Posts tagged ‘chANakya’

July 31, 2009

Hindu Economics and Charity

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In a recent article on Wall Street Journal, its bureau chief in New Delhi Paul Beckett has wondered why India’s rich were not generous enough towards charity, has exhorted them to ‘open their wallets’, and implied Hindu roots to blame for it.

His misguided opinion is a typical example of how the western journalists posted in India develop their views and spread the typical stereotypes about India, whose spirit they have never tried to, or succeeded in, grasping. His usage of the derogatory term “Hindu Rate of Growth” reminds us of a similarly stale and offending commentary on the growth of Indian Industry by another western journalist stationed in India, Edward Luce, in his ‘In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India’. Unfortunately for them, these western commentators on the economics of India are prisoners of their cognitive cocoon, and while physically being here, they fail to understand the experience of Hindu Civilization and keep ignorantly applying the norms and standards of their own culture when commenting about India.

Rajeev Srinivasan has masterfully responded with his incisive reply to the ignorant premise taken by Beckett on the “Hindu Rate of Growth”, and Dr. Koenraad Elst has dissected at length Luce’s outlook in a recent article. Here we shall share some random thoughts from the historical perspectives on Hindu outlook to economy and charity, and try showing how, there is continuity even today, although latent, of the same outlook prevailing among the more traditional Hindu shreShThins of our age.

The very reason why industry is needed to flourish, according to kauTilya, is to spread dharma in society which alone can beget lasting and all-round happiness. artha, the economy, he says, is the most important function of society, as it is solely from this basis that both the fulfillment of dharma and pursuit of desires can be accomplished (“arthaiva pradhAnaiiti kauTilyaH arthamUlau hi dharmakAmau iti: AS 1.7.6-7). Economy is like a tree, further says kauTilya, if whose roots are rooted in dharma, it produces the fruits of happiness. Achievement of such dhArmika wealth further promotes dharma and produces more wealth and gives more pleasure. This is the achievement of all the gains. (dharma-mUlatvAt kAma-phalatvAchArthasya dharma-artha-kAma anubandhA yA^arthasya siddhiH sA sarva.artha.siddhiH AS9.7.81)

Creation of wealth for the welfare of society was considered so important that bR^ihadAraNyaka upaniShada relates that bramhA was compelled to create the vaishya-s skilled in industrial enterprise and organizing business, since the first two varNa-s proved incapable or disinclined in doing so. (“…sa naiva vyabhavat, sa viShamasR^ijat, yAnyetAni devajAtAni, gaNASha AkhyAyante…”).

So, continuous creation of wealth is of absolute importance for the stability of society, which is required for the growth of dharma. kauTilya holds that if happiness is the objective and strength is the power, then wealth is one of the three types of those strengths to achieve it. (“shaktiH siddhishca | balaM shaktiH | sukhaM siddhiH | shaktistrividhA … kosha-daNDa-balaM…” AS6.2.31-34), and it is one of the reasons, why a government is needed, that is for prospering the society and spreading the dharma. A government is required for security of wealth, and once peace and industry is ensured (through a 6-fold policy that he enumerates), all-round wealth is automatically created. (“shamavyAyAmau yogakSemayoryoniH | shamavyAyAmayoryoniH ShADguNyam…” AS6.2.1&4).

But not only ensuring the right environ for society to generate and secure the wealth, but also the guarantee that the wealth really reaches the people, is counted by kauTilya as a basic prerequisite. (“…loka-priyatvam artha-saMyogena vR^ittiM… AS1.7.1). Therefore, the wealth of society is to not only be protected but also distributed. It is the people who are, for him, the center of good governance, and without attention to them a society, he says, is like a barren cow, useless and yielding no milk. (“puruShavad hi rAjyam; apuruShA gaurvandhyeva kiM duhIta… AS7.11.24-25”)

Hoarding of wealth, without either consuming it or distributing it, is throughout denounced by all the Hindu thinkers and dharma-shAstrakAra-s. Traditional wisdom tells us that charity, enjoyment, and destruction, wealth is only destined to go in one of these three ways. One who neither spends in charity, nor enjoys it, his is sure to go by the way of the third, i.e. destroyed. (“dAnaM bhogo nAshastistrI gatayo bhavanti vittasya; yo na dadAti na bhu~Nkte cha tasya tR^itIyA gatirnAshaH — vikrama charita, Andhra, 3.86).

A more aesthetically presented view of the same thought, from another source: ‘the wealth of those who simply hoard theirs, is eventually enjoyed not by them but by the others, like the honey collected through the industriousness of someone else is eventually consumed by someone else!’ (“ati-saMchaya-kartR^iNAM vittamansya kAraNaM; anyaiH saMchIyate yatnAdanyaishcha madhu pIyate”: vallabhadeva.474).

Another author intuitively compares unconsumed and hoarded wealth with daughters, who are lovingly brought up with care and affection by parents, only to eventually go off to someone else’s household! (upabhogakAtarANAm puruShANAm arthasaMchayaparANAm; kanyAratnamiva gR^ihe tiShThantyarthAH parasyArthe: v.482)

One must also notice that while wealthy are appealed to spend towards their social responsibility throughout the wide array of shAstra-s, quoting which at length would amount to compiling several volumes, it is not the charity alone for which the wealthy are being exhorted for the welfare of society, but also simply for consumption and enjoyment of their wealth, thereby keeping money in circulation to ensure a wider and broader distribution of wealth. The circulation of money ensures the chain reaction of wealth-creation in society, as kauTilya says, wealth creates more wealth, like the roaming elephants procreate and gather more elephants (“arthair arthA prabadhyante gajAH pratigajairiva…AS9.4.27”).

chANakya does recognize that the wealthy could easily grow a tendency of hoarding their riches and not share it with the commonwealth of the society, therefore not only does he warn the King to be cautious of such hoarding capitalists and keep them under watch, but in the spirit for which kauTilya is known, also suggests some innovative ways of how the King could justly rid such ones of some of their wealth when needed. One nice contrive he suggests is not devoid of some humour, although kauTilya must have been serious prescribing it. The King might employ a spy who takes the garb of a rich merchant, or even employ a real trustworthy merchant, who shall then go to the intended business and borrow the desired sum in gold or silver or some other costly or imported merchandise, and then having procured this loan, this spy can suitably “allow himself to be robbed”, maybe at the same night!

