Krishval Musings

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Charity – should begin at  heart

“You are blessed more to give than to receive” (Holy Bible.)

Shri Nagendra Babu, former president of the YMCA Toastmasters club gave an impressive speech on Charity.   He expounded the following interesting points about charity.  
Think of making a charity, better do it immediately otherwise the mind will change.
He distinguished between Dhaanam and Dharmam.  Dhaanam is giving to people above your status which normally entails exceeding your capacity.
He quoted Kabir Das who had said “The more you get the more you pour out.”  Accumulation of wealth is like water getting into a sailing boat.
 The catchy quote was from Warren Buffet, the multi billionaire from the USA “Give enough to your children to do whatever they want but don’t give them enough for to do nothing.”     
The last advice on charity was that it should not be judgmental meaning that the give away should be open to all and with no strings or preference attached. 

Let us see the other side of charity.

Everyone has the instinct to do charity according to his/her capacity.  It is not an exclusive privilege of the rich and the affluent. Charity per se is not distinguished based on the sum involved – whether it is one rupee or one crore rupees.  What make the difference are the intention, as well as the purpose of charity.
Charity has become a fashion among the wealthy in recent years.  Indian billionaires suddenly developed a passion for charity because the media popularized the charity of Warren Buffet.    

Charity ignites rivalry.  Unconsciously a competition breaks out between donors for show of wealth and charity acts as a conduit.  Sometimes the charity seekers themselves create rivalry to get more.   
Generally con men give charity either as a show arrogance or as result of a false belief that charity would wash their sin.
The managers of a few medical and educational institutions  who enjoy the discretion to accept charity  expect personal favours  before accepting huge donations.  Mr. Nagendra Babu remarked with disgust that India is probably a unique nation where even charity is controlled by corruption.
It is also used for creating publicity for the donors.  It is common to see tube lights in temples with big size inscription of the donor’s name.
Many charity trusts are created to avoid tax and also to collect funds with ultimate aim of misusing it for private purposes.   
A few years ago an interesting news clip was published in a Tamil weekly.  The reporter of the weekly had interviewed street vendors to know their business life.  One of the tender coconut (Ilaneer) vendor said that for urgent needs they used to borrow money from the man sitting on the opposite side of the platform.  He was a full time BEGGAR.
The beggar was able to amass a huge savings by begging and was able to provide short term finance to the street vendors.  Is it not a joke that we give money as charity to this beggar?  There are many street beggars leading a comfortable life just by begging.  NGOs failed in their attempts to rehabilitate them by offering full time jobs. Easy money, Easy life, why unnecessarily strain by taking up jobs.  Let us see the misuse of Aannadhanam (feeding the poor) the popular charity in India.
“Gaja turaga Sahasram Gokulam koti danam
Kanaka Rajatha patram Methini sagarantham
Upaya kula vishuttam Koti kanya pradanam
Nahi nahi bahu danam Annadanam samanam”
“Donating 1000 elephants & 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.” (://
My relative  wanted to celebrate his wedding anniversary by providing free meal (Annadhanam) to the poor in a temple.  An hour before the start of the program a bunch of men approached the temple and asked the time of the program. When they heard that it will start an hour later , all of them rushed to the end of the street.  They stopped in front of a shop and urged the shop keeper to deliver their goods, it was TASMARK. They wanted to have an alcoholic appetizer before the Annadhanam.  Is it not a joke that we provide free meal to these people as charity?
It may be argued that the culprits are a few in the crowd and it is inevitable.       
We common people cannot throw the money towards charity like he big philanthropists.  Our money is hard earned and we have to ensure that our charity is given to the right person or body and for the right purpose. We have to be judgmental and ensure that our donations do not go waste.   Modern day donations are not transparent like yester years and therefore we need to be alert and judgmental.    The meaning of charity is lost when it brings comfort rather than relief. 

“Charity given out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness.” (Bhagawat Gita Chapter 17 Verse 20) Vedic Literature disapproves indiscriminate charity just for the sake of charity. A heartfelt charity for the right cause makes it meaningful.

Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam.


(published in Mylapore club magazine Apr/2015)