Happiness And Giving

Posted: 28/06/2013 in Routine

The liberal man is he who gives to the beggar who wanders in search of food, lean and forlorn; the one who helps the passerby, when asked, makes of this same a friend for days to come.

Santosha: Contentment

Contentment, santosha, is the second niyama. How do we practice contentment? Simply do not harm others by thought, word or deed. As a practitioner of ahimsa, noninjury, you can sleep contentedly at night and experience santosha then and through the day. Contentment is a quality that everyone wants, and buys things to obtain — “Oh, if I only had my house redecorated, I would be content.” “A new wardrobe would content me, give me joy and serenity.” “To be content, I must have a vacation and get away from it all. There I can live the serene life and have joyous experiences.”

The dharmic way is to look within and bring out the latent contentment that is already there by doing nothing to inhibit its natural expression, as santosha, the mood of the soul, permeates out through every cell of the physical body. Contentment is one of the most difficult qualities to obtain, and is well summed up within our food blessing mantra, from the Shukla Yajur Veda, Isa Upanishad invocation, “That is fullness. Creation is fullness. From that fullness flows this world’s fullness. This fullness issues from that fullness, yet that fullness remains full.” This joy we seek is the joy of fullness, lacking nothing.

Life is meant to be lived joyously. There is in much of the world the belief that life is a burden, a feeling of penitence, that it is good to suffer, good for the soul. In fact, spiritual life is not that way at all. The existentialist would have you believe that depression, rage, fear and anguish are the foremost qualities of the human temper and expression. The communists used to have us believe that joy and serenity as the outgrowth of religion are just an opiate of the people, a narcotic of unreality. The Semitic religions of the Near East would have us believe that suffering is good for the soul, and there is not much you can do about it. The Saivite Hindu perspective is that contentment is a reflection of centeredness, and discontentment is a reflection of externalized consciousness and ramified desire.

Maintaining joy and serenity in life means being content with your surroundings, be they meager or lavish. Be content with your money, be it a small amount or a large amount. Be content with your health. Bear up under ailments and be thankful that they are not worse than they are. Protect your health if it is good. It is a valuable treasure. Be content with your friends. Be loyal to those who are your long-time, trusted companions. Basically, contentment, santosha, is freedom from desire gained by redirecting the forces of desire and making a beautiful life within what one already has in life.

The rich seeking more riches are not content. The famous seeking more fame are not content. The learned seeking more knowledge are not content. Being content with what you have does not mean you cannot discriminate and seek to progress in life. It doesn’t mean you should not use your willpower and fulfill your plans.

It does mean you should not become upset while you are striving toward your goals, frustrated or unhappy if you do not get what you want. The best striving is to keep pushing along the natural unfoldment of positive trends and events in your life, your family life and your business. Contentment is working within your means with what is available to you, living within your income, being grateful for what you have, and not unhappy over what you lack.

There are many frustrated souls on the path who torment themselves no end and walk around with long faces because they estimate they are not unfolding spiritually fast enough. They have set goals of Self Realization for themselves far beyond their abilities to immediately obtain. If people say, “I am not going to do anything that will not make me peaceful or that will threaten my peace of mind,” how will they get anywhere? That is not the idea of santosha. True santosha is seeing all-pervasiveness of the one divine power everywhere. The light within the eyes of each person is that divine power. With this in mind, you can go anywhere and do anything. Contentment is there, inside you, and needs to be brought out. It is a spiritual power. So, yes, do what makes you content. But know that contentment really transcends worrying about the challenges that face you. Santosha is being peaceful in any situation. The stronger you are in santosha, the greater the challenges you can face and still remain quiet on the inside, peaceful and content, poised like a hummingbird hovering over a flower.

Keeping Peace In the Home

Santosha is the goal; dharma, good conduct, remains the director of how you should act and respond to fulfill your karma. This goal is attainable by following the ten Vedic restraints: not harming others by thought, word or deed, refraining from lying, not entering into debt, being tolerant with people and circumstance, overcoming changeableness and indecision, not being callous, cruel or insensitive to other people’s feelings. Above all, never practice deception. Don’t eat too much. Maintain a vegetarian diet for purity and clarity of mind. Watch carefully what you think and how you express it through words. All of these restraints must be captured and practiced within the lifestyle before the natural contentment, the santosha, the pure, serene nature, of the soul can shine forth. Therefore, the practice to attain santosha is to fulfill the yamas. Proceed with confidence; failure is an impossibility.

