Gifts
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Gifts

From the Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section LVII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

By making gifts one acquires all kinds of enjoyable articles.
By making gifts one simply increases one’s wealth.
By making gifts one acquires great fame in consequence
of one’s high achievements.
______________

From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva,Section CXXXVIII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Five kinds of Gifts

Yudhishthira said: O sire, thou whose power is great in the observance of the vow of truth by following the religion of gift. How many kinds of gifts are there that should be given? What are the fruits of the several kinds of gifts respectively? What kinds of gifts, made to what persons are productive of merits? Indeed, unto what persons should what gifts be made? For what reasons are how many kinds of gifts to be made? I desire to hear all this in detail.

Bhishma said: Listen, O son of Kunti, in detail to me, O sinless one as I discourse on the subject of gifts. Indeed, I shall tell you, O Bharata, how gifts should be made unto all the orders of men. From desire of merit, from desire of profit, from fear, from free choice, and from pity, gifts are made, O Bharata! Gifts, therefore, should be known to be of five kinds. Listen now to the reasons for which gifts are thus distributed in five classes.

  1. With mind freed from malice one should make gifts unto Brahmanas (priests), for making gifts unto them one acquires fame here and great felicity hereafter. (Such gifts are regarded as made from desire of merit.)
  2. He is in the habit of making gifts; or he has already made gifts to me. Hearing such words from solicitors one gives away all kinds of wealth unto a particular solicitor. (Such gifts are regarded as made from desire of profit.)
  3. I am not his, nor is he mine. If disregarded, he may injure me. From such motives of fear even a man of learning and wisdom may make gifts unto an ignorant wretch. (Such gifts are regarded as made from fear.)
  4. This one is dear to me, I am also dear to him. Influenced by considerations like these, a person of intelligence, freely and with alacrity, make gifts unto a friend. (Such gifts are regarded as made from free choice.)
  5. The person that solicits me is poor. He is again, gratified with a little. From considerations such as these, one should always make gifts unto the poor, moved by pity. (Gifts made from such considerations are regarded as made from pity.)

These are the five kinds of gifts. They enhance the giver’s merits and fame. The Lord of all creatures has said that one should always make gifts according to one’s power.
______________

FromThe Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section CXX
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Vyasa said: It has been said that there are three tracks which constitute the best vows of a man. One should never injure; one should always tell the truth; and one should make gifts. The Rishis of old announced this, following the declarations of the Vedas. These injunctions were heard in days of old, - they should certainly be followed by us even in our times. Even a small gift, made under the circumstances laid down, produces great fruits.

Unto a thirsty man thou hast given a little water with a sincere heart. Thyself thirsty and hungry, thou hast, by giving me such food, conquered many high regions of felicity, O puissant one, as one does by many sacrifices. Superior to the accomplishment of all Vedic vows, is gift. Indeed, gift is more auspicious than all sacred acts. If it be no more meritorious than all sacred acts, there can be no question about its superiority. All those rites laid down in the Vedas do not come up to gift, for gift without doubt, is as I hold, fraught with very superior merit. The track that has been made by those men who make gifts is the track that is trodden by the wise. They who give gifts are regarded as givers of even the life-breaths.

The duties that constitute Righteousness are established in them. As the Vedas when well studied, as the restraining of the senses, as a life of universal Renunciation, even so is gift which is fraught with very superior merit. Thou, O son, wilt rise from joy to greater joy in consequence of thy having betaken thyself to the duty of making gifts. The man of intelligence who practises this duty certainly rises from joy to greater joy. We have without doubt, met with many direct instances of this. Men endued with prosperity succeed in acquiring wealth, making gifts, performing sacrifices, and earning happiness as the result thereof. It is always observed to happen naturally that happiness is followed by misery and misery is followed by happiness.

Men of wisdom have said that human beings in this world have three kinds of conduct. Some are righteous, some are sinful: and some are neither righteous nor sinful. The conduct of the person who is devoted to Brahman is not regarded either way. His sins are never regarded as sins. So also the man who is devoted to the duties laid down for him is regarded as neither righteous nor sinful (for the observance of those duties). Those men who are devoted to sacrifices, gifts, and penances are regarded as righteous. Those, however, that injure other creatures and are unfriendly to them, are regarded as sinful. There are some men who appropriate what belongs to others. These certainly fall into Hell and meet with misery. All other acts that men do are indifferent, being regarded as neither righteous nor sinful. Do thou sport and grow and rejoice and make gifts and perform sacrifices. Neither men of knowledge, nor those endued with penances will then be able to get the better of thee!
______________

Threee types of gifts

From the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17
Explanations by Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

The Blessed Lord said:

  1. That gift which is given to one who does nothing in return, knowing it to be a duty to give in a fit place and time to a worthy person, that gift is held to be Sattwic.
    -Gita,Ch.17, Verse 20
  2. [Note: Worthy person: Pious person who is a tapasvin (practising austerities), who is well versed in the scriptures (the Vedas and the Vedangas such as Ayurveda), who is able to protect himself and the donor etc. a person worthy to receive the gift, a person who is the very incarnation of purity, the very abode of good conduct. A gift may be freely given to such a highly deserving person. The donor should not boast of his charity.]

  3. And that gift which is given with a view to receive something in return, or liking for a reward, or reluctantly, is held to be Rajasic.- Gita, Ch.17, Verse 21
  4. [Note: charity or gift that is given in the hope that it will be returned in the future and praised in public or that the gift will bring some unseen reward or heavenly pleasure is passionate 9Rajasic). If a man makes a gift to a brahmana (priest) or sanyasin with the hope that all his sins will be washed away, this is also a Rajasic gift. If a man is grieved at heart after making the gift this is also a gift of passionate (Rajasic) nature.

  5. That gift that is given at a wrong place and time, to unworthy persons, without respect or with insult is declared to be Tamasic. -Gita, Ch.17, Verse 22

[ Note: ‘At a wrong place and time’ : At a place which is not holy, where irreligious people congregate and where beggars assemble, where wealth acquired through illegal means such as gambling, theft, etc., is distributed to gamblers, fools, rogues, women of evil reputation and at a time which is not auspicious. But this does not discourage giving alms or other charity to the poor and the needy. In their case these restrictions do not apply.]
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