Hindu, Hinduism and Hindustan: Part LIV

Danam [Charity]

Continued from Part LIII

In the modern age, the introduction of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Education in 1835 in British India could be discerned as the watershed moment in the Indian history paving way for teaching of a Western curriculum with English as the language of instruction overlooking the interests of millennia old and rich Indian languages such as Sanskrit and Pali, or so to say consciously demoting them for the colonial selfish interests, along with Persian introduced by Mughals during the medieval period. This move eventually established English in India as the official communication language in the Indian government and educated elites rather than merely remaining the native tongue of the colonial rulers. This trend, however, continued after independence as well because it suited best to the Indian elite class that were true inheritors of the power and legacy of the British after independence.

No wonder the same protectionist culture has prevailed till now and the Indian traditional elite and intellectual classes continue to derive inspiration from the West very often looking down at everything viz. literature, culture and religion, which is native in origin even without taking little pain to learn and understand real facts. In the recent years, the electronic social media has emerged as the most powerful medium to express and influence masses through proactive debate and dissemination of viewpoints and narratives on almost every discipline of life. Therefore, this author did not find it surprising when in an ongoing exchange of views on charity at one such forums, an elite and perhaps well-read gentleman, consciously or unconsciously, glorified a certain prophet of one of the Abrahamic religions who supposedly ruled that even the simple act of smiling was charity, a gift to another, if he has no money to give.

Probably it is the same legacy and misconception that inspires many trending Indian intellectuals and elites to say “Kalidasa is the Shakespeare of India”, without pondering or caring about the worthiness of remark because both of them were great poet, playwright and dramatist of their genre but the former preceded the latter nearly by 1,200 years. It is difficult to infer if it is the inferiority syndrome in the sub-conscious inflicted by Macaulay’s Education i.e. everything Western or British is superior or the ignorance of own languages and culture but a sensible person would find it painful when people conveniently overlook over five thousand years of glorious cultural heritage and endowment, while solely acknowledging and thereby promoting alien and exotic precepts on the cost of own culture and religion. As all this is coming and being mentioned in the context of charity, the author proposes to explore the concept of Danam (Charity or Alms giving) in this part with refererence to Hindu scriptures and texts.

The Concept of Danam

Danam (or Dana) is both a Sanskrit and Pali word that connotes the virtues of charity, generosity, donation or alms giving in Indian culture and traditions. The ancient Indian society was intertwined with the four orders of life or the ashramas, i.e. Brahmacharya or the student life, Grihastha or the householder’s life, Vanaprastha or the retired life, and Sanyasa or the devotional life; and it was a mandatory duty of the householders to give away a portion of their earnings as charity or alms to the needy persons in the society, who could be Brahmins/sanyasins, or any human being in distress or need. Other Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which evolved as offshoots of Hinduism or independently in the sub-continent, too cultivated the practice of Danam generously. The available historical records suggest that Danam flourished as an essential ancient socio-religious tradition in Vedic and post-Vedic periods in Bharatvarsha (India).

Many ancient Hindu texts suggest the concept of Paropakara, the verbatim meaning of which is benevolent deed or doing good to others. Apart from the need-based donation or charity to the needy or destitute and alms (Bhiksha) to Brahmins and sanyasins, the system of ritual based charity was also prevalent which householders would liberally give on various social and religious occasions such as Upanayana or Yagnopavita samskara, weddings, death, shradh of ancestors, Hindu temple ceremonies, Hindu community celebrations, and so on. The tradition of Paropakara and associated Danam practiced in the Sanatana Dharma in the form of charity, gifting, alms giving, and so on, has continued unabated among the Hindu households in the modern age too, many of whom still consider it their pious duty to share a part of their earnings for the charitable cause. The usual concept is that the Danam should only be made with the money left over after fulfilling the needs of the householder and it should not become a cause of hardship to the benefactor’s family.

According to a technical definition, the Danam is an act of conscious, voluntary and willing giving away of the possession and ownership of something to a willing recipient, who consciously accepts it to become next owner. In Hinduism, the Danam is also considered to be a pious and purifying act of the seekers of the spirituality. The various components of the Danam are a person who is a willing giver, a person who is a keen receiver, some money or item to be given, an occasion with or without reason, the place of transaction, associated rituals, good intention of the giver and receiver, sacred mantras or chants often associated with the charity act, and the accrued benefit(s), if any, to the giver and receiver. Another important aspect about it is that the person should be non-possessive, egoless and unselfish to qualify the realm of charity.