So no wonder, another text informs the accumulators, that their wealth, unless they spend it more generously or conduct charities, will invite only the attention of crime and decay. ‘One who neither enjoys his wealth nor donates it to those worthy of it, must rest assured that his accumulation would find its way either to the houses of the thieves or eventually rot in the belly of the earth’. (saMchitaM kratuShu nopayujyate yAchitaM guNavate na dIyate; tat-kadarya-pariraKShitaM dhanaM chaurapArthiva gR^iheShu gachcHati)

One well-known snippet of wisdom differentiates between the charitable rich and the shameless accumulators, by employing the simile of clouds and ocean, and says that ‘the glory of donors always thunders from the sky like the clouds that generously give us water, while those who keep on accumulating wealth without returning, always rot at the lowest strata of rasAtala like the ocean which only knows to receive and store’. (gauravaM prApyate dAnAt na tu vittasya sa~nchayAt; sthitiH uchchaiH payodAnAM payodhInAM adhaH sthitiH)

Some of the popular aphorisms attributed to chANakya advise us likewise, that ‘while a man must learn to be content with his wife, his wealth, and his food, he should never tire in zealously conducting these other three things: learning, recitations, and more charity’. (santoShas triShu kartavyaH sva-dAre bhojane dhane, triShu chaiva na kartavyo-dhyayane-japa-dAnayo : chANakya-nIti-darpaNa 7.4)

Another one points to the right and wrong ways of picking up fields for conducting charity: ‘Feeding a man who is not hungry is as useless as clouds raining over the ocean, and donating to someone who is not needy is as useless as lighting a lamp in the daylight’. (yathA vR^iShTiH samudreShu tR^iptasya bhojanam; vR^ithA dAnam samarthasya vR^ithA dIpo divApi cha: CND5.16)

This reminds us of that famous benchmark of charity established in the bhArata, narrated by a mongoose towards the end of the ashwamedha yaj~na of the pANDava-s. The mysterious mongoose who had half of his body as golden, announced to an astonished yudhiShThira that all the donations and charities made by pANDava-s during the yaj~na for which they were proud, were useless and not equal to even one fistful of crushed barley (saktU) donated by the family of a certain brAhmaNa. He then went on to narrate a tale of how one side of his body turned golden by just witnessing the sacrifice of that family which had nothing to eat and was starving, and having found this little crushed barley after tedious effort, as they were about to eat it, a guest appeared and begged them for it, and this starving family happily decided to offer it to him. That is charity, says mongoose in the fourteenth book of bhArata, adding since then he is roaming around to see another charity of that magnitude to turn the rest of his body golden too, but not succeeding.

We are also reminded of that prayer of kabIra, a householder saint, ‘sA.I itanA dIjiye jAme kuTuma samAya, maiM bhI bhUkhA nA rahUM sAdhu a bhUkhA jAya’: (Lord grant us just enough so that my family may survive; just that much, in which we don’t sleep hungry nor a sAdhu returns hungry from our doors.)

What about the charity with black money accumulated by the corrupt businessmen? Not acceptable, says this medieval jaina text that deals solely with the regulation of donations. ‘Donating such ill-earned money is of as much benefit’, it says, ‘as the medicine to that patient who refuses to follow the restrictions of pathyApathya prescribed by his doctor!’ (yo vahyAshArjitArthassann kurvansa bahudhA vR^iShaM; doShI vA~ncHAnniva svAsthyaM bhuktvaivApathyamauShadhaM : dAnopashAsanam.179). It sternly says that like an infertile woman can not conceive, even if she goes to bed with a thousand men, auspiciousness does never arise in someone with evil methods and ill-gotten money, no matter how much charity done. (sahastra-jana-bhogepi vandhyAyAM najuto yathA…101). The same work also says that, in contrast, only the charity from the honest money earned by the noble businessmen flourishes in the aid of dharma; it never exhausts, never meets loss, nor is ever stolen, since if charity of honestly-earned money serves dharma, dharma too protects such earning and such charity. (satpuruSho-rjayati dhanaM yat sakalajaneShTa-sAdhu-vR^iddhashchaiva syAt; tasya dhanasya cha hAnirnAnupahata-dharma-bala-suguptasyaiva. 180)

The prospective receivers of charity had a right to reject the donation too, and they did reject such donations on many occasions. Comes to our mind that instance related in the ancient drama mR^ichcHakaTikA where a brAhmaNa stoutly declines the invitation to partake of a lunch and receive donation from a householder. The jaina text referred above probably explains why. That, by receiving the ill-gotten money, earned through various sins, the receiver (dvija) of such charity has to also share with the donor those sins, and is verily destroyed. (nija-pApArjitam dravyam dvijebhyo dadate nR^ipAH; tairnaShTA rAjabhirviprA dAnam doShadamuchyate. 9)

Another very important aspect which might be hard for the secularized variety to fathom is that it is the temples and the maTha-s, vihAra-s and the jinAlaya-s which were and are the trustees of the charitable commonwealth of society, and giving to them meant returning to the Lord who can then multiply it and return it back. While it is a well known knowledge and demands citing no special evidence, what is interesting is to notice that business in ancient India did more than simply financial contribution to the religious institutions – they also regulated as well as facilitated such charities, and behaved as the responsible trustees also for the small private donations as a very organized activity. We can do no better than quote Prof. R C Majumdar at some length:

