Post By: Vishwanath Iyer Published on: December 1, 2016 Reading time: 4 minutes
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, and Yogacharya Sundaram in his book Raja Yoga, have included charity (dāna) as an important niyama element.
Charity (dāna) – means relinquishing of ownership with no expectation of return. There are many types of sacrifices or selfless giving and the most important, in order of significance are;
Of all forms of charity (dāna), that where there is direct benefit to another such as feeding the disadvantaged (anna-dāna) is considered the highest form of charity (dāna) because food is life. This is followed by any form of giving which requires sacrifice of one’s personal time or energy such as kriya-dāna. Next in value are sacrifices such as sharing knowledge (vidya-dāna). Giving clothes to the needy (vastra-dāna) comes next in the list of charities, finally followed by giving of money (lakshmi-dāna).
Lakshmi-dāna is not considered the highest form of giving because the giver often does not know how the money is used and often, it does not reach the intended recipient. Also, the personal sacrifice component is lower unless, the charity is made by a person who has little to a person who has less, when the sacrifice is significant.
But this is not to take the sheen away from any form of sacrifice or giving. All forms of giving and sacrifice result is a feeling of goodness and altruism which opens the sense of identity to other forms of stimuli and introspection (jñāna).
Charity in Christianity – Whilst in the early years, charity was a simple act of giving food, clothes or money, over time, it evolved into building charitable institutions such as hospitals, schools and other educational institutions for common benefit. In fact, Carnagie Mellon University, Rockfeller University, John Hopkins hospital and many other well-known and world class educational institutions were founded as a result of charitable endowments by individuals.
Tzedakah in Judaism – Judaism does not have any specific concept of charity. However, Jews are supposed to set aside 10% of their income for acts of righteousness, irrespective of who the recipient may be.
Zakat in Islam – Muslims are expected to set aside 2.5% of their income for charitable activities. In fact, during Bakr-id, the meat from the sacrificed animal is supposed to be divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends, and neighbours; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.
Seva in Sikhism – While this is voluntary, Sikhs often perform KarSeva (charity of action) such as cleaning floors, preparing food or serving it at the community kitchen or Langars, etc.
Buddhism – states that giving increases the spiritual content of one’s life and is considered one of the foundations of perfection.
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