In Hindu Puranas and Epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, one could find many legendary tales illustrating the glory and significance of charity in the Hindu way of life. Such was this glory and significance in the Sanatana Dharma in the ancient India that there were instances when the giver did not shy away in giving even when he knew the crafty designs of the recipient as also that the charitable act might cause his own ruin; For illustration, King Harishchandra, son of Trishanku of Ikshvaku dynasty and an icon of truth and charity, gave away his kingdom, family and all other possessions to Sage Vishvamitra true to his reputation without caring for own imminent ruin in store. Similarly, the great warrior and son of Sun god, Karna gave away his armour (Kavacha and Kundala) to Indra in disguise while knowing well that with this act he was endangering his own life in the ensuing war with Arjuna in Kurushetra during the Mahabharata war.

The concept of Danam was considered so significant in Hinduism in ancient age that one could find many illustrations from the Indian mythology too. One such significant tale is about the Asura King Bali and Lord Vishnu in Vamana Avatar. Devas and Asuras were two dominant tribes in the ancient age in constant conflict with each other. Though both tribes had good and bad beings but Asuras were more powerful, greedy and hegemonistic compared to Devas who were relatively peaceful and prosperous with benevolent nature. Once Asura King Bali conquered three lokas (worlds) paathaala (netherworld), earth and swarga (higher world); now Devas’s leader Indra sought intervention and assistance of Lord Vishnu to restore his kingdom. Lord Vishnu went to Bali in disguise of Vamana and sought three steps of land from him. Once granted by generous Bali, Vamana expanded his size phenomenally and scaled all worlds in three steps to restore status quo ante.

According to this mythological legendary tale, Sage Sukracharya who was the guru and advisor of Asuras had already cautioned King Bali about Vamana’s true nature but the king consciously decided to stick to his commitment to Danam (charity) because he had never refused to give to any seeker. While on one hand, the saga explores the nobility and generosity of the Asura king, the act of Vamana too is justified because God’s key functions included the protection of the righteous, destruction of the evil and establishment of Dharma. Scholars and Indologists have attempted to explore, analyse and allegorize this puranic mythical tale in various ways but the saga of the Asura King Bali and Vamana Avatar in Satyuga undoubtedly establishes the significance and glory of charity in Hinduism in unequivocal terms.

Hindu Scriptures on Danam

The Vedic age was essentially based on an agrarian economy and, accordingly, the Dana was prevalent in the Vedic society in terms of giving away gifts and donation in the forms of land, cow, horse, goat, grains, food, clothes, etc. to the Brahmins, sanyasins, and other needy, and it was considered a mandatory and pious duty of the householders. While Danam was an essential part of the social and spiritual rituals, it was also considered by some scriptures as one of the ways of balancing and liquidating sins and inappropriate behaviour committed earlier. In fact, some scriptures even tasked the householders of the higher class with an obligatory duty to carry out five daily sacrifices by offering food to gods, ancestors, seers and sages, needy humans and other creatures. These Vedic practices are still followed by many devout Hindu households, fully or partially. Manu Smriti provided it obligatory for every Kshatriya and Vaishyas to offer sacrifices and charity to the deserving subjects. It also listed the articles like gold, silver, cow, food grains, vehicle, coinage, land and water for the construction and maintenance of temples as a charity measure.

According to Vedas, which are the earliest Hindu scriptures and also the ones considered immutable, the Danam is glorified as means of self-purification almost as potent and effective as the Yajna (sacrifice) and Tapas (penance). The Rigveda is the earliest scripture and precursor of all Vedas and Upanishads that discusses Danam relating it to Satya (truth) and linking it to the guilt one would feel by not giving to those who are in need. The relevant part of a hymn from the Rigveda as translated by the British Indologist Ralph Griffith is reproduced here for reference:

The Gods have not ordained hunger to be our death: even to the well-fed man comes death in varied shape,

The riches of the liberal never waste away, while he who will not give finds none to comfort him, The man with food in store who, when the needy comes in miserable case begging for bread to eat, Hardens his heart against him, when of old finds not one to comfort him.

