While visiting the glorious Akshardam Temple in New Delhi, India last winter, I remember being deeply struck by this quote from British Historian Arnold Toynbee:
It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family.
While Hinduism has unfortunately been guilty of just as many religion-based conflicts as any other organized religion these days, what Toynbee so eloquently refers to here is the true essence of Hinduism, which is not Indian at all, but rather expresses the essence of that which is universal and eternal in nature.
I have been truly blessed over the past seven years, since starting to study Yoga and now Ayurveda and Vedanta (the science of “oneness”) to reconnect with my Indian roots in a deep way. Over the past months, I have also been been blessed to study Indian Culture, History, Mythology, Hindi and Sanskrit from my Ayurveda teacher Shunya Pratichi Mathur’s father, Daya Prakash Sinha, who I affectionately call and regard as Tata ji (meaning “respected grandfather” in Hindi). One of my favorite aspects of Indian Culture, which Tata ji always says the Vedika Global (school where I have been learning Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta for the past two years) community is an expression of, is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.” In the Upanishads, an ancient Vedanta text passed down from teacher to student in the oral tradition, there is a beautiful shloka (meaning ‘hymn’ or ‘poetic verse’) that goes as follows:
अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं
ayaṃ bandhurayaṃ neti gaṇanā laghucetasāṃ udāracaritānāṃ tu vasudhaiva kuṭumbakaṃ
Only small men discriminate, saying one is a relative and the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously, the whole world is but one family.
The trailer of Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” film beautifully expresses how:
The greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home.
And that is exactly what my journey through these past two years at Vedika, with my teacher, her family and our school community have truly been for me. My teacher’s family tree includes dogs, birds and other animals, as well. Having always been a little afraid of dogs (due to my father’s fear of them, stemming from dog bites he experienced as a child), I never imagined that I could love dogs as deeply as I do my little sister…and be as excited about their every wag of their tails as I was of my sister’s every move when she was a baby. There are so many stories I look forward to writing and sharing about family. For now, however, I am going to play with my little doggie siblings Saya and Sakhi and will therefore leave you with a beautiful poem (from shrinisays.wordpress.com) that eloquently expresses the essence of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam:”
In Search of Home
Where do I rest, where is my home
Searching high and searching low
Where do I come from, where shall I go?
Where do I belong, I seek to know
Where is my home?
Where ever the sun seeks to rise
Even where the depths of darkness resides
Where the moon shows
Her benevolent light
Where rivers run, and tides ebb and flow
Where the wheels turn, where the grain grows
Where we live and love
Where the wind blows, that is my home
Unbound I am to a single place
Free from bondage and distress
Unbound to the dogmas of old
The falcon in flight, away I go
A home I find on every land
A friend I seek in every man
The world welcomes with open arms
The wise men have told us thus
For the righteous, noble soul
All the world is but my home
A friend I find in every soul
And a home I find, wherever I go!