Our Dharma Sastra says, Paropakaraya idam sariram, this body is given by God for helping others. Thirumular said: “Offering given to the towered temple reaches not the noble walking temples. Offering given to the noble walking temples reaches surely the Lord in the towered temple. Bharthrhari teaches, “Giving is the ornament of the hand”. Purananuru says: “Sharing with the needy all the wealth earned by effort.” Kanchi Paramacharya evoked people to “enjoy the action of giving.” The Bahaullah teaches, “Be generous in prosperity…Be a treasure to the poor, an answerer of the cry of the needy..Be a lamp unto those that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a spring for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.”
All Religions have emphasized that one should give what one possessed. The Bhagavad Gita says, “All actions should be relinquished as an evil, declare some learned men; acts of sacrifice, giving and askesis ought not be renounced, say others.” (18:3) It further says: “Sacrifice, charity and austerity are the purifiers of the wise.” (18.5) The Bible endorses the idea of heavenly reward for giving: “If thou wilt be perfect go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasures in heaven….” (Matthew, 19:21) The Koran says “Prayer carries us half-way to God, fasting brings us to the door of His place and charity procures admission.”
Lord Mahavir teaches to gather everything that one may need but let go of what one doesn’t, so the needy can be benefited. The teachings of Lord Mahavir are responsible for the Jain community’s beliefs in donations. In Muslims, salah, soum and zakat (prayer, fasting, annual wealth tax) are institutional means to establish the philanthropic order of Islam. Zakat al-fitr is promulgated through the last Prophet to alleviate hunger. Every Muslim household is expected to contribute food for needy Muslims.
In Vedanta Desika’s Subh Ashita Neevi, there is a chapter named vadAnya paddhati. VadAnya means to be generous. In this paddhati, Desika tells about generosity. A generous person is glad to give and welcome everyone warmly. A generous man never worries that by giving away, he will become impoverished.
It does not matter what one gives. One should develop the habit of finding joy in giving, giving. The more freely one gives, the greater ones happiness will be. It is more blessed to give than to receive. There is a Chinese saying: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” One should forget self, thinking less of own welfare and being more thoughtful of the needs of those around us. As St. Francis said,” It is in giving that we receive.” “We must seize every occasion,” says Albert Schweitzer, “to feel the happiness of helping living beings and shielding them from suffering and annihilation.”
There should be no such personal motive in giving. Lord Jesus says, “The left hand should not know what the right hand is giving.” (Matthew, 6:3). “Selfless giving, in the absence of self-preservation instincts, easily becomes overwhelming,” says Adam Grant, author of Give & take.
At last, a Vedic Expression teaches us:
“Tranquility is truth, truth is beauty
Beauty is bliss and bliss is divine”
Kindness in words, create confidence
Kindness in thinking, creates profoundness
Kindness in giving, create love
Kindness in loving, create happiness and health.”