Bounteous is he who gives unto the beggar who comes to him in want of food, and the feeble, Success attends him in the shout of battle. He makes a friend of him in future troubles, No friend is he who to his friend and comrade who comes imploring food, will offer nothing….”
(Rigveda, Mandala 10, Hymn 117)

In yet another hymn in the Rigveda, Danam is glorified in the following way:

Shathast samaharah sahastra hast sam kir.
(Earn with hundreds of hands and donate with thousands of hands.)
(Rigveda: Mandala 3, Hymn 24.5)

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one of the ten Principal Upanishads, among the early Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism and the oldest treatise of Hinduism compiled following the Vedas. At one place, it lists out three primary characteristics of a virtuous person namely self-restraint, compassion for all life and charity.

Tadetattrayam shichchhed damam danam dayamiti.
(Learn three cardinal virtues - self-restraint, charity and compassion for all life.)
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 5.2.3)

The Chandogya Upanishad is another Principal Upanishad that insists on the qualities of asceticism (tapas), charity (Danam), straightforwardness (Arjava), non-violence (Ahimsa) and truthfulness (Satyavachana) for a virtuous life.

The Taitreya Upanishad addresses Danam in one verse as under:

Gifts should be given with faith; they should never be given without faith; they should be given in plenty; with modesty and with sympathy. Let there also be agreement in opinion when gifts are offered.
(Taitreya Upanishad, 1.11.5)

The Bhagavata Purana is among the most followed and widely acknowledged religious text among the Hindus and some people even refer it as the "Fifth Veda”. At some places, it is mentioned that the Srimad Bhagavatam represents the essence of the entire Vedanta literature. Through the dialogue of the Asura King Bali and Guru Sukracharya, the act of charity is aptly explained in this Purana:

Na taddanam prashansanti yen vrittirvipadyate,
Danam yagyastapah karma loke vrittimatoh yatah.

Dharmay yashseharthay kamay swajanay cha,
Panchdha vibhajanvittamihamutra cha modate.

(Wise men do not admire charity that does not leave anything for the moderate living of the donor. Only the person who leads own life well, can perform the acts of charity, sacrifice, penance and benevolent deeds in this world. The person who divides his wealth into five parts; some for Dharma, some for fame, some for further investment, some for enjoyment and some for own people, he remains happy in this world and the other world.)
(Bhagavad Purana, 8.19.36-37)

In the following verses in the same Purana, Sukracharya quoted from the Rigvedic hymns that agreeing to give someone is the path of Satya (truth) and refusal is Asatya (untruth). But every person must remember that this body is like a tree and truth is its useful product; therefore, in the absence of body, the truth becomes irrelevant. Hence retaining a part of wealth for own moderate living is recommended for all donors. Other Puranas too teach that the charity must be done in such a manner that it does not threaten and disable own livelihood as also his dependents in family. The Bhagavad Purana even explains how the wealth of a householder should purposefully utilized.

The Skanda Purana has recommended that from the wealth one earns by rightful means, one-tenth of it should be taken out as a matter of righteous duty and given it to charity for the pleasure of God.

The Hindu Epic Mahabharata is yet another text that has commentaries well nigh on all life situations through illustrations and narratives. In Adi Parva, Chapter 91 (King Yayati and Astaka dialogue), it provides that a person must acquire wealth by employing only honest means, then he should spend it in charity; he should be hospitable to those who come to his house; he should never use any thing without shareing a portion of it with others that he consumes. In the Vana Parva, Chapter 194, Vaishampayana recommends that a person must conquer the mean by charity, the untruthful by truth, the wicked by forgiveness, and dishonest by honesty. Following the eighteen days Mahabharata war between the feuding cousins, King Yudhisthira sought advice of elders and seers on a range of disciplines including philosophy of life and duties of a righteous king. The Anushasana Parva provides such details including on charity for the public utilities such as the building of drinking water tanks, giving cattle to people for livelihood, lamps for lighting dark public places, plantation of public orchards with such trees that give fruits and shade, all the aforesaid acts falling under the benevolent charity.

Manu Smriti contain many verses dedicated to charity with reference to food, horse, cow and money, and so on in the context of the different categories of benefactors and beneficiaries, including what should be done and what not. For many reasons, this Hindu text is treated controversial in the modern age; one of the reasons being its bias and hierarchical treatment of various classes, and being more kind to Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Notwithstanding, it sets rigorous norms for being a true Brahmin and declares that a non-compliant Brahmin is not entitled for the charitable acts of the donors.