“…furnished by an inscription of huvishka at mathurA, dated in the year 28 (c. 106 AD), (the prashasti) refers to an akShaya-nIvI (perpetual endowment) of 550 purANa-s each to two guilds, one of which was that of flour-makers (comment: so that this guild will now use the interest from this money for the intended charitable purpose on behalf of the donor). An inscription in a cave at nAsik, dated in the year 42 (120 AD), records the donation of 3000 kArShApaNa-s by UShavadatta, son-in-law of the shaka chief nahapAna. The gift was intended for the benefit of the Buddhist monks dwelling in the cave, and the entire sum was invested in the guilds dwelling at govardhana in the following manner: 2000 in a weavers’ guild, the rate of interest being one per cent per month, and 1000 in another weavers’ guild at the rate of 0.75 per cent per month. It is clearly stated that these kArShApaNa-s are not to be repaid, their interest only to be enjoyed.”

“An inscription at Junnar records the investment of the income of two fields with the guild at koNAchika for planting kara~nja trees and banyan trees. Another inscription at junnAr records investment of money with the guild of bamboo-workers and the guild of braziers. A third inscription at junnAr record the gift of a cave and a cistern by the guild of corn-dealers. An inscription at nagarajonikonDA, dated 333 AD refers to a permanent endowment created by a person for the maintenance of the religious establishments made by him. The endowment consisted of a deposit of 70 dInAra-s in one guild and 10 each in three other guilds, out of the interest of which specific acts had to be done. Only names of two guilds are legible, namely those of pAnika (probably sellers or growers of betel leaves) and pUvaka (confectioners).” “The Indore Copper-plate Inscription of Skanda Gupta dated in the year 146, i.e. 465 AD, records the gift of an endowment, the interest of which is to be applied to the maintenance of a lamp which has been established in a temple for the service of the Sun-God.”

“We learn from an inscription of vaillabhaTTasvAmin Temple at Gwalior, dated 933 VS, that while the merchant savviyAka, the trader ichcHuvAku and the other members of the Board of the SavviyakAs were administering the city, the whole town gave to the temple of the Nine durgA-s, a piece of land, which was its (viz., the town’s) property. Similarly it gave another piece of land, belonging to the property of the town, to the viShNu temple, and also made perpetual endowments with the guilds of oil-millers and gardeners for ensuring the daily supply of oil and garlands to the temple. This long inscription preserves an authentic testimony of a city corporation with an organised machinery to conduct its affairs. The corporation possessed landed properties of its own and could make gifts and endowments in the name of the whole town.”

“Mention is made, by name, of four chiefs of the oil-millers of shrI-sarveshwara-pura, of four chiefs of the oil-millers of shrI-vatsasvAmI-pura, and four chiefs of the oil-millers of two other places, and we are told that these together with the other (members) of the whole guild of oil-millers should give one palika of oil per oil-mill every month (to the temple). Similarly, the other endowment was to the effect that the seven chiefs, mentioned by name, and the other (members) of the whole guild of gardeners should give fifty garlands every day.”

Such was the public charity and maintenance of social wealth, through cooperative and democratic organization. Prof. Majumdar notes that, “the objects with which these endowments were made are manifold, and due performance of them must have required extra-professional skill. Thus one guild is required to plant particular trees, while several others, none of which had anything to do with medicine, were to provide it for the sick.”

Several other inscriptions, particularly and more clearly from, although not limited to, the draviDa country reinforce this view. Prof. Majumdar notes how a combination of a village pa~nchAyata, democratically elected, organized the charity in draviDa country, and used to form the very basis of the economic functioning of the villages and to the spread the benefit of the commonwealth: “An inscription of rAjArAja choLa records the gift of a sum of money by a merchant, from the interest of which the Assembly and the residents of tiruviDavandai had to supply oil to feed a perpetual lamp. Sometimes these endowments involved two-fold banking transactions. We learn from a choLa inscription that a merchant made over a sum of money to the residents of taiyUr on condition that they should pay interest in oil and paddy to the Assembly of tiruviDavandai for burning a lamp in the temple and feeding 35 Brahmanas. There are other examples, too numerous to be recorded in detail, where the South Indian records represent the Village Assemblies as public trustees or local banks.”

Temples likewise served as the repository of public wealth, and lent their money for public works in the time of its need like famine, floods or epidemic. “An inscription at ala~NguDI dated in the 6th year of rAjArAja refers to a terrible famine in the locality. The villagers had no funds to purchase paddy for their own consumption, seed grains and other necessaries for cultivation. For some reasons, the famine-stricken inhabitants could expect no help in their distress from the royal treasury. Accordingly the Assembly obtained on loan a quantity of gold and silver consisting of temple jewels and vessels from the local temple treasury. In exchange for this the members of the Village Assembly alienated 8314 velI of land in favour of the God. From the produce of this land the interest on the gold and silver received from the temple was to be paid. A Chola inscription also records that the Assembly borrowed money from temple treasury on account of “bad time” and scarcity of grains.” Yet another one informs how “the Assembly received an endowment of 100 kAsu from an individual for providing offerings in a temple and for expounding shiva-dharma in the Assembly-hall built in the temple by the same person. They utilized the sum for repairing damages caused by floods to irrigation channels.” [above quotes from Prof. R C Majumdar are from his masterpiece “Corporate Life in Ancient India”]

When the above was happening in the choLa country, a little while from now, rAjendra choLa’s friend and ally in North India, bhojadeva the paramAra would be establishing new standards of charity for merchants in his own country. The collective Hindu subconscious remembers the times of Bhoja as much for his charity, as for his valour and scholarship. It is this impression which is reflected when the jaina AchArya merutu~Nga states that two commodities were always precious and in demand in the kingdom of bhoja: Iron and Copper. Iron because of the excessive consumption by his military, and copper for the prashasti plates for donations! We might probably add the construction of temples and schools to the list. It was not the royal charity alone, but also the works performed by the merchants of his kingdom, such as in the famous bhojashAlA university, its central figure the vAgdevI of dhArAvatI was commissioned not by bhoja, but by a jaina lady named soShA hailing from a merchant family of his capital from her own money.

