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Friday, December 8, 2023

Let’s rediscover the joy of daan & seva: giving & service

““Sata hasta samhara, sahastra hasta sankira” say the Vedas, meaning ‘Earn as if you have 100 hands, share as if you have 1000’. This beautiful line encapsulates the Dharmic worldview and the essence of the 4 purusharthas (goals of human life – artha, kama, dharma, mokhsa) for me.

This has been the central tenet of the Hindu way of life for millennia. In recent generations, many English-speaking, metro-dwelling Hindus, myself included, somehow lost touch with this and other core teachings of Dharma. We reached a stage where we started believing that ‘philanthropy’ is something we have to learn from others.

But Dharma has a way of rejuvenating in every age, and sooner or later its profound, timeless message gushes forth above the din of contemporary ‘-isms’. I believe we are at a similar inflection point in post-independence Bharat.

So this Diwali, let’s pledge to decolonize and rediscover the principles of daan and seva. In bygone eras, Hindu kings and merchants would donate their all before proceeding on Vānaprastha, and even their grihastha life was full of daan and seva like building temples that acted as nerve centers for local communities, dharamshalas, schools, orphanages, water tanks and other public works. In fact, such noble souls exist even today.

However, this is not a call to retire and head for the forests! Remember, Vānaprastha was taken by those who had fulfilled their duty towards self, family and society. As we work hard in our jobs or businesses, providing for our families and those who depend on us, can we pledge to take out some time and money each week for those not as privileged as us?

The same divine spark exists in all of us, indeed in all living beings. So helping others is just like helping ourselves. The joy and happiness one derives from nishkama seva (selfless service) is unparalleled – it is one of the best stress-busters that exist.

One note of caution though. Hindu Dharma and Hindu society today is under attack from all quarters, including from those who look and speak just like us but are indoctrinated with toxic anti-Dharma ideologies. The NGO and charity world is inundated with organizations that, even if they appear to do good work on the surface, are ultimately harmful to Dharma and our national fabric. Some missionary outfits have even appropriated Dharmic words like seva, karuna in their names to confuse ordinary Hindus. So we have to make the effort of identifying and supporting the truly Dharmic organizations around us.

There are many such selfless Hindu Dharmic groups, but most are not as media or PR savvy as the slick, Western-oriented/CSR-funded outfits. So we have to identify and engage with the right outfits, besides empowering them to scale up their activities.

The organizations and individuals doing Dharma prachar-prasar, i.e. preaching and propagating messages of established Dharmic sampradayas (communities), need our total support – the gift of Dharmic knowledge is priceless and will help any individual overcome whatever challenges life throws at her/him.

Help Hindus first. Charity begins at home, and only a strong, resilient Hindu society can act as an example for the rest of the nation and world. The ordinary, practicing Hindu in Bharat and the subcontinent is facing an existential threat from genocidal forces. Our way of life is being disparaged and distorted like never before. So don’t let anyone gaslight you by labelling you ‘communal’ – prioritizing ones community and civilizational values is a healthy human trait.

Try to donate at least 10% of your total income each month, and at least 2 hours of time every week. The 10% target may sound high, and may not be immediately possible for some – but keep it as a benchmark to aim for. Our ancestors sacrificed their lives and overcame almost impossible odds to keep the flame of Dharma burning. Today, we are faced with an equally dangerous threat from a deracinated Indian elite and neo-colonial forces that are like Trojan horses bearing gifts.

HinduPost is starting an initiative to build up a database of Hindu Dharmic organizations doing seva, Dharma prachar, social work, activism, advocacy etc. While we will try to carry out basic checks on organizations listed by us, every organization is a dynamic entity so please carry out your own due diligence before donating. Support whatever seva work is closest to your heart, but start now.

The project of building a comprehensive database of such Hindu groups will take time, and we require everyone’s support. If you know of any such organization, feel free to provide its details in the comments section or by emailing us at [email protected].

If you have any uplifting stories of how you or your community was able to make a difference in the life of ordinary Hindus, we would love to hear that too!

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