8. Be Charitable
‘Will you gift me one car if you have two cars ?’
‘Why not ?’
‘Will you give away a part of your site at Kukatpally ?’
‘Of course I will !’
‘Will you part with your tape recorder ?’
‘Will you give me two hundred rupees ?’
‘Of course not !’
‘All the other above mentioned things I don’t have. So I
don’t mind giving them away, whereas I have only two hundred rupees
in my pocket. How do I part with them ? Impossible !’
This is a joke between two friends but it is more than real. When it
comes to parting with something we have, we are not at all inclined
Strictly speaking, the money we earn should be spent in four ways -
One on the dire necessities like food, clothing , rent, school fees
etc. the second on saving for a rainy day, the third on luxuries like
some special comforts and the fourth on charities. I will not elaborate
on the first three types now, but will dwelve on charity.
Krishna explained in detail three types of dana and showed how Satvika
dana is the best.
Datavyamiti yaddanam deeyateanupakarine.
Dese kale cha patra cha tatddanam sattvikam smrutam [Bhagavadgita 17-20]
datavyam - it is one’s duty to give, it - with this idea, yat
+ danam - a gift which, dese - in a fit place, cha - and, kale - at
a suitable time, cha - and (also) patre - on the appearance of a deserving
person, an upakarine - on one who is no benefactor, deeyate - is bestowed,
tat + danam - that gift, sattivikam - sattvika, smrutam - has been pronounced.
That gift alone is wholly satvika in character, which is bestowed with
a pure sense of duty without expecting any return either here or hereafter.
Normally places like Kasi, Prayaga, Haridvara etc, the holy places,
are treated as suitable places and Ekadasi, Samkranti, Solar and Lunar
Eclipses etc are suitable times for dana. But he who is in need of a
particular object at a particular place and time is a ‘patra’
or a fit person to receive a gift at the place where there is famine
and at the time when there is drought.
Why should charity be shown ? There are various reasons for that !
Some do charity to an individual or institution to get name and fame,
to see their photo in the newspapers, to be praised as Dana Karna, to
avoid income tax problems, as a prestige issue being flattered etc.
There is yet another reason. Some people learn from religious scriptures
that children money and power doesn’t go with them, but only their
act of charity takes them closer to Heaven. Our elders proclaimed, what
you give with your right hand, your left hand should not know. But for
whatever reason we give, ultimately it is coloured by selfishness.
A gift which is bestowed in a grudging spirit and with the object of
getting a service in return or in the hope of obtaining a reward, is
Some very generously give away things but they don’t show courtesy
to the one who receives them, they don’t give what is good or
useful to the others. One bachelor used to complain ‘whenever
I went to my friend’s house, his sister gave me a warm welcome.
Do you know why ? Her slogan was, ‘You are just in time. I was
about to throw away this food item to our dog or give away to my servant
maid. Thank God, you have come to eat it.’ Can any man of self
respect bear with it ? Is that the way to offer food ? Should such food
be offered ?
Nachiketa’s father used to do yagas and give away cows as donation
to brahmins, but he offered cows which were not healthy or which could
not produce milk ! He felt bad for his father since such danas would
lead the donor to hell. ‘Apatradanam’ also is bad. Apatradanam
is giving alms to an underserving person like a hypocrite, a cruel man,
a drunkard, a thief etc.
So a gift which is made without good grace and in a disdainful spirit
out of time and place and to an undeserving person is said to be Tamasika
So both Rajasika dana and Tamasika dana are bad. We should give alms
- to a deserving person, in a right time in a right place, the right
object in a right spirit, without expecting any return.
It is also obligatory to render good offices to those to whom one owes
a debt of gratitude. Of course to attempt to return a true obligation
is to undervalue it, for a real obligation cannot be repaid at all.
Rama expressed to his devotee Hanuman - ‘There is none among celestial,
human beings and sages, who has rendered such valuable services to me
as yourself. How should I repay your services ?’
Offering any thing to such benefactor can never be unjustifiable or
a Rajasika act. Of course it does not come within the purview of Dana
or charity. If they regard it as an act of charity it is an insult to
the benefactor and if they don’t repay, it becomes ungratefulness.
Sattvika dan is one which is given to a person who is not a benefactor.
It should be done with no selfish interest. We can proudly quote the
example of Karna for this type of Dan. Once when Karna was having his
bath and when he was holding the oil vessel in his left hand, brahmin
sought a favour from him. The next minute Karna gave it away with his
left hand. The brahmin, known for his orthodoxy, was shocked, since
a dana has to done with the right hand. Karna explained, ‘By the
time I bring it to my right hand I may lose the intention of giving.
This shows how we should give without any second thoughts ! If we observe
carefully - we don’t use many things, but also we don’t
feel like parting with them. We feel we will use them at a later date,
but the later date never comes to the next day. If we don’t use
a thing for nearly a year, we should give it away to the needy person
instead of storing it in the attic.
Dharmaraja once postponed the act of charity to a brahmin. Bhima arranged
a gathering and announced. ‘My brother has won death.’ He
explained, ‘He is sure he is going to live till tomorrow.’
This shows we should not postpone our kind gesture. Many a time we keep
aside certain things to give away to somebody, but after a few days
we change our mind.
Once one beggar, saw a golden chariot coming towards him. He hoped to
get a large donation, but surprisingly he saw a king decked in gold
all over, asking him for alms. He could not say no to a king but also
could not part with anything useful. So he searched all over his bag,
and very generously offered just a grain of rice. At night, when he
was counting his collection, he was surprised to see a golden grain.
He could guess that was the showering offered by God. Then he lamented,
Had I given the whole bag of my collections, I would have got a bag
of gold coins !
It is true ! The more we give the more we get ! We may not get from
the person we donated to , but from another source, as a sign of blessing
Of course we shouldn’t behave like Mr. Madan ? He was poor but
he was kind to the fellow human beings. God was impressed by his philanthropic
gesture and made him a rich man in the next birth and also gave him
the ‘Divya Drishti’ to know his previous birth. He continued
giving alms but was always saying ‘So much for that. How much
more for this ?’ God came as a beggar and pronounced ‘Only
this much!’ It was because he expected a return ! His Sattvika
dan was converted into Rajasika dan.
Give generously, give selflessly
Give a right thing to a right person.