Charity, Zakat, Dana, and Donation


“What’s your opinion about a Charity?” a question from Hassan Ahmed.
“I don’t believe in charity. When you take care of your parents or children, do you use the word charity? No. So when you give something to outsiders, why would you use the word charity? Mostly charity is done to ‘show’ or ‘feel’ your generosity. Sorry, I don’t subscribe to that idea,” I said.
“So you don’t believe in giving?”
“I follow the principle that any giving that is motivated by selfish considerations loses its value. My ancestors taught me that ‘Manava Seva Madhava Seva’ (service to mankind is service to God. Similar phrases: “Loka Seva is Lokesa Seva” or “Jana Seva is Janardhana Seva”.). So doing service with personal involvement is important, not charity.”
“Udayji, I am a Muslim and it’s mandatory to do charity (Zakat) as per Quran. Isn’t it a great idea?”
“I don’t think so. Zakat has nothing to do with humanism. Zakat is a form of almsgiving. To my understanding, according to Islamic rule Shari’ah, Zakat cannot be considered if it is given to non-Muslims (Kafirs). It’s done by religious followers, exclusively for the religion. It is not a service for mankind. So, how could humanity benefit from that? Secondly, it is motivated by selfish considerations like God’s blessings or a reserved seat in heaven. And many times the Zakat money has been utilized by Islamic terror organizations to rage war against humanity.”
“But Zakat surely will take you to heaven and you’ll get Allah’s blessings…”
“Hassan, I respect your beliefs. But for me, Hari Krupa (God’s blessings) is always there. I breathe as I have those blessings. I don’t have to please or bribe Hari for the blessings. I don’t believe in heaven…”
“But don’t you have something similar to that in Hinduism? Dana!”
“Yes, Vedas and Dharma Shastras talk a lot about Dana (giving = charity or donation), as an important part of one’s dharma. Rig Veda says charity imparting knowledge is the best, though feeding hungry people is said to give us great satisfaction. Feeding cows is considered auspicious. Planting trees is equivalent to worshipping the deity of rains (Varuna). Meanwhile, it is also said that earning the money is equivalent to worshipping the deity of money (Kubera) – so it is okay even if you’re a Scrooge.”
“But Hindus give alms to beggars in front of temples…”
“I don’t. Begging is mostly controlled by the mafia and the anti-social world. I don’t promote begging.”
“Udayji, as a Hindu what do you do for giving then?”
“IMHO, ‘giving without the greed of getting’ is most important. As far as I am concerned, the most important and precious thing in life is time. Everyone has very limited time in life. I am sharing it with the needy by imparting the little knowledge that I could gain in my life. I don’t have anything else to give. And I do not want anything as a reward for what I do, in this world or the next.”
“For me, Zakat is most important. If you have extra money what would you do?”
“Hypothetical. I make money only for my comfortable living. I don’t need more as I don’t have time to waste on just making more money. What’s more, Dana is not about giving up extra things. When you give up what’s most important and dear to your life, that’s Dana. You know the story of Karna.”
“Okay Udayji, but if you have extra money, won’t you donate it?”
“No. I would plant a few trees. At least, it would be useful for the next generation. Or give food to the hungry – only if I can do it as a service with personal involvement. I do not entrust others to do that. Service is a personal thing – it is the manifestation of love and care done with sincerity. Throwing extra money to someone or some institution is shying away from own duty and responsibility.”
The so-called ‘spiritual leaders’ would tell you that charity is inevitable. That’s their revenue model for business. We must see that our hard-earned money is not going into the wrong hands for non-Dharmic purposes. Just throwing away some extra money will not bring you any Punya or blessings. (Message number: 278)
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