Nashyanti havyakavyani naranaavijantam,
Bhasmibhuteshu vipreshu mohaddattani datribhih.

(When ignorant people make mistake of giving gifts to unrighteous Brahmin with deluded mind, their virtuous acts following the oblation and ancestors’ rites are destroyed.)
(Manu Smriti, 3.97)

Besides the Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit and Pali, similar texts in other Indian languages too attach great significance to the charitable acts. For example, the "Tirukkural", written by Thiruvalluvar nearly 2,400 years ago, is one of the most cherished classical text on Hinduism written in Tamil language. The Chapter 23 of Book 1 of this treaty deals with charity and positive attributes associated with it. The book recommends charity as an essential instrument for a virtuous life and lasting happiness. At one place, it says, "Giving to the poor is true charity, all other giving expects some return…Great, indeed, is the power to endure hunger, greater still is the power to relieve other's hunger…Giving alms is a great reward in itself to one who gives". In Chapter 101, Thiruvalluvar writes, "Believing wealth is everything, yet giving away nothing is a miserable state of mind…Vast wealth can be a curse to one who neither enjoys it nor gives to the worthy".


Adi Shankara in his stotram praising Annapurna, the goddess of plentiful food, says:

Annapurne sadapurne sankara-pranavallabhe gyanavairagya siddhyartham bhiksham dehi cha Parvati.”
(Annapurna Devi, goddess of plentiful food, you are Lord Shiva’s eternal consort, give us alms together with wisdom."

Hindu Puranas attach great value to Annadana (giving food). The Taittriya Purana says, "Do not send away anyone who comes to your door, without offering him food and hospitality." The Varaha Purana holds, "One who gives food, gives all that is worrth giving in this world."

There is a popular Sanskrit verse “Daridra Narayana” (God dwells in the poor person), which states:

Donating 1000 elephants and horses, donating 10 million cows, donating any number of vessels of silver and gold, donating the entire land till sea, offering the entire services of the clan, helping in the marriage of 10 million women, all this is never ever equal to Annadanam, the feeding of hungry and needy.

Even during the medieval period, Sant Tulsidas had discussed the value of benevolence in the following Doha (couplet):

Pragata chari pada dharma ke kali mahun ek pradhan,
Jena kena bidhi dinhe dana karai kalyana.

(Dharma has four popular legs viz. truth, compassion, penance and charity; out of them, in Kaliyug only one leg is prevalent as charity. In whatever form given, the charity carries only well-being of the benefactor.)
(Ram Charit Manas, 1.7.103)

The aforesaid contextual references and quotes are only illustrative and not all inclusive as no other surviving culture and religion in the world has such a vast and varied collection of scriptural and textual knowledge on variety of disciplines including charity.

What Bhagavad Gita Says

There is a reason why the Srimad Bhagavad Gita has not been clubbed here with the other scriptures and texts. The reason being that Gita contains the essence of all Vedas and can be easily recognised as an epitome of all the scriptures. It would not be exaggeration if it is recognized as condensed depository of all scriptural knowledge. Yet another and for more significant reason is that the knowledge of Gita has emanated from the lips of the manifested God Himself.

Shree Krishna (Chapter 18, Verses 5-6) tells Arjuna that the acts of sacrifice, charity and penance should never be abandoned and must be performed because these acts are true purifiers. Further, they must be performed without attachment and expectation of any reward. The Bhagavad Gita has identified three grades of the acts of charity on the scales of gunas i.e. Sattva (pure), Rajas (passionate) and Tamas (inert); quality and preference wise in the same descending order. In some Puranas and other texts, the act of charity or giving has been linked with the achieving grace by pleasing gods or purging of sins, etc., but the Bhagavad Gita clearly establishes that such benevolence shall be done without any attachment or expectation with an equanimous mind.

Accordingly, the Bhagavad Gita describes various forms of Danam in verses 17.20 to 17.22. It defines the one without expectation of return or reward to a worthy person as sattvic or pure(17.20); the one with the expectations of return or desire for some fruit or result as rajasic or passionate (17.21); and the one given with grudge or contempt or to the unworthy person(s) as tamasic or ignorant charity (17.22). Of the three forms, the sattvic Danam is best and most desirable, the rajasic Danam is mediocre and less desirable and the tamasic Danam is bad and avoidable.

