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Reflection and Contemplation on the Values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to be Realized Through Embodied Action, Symbiosis International University (SIU)

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Date(s) - 02/04/2022
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

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Dr. Tandon was invited to deliver the Guest Lecture at Symbiosis International University (SIU) for the course on Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam on 2 April 2022, 2- 3.30 pm IST. The topic of the lecture was Reflection and Contemplation on the Values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to be Realized Through Embodied Action. He began the lecture by emphasising on the 6 foundational values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The world is one family). The six values are: tolerance, respect, dialogue, dissent, co- existence and compassion. He stressed that these values are not just relevant for the world as a family but it is also relevant within a family, inside the universities, in our neighbourhoods and so on.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a practice of global citizenship but before we become global, we must acknowledge that we are local. We live in our families, institutions, in our neighbourhoods and communities. So, the question is how do we practice the same values within our own contexts? For instance, when we talk about the value of tolerance, we basically refer to our tolerance to differences and diversities. When we say respect, its means respecting different point of views, ways of living, which is different from us. Do we value and respect the differences or do we become dismissive of the differences? The proof of one’s practice of the foundational values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam  is in the face of diversity and. dissimilar others. We need to reflect on how we behave and practice tolerance, respect and compassion. The essence of practicing these values is the practice of being a good citizen.

The starting point for citizenship is not the vertical relationship with the government but it is the horizontal relationship with fellow citizens. Citizenship is about practicing values of tolerance, respect, compassion in everyday life with those who are around us. When we talk about difference and diversity, we must base them in the horizontal axis. The moment we put the differences in a vertical axis we put a hierarchy in place where one is superior to the other. Therefore, horizontality of relationships in everyday life is of utmost importance. We can disagree with people around us but we must disagree with respect. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam  is about extending the same value of citizenship to a global space. Tolerance is not apathy; it is engagement with different others with a sense of compassion. Compassion doesn’t mean charity; it means we are in it together.

How and in what way we practice such values when we say Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam? We must learn to become flexible and develop capacity to face uncertainties. When we express ourselves, we learn to formulate our thinking. Similarly, when others express, they also express their understanding, which may not necessarily be identical to ours. In such a situation, the first instinct must be to engage in dialogue and explore the different opinions and find a way of co- existence.

We all talk about listening – the problem with listening is that one’s ability to listen depends on their ability to prepare a counter argument. Counter arguments are like earplugs. What typically happens is that when somebody is saying something, we are busy preparing counter arguments. As a result, we don’t listen, we don’t engage and therefore, we don’t understand their point of view. Tolerance is an active exploration, understanding and appreciation of  differences. We learn so many things when we explore the difference, but when we reject the differences, we reject the possibility of learning something new. We must develop critical consciousness. Before we promote the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we must examine ourselves and our discomforts. Today the practice of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is essential to human survival. The ‘global citizenship’ phraseology which UNESCO has put forward is increasingly and explicitly brings in all living beings not just all human beings. UN’s latest adaptation talks about equality, liberty and a healthy planet. Vasudhaiva needs to be inclusive of all living beings. When we promote our way of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam with others, we should be open to learn and explore their perspectives too. Learning from other cultures is essential. The more you learn about others culture, the more you learn about yourself.

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