I was asked by a cyberspace cadet among our Internet congregation, “Where do we let off steam? Mom works, dad works, the kids are in school, and when everyone comes home, everyone lets off a little steam, and everyone understands.” My answer is don’t let off steam in the home. The home is a sanctuary of the entire family. It should have an even higher standard of propriety than the office, the factory or the corporate workplace. When we start being too casual at home and letting off steam, we say things that perhaps we shouldn’t. We may think the rest of the family understands, but they don’t. Feelings get hurt. We break up the vibration of the home. Young people also let off steam in school, thus inhibiting their own education. They behave in a way in the classroom that they would not in a corporate office, and who is hurt but themselves? It’s amazing how quickly people shape up their behavior when they sign a contract, when they get a job in a corporate office. They read the manual, they obey it and they are nice to everyone. This is the way it should be within the home. The home should be maintained at a higher standard than the corporate office.

The wonderful thing about Hinduism is that we don’t let off steam at home; we let our emotions pour out within the Hindu temple. The Hindu temple is the place where we can relate to the Gods and the Goddesses and express ourselves within ourselves. It’s just between ourselves and the Deity. In a Hindu temple there may be, all at the same time, a woman worshiper crying in a corner, not far away a young couple laughing among themselves with their children, and nearby someone else arguing with the Gods. The Hindu temple allows the individual to let off steam but it is a controlled situation, controlled by the pujas, the ceremony, the priesthood.

So as to not make more karma in this life by saying things we don’t mean, having inflections in our voice that are hurtful to others, we must control the home, control ourselves in the workplace, keep the home at a higher vibration of culture and protocol than the workplace, and include the temple in our lives as a place to release our emotions and regain our composure.

It is making a lot of really bad karma that will come back in its stronger reaction later on in life for someone, the husband or wife or teenager, to upset the vibration of the home because of stress at school or in the workplace. It is counterproductive to work all day in a nice office, control the emotions and be productive, and then go home and upset the vibration within the home. After all, why is someone working? It’s to create the home. Why is someone going to school? It’s to eventually create a home. It is counterproductive to destroy that which one works all day to create. That’s why I advise the professional mother, the professional father, the professional son and the professional daughter to use in the home the same good manners that are learned in the workplace, and build the vibration of the home even stronger than the vibration of the workplace, so that there is something inviting to come home to.

We have seen so many times, professionals, men and women, behave exquisitely in the workplace, but not so exquisitely at home, upset the home vibration, eventually destroying the home, breaking up the home. And we have seen, through the years, a very unhappy person in retirement, a very bitter person in retirement. No one wants him around, no one wants to have him in their home. Therefore, he winds up in some nursing home, and he dies forgotten.

The Sanatana Dharma and Saiva Samayam must be alive in the home, must be alive in the office, must be alive in the temple, for us to have a full life. Where, then, do we vent our emotions, where do we let off steam, if not in our own home? The answer is, within the temple.


Giving, dana, is the third great religious practice, or niyama. It is important to remember that giving freely of one’s goods in fulfilling needs, making someone happy or putting a smile on his face, mitigates selfishness, greed, avarice and hoarding. But the most important factor is “without thought of reward.” 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. Dana is often translated as “charity.” But charity in modern context is a special kind of giving by those who have to those who have not. This is not the true spirit of dana. The word fulfillment might describe dana better. The 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 afterwards are all a part of dana.

Dashamamsha, tithing, too, is a worthy form of dana — giving God’s money to a religious institution to fulfill with it God’s work. One who is really fulfilling dana gives dashamamsha, never goes to visit a friend or relative with empty hands, gives freely to relatives, children, friends, neighbors and business associates, all without thought of reward. The devotee who practices dana knows fully that “you cannot give anything away.” The law of karma will return it to you full measure at an appropriate and most needed time. The freer the gift is given, the faster it will return.

What is the proportionate giving after dashamamsha, ten percent, has been deducted. It would be another two to five percent of one’s gross income, which would be equally divided between cash and kind if someone wanted to discipline his dana to that extent. That would be fifteen percent, approximately one sixth, which is the makimai established in South India by the Chettiar community around the Palani Temple and now practiced by the Malaka Chettiars of Malaysia.

If one were to take a hard look at the true spirit of dana in today’s society, the rich giving to religious institutions for a tax deduction are certainly giving with a thought of reward. Therefore, giving after the tax deductions are received and with no material benefits or rewards of any kind other than the fulfillment of giving is considered by the wise to be a true expression of dana. Making something with one’s own hands, giving in kind, is also a true expression of dana. Giving a gift begrudgingly in return for another gift is, of course, mere barter. Many families barter their way through life in this way, thinking they are giving. But such gifts are cold, the fulfillment is empty, and the law of karma pays discounted returns.