Datavyam iti yad danam diyate ‘nupakarine,
Deshe kale cha patre cha tad danam sattvikam smritam.

(Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of sattvika or goodness.)
(BG: Chapter 17, Verse 20)

Yat tu pratyupakarartham phalam uddishya va punah,
Diyate cha pariklishtam tad danam rajasam smritam.

(But charity given with reluctance, with the hope of a return or in expectation of a reward, is said to be in the mode of rajasica or passion.)
(BG: Chapter 17, Verse 21)

Adesha-kale yad danam apatrebhyash cha diyate,
Asat-kritam avajnatam tat tamasam udahritam.

(And that charity, which is given at the wrong place and wrong time to unworthy persons, without showing respect, or with contempt, is held to be of the nature of tamasica ignorance.)
(BG: Chapter 17, Verse 22)

There could not be a better classification or explanation of the charitable acts as defined in the aforesaid Gita verses. The charitable acts could be categorised as virtuous or ignorant, appropriate or inappropriate, and superior or inferior, as narrated by Shree Krishna in the aforesaid verses. Shree Krishna also said (BG: 17.28) that the donation done, a gift given, an austerity practised, and whatever good deed is performed, if it is without faith, it is equivalent to nought i.e., ‘asat’; therefore, it is of no avail here or hereafter.

The act of charity in sattvic mode for the righteous cause or right person bestows many unintended benefits. It decreases the attachment of the giver toward material objects, enhances the spirit of service and fosters the feeling of compassion for others. All these factors contribute to the higher spiritual progress. On the other hand, the charity in tamasic mode does not serve any good to the giver or recipient. For instance, if money is donated to an alcoholic or drug edict, he might buy and consume stuff to get inebriated, in turn, he might even commit a crime or punishable offence, for which even the giver would be held answerable.

One could find numerous tales in the Indian texts about the virtuous act of charity and some of classic illustrations come from the Epic Mahabharata itself, in which the Bhagavad Gita is embedded as part of the Bhisma Parva. Both Karna and Yudhistira are considered benevolent and kind-hearted but only the former is remembered as Danveer, and there are reasons behind this. Apart from his armour giving act, Shree Krishna Himself tested his selfless generosity on two occasions. Once on a rainy day, Krishna disguised as a Brahmin asked Yudhisthira for some dry wood. Due to heavy rains, there was no chance of fetching dry wood from outside; hence Yudhisthira politely turned down his request. However, in a similar quest Karna cut down some door frames of his palace to fulfil the need of the Brahmin. Similarly, when Karna was breathing last with injuries inflicted by Arjuna, Krishna again approached him in disguise; there, remembering his one tooth was artificial comprised of gold, Karna happily gave it to the alms-seeking Brahmin.

Danam (Charity) – Why, Whom and How!

The first and foremost question is why a person should indulge in charitable acts. Various Hindu scriptures have aptly explained it as an essential and virtuous deed. The Rigveda, the oldest and most revered scripture, says as quoted in the earlier paragraphs: “Earn with hundreds of hands and donate with thousands of hands.” Many Principal Upanishads are even more specific in declaring charity as one of the cardinal virtues of life. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad recommends that every wise person must cherish self-restraint, charity and compassion for all life. The Chandogya Upanishad has prescribed penance, charity, straightforwardness, non-violence and truthfulness for a virtuous life. Shree Krishna Himself insisted that every person should practice sacrifice, charity and penance because they are pious and purifier virtues. The significance of charity could be well nigh understood from the fact that the charity stands as a common virtue stressed in scriptures and by the manifested God himself.

The Vedic civilization was essentially an agrarian economy and, accordingly, scriptures provided for the gifts and donation in the forms of land, cow, horse, goat, grains, food, clothes, and so on. With the passage of time and civilization, this list of items as well as beneficiaries kept growing and expanding by including items such as costly metals such as gold and silver, money, and so on. The essence of what should be charitable is “the apt donation for the apt beneficiary”. For example, if the person is hungry, he should be given food, if he is scantly and shabbily dressed, he should be given appropriated clothes, and so on. If he is poor or destitute, he should be provided with the items such as grains, clothes, utensils and money. Contributing for the orphanage, temple, education, land, automobile, cow, gold, etc. is considered as superior or major donation, while giving food, clothing, garden, horse, utensils, wood, umbrella, shoe, etc. shall be treated as medium to minor donations.