We can still happily notice the continuity of the same thought, to a large extent, prevailing even today among the more traditional wealthy Hindus. It comes as no surprise to learn that the donations to temples far exceed the amount spent on “charity” as claimed on the Income Tax returns. According to the Finance Ministry, the businesses filing corporate income taxes had recorded a total expenditure of about USD 2 billion during the year 2007. On the other hand the annual budget of Tirupati shrine alone, for the same year, exceeded USD 500 million: almost all of which goes to the charitable activities managed by the temple trust, besides a portion for the maintenance of the shrines. Now add to this amount the donations received by the other important Hindu shrines all over India!

For Hindu society, charity is not the only outlet of financial contribution to the society. We also hear the stories of complete financial sacrifice in the cause of the nation, such as that by the great jaina shreShThin of mewADa, whose name is permanently etched in golden letters on the rocky walls of the fort of Udaipur: Seth Bhamashah Oswal. In a few years after the battle of haldIghATI, mahArANA pratApa siMha was not left with any resources to carry on his resistance against the moghal tyrant. Disheartened, he is said to have decided to give up, just when, apparently inspired by ekali~Nga mahAdeva in a dream, patriotic ShreShThin met mahArANA and laid down at his feet all his wealth. Seth Bhamashah, the guild leader of the merchants of mewADa and mArawADa, was no small man, nor his donation a small sum. With this financial sacrifice of patriotic businessman, mahArANA reorganize his senA and went on to launch a renewed and rejuvenated tumultuous struggle. ShreShThin went further than just donating his money, and also advised mahArANA to attack and regain first the trade routes and stifle the supply chains of the moghals in west. It is by following this advise that in less than a decade, mahArANA quickly brought the imperial control to its feet and reclaimed almost entire mewADa. Seth also led from the front, leading a regiment of mahArANA’s army, and fighting on battlefields along with an equally valiant brother of his, seTha tArAchanda oswAl.

Likewise, how can we forget the contribution of another great vaishya warrior, who a little before this time, rose to reclaim the Hindu independence in dillI by spending all his wealth on raising a senA to crush the foreigners and picking up a sword himself: himU, the son of a powerful merchant from mithilA. Moslem chroniclers use for himU the abusive epithet of ‘bakkAla’, a derogatory term for ‘shopkeeper’, alluding to his business background.

An important aspect which one notices is that the underlying principle, stressed by the traditions in the enterprise of charity, is humility. Charity was not a matter of show for the Hindu, as it is generally in the west and as the westernized Hindu corporate is now learning these days as it seems, but something which was to be done silently. shAstra-s teach one to conduct charity in such a way that while one’s right hand donates, the left does not even get the wind of it. It is these who are called the real udAra-s and dAtA-s, and it is their charity which is considered the real charity. ‘Among the hundred men born’, says this well known piece of wisdom, ‘only one is found to be brave and among thousands born only one could become a paNDita, among ten thousands born only one grows to become a good orator but truly rare and precious is the birth of such real donors, when they happen or don’t happen, knows who!’ (shateShu jAyate shUraH… dAtA bhavati vA na vA)

This reminds us of the well-known kiMvadanti about a friendly exchange between tulasIdAsa and abdur-rahIm. We know that tulasIdAsa was well-known within the circle of Akbar, with at least one copper prashasti discovered at kAshI in context of an endowment made by Todarmal which relates to his considering tulasIdAsa as his master. According to this well-known narrative, once an acquaintance of tulasIdAsa needed some money for arranging the wedding of his daughter, and asked tulasIdAsa for financial help. Todarmal who used to govern kAshI was away those days for some military campaign in North West, so tulasI sent this man, with a letter of recommendation to rahIma, the adopted son of Akbar and the symbolic head of the moghal clan, khanekhAnA, who was known to be wealthy and charitable. rahIma received the man with humility, returned him with more money than requisitioned for, and also sent a humble letter of thanks for tulasIdAsa. Hearing of rahIm’s humility, and reading the letter, tulasI replied back with a dohA, saying: “sIkhe kahAM nawAbajU denI aisI dena, jyauM jyauM kara Upara uThata tyauM tyauM nIche naina” (‘Wherefrom did our dear nawAb learn this mode of giving / Higher rise his arms in charity, lower turns his gaze in humility’). To this rahIma is said to have replied, “denahAra koi aura hai deta rahata dina-raina, loga bharama hama para dharahi tA te nIche naina” (‘The giver is someone else, who keeps giving day and night / people confuse us to be the donor, causing us the embarrassment’). At one place, rahIma himself says that, ‘we consider those not alive, who only live on alms, but we consider those even deader, from whom charity does not come’. (“rahimana te jana to muye je jana maMgahi jAya; unate pahile te muye jinate nikasata nAhi”)

We are reminded of another great mArawADI ShreShThin from va~Nga, the father of bhAratendu harishchandra, seTha harSha chandra, whose name is still taken with respect in the city of kAshI due to massive investments he made in the service of sarasvatI. bhAratendu, his son, or shall we say sarasvatI’s son, went further and practically spent all his wealth in reviving Hindu culture, especially its languages, at a time when it was most needed: setting up schools and printing presses, establishing journals and granting scholarships all over the North India, and leading the intellectual assault from the front himself.

