Niyama 3 - Dana, Giving

After a short introduction on the progress of our children's course, of efforts to get Gurudeva's teachings to a broader region through classes and camps in various countries, Bodhinatha speaks on the niyama of dana, giving. Give generously to temples, to the guru, to ashrams and to those in need. The divine quality of giving is done without thought of any reward. We can give in many ways, by making things in kind, mass feedings called yagams, and even in the simple hospitality of our homes, offering a beverage or a meal to a visitor. Monetary gifts can be of a spontaneous, one-time nature, or regular giving through pledges and tithing.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

We are continuing this morning on our series on 'Good Conduct', which you know is for multiple use. It is going to Sivakumar Saravan in Singapore, for use at the Hindu Center there. They are relying on him to coordinate the classes and he finished his first 8-week series, which was on the five basic Hindu beliefs, starting with God is in all. We all know those. He is starting up in July, his second series on Lord Ganesha and then his third series will follow which is on the yamas and niyamas. So we are ahead. He does not need the material yet. We got a nice upbeat note from him this morning. He was saying that the Hindu Center wants them to start classes in other parts of the city. So, that is a good sign. He was inspired also that, maybe as a result of this project, we could come up with a book for the parents, a simple course for the parents so that they could teach their children the same material that is being taught in the classes. The classes are designed to be, shall we say all-denominational, not just Saivite. That is what the Hindu Center requested. It cannot be non-denominational, but it can be all-denominational!

This series is also going to Arvind Raj and Sivanesvaran for use with the Core Youth Committee. They are training some of the younger members to be teachers to the youth. They are starting strictly a Master Course seminar series, drawing straight from the teachings, it can be overtly Saivite and overtly Gurudeva.

Then, most recently we have an opportunity to teach at the Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburgh. As you know, I went there a year ago in April for the seminar. They had a seminar and wanted us to come and represent 'Hinduism Today' and we gave a talk and presented 'Hindu Megatrends - Futurist View of Hinduism'. At that time, they mentioned that they would like to have us involved in their Summer Camp. A couple of weeks ago, they knocked on our door and said, "Can you help?" We said, "What is the age group?" They said, "8 to 12". So, I personally declined but looked around and found Easan Katir to volunteer. They are paying all his travel there. So, he and his son Kartikeya are going there toward the end of July. We are going to borrow some of the material that Sivakumar has prepared for the Hindu Center, use some of that, as well as other material we will pull together for him. Again, given all-denominational Youth Camp for children.

This is one of our efforts to get Gurudeva's teaching out in a broader way. Of course, one of the main areas is the yamas and niyamas. Gurudeva stressed that quite heavily in recent years. He would talk about building character, becoming a better person, learning how to control our instinctive nature, the tendency to become angry in a harmful, learning to harness the intellect from all its ramifications, subduing our sense of pride, becoming a humble person.

So, that is the goal of the yamas and niyamas, to produce those kinds of qualities in a person.

That is our introduction, reminds us of the overview is the lesson for the day, niyama three. Today's lesson on 'Good Conduct' is on the third niyama - Dana, which is to be generous to a fault, giving liberally without a thought of reward. Tithe, offering one-tenth of your gross income as God's Money to temples, ashrams and spiritual organizations. Approach the temple with offerings. Visit Guru with gifts in hand. Donate religious literature. Feed and give to those in need. Bestow your time and talent without seeking praise. Treat guests as God.

Let us look at some examples illustrating the practice of this niyama.

First example - Near where a Hindu family lives, there is a Hindu temple where they worship regularly. Every time the family visits the temple, they are always sure to put a generous offering into the temple hundi. The family also regularly visits a Swami at his ashram that is near by. Each visit , they are sure to bring a cash offering, dakshina, as well as an offering of flowers and fruits.

Second example - An orphanage visits certain families once a year to ask for a donation to help feed and clothe the orphans that live there. As the request is only yearly, the husband makes an especially large donation to the orphanage.

Third example - A wife is very conscious of the principle that the guest is God. When guests are in her home, she always invite them to stay and join the family for the next meal.

Fourth example - A Hindu Society prints religious literature which it distributes free at all the major festivals. Each piece of literature is sponsored by a different family and has their name on the back. Certain members of the Society regularly sponsor these pamphlets each year as a way of spreading knowledge about the Hindu religion.

All of the niyamas focus on expressing the refined soul qualities within each of us. In the case of Dana, giving, the divine quality we are expressing is giving to help others without any thought of reward, such as recognition or future favors. Selfless giving effectively lessens the instinctive tendencies of selfishness, greed, avarice and hoarding.

