Feb 182009

“Rivers do not drink their own water , nor do tree eat their own fruit , nor do rain clouds eat the grains reared by them. The wealth of the noble is used solely for the benefit of others?

Even after accepting that giving is good and that one must learn to give , several questions need to be answered.

The first question is when should one give ?

Yudhisthir asks a beggar seeking alms to come the next day. On this , Bhim rejoices , that Yudhisthir his brother , has conquered death! For he is sure that he will be around tomorrow to give. Yudhisthir gets the message. One does not know really whether one will be there tomorrow to give!

The time to give therefore is

The next question is ‘how much to give ?

One recalls the famous incident from history. Rana Pratap was reeling after defeat from the Moghals. He had lost his army , he had lost his wealth , and most important he had lost hope , his will to fight. At that time in his darkest hour , his erstwhile minister Bhamasha came seeking him and placed his entire fortune at the disposal of Rana Pratap. With this , Rana Pratap raised an army and lived to fight another day.

The answer to this question how much to give is
” Give as much as you can !

The next question is what to give ?

It is not only money that can be given. It could be a flower or even a smile.

It is not how much one gives but how one gives that really matters. When you give a smile to a stranger that may be the only good thing received by him in days and weeks!

“You can give anything but you must give with your heart !

One also needs answer to this question whom to give ?

Many times we avoid giving by finding fault with the person who is seeking. However , being judgmental and rejecting a person on the presumption that he may not be the most deserving is not justified.

” Give without being judgmental !

Next we have to answer ‘How to give ?

Coming to the manner of giving , one has to ensure that the receiver does not feel humiliated , nor the giver feels proud by giving.

‘Let not your left hand know what your right hand gives? Charity without publicity and fanfare , is the highest form of charity.

‘Give quietly !

While giving let not the recipient feel small or humiliated. After all what we give never really belonged to us. We come to this world with nothing and will go with nothing. The thing gifted was only with us for a temporary period. Why then take pride in giving away something which really did not belong to us? Give with grace and with a feeling of gratitude.

What should one feel after giving ?

We all know the story of Eklavya. When Dronacharya asked him for his right thumb as “Guru Dakshina”. He unhesitatingly cut off the thumb and gave it to Dronacharya.

There is a little known sequel to this story. Eklavya was asked whether he ever regretted the act of giving away his thumb when he was dying.

His reply was “Yes ! I regretted this only once in my life. It was when Pandavas were coming in to kill Dronacharya who was broken hearted on the false news of death of his son Ashwathama and had stopped fighting. It was then that I regretted the loss of my thumb. If the thumb was there , no one could have dared hurt my Guru?

The message to us is clear.

Give and never regret giving !

And the last question is

‘ How much should we provide for our heirs ?

Ask yourself , ‘Are we taking away from them the “gift of work?- a source of happiness!’ The answer is given by Warren Buffett:

“Leave your kids enough to do anything , but not enough to do nothing !

Let us learn the Art of Giving , and quoting Sant Kabir:

“When the wealth in the house increases , When water fills a boat , Throw them out with both hands !

This is the wise thing to do!

The Taittiriyo Upanishad SIkshAvalli is full of sound instructions. Among the numerous dicta are to be found guidelines on how to Give.

“ShraddhayA dEyam, ashraddhayA dEyam, ShriyA dEyam, HriyA dEyam, BhiyA dEyam, samvidA dEyam” says the Upainishad, enumerating the characteristics of charity.”

“ShraddhayA dEyam” All charity is to be done with sincerity and good intention, the underlying motive being an urge to be of help to the receiver. Thus giving, with the aim of receiving something in return, is not charity. Giving is also to be done with grace, and in a way that is not embarrassing or insulting to the receiver. The giver should not flaunt his wealth, nor should he remind the recipient of his poverty. Usually, the act of giving puts the giver’s hand uppermost and the receiver’s, on a lower plane. However, it is said that KarNA, to save the receiver the ignominy of stretching his hand lower, held his palms joined together, and requested the recipient to take the gold coins therein, thus ceding the upper position to the receiver.

“ashraddhayA dEyam” Once we decide to give away a particular article, its value or magnificence should not bother us, and we should give whole-heartedly, having scant regard to the item’s worth. Parting with a possession with reluctance does not qualify as charity. This mantra is also interpreted differently-“ashraddhayA adEyam”- do not give without shraddha or sincerity and good intention.

“ShriyA dEyam” In a miser, the very thought of charity would induce sorrow, dismay and distress. One should give with a benign disposition, with a smile on one’s face, with happiness induced by the opportunity to be of use to a fellow human being.

“HriyA dEyam” Keeping in mind the conduct of the great philanthropists of the past, the inadequacy of one’s own aid and the greatness of the receiver, one should be ashamed of one’s attempts at charity. This is prescribed so that one doesn’t tend to think too much of oneself for the act of kindness.

“BhiyA dEyam” If the act of charity is not done in the prescribed fashion, and is contaminated by either insincerity, pride or highhandedness, then it is likely to prove counter-productive. A healthy apprehension of counter-productivity due to incorrect attitude or procedure, should characterize an act of charity, so that the giver would always be on guard against attitudes incompatible with giving. Hence the Upanishad says, “Give with fear”.

“Samvida deyam” The act of giving should be preceded by a resolution to give. Such resolution makes the mind determined in the act, and prevents last-minute reversal of attitude due to attachment in the article proposed to be given away. And once we resolve to give, it should be implemented immediately, for, the mind is fickle. And given the time and chance to think logically, we would probably come to the conclusion that the amount proposed to be donated is too high or the cause unworthy. So, once we decide to give, we must give immediately. Mahabali Chakravarty is a shining example in this regard.

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