We remember Lala Lajpat Rai, the scion of a well known wealthy family from panjAb, who decided to dedicate all his wealth in the cause of the freedom struggle. At one place we read in the memoir by the elder son of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the grateful reminiscence of the services that the legendary lAlAji silently did from his wealth for the freedom struggle. Shastriji’s son recounted here that lAlAji used to send money orders every month to those countless families whose bread winners were either languishing in British prisons or had been martyred. He also contributed in a major way towards founding of the Hindu University at kAshI.

Talking of the Hindu University of kAshI, let this be reminded that it started and continued to operate its massive infrastructure, solely on the private contribution from the wealthy Hindu businessmen and royals from across bhArata. It is only later, post-independence, that the government began contributing to it.

Yet another important institution comes to mind that was started at kAshI for the Hindu revival even before this, the kAshI nAgarI prachAriNI sabhA, which made no small contribution in inflaming that flame of Hindu revival which now seems to have been all but extinguished. Even the functioning of that sabhA was the effort of the private Hindu charity effort.

Many years back, our father used to be in the employ of the shreShThin-kulabhUShaNa GD Birla’s family for some years, and we are in intimate knowledge of how this family was and is committed to spending on public welfare, and especially for the spread and growth of dharma, much of which may not be known in public. We need not enumerate how this house is even today on the frontlines of charity, and doing so silently. We also remember the nAyaDU shreShThins who founded the shAlA where we studied for a few years when living in the draviDa country. The wealthy founder of the institute had four sons, and the philosophy of this gentleman used to be to treat society as a fifth one and share the wealth among five, not four. Their attitude to philanthropy was also typical and somewhat peculiar. They used to impart Industrial Training to the needy and then finance the machine tools for them to become self-employed and be responsible for themselves.

Coming back to Beckett, we think he might be right when he said that charity was practically a competitive sport in US business. He probably had in mind the native Indians charitably pushed into the business of gambling and gaming? Or he probably meant the proposal of the State of California to make gambling legal in the state for charity purposes? Or maybe he had in mind the recent case of the State of Connecticut suing the charity founded by the NBA star Charles D. Smith, Jr. for spending away the funds collected for charity on cruise vacations, cars and beauty services!

Advertisements
September 12, 2008

The Hoax Called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – 2: Panchatantra and Kautilya

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In the previous part, we had gleaned through hitopadesha to understand the message of the ancient AchArya of politics about ‘vasudhaiva kuTumbakam’, encapsulated in a pair of satirical fables. Far from coming as an ideal or a recommendation, the shloka there was made to come from a shrewd subversionist, the lesson being that one has to exercise discretion from unwittingly trusting such brotherhood-preachers, and that the price for befriending and sheltering the wrong kind under the influence of such unconditional brotherhood, is nothing less than self-destruction. In the present part we continue our excursion into other primary saMskR^ita sources, in particular pa~nchatantra and chANakyan literature, to understand the total meaning and context of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in pa~nchatantra

While developing the textbook of hitopadesha, nArAyaNa paNDita had the benefit of referring to, besides other sources, the most widespread repository of fables ever composed on planet, the great pa~nchatantra. In the preface of hitopadesha, nArAyaNa paNDita acknowledges that he composed hitopadesh by “extracting” from pa~nchatantra and the other texts:

पञ्चतंत्रात्तथान्यस्मात ग्रन्थाद्कृष्य लिख्यते” (हितोपदेश १.९)

Many scholars have convincingly demonstrated that hitopadesha is a contextualized eastern recension of an earlier southern recension of pa~nchatantra.

Now, this amazing and fairly ancient work of AchArya viShNusharman, pa~nchatantra is probably the single most traveled, widespread and translated work of the ancient world, and dateable with fair certainty back to the late mauryan period, of around third century before CE. The place of its composition is a matter of debates, and varying opinions place it from Kashmir to Nepal to South India. Beyond any doubt however is that soon after its composition, it got transmitted amazingly to almost all the contemporary major civilizations. As a result, fairly ancient derivations of pa~nchatantra are found under various names in a number of languages, notably in Pehlavi and Persian, Syriac and Turkic, Greek and Latin, Hebrew and Arabic, Tibetan and Chinese. Several of the traditional fables of Europe such as those in Pilpay’s, Aesop’s, Grimm’s and of Persian-Arabic literature are indebted to pa~nchatantra for their origins.

hitopadesha not only inherited from pa~nchatantra the marvelous structure of looping tales, and plots of fables, but also various shloka-s in exact verbatim, and this includes the one of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam too. In aparIkshita-kArakam, the fifth tantra of pa~nchatantra, AchArya viShNusharman records it in a fable known as ‘siMha kAraka mUrkha brAhmaNa kathA’, and assigns VK to come from a declared fool. To understand the attitude of this nIti-text towards VK, a condensed version of that fable is presented below:

“Once upon a time there lived a group of four young brAhmaNa friends in some nondescript village. Three of these were fools, although very erudite and deep gone in learning of shAstra-s. On the other hand the fourth one was altogether lacking in shAstra-learning, but fairly intelligent.

The learned members of this group once contemplated upon the merits of moving to a city where they could put their scholarship to better use. After all, what good was all the learning if it did not yield them wealth and fame? The idea was approved unanimously and the group at once took off towards a large city at a fair journey’s distance.

While going forth on their way, the oldest of the scholar-fools expressed his opinion that it was futile for the un-erudite one to join the excursion. Although the intelligence of that fellow was not in doubt, it was useless in absence of any formal learning, he said. The second scholar-fool agreed too and suggested that the uneducated one should rather return back to their home-village.

However the third scholar-fool was more generous who reminded the party that although worthless, the fourth one was their childhood friend and therefore they ought to allow him in sharing their exploits. It is at this juncture in the story, that this third fool recites the shloka of vasudhaiva-kuTumbakam, and convinced the other two scholar-fools, to let the uneducated one remain in the party. And on they went.

Upon going a little further the travelers came upon a decaying carcass of some creature been long dead. Seeing that, the learned members immediately decided to put their learning to test by making the dead creature come alive.

