vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam revisited

Jan E.M. Houben jhouben at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Fri Aug 4 12:33:47 UTC 2000

Inspired by the helpful and stimulating reactions of Harunaga Isaacson and
Madhav Deshpande I briefly checked some other occurrences of the verse
aya.m nija.h paro veti containing the presently much-cited phrase vasudhaiva

As I see it now (comments of anyone more familiar with the relevant
literatures are invited):

1. No ancient occurrence in a straightforward dharmic source (e.g.
manusm.rti) or Vedic source can be found for the phrase, in spite of recent
claims attached to it through wrong references (I assume out of carelessness
plus wishful thinking plus trusting unreliable sources, though the help of
some little "pious fraud" here and there cannot be excluded ... ).

2. Thomas Egenes' oblique reference to Manusmrti 11.12 is -- I assume
unintentionally -- ironical. Manu allows here the brahmin to take from the
vaizya's house what he wants to use for his sacrifice >>> parallel to the
cynical application of "the world is my family" phrase in the Hitopadeza by
the jackal who had his eyes on the deer's flesh.

3. Even as a relatively early anthology the of
Vidyaakara has been attributed to ca. 1100 by Ingalls. As is well known, in
the course of time Subhaa.sitas easily enter and leave anthologies; there
are more than 800 candidates for the "three centuries" of Bhartrhari (among
them, again, our verse aya.m nija.h ... vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam; Levi in 1922
also referred to Bhartrhari in connection with this vers; it is no. 376 in
D.D. Kosambi's 1948 critical edition).
We enter here a very tricky area, but the Hitopadeza occurrence -- though
the Hit. is relatively late in the Brhatkathaa-Pancatantra-tradition --
could just as well be earlier than the occurrence. In
the translation volume of the Ingalls writes
"Pancatantra, Hitopadeza, etc." next to the verse in question (no. 1241),
apparently suggesting that these were (among) the earlier sources from which
the verse (could have been/) was taken. Also Ludwik Sternbach in his
momumental Mahaa-Subhaa.sitasa.mgraha, mentions these under the "primary
sources" of the verse. The occurrence in the Pancatantra is according to my
taste not perfectly suiting its context (it disappears in various critical
versions) in the story of the three learned and one insightful brahmins.
The verse has been attributed to different authors, as Harunaga Isaacson
pointed out (for instance one Bha.t.todbha.ta, court poet of Kashmiran king
Yayaarii.da, one Keza.ta, one Sabhaataranga, one Udaatta).

4. There is indeed an alternative occurrence of the verse where it appears
in a solidly (not just anthologically or citationally) positive context:
"There was no king in the round world like Vikramaarka. In his heart never
arose the question "is this man a stranger, or does he belong to my side"
(tasya cetasy aya.m paro 'ya.m madiiya iti vikalpo naasti). On the contrary,
he protected the whole universe. And it is said: aya.m nija.h ... vasudhaiva
... "
I am quoting, as you can guess, from "Vikrama's adventures" (ed. and transl.
by F. Edgerton, Harvard Oriental Series 1926).
This occurrence, together with that in various anthologies, may very well
explain the popularity of the verse in a positive, non-cynical sense, up to
the early decades of "Hindu humanism" (where Levi picked it up), and next up
to the present. For those who want to attach authority and ancientness to
this verse (for those for whom ancientness = authority) this is so far the
best I could do. The text in it different recensions, unfortunately, does
not seem to be significantly older than e.g. the Hitopadeza. (It must be
later than Bhoja's reign (1010-1053) who is a second hero in the stories,
after the legendary king Vikrama whose adventures are told by the 32
statuettes supporting his throne).

5. Much of what Brian A. Hatcher said in his 1994 article in Contributions
to Indian Sociology (28.1, p. 149-162) on the "problematic mantra of Hindu
humanism" is still applicable, though the author would have done well to
check other occurrences of the verse in advance.

Best wishes, Jan Houben

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