Here is a story to further illustrate Dana.

A devotee worshiped regularly at a temple. There are always a number of beggars outside the temple and the man would pass them by, purposely ignoring them. One day, he felt compelled to give some money to them. He noticed that afterwards he felt uplifted by this simple act. From then on, he would always be sure to give to the beggars before entering the temple and each time he felt the same upliftment. This joy he felt in helping the beggars inspired him to start a monthly mass-feeding at the temple which the beggars and others who lived near the temple now attend.

The Tirukural in its Chapter 23, 'Charity', echoes this perspective on the upliftment provided by giving. "How unpleasant a beggar's pleading can become, until one sees his face so sweetly pleased."

The Kural Chapter on 'Charity' describes those who do not give as hard-hearted, bitter men who waste their wealth by hoarding it and that men of good birth graciously give.

The Kural also insightfully describes a key aspect of Dana, which is giving without any thought of reward. "Giving to the poor is true charity, all other giving expects some return."

Gurudeva also describes the upliftment of the act of giving. He insightfully states that the reward of joy and the fullness you feel is immediate, as the gift passes from your two hands into the outstretched hands of the receiver. He continues by saying that fulfillment of giving that wells up within the giver as the gift is being prepared and as the gift is being presented and released, the fulfillment of the expectancy of the receiver or the surprise of the receiver and the fullness that exists afterward are all a part of dana.

Let us now look at some of the many forms of giving. In our modern world, the most common form of giving is, of course, a gift of money. We make cash gifts whenever we visit temples and ashrams.

We can also make something with our hands, which is an in-kind gift. For example, we have a carpentry shop at home and on weekends make furniture that we donate to orphanages and homes for the elderly.

A third form of giving is giving our time. We help out at the local temple by cleaning the floors and other areas once a week.

Another form of giving is imparting spiritual teachings. We purchase religious literature and give it away during major festivals.

A fifth form of giving is religious feedings of the masses called 'annayagna' or simply yagam. We sponsor a monthly yagam at a large temple in our city covering all the costs.

Another form of giving is providing hospitality to guests. We offer them a seat and offer them a beverage and insist they stay for the next meal.

The Kural in its chapter on 'Hospitality', speaks on the importance of hospitality in Verse 81. "The whole purpose of earning wealth and maintaining a home is to provide hospitality to guests."

The Kural chapter stresses that, "Hospitality yields success and wealth on earth as well as the joys of heaven."

Let us look now at the different ways of giving. There are three common ways of religious giving - spontaneous offering, pledge, and percentage of income.

Spontaneous offering is giving when visiting a swami or temple. Unless you visit a temple or swami, you do not give.

A pledge is when you have made a promise to donate a fixed amount to religious or charitable organization. Pledges are usually monthly or yearly. For example, you have pledged one hundred dollars a month to a temple's building fund for a period of two years and fulfilled the pledge by mailing them a check each month.

A percentage of income is when you have promised to donate an amount based on your income, such as ten percent. This is a larger commitment and usually is done when you have made a commitment to a swami or ashram and are seriously pursuing sadhana and studying their teachings. When giving ten percent of your income, the ten percent that is set aside is called 'dasamamsa' or tithe. This part of your income is considered God's money and is not to be spent on your family needs. Therefore, a wise practice is that when your receive your monthly salary, you immediately set aside or write a check for that amount to the institution you are supporting. Some people who want to tithe, start by setting aside a smaller percent, such as five percent and gradually increase it to ten.

Quite often, giving outside the home is done by the husband. However, it is important that the wife and children also be allowed to do so. Providing the wife with funds she can give away to religion or charity, allows her to experience the upliftment that comes from the practice of dana, which then brings more joy into her life. Children should be taught Dana, from a very young age. They can be given a small amount of money to give to the temple, to holy ones, to one another, to their parents. When older and if their parents are tithing, they can be trained to set aside as God's money, ten percent of any gifts they receive on their birthdays or holidays.

In conclusion, be generous to a fault, giving liberally without thought of reward. Tithe, offering one tenth of your gross income, dasamamsa, as God's money to temples, ashrams and spiritual organizations. Approach the temple with offerings. Visit Guru with gifts in your hands. Donate religious literature. Feed and give to those in need. Bestow your time and talent without seeking praise. Treat guests as God.

Aum Namah Sivaya.