Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Indian View of Globalization, Multiculturalism and Peace-Building in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Challenges

Globalization [vaishvikaran], is a word derived of the globalize [vaishviki], which further emerges from the globe [vishva], the earth. Globalization is in short a continuously increasing process dedicated in principle to the global unity and welfare of all those living on earth. In other words, the whole world as a single family as per the ancient Vedic-Hindu dictum of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam [वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्] is within its ambit with the sole purpose of integration and development of all those who are inhabitants of this planet.      

Multicultural [bahu-sanskritik] incorporates in it the two words: multi [many or several] and culture [Sanskriti:  ways of life, which has indeed played a vital role right from the beginning in making humans civilized, in the rise of people, women and men, on the basis of performance as fully humans and to lead them to the pathway of all-round development], thus, to divulge cultural diversities prevailing differently and essentially in the world.

India has, since ancient times, been entirely dedicated to the cause of globalization, which could be well observed and examined from the concept of human unity propounded in the Vedas, the most sacred and the key treatises of Indians, and the Rig-Veda itself in particular that has been declared as the world’s heritage by an international organization like the UNESCO. It is the Vedas, which have been for centuries predominantly guiding the life of most of the Indians. Along with this, the Vedas have left undying impression on almost all major socio-religious philosophies of the world. India’s call for globalization could also be traced back emphatically to some other Vedic-Hindu scriptures, especially the Upanishads, Ahimsa-centred philosophy of Jainism and practices of the Jain Thirthankaras, the Buddhism and the life and work of Gautama Buddha, the Light of Asia, the Sikhism and the Sikh Gurus.

The ninth Mantra of the first Sukta of the first Mandala of the Rig-Veda pertaining to human-unity [Manav-Samyukta] for common welfare and pleasure of one and all, message of ekatwam anupasyata [unity of the living entities] of the Ishopanishad, call of Jainism, Tirthankara Mahavira in particular for harmony and unity of all, general and particular, woman and man, rich and poor, and Buddhist stress on denying self ‘I’ and recognizing ‘We’, iterate the common concept of a unified humanity unmistakably. Indian concept of globalization is also echoed in the harmony preached in Sikh philosophy, the teachings and works of all the ten Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev, the first of Gurus and especially Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth in particular, who conveyed the message of recognizing all of mankind as a single caste, Manas Ki Jaat Sabhe Ek Hi Pehchan Bo.         

Along with this, multiculturalism, which is being discussed widely in these days through various perspectives by means of seminars and symposiums in universities, colleges and socio-political and religious foras all over the world, is not a new idea for India. Like globalization, multiculturalism is also one of the foremost concepts recognized by India since ancient times. Vedic-Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, all the four major religious philosophies of the Indian origin acknowledged multiculturalism in their teaching and preaching.

Recognition to practices as per one’s own expression of faith even if developed in regional perspective by Vedic-Hinduism remained a living example before the whole world in this regard. Vedic-Hinduism, as known to all, is a faith of most of the Indians consisting of many diverse traditions such as Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism etc. A wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions for day-to-day practices based on Karma [deed] and Dharma [duty] and societal norms also exists in Hinduism. Vedic-Hinduism is, we know, a categorization of distinct intellectual or philosophical viewpoints, rather than a rigid, or any common set of beliefs. This, without a doubt divulges recognition of Hinduism to multiculturalism.

Along with this, a unique concept pertaining to Anekantavad of Jainism is worth mention in this regard. Likewise, the teaching and practices of Buddhism and Gautama Buddha himself emphasizing the refusal of becoming dogmatic, the rejection of exclusive claims to truth and not to be intolerant while living with others, could also be counted in this very context.             

