It’s not just what, learn how to give too: Shebaba by Renuka Narayanan

Hindustan Times | By
Dec 02, 2017 07:35 PM IST

On the anniversary of the revelation of the Bhagavad Gita, revisit its lessons on generosity, charity.

Bhagavad Gita Jayanti or the anniversary of the revelation of the sacred text was on November 30 this year. It marks the day that Krishna revealed the Gita to Arjuna.


By the Indian calendar, it falls on Shukla Ekadashi or the 11th day of the bright lunar fortnight of the month of Margashirsha, and by the English calendar, it occurs in November or December.

It is celebrated by reading passages from the Gita and listening to scholars talk on the subject, asking them to clarify doubts, and singing kirtan.

The Gita has endlessly fascinated various communities across the ages because the more one digs, the more one finds of spiritual meaning in the layers uncovered. Gita-studies can be a lifelong hobby or interest, bordering on obsession.

Its importance as one of the essential ingredients of the spiritual life code is affirmed in the famous hymn ‘Bhaja Govindam’ by Adi Sankara, which says:

Geyam gita nama sahasram dheyam sripati rupamajasram /

neyam sajjana sange chittam deyam deena jananya cha vittam

(Recite the Bhagavad Gita, chant the Vishnu Sahasra Namam, meditate on Vishnu in your heart and mind /

Seek delight in the company of the good, share your wealth with the poor)’

In fact, Sankara urges us to give all our money to the poor, which possibly made him a true ‘Left’ philosopher long before a certain old man with a beard came to be in 19th-century Germany.

And there you have it really, in that verse, the tripod that is meant to support the human experience: faith, love and charity. If only we’d listen and act.

The bit about charity is the strongest spiritual leitmotif across stories. However, in today’s world, ‘charity’ as a word has come to have patronising overtones. ‘Charity’ may confer some material ease but may simultaneously diminish the receiver’s human dignity. What could be the solution? As the English metaphysical poet John Donne said:

‘I have done one braver thing

Than all the Worthies did;

And yet a braver thence doth spring,

Which is, to keep that hid.’

I dare say this approach contravenes the purpose of CSR initiatives. But while companies may toot their horns at the taxman, we as individuals can easily practice silent charity.

Besides making sure to be liberal at festival time (which, let’s admit, is often done in the hope of piling up bonus karma points), we could give gracefully on other occasions.

That means, giving in a manner that is humble, not boastful or arrogant. Give as if making an offering to God, literally; hold your hands low and outstretched, as you would before an altar. I have seen people do this. The poignant interaction happens so quietly that it’s over in a blink.

This lights up faces and elicits a heartfelt smile and a real dua or prayerful blessing. And one must never undervalue the power of dua in a tight karmic situation. This point seems to be the core teaching of all religions, and Bhagavad Gita Jayanti is a good time to be reminded of it.

(The views expressed are personal)

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