The scholar-fool number-one used his knowledge in gathering and properly reassembling the skeleton according to its accurate anatomy. The number-two successfully applied his formulae in adding organs, flesh, and skin. Our VK-reciting third one then began his experiments of breathing prANa into it to finally resurrect it.

At this point the fourth fellow, the intelligent though uneducated one, interrupted them. ‘Friends, wait a minute,’ warned the intelligent one, ‘listen, this dead-body appears like that of a lion, and you people want to bring it to life. Surely, my learned friends, if you resurrect the lion, it would put our own lives into grave danger. Therefore, for the sake of our lives better let the beast remain as safely dead as it now is, and move on to our destination.’

But the VK-reciting stupid-scholar wouldn’t listen to these words of common-sense and the warning was shrugged aside.

At last seeing the scholars foolishly bent upon performing the suicidal act, the wise one at once climbed the tallest tree he could locate nearby. As anticipated, the VK-reciter successfully resurrected the lion, and no sooner did the lion come alive, it devoured all the three foolish brAhmaNa-s. Only the uneducated one, having wisely climbed the tree, escaped the sorry fate of their shAstra-knowing friends and returned home lamenting for the unnecessary and foolish ends of his mates, especially the kind-hearted but naive VK-reciting one.”

This is the story inside which vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM finds a place in pa~nchatantra.

Surely if nArAyaNa paNDita had made some rather acidic use of VK in satires of hitopadesha, viShNusharman did not display much regard for it either when he first declared this character a mUrkha, an idiot, and then had this idiotic character recite the shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam. In the argument of this foolish brAhmaNa which he delivers to convince his other friends about letting the fourth friend continue in the party, quoting this shloka seems quite unnecessary or even grossly irrelevant. It does appear likely that the shloka was deliberately inserted in the dialog by viShNusharman to be made to come from a foolish character, the lesson being that un-erudite commonsense is far superior to impractical adherence to shAstrIya-learning.

Furthermore, the great viShNusharman leaves no room for any doubt about his attitude towards VK, when he lets its preacher, a declared fool already, perish by his own stupidity, meeting the same end as that of the VK-reciting Jackal of hitopadesha who was slain by subuddhi the Crow, the realist hero.

We now have ample reasons to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that both the textbooks on nIti-education – pa~nchatantra and hitopadesha – are very critical of the tendency of unconditional application of vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM in the realm of worldly matters. Their message about VK is loud and clear. One: the brotherhood-preaching that VK represents, is a popular instrument of subversion; two: gullible are often seen foolishly seized by it; and three: both are destroyed.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam and kauTilya’s artha-shAstra

Both of these textbooks of nIti, pa~nchatantra and hitopadesha, transmit many popular shloka-s to their students, quoting from several original sources such as itihAsa-purANa-s and earlier nIti-literature. One of the authors whom both predominantly quote is viShNugupta aka chANakya or kauTilya. In fact, in the preface of pa~nchatantra, right in the first two lines, viShNusharman reverently acknowledges kauTilya as a foremost luminary of politics and humbly proposes himself to be in the same line of intellectual succession, besides acknowledging that pa~nchatantra is written by viShNusharman after studying entire artha-shAstra of chANakya:

मनवे वाचस्पतये शुक्राय पाराशराय ससुताय
चाणक्याय च विदुषे नमोस्तु नयशास्त्र-कर्तृभ्यः ||
सकलार्थशास्त्रसारं जगति समालोक्य विष्णुशर्मेदम
तन्त्रैः पञ्चभिर एतच्चकार सुमनोहरं शास्त्रं ||
पञ्चतन्त्र (१, २)

Having fulfilled his mission of establishing the mauryan Empire and stabilizing it as its Prime Minister, kauTilya is said to have retired to southern India where he dedicated long years in collecting and editing various extant sources on the matters of polity and economics, and compiling a unified compendium along with his own contributions as arthashAstra. As we know, in even farther ancient India, all the knowledge used to get appended into the common body of shAstra-s, and the growing size of that knowledge must have, after a point, become exceedingly hard to manage. Therefore at some point in history, we start noticing that Hindus started to divide the common shAstra-s into independent shAstra-s for each realm of life – viz. dharma-shAstra-s, artha-shAstra-s, kAma-shAstra-s etc. We even notice the emergence of shAstra for niche subjects such as nATya-shAstra for dramatics, and pAka-shAstra for cookery and so on.

kauTilya’s work should therefore be seen in this context as a window through which we can understand the political philosophy of ancient Hindus, not only of kauTilya but also of even earlier than him. Indeed, in preparing arthashAstra, he consulted all the important sources from at least five distinct schools of politics then prevailing (mAnava, bArhaspatya, aushanasa, pArAshara, and AmbhIya) and quotes in arthashAstra from the works of not less than thirteen individual authors of past whom he refers by name: bhAradvAja, vishAlAksha, pArAshara, pishuna, kauNapadanta, vAtavyAdhi, bAhudanti-putra, kAtyAyana, kaNi~Nka-bhAradvAja, dIrgha-chArAyaNa, ghoTaka-mukha, ki~njalka, and pishuna-putra. Here it is important to highlight that kauTilya has quoted the opinions of these earlier authors not only where he agreed with them, but also where he radically disagreed. Under various topics, he first quotes them, and then expresses his personal agreement or disagreement along with an explanation.

Even as the preceding paragraphs might have appeared like a digression from our subject of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, but it was indispensable to establish first the background of kauTilya’s arthashAstra, and to show that although the various works of all of those individual authors are not extant anymore, kauTilya’s artha-shAstra alone, gives us a single source to understand the authentic political thought process of Hindus as propagated by several ancient AchAryas of nIti. Having said this, not only the verse of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam is missing in artha-shAstra, but in fact the sentiment is very incompatible with what they thought of state policy.

