Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The art of giving

​​ A man was traveling from one city to another when he heard that a ferocious battle had taken place and that his cousin was among the wounded soldiers. He rushed to the place and saw that his cousin was on death's door.
 He offered him a little water from his canteen, but just at that moment another wounded soldier beside him groaned, and the cousin asked him to give the water to his neighbor.
"But if I go over there, you may not survive! All your life you have been always so generous!"
Gathering his last ounce of strength, the wounded man replied: "That's another reason to be generous, now that I'm about to die." - Paulo Coelho
Generosity, charity and philanthropy are generally associated with rich and wealthy but the trait can belong to any individual irrespective of birth, position, power or wealth.

Give without expectation and unknown to others: Giving back to the community is not a virtue seen commonly. One reason could be that people like to conserve for them and for their off springs even if they live in comfort or have amassed fortunes. The other reason could be that philanthropists do so silently unseen and unobtrusively. The important element in true generosity is in giving even when knowing there is nothing in return except the joy of giving. "Rivers do not drink their own water, nor do tree eat their own fruit, nor do rain clouds eat the grains reared by them.” Absence of selfishness is an integral component of altruism. This is exemplified in the Biblical statement
But when thou doest alms, let not thy
left hand know what thy right hand doeth
The giving has to be done quietly, without noise and publicity.

When to give: There is the famous incident from Mahabharata. Yudhisthir, asks a beggar seeking alms to come the next day. On this, Bhim rejoices, that Yudhisthir his elder 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 now. Do not wait for an appropriate time. "Nandre seyyinum andre seiga" is a Tamil adage that tells If you want to donate, do it today and not postpone.

How much to give: Everyone has wife, children and other members of close family. How much should we provide for our heirs and how much marked for charity is one question that may bother one who wishes to donate? The answer is given by Warren Buffett: "Leave your kids enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing! Again referring to Mahabharata, the great warrior Karna  even when he lay grievously wounded in the battle field gave away to a wily Brahmin the life protective divine  rings on his ears and all the punya (noble deeds) he had amassed feeling sorry that he had nothing else to give. He gave as much as he could!

What to give: Apart from wealth even time devoted for the needy or for other noble and worthy causes is generosity and equally laudable. Physical help, moral support, canvassing for good causes done willingly are equally worthy.

Whom to give: There is a Tamil adage patthiramarindhu picchai idu meaning give to deserving people. Charity to a wicked man for an evil cause is a no no.

In what manner to give: Give in utter humility without regret or looking back. Let not the recipient feel obliged and instead let the giver feel grateful for the opportunity given to help
Giving is God’s way. It is the way that I now understand is the truth of the Universe. Giving multiplies me and makes me feel complete and fulfilled. Giving makes me feel that I make a real and important difference.” Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen



  1. To "Give" is noble. Fully agree with your thoughts on how, when, to whom, what and how much. But most importantly as u have mentioned we should give without any expectation/regret, then the purpose is served and our conscience light. Looking forward to more such enlightening posts!

  2. Beautiful. It is funny how people associate MONEY to GIVING. When both of them are nowhere to be connected!
    lovely post as always!

  3. I liked the Warren Buffet quote. Inheritance of (excessive) wealth has spoiled many families, because they sit and eat instead of doing any work. Giving, I feel, needs utmost care - after all, we aren't in full control of what happens to the money (if we give money).

    Destination Infinity

  4. wow..so many great sayings in one post..how you do it...

    I always feel that some poor are more generous than rich...they know sharing better than others..

  5. One should never give anything with expectation, many people would give to get punya, or with the idea the if they help, they and their children would always be blessed etc.
    However, the very purpose giving is lost, for having expectation from any deed turns that deed into a business deal.
    Give only if you can give without any expectation.
    Nice blog KP.

  6. Very nicely written, Periappa!

    Giving - to be more precisely - sharing our best (wealth, time, love and kindness) with others should be one's nature. As long as one's mind is self centered with selfish motives, it is hard to do.

  7. Wonderfully drawn from Mahabharata, Bible to Buffet. Can't agree any less

  8. Paaththiramarindu pichchai yidu is very right. One more thing, anything given free will not get importance it deserves. Once it is given, we should not make the people feel obliged to us. That is very importaant.

    As usual, well narrated post!

  9. Do read the Nectar of instruction Verse 4. It is about giving and receiving charity to devotees. The verse will give you another angle of charity :)