21 October 2004



By Dr. A. Sreekumar Menon

Egocentric needs find expression in the world of outside objects. They propel each person to vye with each other in amassing wealth and objects of pleasure, and for position, glory, fame and power. These egocentric values lead to selfishness, greed, arrogance, self-aggrandizement, conceit, violence and so on. This happens at different levels of human behaviour: at the family levels and among friends, community levels and attitudes and relations between nations. It is certainly not conducive for healthy family relations, communal harmony, spirit of national integration and amity and peaceful co-existence among nations, the need for which is all the more felt now since globalization of the economy. In place of egocentric values, the value of charity, which Bagavad Geeta, The ancient text of wisdom calls as “Dravya Yajna”, should be practiced. The word charity is not to be understood in its narrow meaning of giving arms to the beggar or the moneyed person helping the poor for getting God’s blessings or favour. It is not parting with money apparently for the cause of havenots but for getting name, fame, prominence, power and influence. It is sacrifice of wealth to be understood in its larger connotation. It is extending monetary and other kinds of help/assistance to the needy, who is the recipient of help, with a sincere spirit of being helpful to him or being in service to humanity, without expecting anything in return. The motive behind charity should be concern for the welfare of the beneficiary.

It is an act of ‘Dharma’. The true meaning of Dharma is true being or the very nature. Dharma of fire is to burn. It is the very nature of ‘Sun’ to give light. Same principle applied to human beings, it is to be understood that it is the very nature of the humanity to be helpful to others for the fulfillment of life. The beneficiary or the Recipient gives us an opportunity for being helpful or charitable to him. It is to be seen that it is a God given opportunity to us to be charitable and that we have resources to be part with. Apart from our skills, opportunities present themselves for a person to become rich. For instance, how much money Government spends in making a person literate or educated. Similarly, Businessmen are able to run their business successfully by virtue of infra-structure and other facilities provided by the Government. In other words society makes certain sacrifices. So it is to be seen as a duty on the part of the people to give back to the society, part of what they got.

We should realize that we owe to the society for what ever we have and we should give back a part of what we are earning for a good cause; which we call charity. Industries and Automobiles pollute the environment Growth of cities leads to afforestation or reduction of cultivable land and thereby reducing agricultural output. Effluents from industries containing toxic waste reaches human system via plants causing serious diseases, Bhopal tragedy which crippled thousands of people is still fresh in our memory. To offset such ill effects of industrialization, it is a part of their social responsibility to spend money to keep the environment safe for human life.

Charity is not only giving to the needy what ever we posses physically, but also which we posses mentally and intellectually. Wiping tears by soothing words, giving hope to a person of despair, listening to a person who is aggrieved sympathetically, counselling persons who are in an emotional outburst, showing a look of love, a smile of good will and true affection are all acts of charity.

When we thus understand the real meaning of charity, it loses its ugly face or negative connotations, in the sense, those who receive help is seen as having inferior status compared to those who offer help. If a fine culture of helping and being helped by people, is imbibed, what would happen is that people tend to love and help each other, and to be sympathetic towards each other, which means there is perfect harmony in social relations. Collective strength is several times more than individual strength. This Collective strength is called into play. With collective strength goals which appear unimaginable to achieve can be achieved easily wild dreams come true.

The welbeing a person experiences by vying with another or by being in rat race is short lived. On the other hand, when a person is instrumental for the happiness of others, others will inturn will be instrumental to his happiness. The philosophy is take care of others, you will be taken care off automatically. On the other hand, if we try to take care of ourselves, at the cost of others, even, if we succeed, it is only temporary. If the people in a community share this concern for mutual welfare and welbeing, no one need be nakedly selfish. In such a society, there is no room for ill will, selfishness, conceit, rivalry, self-aggrandizement and violence. On the contrary, what flourishes are good will, mutual trust, understanding help and support and peaceful co-existence. The question is it possible to achieve such a state or is it a utopias dream? Our traditional wisdom contained in such classic works like Bagavad Geeta, Upanishads and others teach us technique of self-development. If we follow those teachings, it should be possible to achieve such a state what is required is practice, not preaching.

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