Hospitality And Fullness

Hospitality is a vital part of fulfilling dana. When guests come, they must be given hospitality, at least a mat to sit on and a glass of water to drink. These are obligatory gifts. You must never leave your guest standing, and you must never leave your guest thirsty. If a guest were to smell even one whiff from the kitchen of the scented curries of a meal being prepared, he must be asked four times to stay for the meal. He will politely refuse three times and accept on the fourth invitation. This is also an obligatory giving, for the guest is treated as God. God Siva’s veiling grace hides Siva as He dresses in many costumes. He is a dancer, you know, and dancers wear many costumes. He will come as a guest to your home, unrecognizable. You might think it is your dear friend from a far-off place. That, too, is Siva in another costume, and you must treat that guest as Siva. Giving to Siva Siva’s own creation in your mind brings the highest rewards through the law of karma.

Even if you think you are giving creatively, generously, looking for no rewards, but you are giving for a purpose, that karma will still pay you back with full interest and dividends. This is a positive use of the law of karma. It pays higher interest than any bank. This is not a selfish form of giving. It is the giving of the wise, because you know the law of karma, because you know the Sanatana Dharma — the divine, eternal laws. If you see a need that you can fill and have the impulse to give but recoil from giving, later, when you are in need, there will be someone who has the impulse to give to you but will recoil from giving. The wheels of karma grind slowly but exceedingly well the grains of actions, be they in thought, emotion or those of a physical nature. So, one can be quite selfish and greedy about wanting to practice dana to accumulate the punya for the balance of this life, the life in-between lives, in the astral world, and for a good birth in the next incarnation. The practice of dana is an investment in a better life, an investment that pays great dividends.

We are not limited by our poverty or wealth in practicing giving. No matter how poor you are, you can still practice it. You can give according to your means, your inspiration, your ability. When the fullness has reached its peak within you while preparing the gift, be it arranging a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, a tray of fruit, counting out coins, sorting a pile of bills or putting zeros on a check that you’re writing, then you know that the gift is within your means. Gifts within your means and from your heart are the proper gifts.

The Selfish And Miserly

The virtue of dana deals with the pragmatic physical transference of cash or kind. It is the foundation and the life blood of any other form of religious giving, such as giving of one’s time. Many people rationalize, “I’ll give my time to the temple. I’ll wash the pots, scrub the floor and tidy up. But I can’t afford to give of my limited wealth proportionate to what would be total fulfillment of giving.” Basically, they have nothing better to do with their time, and to ease their own conscience, they volunteer a little work. There is no merit, no punya, in this, only demerit, papa. No, it’s just the other way around. One who has perfected dana in cash and in kind and is satisfied within this practice, this niyama, will then be able and willing to give of his time, to tithe ten percent of his time, and then give time over and above that to religious and other worthy causes. Shall we say that the perfection of dana precedes seva, service?

What can be said of someone who is all wrapped up in his personal self: concealing his personal ego with a pleasant smile, gentle deeds, soft words, but who just takes care of “number one”? For instance, if living with ten people, he will cook for himself and not cook for the others. He gets situations confused, entertains mental arguments within himself and is always worried about the progress in his religious life. We would say he is still trying to work on the restraints — compassion, patience, sexual purity, moderate appetite — and has not yet arrived at number three on the chart of the practices called niyamas. Modern psychology would categorize him as self-centered, selfish, egotistical. To overcome this selfishness, assuming he gets the restraints in order, doing things for others would be the practice, seeing that everyone is fed first before he eats, helping out in every way he can, performing anonymous acts of kindness at every opportunity.

In an orthodox Hindu home, the traditional wife will follow the practice of arising in the morning before her husband, preparing his hot meal, serving him and eating only after he is finished; preparing his lunch, serving him and eating after he is finished; preparing his dinner, serving him and eating after he is finished, even if he returns home late. Giving to her husband is her fulfillment, three times a day. This is built into Hindu society, into Saivite culture.

Wives should be allowed by their husbands to perform giving outside the home, too, but many are not. All too often, they are held down, embarrassed and treated almost like domestic slaves — given no money, given no things to give, disallowed to practice dana, to tithe and give creatively without thought of reward. Such domineering, miserly and ignorant males will get their just due in the courts of karma at the moment of death and shortly after. The divine law is that the wife’s shakti power, once released, makes her husband magnetic and successful in his worldly affairs, and their wealth accumulates. He knows from tradition that to release this shakti he must always fulfill all of the needs of his beloved wife and give her generously everything she wants.