If unconditionally applied in the realm of statecraft as a pivotal hinge, VK manifests itself as it has done, in a state with pusillanimity and diffidence as its operating principles, and banal bhai-bhai rhetoric as its anthem. It summarily stands for a Soft State with minimalistic governance leaning towards an organized milder anarchy. And kauTilya has nothing but contempt for such a state.

Contrary to such romanticist-anarchic tendencies, kauTilya is a realist and his worldview of basic human nature and society is grounded in perceivable hard realities. He does not consider ‘brotherhood’ is the core of the state-principle but ‘Power to punish the wicked’. In the first book of artha-shAstra kauTilya states, ‘अप्रणीतो हि मत्स्यन्यायम उद्भावयन्ति बलीयान, अबलम हि ग्रसते दण्डधर अभावे’: that (far from being a family) human society in its very basic nature is like a group of fishes in water, where mightier ones devour the weak, unless a chastising rod is exercised. And therefore the danDa, the chastising rod and power and willingness to wield it, are at the core of the statecraft. Artha is the very purpose of the society he says, by dharma that is achieved, and only daNDa sustains it.

In this worldview he is joined by bhIShma, (whom kauTilya refers as kauNapadanta), expressing the same opinion to the eldest pANdava in the sixty-seventh chapter of shAnti-parvan. Manu too expresses a similar opinion, “यदि न प्रणयेत राजा दण्डम दण्ड्येश्वतन्द्रितः जले मत्स्यानिवाहिंस्यान दुर्बलान बलवत्तराः” (मनुस्मृति ७.२०): If the state would stop un-wearisomely exercising the chastising rod on those deserving to be chastised, the wicked would kill the meek like fish do in water.” So these AchArya-s are abundantly clear that if the upholders of the state absolve themselves of their primordial duty, under VK-belief or otherwise, of exercising the daNDa, then there will be no kuTumbakam but only a matsya-nyAya.

Unlike the world-a-family model, kauTilya’s arthashAstra also holds that wickedness and enemies are always going to be around and therefore a firm discretion is needed in the matters of statecraft. Identifying the enemies of the country and not hesitating to crush them relentlessly, is an essential part of the duties of statesmen to maintain a sustainable order. Just sample a few of kauTilya’s utterances: Like sandalwood does not abound every forest, like each elephant does not carry a mANikya, remember this that not everyone is a gentlemen (CND 2.9); By various means, one should protect one’s own people and hurt those of the enemy (AS 14.3); My Lord, follow the rule that there should be no delay in putting down the enemy, even a very strong confederacy of the wicked people. Never be tiresome or hesitate in applying full force against them (AS 5.4).

So, I believe we can move on by saying that at least in kauTilya’s opinion, the operating guideline of statesmen holding the duty-rod of the state is not to preach the romantic anarchy of ‘vasudhaiva kuTumbakam’, but a very realistic distinction between the friend and foe, and an unhesitating suppression of the inimical forces is needed for a sustainable peace in society.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in other works of kauTilya

Besides artha-shAstra, there are some other collections that carry the name of chANakya, and contain hundreds of aphorisms popularly attributed to him. Some popular compendiums that carry the name of chANakya include: laghu-chANakya, vR^iddha-chANakya, chANakya-nIti-darpaNaM, chANakya-nIti-shAstra, chANakya-nIti-shataka, chANakya-rAja-nIti-shAstra, chANakyaM, chANakya-shatakaM, chANakya-nIti-vyavahAra-sAra-saMgraha, chANakya-sUtrANi, and rAja-nIti. A few in this list are published, while the most are in manuscript form in various libraries around the world.

Of the above list, the first four – laghu-chANakya, vR^iddha-chANakya, chANakya-nIti-darpaNaM, chANakya-nIti-shAstra – are certainly very widespread, as their manuscripts have been found from a diversity of places as distant as Tamilnadu and Nepal, Gujarat and Bengal, Rajasthan and Karnataka. These four therefore are fairly ancient collections containing as it seems, ‘the other’ sayings from the pen of chANakya himself. For the rest, it appears more sensible that the later composers might have added the luminary’s name to enhance the credibility and popularity of their own products.

Coming back to vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, of all the secondary collections of chANakya’s sayings, vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM is found in only one single manuscript of vR^iddha chANakya, in the Tanjore recension, in addition to a certain version of chANakya-nIti-shAstra. In all other widespread manuscripts and sources on the rest of the compendiums of chANakya’s aphorisms, VK is simply non-existent just like in artha-shAstra, suggesting a later interpolation by some scribes in these two individual manuscripts, quoting from some other sources.

Ludwig Sternbach had done a signal work in collecting and analyzing all the different sources of chANakya’s sayings to compose a unified single compendium of his authentic original aphorisms. He employed a very sound statistical technique to scrub the interpolations. Using this methodology, vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM appears to be a later interpolation coming from some other non-chANakyan source. Sternbach has also demonstrated various other aphorisms popularly thought to be of chANakya to actually be coming from earlier texts like mahAbhArata, showing how those have crept into chANakya’s compendiums, suggesting interpolation.

Above all, when the authentic line of thought of chANakya, as represented by artha-shAstra, is brought into consideration, it becomes an impossibility that he would ever recommend VK as a guideline for statecraft or a policy cornerstone for society.

Credit for that innovation is safely with the wise politicians of modern India.