In Hinduism, Danam is also used in the context of many rituals and some of these are considered carrying great virtue and merit with social and emotive appeal. For instance, in Hindu wedding, Kanyadana refers to the father giving his daughter's hand in marriage to the prospective groom, after asking him to pledge that he will be sincerely committed to her in his pursuit of Dharma (righteous duty), Artha (wealth) and Kama (love). Some other illustrated charities include Bhudana for the donation of land, Godana for the donation of cow, Vidyadana for imparting knowledge and skills, Annadana for giving food grains to poor and someone other in need, Aushadhadana for taking care of the sick and diseased, Jeevandana (sparing the life) an old tradition of Hinduism of granting life to an opponent or enemy defeated in war, and Abhayadana taking a pledge to protect or giving asylum to someone in trouble.

For the charitable cause, only worthy subjects should be considered. For instance, if money is donated to an alcoholic or drug addict, he will only misuse it and in some cases causing serious problems for the donor as well. Manu Smriti categorically recommends that an unrighteous Brahmin should not be considered for charity. The Katha Upanishad says that the donation which does not give pleasure to the beneficiary, cannot bring happiness to benefactor either. The following verse of the Manu Smriti conveys somewhat similar message:

Yena Yena tu Bhaven yaddyadanan prayachchhati;
Tattattenaiva bhaven prapnoti pratipujitah.

(The kind of emotions, the donor has in mind while doing charity work, he receives a reward commensurate with the same emotions.)
(Manu Smriti, 4.236)

Charity is a virtuous act and it does not require any auspicious time or mode as already explained in the Bhagavad Gita that it should be carried out with the eligible subject without any attachment or desire for a return or reward. However, Hinduism is not based on one single scripture or holy book as in case of Abrahamic religions and many Shastras and other texts have even identified the auspicious occasions like twelve Sankranti, the Makar Sankranti being most auspicious, Akshaya Triteeya, solar and lunar eclipses, and so on. Such details can be found in the Hindu calendar/panchang or from the qualified priests. According to old traditions of Hindu Astronomy, the sky is divided into 27 Nakshatras (constellations of stars) and 12 zodiac signs. These Nakshatras have been linked with various donations and some of them are also recommended to placate the planets like Saturn, Rahu and Ketu. In addition, giving away for the charity cause at the holy places of pilgrimage is also in vogue.

Afterthought Titbits

Now what beyond doubt is that Hinduism is the oldest surviving culture and religion in this world, which regards Danam (charity) as a noble and virtuous deed to be practiced by all without seeking any return or reward. Every person practicing a religion must be aware of the basic tenets of that religion while there is no harm in acknowledging virtues of all religions. However, one also needs to realize the harsh realities of the major religions of the world: While the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) talks and promotes the precepts of “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” and “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, other two major religions (or so to speak, radicals and ultra-orthodox elements who dominate) of the world evolved during the last two millennia actively pursue the division of  the humanity under the concepts of “faithful (momin) and unfaithful (kafir)” and “I am the only true religion”, respectively. Even beyond the religious complacency, the cultural legacy of the land which we belong to is reflected in the following popular aphoristic Sanskrit verse (translation) in the context of charity.

Living creatures get influenced through danam,
Enemies lose hostility through danam,
A stranger may become a loved one through danam,
Vices are killed by danam.

Other Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism too have somewhat similar traditions and views on charity. Buddhism believes in giving without seeking any return leads to greater spiritual wealth. In Jainism, Danam is described as a virtue and duty to be performed with no desire for material gains. It is called Vand Chhako in Sikhism that entails sharing of a part earnings with others; selfless service and langar by Sikhs are best example.

The author would like to conclude with quotes of the Persian historian Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni, an Iranian scholar and polymath, who visited and lived in India for about 16 years in eleventh century (around 1017 AD). In his book Tarikh Al-Hind (History of India), Chapter LXVII on “Alms, And How A Man Must Spend What He Earns”, he wrote as under:

"It is obligatory with them (Hindus) every day to give alms as much as possible… After the taxes, there are different opinions on how to spend their income. Some destine one-ninth of it for alms. Others divide this income (after taxes) into four portions. One fourth is destined for common expenses, the second for liberal works of a noble mind, the third for alms, and the fourth for being kept in reserve.

Continued to Part LV 


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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