here.

So, the shloka in which vasudhaiva kutumbkam appears is as follows: -

अयं निजः परोवेति गणना लघुचेतसां
उदार चरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम

This is translated as :

"This is my own and that a stranger is the calculation of the narrow minded. For the magnanimous hearts however, the entire earth is but a family."

The way this shloka is quoted ( I would go so far as to say abused), it would seem that it is part of an important scripture, such as the Bhagvada Gita, the Vedas, the Manu Smriti or the Puranas and formed an important part of the life of our ancients. A few examples of it's use (from Bharatendu's blog) are as follows:

"In ancient India the liberal perspective was defined by the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam… in contradiction to the ‘Clash of Civilizations’… the theory I don’t agree with. We have to reclaim that liberal space.” : Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India, Address to the Harvard Alumni Association, March 25, 2006 at New Delhi.

“…India that once, 2000 years ago, had proclaimed vasudeva(sic) kutumbakam – the world is one family…”: Ms. Sonia Gandhi in her acceptance speech on occasion of being conferred the “Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold” by Belgian government for her “constructive nationalism and efforts to foster a multicultural, tolerant society in India”, on November 11, 2006 at Brussels / Bozar.

"...Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam is our foreign policy." Pranab Mukherjee in his Rajya Sabha speech on Dec. 5 2007.

But so far, the shloka has only been found (as untill 2008 by Bharatendu) in the hitopadesha, panchatantra, certain summaries of works of Chanakya and Bharatrihari, Maha Upanishadam, certain recensions of vikrama charitra and in the works of Bhatta Udbhata and it is not at all part of a sermon directing people to believe that "the whole world is my family". I am quoting one of the stories mentioned by Bharatendu while demolishing the shloka for our purpose here to understand one instance of the use of the shloka, and the reader is requested to follow the rest of the posts linked in the references section.

subuddhi the Crow, chitrA~Nga the Deer, and ksudrabuddhi the Jackal

“Long long ago, in the champakavaTI forest of magadha, there lived two friends – a Deer called chitrA~Nga and a Crow named subuddhi. It so happened that a Jackal named kshudra-buddhi, (the proposer of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, as we shall soon see), was passing by and his eyes caught hold of the healthy Deer as he was grazing nearby. The lust to devour him immediately arose in the Jackal’s mind, but knowing Deer to be too swift in a chase, he decided to fall back on his cunning – to win first the confidence of the Deer. The VK-preacher therefore approached the Deer, saluted him, and introduced himself as a lonely newcomer with friendly intentions, and proposed a friendship and brotherhood with the Deer. The naive Deer fell for the sweet words of kshudra-buddhi, and not knowing his true intentions, invited him to his own dwellings.

So, they started towards the Deer’s place, and on their way sitting on the branches of a champaka tree was Deer’s old and wise friend subuddhi the Crow. Seeing them passing by, the Crow asked the Deer, ‘O chitrA~Nga, who is this second fellow with you? ‘ ‘A Jackal, my new friend’, answered the Deer. To this, the Crow asked: ‘But, do you know him well enough? One should never extend friendship and shelter to anyone without knowing their real nature and intentions, learning the history of their ilk and giving them a test of time.’ The Deer lightly shrugged this aside, saying, ‘But this Jackal is very friendly’.

Seeing his friend in delusions, the Crow began relating to him a story about how jaradgava a Vulture was killed by unwisely trusting an impostor (that story reproduced later below). He warned the Deer against trusting the Jackal without learning more about him.

So far the Jackal had kept quiet, and it is at this juncture that he opened his argument with the famous shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, demanding the Deer to not be of a narrow mind by considering the Crow a friend and himself an alien. The vasudhaiva-kuTumbakam discourse successfully put to rest all doubts that had arisen in the Deer’s mind, and dismissing the Crow’s wise council he went ahead in bringing the VK-preacher into his home.”

The remainder of the story can be summed up in two sentences. The cunning VK-reciting Jackal started dwelling with the naive Deer, and as soon as the opportunity arose, pushed him into a deadly trap. However before he could kill the Deer, our wise hero subuddhi the Crow devised a clever trick by which not only the Deer was rescued but also the VK-reciting Jackal was slain.

