Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Hari Om
Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation

These articles first appeared on Yamini-amma's personal blog. They were designed to promote deeper thinking on values, personal growth, Vedantic understanding - and to prompt conversation. Use them for contemplation either before or after your regular meditative practice.

Daana - charity.

We all know about charity, right? Most of us will drop a few coins or notes here and there. Some of us will do a lot more, or at least give regularly.

However, the act of handing over is prompted by all sorts of things within us. dan< kraeit/daanam karoti, the act of giving is not necessarily accompanied by a genuine and considered compassion. The fact that charity has become big business, that it advertises like big business, uses marketing ploys like big business… well, we also know, don't we, that this has led to the same sorts of problems as big business for those charities.

The paths of good intentions.

There's no doubt that there is a need for these mega-charities. Then there are the 'thons', those sponsored television and multimedia events which have proliferated this century, where giving becomes a competition. In both cases, they pull at the strings of the emotional beings, tug the chains of conscience, or brush the egos of the 'wannalookgoods'. They all use some of the funds to fund the fund-raising (not all of them but most). They have their place, the world - and the beneficiaries at the end of the chain - need these organisations and events.

The problem with giving to these places, the high profile 'wells', is that we cannot really have any personal connection with the charity process itself. We put our money in and it is like pouring a bucket of water into the ocean. We've added to the volume, but how can we see that? Do we even want to?

Daana needs to be personal, it needs to be involved, it needs to see the difference being made. By all means, add to the ocean - as much as you are able - but consider, also, the 'brooks and streams'. Those smaller charities, hands-on, focused and determined to participate in the alleviation of a social problem. In India, I experienced much local daanam karoti. The whole thinking about giving is different. It opened my eyes.

Families would set up their own mini-charity for, say, a home village and build what was needed as and when they had the funds. One to which I was close, succeeded in creating a fully-functioning ablutions block for their village, separate facilities for ladies and gents and a laundry yard to the side. Their next project was to turn the under-tree classroom into an actual building - which has recently been achieved.  Now, these are things for which, if they had chosen, the family charity could have applied to one of the Biggies and waited their turn. The philosophy of daana, though, meant not waiting to be rescued but taking action to escape. It is a prime example of charity begins at home. The villagers could do the work, they just needed the resources and that was provided by one of their own who had made good in the big city. This is going on all over India - and, quite likely, in Africa, the Orient and many other places that we shall never know or read about.

I mentioned the 'thinking'. Here's the thing; how many of us here in the affluent West can genuinely and honestly say that we give freely without a second thought as to how we are going to budget without that money? This is the crucial difference that I observed and have experienced between what we call charity and what is known as daana.

My own personal circumstances are very restricted, financially, but in the last decade, I let go of the 'poverty mentality' which meant that there was always never enough. Instead, I followed my Indian friends' understanding of giving. That it be without any second guessing or with-holding. That it be to a place or person where I could see the effect of that giving. Then that I pray for the opportunity to give again. What happens is that there is always enough. Tight, yes, but always enough. I have also learned that I can be on the receiving end when it is appropriate and deserved. The adage 'what goes around comes around' applies. The comparatively recent movement in the West of 'pay it forward' comes from that same place in the heart.

Give without expectation. Give meaningfully. Give not because you have to but because you want to. Most of all… Give.

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