To Whom We Should Donate or Not Donate?

We have a very interesting question from Karthick,

While i travel to places or go to my office daily, i see a lot of people asking for money, typically of different types. women with children, People with disability, people with some disease, Trans genders. Out of these people to whom should i donate? To whom should we Not donate ? I generally donate to all. what if i see these people doing this a routine? Should i donate them daily?. What would be the right act.

Please share your views.

Great question Karthick. Before I discuss to whom you should donate and to whom you should not donate, let’s take a step back and see what defines a true “Donation”.

What is Dana? (Donation)

Dana (दान) is a Sanskrit word which means giving up the ownership of  something  which the provider considers as his own and provides it to the recipient without expecting anything in return.

Note the word – “provider considers his own”.

Now what do you really own?

When you donate money to a street beggar, you are just transferring the currency to someone you think needs it. He will use it as he pleases but in this case, you did not give up something which you own. You do not own that currency, you are just a bearer and you have to pass that currency to someone else in exchange of goods.

Hindu mythology never considers donating money (“Artha”) as a “Donation” since money is basically a token of value which nobody owns. Even the Government does not own “Money” since “Money” or “Currency” has no physical existence of its own. It is just a container of “value” which is supposed to be exchanged with someone in exchange of something which has real world “value”.

There are 7 types of Donations, as per Hindu Mythology

1. Bhoomi Daan – The donation of land which the donator has acquired through his own merit, not inheritance.

2. Gau Daan – When one donates a cow, normally to a Brahman. The cow which has to be donated must be nourished by the man in his own house since its birth.

3. Kanyaa Daan – When one gives up his own daughter to a suitable groom. A Man’s Dharma is not complete unless he performs “Kanyadaan” so if he does not have a daughter of his own, he is supposed to adopt a girl child who is without a father and perform “Kanya daan” to a suitable groom.

4. Tulaa Daan – When one gives the material equal to ones weight which the provider has acquired by his own merit. Inherited products or goods cannot be donated to the recipient.

5. Vidyaa Daan – When one teaches somebody, something which he has learned through years of discipline and research.

6. Deep Daan – Lighting a lamp or many lamps in a temple or house by giving up lamps of his own house.

7. Shayyaa Daan – Donating bedding, especially to a girl when she is married to her husband OR to a dead man who is about to be cremated. The provider has to donate his own bedding and only then it will be considered a donation. If he goes to the market and purchases a bed, it becomes a “Gift”(“upahara”).

Please note that all the above donations are made without asking anything in return. So let’s say you are teaching a student and taking Rs.1000 as tuition charges per month. In that case, you are not doing “Vidya daan” since you are taking a remuneration in return. In this case, it becomes a “Fee” (“Dakshina” दक्षिणा).

There are many other types of Daan e.g “Ahara daan” (donating food) and “Aushadha-daan” (donating medicines) but some schools reject these donations on the basis that “Food” is not something which anyone can claim as his own. Food is produced by mother earth so it cannot be a “Daan”. It belongs to everybody.

There is a reason why there is no such thing as “Artha Daan” (the donation of money)

The reason is – when you donate money, the recipient can do whatever he wants to do with it, which defeats the very purpose of donation. A donation is considered a very pious act and the recipient should not disgrace it in any way. None of the above 7 donations can be disgraced in any way. But if you give money, the recipient can drink alcohol with that money or use that money for Gambling.

So if a Beggar is Hungry, you should not give him money. You should donate food to him. Better, donate him a source of food (“cow”). Donating a cow is better than giving him a meal since a cow will ensure he can use it for farming and then he can produce food for his entire family.

Helping those in need is the essence of daan. It could be one who is hungry, in need of knowledge, land or protection from danger. Feeding the hungry or teaching someone the Vedas are said to be the best types of daan. If a hungry man comes to your door, you should not immediately give him money. You should first perform “Ahara daan” (give him some food), then perform “Gau daan” (give him tools and resources so that he can fetch his own food and then do “Vidya daan” (enlighten him through knowledge).

Through this blog, I am doing “Vidya daan”. Whatever I have learned, I am giving it away for free. However, if I put advertisements on this website, it will defeat the whole purpose and it would not remain a “Daan”. Also note that I am delivering it to the one who asks for it, and not to just about anybody or lecturing my friends.

In short, you should donate to the ones who are in need and the donation needs to be proper. Your donation should provide value to the bearer and not just temporary solution. So if someone is failing to pass an exam, do not just donate a book. Take that student, understand where he is struggling, give him knowledge, take classes, observe his progress and slowly uplift the subject. That is the true form of “Donation”.

And to answer the last bit of your question, you should donate to anybody who is in need.  This could include your enemies and people you hate. There is no such thing as you should not donate to X and Y for Z reason. Donations should be made to anyone who is in need and the donation has to be proper.

Merely giving a book or a passing a 10 Rupee note is not a donation but maybe counted as “Giving alms” (“Bhiksha”). There is a huge difference between “Bhiksha” and “Dana”. “Bhiksha” does not count towards “Punya” but “Daan” does. Anyone can give “Bhiksha” but not everybody can give “Daan”.

According to Hindu scriptures, “Dana” is considered one of the building blocks of Virtuosity and character building. Vedas state that a virtuous life requires: Tapas (asceticism), Dana (charity), Arjava (straightforwardness), Ahimsa (non-injury to all sentinent beings) and Satyavachana (truthfulness).

In Mahabharata, Yaksha had asked Yudhisthira a question

Yaksha: Mrityu ke sameep hue purush ka mitra kaun hai? (Who is friend of the person close to his death?)
Yudhisthir:  Daan (Charity)

In hindsight, Yudhisthir is telling Yaksha that a person who does not donate has no real “Punya” to be earned and is soon forgotten after his death. “Daan”, in any form, keeps the subject alive even after his death.

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