Now, that is the context in which VK is recorded in the hitopadesha by the great paNDita of politics nArAyaNa, and he is unambiguously clear about its application when he assigns this shloka to come from a brotherhood-preaching shrewd subversionist. It gives a clear warning against blindly welcoming any idea, individual or group without due diligence of studying their history, nature and intent.

However, let us also read the other story, in response to which the VK is uttered in hitopadesha, which would leave absolutely no room for any doubts in this matter of how hitopadesha treats vasudhaiva kuTumbakam:

jaradgava the Vulture and dIrghakarNa the Cat

While warning his friend against trusting the Jackal, subuddhi the Crow thus addressed the Deer:

“There, on the banks of the mighty bhAgIrathI is a cliff called gR^idharakUTa, and upon it grew a great fig-tree. In the shelter of its hollow lived an old Vulture named jaradgava, who due to old age had neither any eyesight left in his eyes nor nails in his claws. The other birds that lived on that tree were friendly to him, and out of pity used to donate from their own food small portions to him, and this way the poor fellow was passing his days. In return, jaradgava used to guard the little offspring of the birds when the parent birds were away.

One day, when the older birds were gone, a Cat called dIrghakarNa (‘Long Eared’) came there to make a meal out of the nestlings; and those tiny birds alarmed at seeing him, created noise that roused jaradgava from his slumber. ‘Who comes there?’ demanded jaradgava. Now dIrghakarNa, on noticing the big Vulture, aborted his meal plans, but as a flight was not possible he resolved to trust his destiny and to approach tactfully. ‘Arya,’ he responded, ‘my salutes to you!’ ‘Who is that?’ asked the Vulture. ‘A Cat,’ answered dIrghakarNa. ‘Lay off, Cat, or I shall slay you,’ shouted the Vulture. ‘I am ready to die if I deserve death,’ said the Cat, ‘but first let me be heard.’ ‘OK then, tell me first your purpose of arrival.’ asked jaradgava.

‘I live,’ melodramatically began dIrghakarNa, ‘on the banks of ga~NgA, bathing daily, performing the penance of chandrAyaNa vrata, strictly being a vegetarian like a bramachArI. The birds that come there, speak very highly of you as the one firmly established in dharma and worthy of all respects. So with my curiosity greatly aroused about you, I decided to drop by Sir, to learn from you about nIti and dharma.’

‘You appear like so deep gone in learning,’ he continued, ‘and still Sir, I am surprised that your sense of dharma tells you to be ready to slay a guest! Doesn’t the nIti say unambiguously about what a man’s dharma is towards his guests?’ The Cat then went on delivering an elaborate speech, quoting eloquently from the shAstra-s about the dharma and cut quite an impressive lecture on peace and non-violence.

Shrugging that onslaught of quotations from shAstra-s aside, wise jaradgava interrupted, ‘Listen, I know only this, that you are a cat and the cats eat meat. Since here are young birds that I am given to protect, I warn you one last time – leave immediately.’

Upon this, dIrghakarNa intensified his drama, and touching the ground with his two claws and then his ears, invoking all the Gods, he said, ‘I have overcome all the passions by practicing the chandrAyaNa vrata; I have learnt the shAstra-s; and I am a follower of the religion that is called non-violence itself. And so he went on.

Such prolonged drama of the Cat finally silenced the old Vulture, who at last allowed him to live in the hollow of the tree with himself.

With the passage of days, and having gained more confidence of the Vulture, the Cat slowly began picking the nestlings for his meal. After devouring them one by one, the cunning fellow would drop their bones near the hollow of jaradgava, who being blind did not notice it.

One day, alarmed at their children going missing, the parent birds began investigating. The shrewd cat quickly made his escape, and the birds soon discovered the bones near the hollow of jaradgava. They at once inferred that their children had been eaten away by the old Vulture in whom they had placed their trust. Thus enraged the birds swiftly executed jaradgava in no time. Although being innocent and a true well-wisher of the birds, he paid for the folly of giving shelter to the wrong kind.”

Above story is which evokes the vasudhaiva kuTumbakam from the cunning subversionist in hitopadesha.


[1]: The Hoax called Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - Part 1

[2]: The Hoax called Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - Part 2