 Further, the manner in which evergreen, evolutionary and harmonious Indian culture has right from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization [approximately five thousand years from now] on the basis of tolerance and forbearance, the two chief and the most practical expressions of the supreme human value of Ahimsa [non-violence] given the passage and protection to the people of the whole world that is also well before us. Right from the days of the peak of the Indus Valley Civilization, groups of people one after the other started coming to the Indian land continuously from different parts of the planet along with their own values, traditions, methods of worship or faith and belief to settle here. Indian culture welcomed all of them whole-heartedly in its broad edge. Greeks, Kushanas, Hunas, Parsis, or Tai Ahoms, all of them were accorded equal opportunities to rise on the Indian land irrespective of their nativity. Indian culture in practicing globalization and respecting other cultures and ways of living has always remained exemplary of multiculturalism before the world.

From socio-economic and cultural viewpoint in particular India’s relations with countries of the Gulf established by the sea routes, import and export with other regions of the Continent of Asia including China through the long Silk Route are even today categorically in witness of its broad and exemplary view of globalization and acceptance of multiculturalism since ancient times. For, Huen Tsang [602–664 AD], a Buddhist Monk from China, a scholar admirer of India also sang songs of all embracing Indian philosophy, which is known to all of us. This might have been inspired by a long process and series of events pertaining to it, which are also well under the purview of all of us. In short, I can say with certainty that it is India, which emerged as an exemplary land of amalgamation of various cultures of the world. It still remains so.



India’s viewpoint of globalization and multiculturalism is further dedicated to peace. Peace not only for India or Indians, but for each and everyone in the world. India has always called for world peace, to reiterate, having the broad concept of oneness of the people of the entire planet as nucleus. The broad Indian view of peace, as it uniquely appears in the Upanishads, besides the Vedas, contemplates universal peace, and, in turn, peace within peace, because progress in real sense is possible solely in the environment of harmony, which is the upshot of the state of peace. The Vedic-Hindu view [in reality the Indian view] had long ago conveyed to the wary world that work accomplished through unity in diversity could pave the way to peace and development. Only harmony in diversity be it in views, ways or life-styles, could accord the best and all-welfaristic atmosphere of stepping forward with unity. It indeed recognizes individual freedom, freedom of expression in particular. It categorically accepts and honours ideas developed through one’s own consciousness achieved by self-realization.      

  India in its message to humanity had also clarified long ago that the world would inevitably head towards its unity as a single family –globalization. Along with this, India had established that for the certainty of world’s unity, an acceptability and respect for different cultures, and opportunities for their simultaneous progress would have to be ensured. In this respect India made forbearance and tolerance, the two foremost and the most practical features of Ahimsa [non-violence] the basis of its view of globalization and acceptability.

Now, the development at all levels, from local to global, is rapidly growing in all walks of life. Mutual dependence is increasing day-by-day. The world is swiftly converting into a global village. In this ongoing process the significance of the Indian view of globalization and universal acceptance multiplies many folds. Why? We need to comprehend this honestly to procure a world of coexistence.

In reality, this ongoing process of development is accompanied by the multiplicity of diverse differences, disputes, pressures and struggles. New challenges surface continuously. Due to competitions in all spheres tendencies of intolerance, negligence, disregard and non-acceptability keep popping up as the prime challenges. It is but natural. Meeting such challenges is an essential part of this journey that cannot be skipped. Not only this, but also the nature of differences, disputes, pressures and struggle, and their impact on the masses and the classes is variable, which demands resolution within that very process in prevailing situations of space to ascertain continuity of development in the atmosphere of harmony, in the state of peace. For this, the viewpoint of tolerance [along with forbearance] and acceptability stands sound with precious possibilities to meet even the toughest of these challenges. This is, in fact, the best of the ways available to mankind for resolution. The Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam –globalization is fully imbued by these values. It is, therefore, worth considering. It is to be viewed also in context of acceptability and respect of different cultures and ways of life. 

The fundamentals of the Indian view of globalization and multiculturalism, especially its tenets of forbearance, tolerance and acceptance, are worth adopting in their refined form as per the demand of time and space all over the world. Prejudice-free and united efforts for their realization, development and application are needed to meet challenges. Undoubtedly, the best prospects for a peaceful and prosperous world are available there. In this regard, Indians also need to introspect. For this, their role and responsibility is the foremost in comparison to others.                         

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