Daan is the act of giving, and can be seen in various ways i.e. giving a gift to someone, parents giving their daughter’s hand in marriage, giving service to the community, doing an act of kindness to others, and also even giving good thoughts to others, and so forth. In whatever form the giving takes place it can be called daan only if it is done unhesitatingly and without expecting anything in return. When the act of daan is done in this manner then it becomes a noble and spiritual act.
Today gift giving is a viable enterprise in the business world. When it is Diwali, Holi, Christmas, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Grandmother‘s day, Grandfather’s day, Secretary’s day, etc., the business world reminds us that it is time for gift buying. While this kind of giving has its merits, this act of giving must be done for the love of giving, and not because we are reminded to give a gift. In this essay, I will discuss the act of giving in a spiritual context.
The concept of daan is an integral part of the Hindu way of life. It is not only physical but, more importantly, spiritual. Our scriptures, saints and sages have taught us to acquire wealth with a hundred hands and distribute that wealth with a thousand hands. Alexander, The Great, went to conquer India, but instead India conquered him with its noble philosophy. At the time of his death he instructed the people to outstretch his arms to show the world that he brought nothing into the world and he is leaving with nothing. Whatever we have, was given to us by someone else, and that someone else is God, or a Higher Power. No one, not even our parents or grandparents, or their parents have brought anything into the world. God has supplied all our needs over the ages. He has given us intelligence, strength and the ability to acquire whatever we need to sustain life on this earth. God has showered His wealth on us from all sides. Therefore we can reciprocate God’s act of daan only by truly making it an integral part of our life.
Since God has given us intelligence, strength and the ability to acquire whatever we need to sustain life on this earth, we have a moral duty to support charitable organizations that work for the betterment of humanity. The moral support of such organizations is a daan for the welfare of all people. We are taught that to live only for oneself is a selfish act, but to live for the welfare of others is a noble act. Therefore use the intelligence, strength and the ability that are God-given for the upliftment of humanity. Saint Francis of Assisi says, “For it is only in giving that we receive.”
Another aspect of daan is giving of ourselves to others in thought, word and deed. Noble and uplifting thoughts are also a form of daan. As Swami Sivananda says, “Thought is a vital living dynamic power. What is this world, after all? It is nothing but the materialization of thought-forms of Hiranyagrabha or God”. When we inculcate good thoughts, those good thoughts do good to us and to the world. We infuse good thoughts with whomsoever we come into contact, and those good thoughts help others. This is a unique way of giving something of a spiritual nature to others.
Daan is a noble and spiritual act of giving materially and spiritually, of oneself to humanity. Like a well, the more water one takes from it the more it gives. Therefore the more we give to humanity, whether it is material, mental and spiritual giving, the more our blessings and ability to give multiply. It will be like that well that keeps on giving water. Similarly, God being the greatest giver keeps on giving. He gives in abundance the air, water, sunshine, energy, food, life, love, compassion, sleep and recuperation, and all things that make the world habitable, and asks for nothing in return. If we give likewise, according to our ability, we will become God’s ambassadors in this very important aspect of our life or, shall I say, daanwalas.
Saakhis (Dohas) on daan:
Anmaange mile toh doodh baraabar, maange mile toh paani;
Kahe Kabir wahh khoon baraabar, jaame aincha taani.
(Unasked giving is like milk; asked giving is like water; asked and argumentative giving is like parting with blood, says Kabir)
Cheedi chonch bhar le gayi, nadi na ghateo neer;
Daan dewe dhan na ghate, kaha gaye daas Kabir.
(A bird’s beakful of water does not diminish the river; Kabir says that giving similarly does not diminish your wealth)
Giving, spiritual act, thought, charity, St. Francis of Assisi
Urmila Das (Dear wife of Dr. J. Das)