Dhana

One time I gave some money to help a person for his heart surgery. And immediately after giving, before he could say anything, I said, ‘thanks for accepting the gift’. A bit embarrassed, he said, ‘I am the one who has to thank, not you’. Then as a joke I said, ‘do you know what Kambar says in (his) Ramayana? There is no one to give dhana (alms) in Ayodhya, because there is no one to receive it. As all are content and have abundance in their lives, there never comes an opportunity for the citizens of Ayodhya to do dhana’. (“கொள்வாரிலாமைக் கொடுப்பார்களுமி ல்லை…[kolvaarilaamaik kodupparhalumillai]” Kambaramayanam, Commentary by V. M. Gopalakrishnamachariyar, Chennai, Uma Publications, vol. 1. Balakandam, Natuppadalam, song 62, line one. p. 62.). So in doing dhana, the person who gives is not much important but the person who is willing to receive it’.

There are so many views and guidance regarding giving and receiving dhana. But one important aspect in it, particularly for those who give dhana, is that she should remain more grateful to the person who is willing to receive it than expecting thanks from the receiver. Because when we buy a gift for someone else, if she refuses to accept it, then it cease to be a gift, but will remain a thing that we bought. So in dhana, the person who is willing to receive is more important than the one who gives it.

When I first time went to Kedarnath, on the way some pilgrims were distributing some money to several beggars who were sitting on the way, and also to some sannyasis. So when I was walking, a woman, who was going on a ‘Palki’ stopped on seeing me and gave some money. As I never used to accept money in that way, I refused it. Then with much humility she said, ‘Maharaj, by refusing to accept it, you are stopping me to get rid some of my sins and also earn merit. Above all it is my dharma to give and your dharma to receive’. A simple housewife taught me the good lesson. Because of western influence, as we learnt the habit of saying ‘thanks’ for every form of seva (service) done to us (even without intending to say thanks in a real sense), when someone gives something in dhana, then some kind of ‘humiliation’ on the part of the receiver and ‘feeling good’ on the part of the giver has entered in our collective conscience. Whereas our Indian tradition has some other worldview in this act of dhana-which is not mere charity. Dhana, at least inIndia, is closely linked with ‘dharma’ (duty) in which mutual respect and more gratitude on the part of the giver towards the person who is willing to receive is important. To say in other words, ‘dhana’ is not mere charity, which in one sense is giving something to the needy out of surplus. But the true mark even of charity (which is not ‘dhana’ ) is, as someone well defined, ‘throwing a bone to the dog is not charity, but sharing in the same bone when you are as hungry as the dog’ (from Readers Digest, quoted from memory). And Mahabharata portrays this through the story of the small fox whose half gold body cannot be turned completely gold, even at the Rajasuya performed by Yudhistira, as his dhana is not that much great as the poor Brahman who fed the guest even at the cost of his life, where it got its half body turned gold as the leftover flour from the cottage of that Brahmin touched its body on one side. Even Jesus appreciated the poor widow who gave in the temple all she had for her livelihood, more than the rich people who gave from their abundance.

In every way both ‘dhana’ and ‘charity’ can never be done just for the sense of ‘feeling good’ on the part of the giver alone.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, June 23, 2009.