Tirukkural – on giving

Tiruvalluvar – the composer of the Tirukkural

கைம்மாறு வேண்டா கடப்பாடு மாரிமாட்டு
என்ஆற்றுங் கொல்லோ உலகு.  

Kaimmaaru Ventaa Katappaatu Maarimaattu
EnAatrung Kollo Ulaku (211)

The benevolent expect no return for their dutiful giving. How can the world ever repay the rain clouds?

मेघानं वर्षतां नित्यं कि साह्यं कुर्वते जना:।
मेघतुल्या महान्तोऽपि निष्काममुपकुर्वते॥ (२११)

उपकारी नहिं चाहते, पाना प्रत्युपकार ।
बादल को बदला भला, क्या देता संसार ॥ (२११)

ಉಪಕಾರಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರತ್ಯುಪಕಾರದ ಹಂಗಿಲ್ಲ; ಮಳೆಯನ್ನು ಸುರಿಸುವ ಮೋಡಗಳಿಗೆ ಈ ಲೋಕದ ಮಾನವರು ಏನು ಉಪಕಾರ ತಾನೆ ಮಾಡಬಲ್ಲರು? (೨೧೧)

മാരിനൽകുന്ന മേഘങ്ങൾ ക്കെന്തു പകരം ചെയ്തു നാം? മേഷം പോലാശയില്ലാതെ നന്മ ചെയ്യുന്നു സജ്ജനം  (൨൱൰൧)

Wohl mn sucht keine Erwiderung – was gibt die Welt der Segen spendenden Wolke zurück?

புத்தே ளுலகத்தும் ஈண்டும் பெறலரிதே
ஒப்புரவின் நல்ல பிற. 

Puththe Lulakaththum Eentum Peralaridhe
Oppuravin Nalla Pira (213)

There is no pleasure in this or in the other, that equals the joy of being helpful to those around you.

लोकोपकारिताख्येन धर्मेण भुवि जीवनात्।
सत्कार्यमुत्तमं नास्ति स्वर्गे वा भूतलेऽपि वा॥ (२१३)

किया भाव निष्काम से, जनोपकार समान ।
स्वर्ग तथा भू लोक में दुष्कर जान ॥ (२१३)

ದೇವಲೋಕದಲ್ಲಿಯಾಗಲೀ, ಈ ಲೋಕದಲ್ಲಾಗಲೀ, ಉಪಕಾರಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಮಿಗಿಲಾದ ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಗುಣವನ್ನು ಪಡೆಯುವುದು ಕಷ್ಟ. (೨೧೩)

മണ്ണിലും വിണ്ണിലും പാർത്താലന്യർക്കായുപകാരങ്ങൾ  ചെയ്യും പോൽ ശുഭമായുള്ള സൽക്കർമ്മം വേറെയില്ല കേൾ  (൨൱൰൩)

In dieser und in der Welt der Himml Lochen ist kaum ein Gut zu erlangen,. das dem Wohltum gleichkommt.

Giving – easy in theory, quite difficult in reality. We have been so conditioned to take, that giving doesn’t come easily to us. Yes, we are able to give what we have “far in excess” of what we need, but true giving is being able to part with what you need, for the benefit of others. How many of us can do this?

As you moved through the Tirukkural, a thought may have crossed your mind. All this sounds good when reading it, but how practical is it in real life? Are these too lofty as ideals? Can we normal human beings, living in the big, bad world of today, be this way and still survive?

I agree with you. Rome was not built in a day, and after a lifetime of largely thinking just for ourselves, it can seem very difficult to act this way. But the good thing is, you do not have to do all this at a go. Self-improvement is all about slow, but sustained steps towards a better you. Nor do you have to worry about not being able to reach these lofty goals. Just do your best, be your best, and don’t think about the rest.

Coming back to giving. Performing charity with the expectation of return is not charity – it is an exchange. You may recall the story of the half-golden mongoose that I had wrote about in an earlier post. The moral of the story was that  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. 

When done right, performing charity has a lot of benefits. It reduces your attachment towards material objects, and develops the attitude of service. It helps you to be more caring, and compassionate. And yes, the mere feeling of goodness when the person thanks you in return, his eyes filled with gratitude, is more than enough, isn’t it?

The Bhagavad Gita also speaks a lot about giving, and adds an important point.

दातव्यमिति यद्दानं दीयतेऽनुपकारिणे |
देशे काले च पात्रे च तद्दानं सात्त्विकं स्मृतम् || 20||

dātavyam iti yad dānaṁ dīyate ‘nupakāriṇe
deśhe kāle cha pātre cha tad dānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smṛitam

Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.

deśhe kāle cha pātre cha tad dānaṁ – charity given at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person.

Patre is someone who is worthy, competent and deserving. Which means that just giving is not important, one has to involve oneself in the process – know the need, explore what will help the person not just to satisfy the immediate need, but the long-term need as well.

At the end of it, whether you give one rupee, or a million, it does not matter. What does matter is the feeling with which you give it, whom you give it to, and what you give it for. And when you do it right, you will start slowly, but end up enjoying the process so much that you would want to do more and more of it. Until a day, when you realise that true happiness is not in taking, but in giving.