Many Ways Of Giving

There are so many ways of giving. Arising before the Sun comes up, greeting and giving namaskara to the Sun is a part of Saivite culture. Dana is built into all aspects of Hindu life — giving to the holy man, giving to the astrologer, giving to the teacher, giving dakshina to a swami or a satguru for his support, over and above all giving to his institution, over and above dashamamsha, over and above giving to the temple. If the satguru has satisfied you with the fullness of his presence, you must satisfy yourself in equal fullness in giving back. You can be happily fat as these two fullnesses merge within you. By giving to the satguru, you give him the satisfaction of giving to another, for he has no needs except the need to practice dana.

Great souls have always taught that, among all the forms of giving, imparting the spiritual teachings is the highest. You can give money or food and provide for the physical aspects of the being, but if you can find a way to give the dharma, the illumined wisdom of the traditions of the Sanatana Dharma, then you are giving to the spirit of the person, to the soul. Many Hindus buy religious literature to give away, because jnana dana, giving wisdom, is the highest giving. Several groups in Malaysia and Mauritius gave away over 70,000 pieces of literature in a twenty-month period. Another group in the United States gave away 300,000 pieces of literature in the same period. Many pieces of that literature changed the lives of individuals and brought them into a great fullness of soul satisfaction. An electric-shock blessing would go out from them at the peak of their fulfillment and fill the hearts of all the givers. Giving through education is a glorious fulfillment for the giver, as well as for the receiver.

Wealthy men in India will feed twenty thousand people in the hopes that one enlightened soul who was truly hungry at that time might partake of this dana and the shakti that arises within him at the peak of his satisfaction will prepare for the giver a better birth in his next life. This is the great spirit of anna yajna, feeding the masses.

Along with the gift comes a portion of the karma of the giver. There was an astrologer who when given more than his due for a jyotisha consultation would always give the excess to a nearby temple, as he did not want to assume any additional karma by receiving more than the worth of his predictions. Another wise person said, “I don’t do the antyeshti samskara, funeral rites, because I can’t receive the dana coming from that source of sadness. It would affect my family.” Giving is also a way of balancing karma, of expressing gratitude for blessings received. A devotee explained, “I cannot leave the temple without giving to the hundi, offering box, according to the fullness I have received as fullness from the temple.” A gourmet once said, “I cannot leave the restaurant until I give gratuity to the waiter equaling the satisfaction I felt from the service he gave.” This is dana, this is giving, in a different form.

Children should be taught giving at a very young age. They don’t yet have the ten restraints, the yamas, to worry about. They have not been corrupted by the impact of their own prarabdha karmas. Little children, even babies, can be taught dana — giving to the temple, to holy ones, to one another, to their parents. They can be taught worship, recitation and, of course, contentment — told how beautiful they are when they are quiet and experiencing the joy of serenity. Institutions should also give, according to their means, to other institutions.

How Monks Fulfill Dana

It is very important for sadhus, sannyasins, swamis, sadhakas, any mendicant under vows, to perform dana. True, they are giving all of their time, but that is fulfillment of their vrata. True, they are not giving dashamamsha, because they are not employed and have no income. For them, dana is giving the unexpected in unexpected ways — serving tea for seven days to the tyrannical sadhu that assisted them by causing an attack of anava, of personal ego, within them, in thanks to him for being the channel of their prarabdha karmas and helping them in the next step of their spiritual unfoldment. Dana is making an unexpected wreath of sacred leaves and flowers for one’s guru and giving it at an unexpected time. Dana is cooking for the entire group and not just for a few or for oneself alone.

When one has reached an advanced stage on the spiritual path, in order to go further, the law requires giving back what one has been given. Hearing oneself speak the divine teachings and being uplifted and fulfilled by filling up and uplifting others allows the budding adept to go through the next portal. Those who have no desire to counsel others, teach or pass on what they have learned are still in the learning stages themselves, traumatically dealing with one or more of the restraints and practices. The passing on of jnana, wisdom, through counseling, consoling, teaching Sanatana Dharma and the only one final conclusion, monistic Saiva Siddhanta, Advaita Ishvaravada, is a fulfillment and completion of the cycle of learning for every monastic. This does not mean that he mouths indiscriminately what he has been told and memorized, but rather that he uses his philosophical knowledge in a timely way according the immediate needs of the listener, for wisdom is the timely application of knowledge.

The dana sadhana, of course, for sadhakas, sadhus, yogis and swamis, as they have no cash, is to practice dana in kind, physical doing, until they are finally able to release the Sanatana Dharma from their own lips, as a natural outgrowth of their spirituality, spirit, shakti, bolt-of-lightening outpouring, because they are so filled up. Those who are filled up with the divine truths, in whom when that fullness is pressed down, compacted, locked in, it still oozes out and runs over, are those who pass on the Sanatana Dharma. They are the catalysts not only of this adult generation, but the one before it still living, and of children and the generations yet to come.

  1. daphney says:

    can i give a star for this ?

  2. sofia says:

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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