Concluding Part: The Hoax Called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – 3: poetics, vikrama-charita and upanishada

August 29, 2008

The Hoax Called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – 1: Hitopadesha

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

vk

ayaM nijaH paroveti gaNanA laghu-chetasAM
udAra charitAnAM tu vasudhaiva kuTumbhakaM

[“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]

If a survey of the saMskR^ita verses most quoted in the modern times were undertaken, the above would certainly secure the top rank. Along with its short form ‘vasudhaiva kuTumbakam’, this shloka somehow finds a massive popularity among the modern Hindus. Of late though, the secular variety seems to have developed quite a fetish for it and the verse has gained a rhetorical note. Apparently it offers them an aesthetic emblem of multiculturalism and universalism, as well as an authority of yore to denounce the nationalistic thought as narrow-minded. Even the most saMskR^ita-phobic ones therefore can be seen reciting this shloka on every sundry occasion.

While we can site several examples of its interesting usage, we shall limit to the following few:

“…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.

And:

“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.

The shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam being sited to propose it as a contrasting paradigm to the Samuel Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations, is both iconic and profound. The shloka is invoked by the speakers to show their liberalist Nehruvian internationalism to be a continuity of the ancient Hindu paradigm; the appeal is made to the Hindu past for approaval and attestation of their ideology; and claim is laid to be the legitimate heir of the continuity of the ancient thought process and legacy.

Had it been limited to the shloka’s popularity among the speech-writers to add some aesthetic value to the speeches, not much harm done. But what is much more profound comes in the following:

Speaking in Rajya Sabha on December 5, 2007, the Union Minister for External Affaires Mr. Pranab Mukherjee made it very unambiguous when he jubilantly declared:

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is our foreign policy.

Indeed, VK has also become an unchallenged cornerstone of India’s official policy-making since independence, as has been officially proclaimed so on several occasions. No wonder that as a symbolic reflection, VK has been literally inscribed in stone, on the walls of the India’s Parliament House.

Now, thanks to the continuous rhetoric, traditional Hindus too seem to have taken to this shloka like a duck to the water. vasudhaiva kuTumbakam is often cited by them as an evidence of how the ancient sages had set for themselves, and for generations thereafter, the principles of an unconditional universal brotherhood. It has been generally taken for granted that VK is of unquestionable value, a traditional nIti recommended by wise ancestors of how to deal with the world. We can notice the shloka being quoted uncritically not only by Hindutva ideologues in their writings and speeches but also popular religious leaders in their discourses without getting tired.

However, this prominence to VK in the modern public discourse springs from a superficial or even a perverted understanding. If we study the original sources which recited it in the first place, it becomes amazingly apparent that its popular understanding is simply blundered, and its application in the matters of policy is a height of ignorance and squarely flawed.

That is precisely the objective of this note in which we shall glean through the original sources, recognize the contexts in which the ancient Hindu-s uttered VK, and most importantly, validate whether it was meant by them as a recommendation.

Contrary to the popular myths, the verse is neither located in R^igveda nor in mahAbhArata, neither in manusmR^iti nor in the purANa-s. Thus far, we have seen the verse in the following saMskR^ita sources: hitopadesha, pa~nchatantra, certain compendiums of chANakya and bhaR^trihari, mahA-upaniShadam, certain recensions of vikrama-charita, and finally in the works of the great kAshmIraka poet bhaTTa udbhaTa. While there might be additional sources of the verse as well, which we might identify in future, here we shall make an excursion into these texts identified so far, and understand the proper contexts and true purport of VK in each occurrence.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in hitopadesha

That this verse comes to us from the massive web of tales called hitopadesha, this I accidentally learnt while reading the preface of Mahadevi Varma’s collection of autobiographical essays called “Mera Parivar” (My Family). The towering modern-Hindi poetess was a lover of animals and had in her home a curious gathering of different creatures which is what she described as her family in this book. The preface compares her family to ‘vasudhaiva kuTumbakam of the creatures described in pa~nchatantra’ — although the author would have really meant hitopadesha — and that is how I came upon pa~nchatantra and hitopadesha in search for origins of VK.

Several centuries before Friedrich Froebel proposed the ideas about educating the child through entertaining activities – kindergarten as he called it – teaching young pupils through entertainment must have been a successful practice in India. If the terse instructions are wrapped inside intriguing and memorable tales, not only are the lessons better received by the instructed, but also acquire meaningfulness and longevity of the teaching — arguably the discovery of this principle is to the credit of ancient Hindu-s, and hitopadesha is a shining evidence of the same. It was compiled by nArAyaNa paNDita in roughly 5th century of the CE either in magadha or in bangal, as a textbook for two young princes who being hard at studies were dropouts from the conventional schooling.

Organized into four chapters, hitopadesha is a fascinating loop of one tale inside the other which itself is inside the other tale – going all the way back up to the kathAmukha or the face-tale. Vasudhaiva kuTumbakam makes its sole appearance in its first chapter known as mitra-lAbhaH (‘Gaining of Friends’). A mouse named hiraNyaka relates to his friend laghu-patanaka the Crow, a story about another Crow, the Deer and ksudrabuddhi the Jackal, and inside this story ksudrabuddhi the Jackal would recite VK as a reaction after hearing from this Crow another story known as ‘jaradgava the Vulture and dIrghakarNa the Cat’.

Encapsulated in this intriguing way within three layers of fables is this important message about VK that nArAyaNa paNDita the great teacher of politics relayed to his pupils. To understand the context in which VK is quoted and more importantly the instruction of the teacher about it, let us enjoy these two stories: one in which the VK is uttered; and another in response to which it is uttered. Reproduced in the following paragraphs are both of these in a condensed form.

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.

gullible deer and VK-reciting subversionist

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.

subuddhi

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.

jaradgava

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.

dIrghakarNa

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.

We should be by now convinced that the ancient AchArya of politics nArAyaNa paNDita was not teaching the policy of universal and blind brotherhood to his pupils. Quite to the contrary, he is actually warning precisely against this tendency of blind application of this brotherhood in the matters of policy, as is being apparently taught and believed by the modern powers that be of India and the gullible preachers and scholars.

Next Part: The Hoax Called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – 2: in Panchatantra and Chanakya Niti

%d bloggers like this: