A bit on charity…

செய்யாமல் செய்த உதவிக்கு வையகமும்
வானகமும் ஆற்றல் அரிது.  

Seyyaamal Seydha Udhavikku Vaiyakamum
Vaanakamum Aatral Aridhu (101)

The gift of heaven and earth is not an equivalent for help that is given where none had been received.

अस्माभिरकृते साह्ये यस्तु साह्‌यं करोति न: ।
लोकद्वयप्रदानेऽपि तस्य नास्ति प्रतिक्रिया ॥ (१०१)

उपकृत हुए बिना करे, यदि कोइ उपकार ।
दे कर भू सुर-लोक भी, मुक्त न हो आभार ॥ (१०१)

ಬೇರೊಬ್ಬರಿಂದ ನಮಗೆ ಉಪಕಾರವಾಗದಿದ್ದರೂ ನಾವು ಅವರಿಗೆ ಮಾಡಿದ ಉಪಕಾರಕ್ಕೆ, ಭೂಲೋಕವಾಗಲಿ ದೇವಲೋಕವಾಗಲೀ ಪ್ರತಿಯಾಗಿ ಬೆಲೆ ಕಟ್ಟಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ. (೧೦೧)

നാം ചെയ്യാതെ, നമുക്കായ് ചെയ്തിടും സേവനത്തിനായ്  മണ്ണും വിണ്ണും കൊടുത്താലും സാമ്യമാകില്ലൊരിക്കലും  (൱൧)

After the great battle of Mahābhārata was over, the victorious Pāndava brothers organized the Ashvamedha Yagna. At the end of this ceremony, King Yudhishthira gave costly gifts to the priests and donated very large quantities of food, gold, cattle and other forms of wealth to the poor and needy. Everyone praised Yudhishthira for his generosity and hailed him as one of the greatest Kings who had ever lived.

Suddenly, there appeared a strange mongoose at the yagna. Half the body of this mongoose was golden in color, and the other half was brown.

The mongoose stood in front of Yudhishthira and said “this yagna is definitely not as great as the gift of that Brahmana in Kurukṣetra.”

Everyone present was surprised on hearing this, because Yudhishthira had donated enormous amounts of food and money at the yagna. They asked the mongoose to explain his statement. The mongoose then narrated this story.

Long, long ago, in Kurukṣetra, there lived a poor Brahmana with his wife, son and his pregnant daughter-in-law. One year, Kurukṣetra was stuck with a terrible famine and there was no food for anyone to eat. The poor Brahmana somehow managed to arrange enough flour to make four rotis. As they all started to eat one  roti each, a hungry beggar appeared at the doorstep and asked for food.

The Brahmana, though hungry himself, offered his roti to the beggar. But the beggar’s hunger was not satisfied and he requested for some more food.

The Brahmana’s wife thought that it is the duty of a good woman to support her husband and help him in following Dharma.

Therefore, she too gave her roti to the beggar. But the beggar’s hunger was still not satisfied.

Now, the Brahmana’s son gave his roti to the beggar, saying that a good son must always support his parents in practicing Dharma. Even after eating three rotis, the beggar was still not satisfied and asked if he could have some more food.

Then, the pregnant daughter-in-law came forward, offering him her own roti. The Brahmana protested and said that she would have to take care of the baby inside her, and so she shouldn’t offer her roti to the beggar. But his daughter-in-law disagreed, saying that according to the Vedas, we are to see God in our guests and therefore guests must be served. She argued that her unborn child will also get the benefit of her charity to the beggar and therefore she would go ahead and give her own share of food to the beggar.

As soon as she gave the roti to the beggar, his hunger got satisfied. But all the four family members, tired and weak from hunger, fell dead.

And then the miracle happened. The beggar was none other than the Lord of Dharma in disguise. Pleased with the generosity of the Brahmana and his family for giving away all of their food even though they were themselves dying of hunger, he brought all of them back to life and took all of them to Heaven in a divine chariot.

The mongoose then said, “I happened to be in the kitchen of that Brahmana, watching all this. I happened to roll on the floor of the kitchen. The particles of flour that the kind Brahmana had used to make the rotis rubbed against my skin and turned it golden. But there were only enough particles to make half of my skin golden. Since then, I have been roaming all over the world to find someone who is as kind and generous as that Brahmana and his family, so that I can rub the other half of my body against their food and turn my entire body golden. Unfortunately, I still have not found someone as great as that Brahmana of Kurukṣetra and his family.”

Upon hearing this, King Yudhishthira and his brothers were humbled. Even though they had given away large amounts of wealth in charity, they had not exhausted their wealth, and this was a tiny portion of what they owned.

Whereas, that poor Brahmana and his family had given away all the food they had, quietly and without complaining, even though they were themselves dying of hunger.

The Pāndava brothers realized that the charity is greatest in which we give away something that is irreplaceable and unique, something that is really dear to us. Not just something extra that we have with us.