Importance of Daanam

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I would like to elaborate the glory and significance of Daanam, but before going there, let me show a few references from our Shruti and Smrithi regarding Daanam

यग्येन दानेन तपसा — Yagnyena, Daanena, Tapasaa — in Brhadhaaranyaka Upanishad

द, द, द (Da, Da, Da) standing for Daamyata (exercising self-control) , Datta (Give) and Dayadhwam (be compassionate / sympathetic) — in Chaandokya Upanishad, 8th Chapter

यग्य दान तप: कर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् Yagnya Daana Tapah karma na thyaajyam Kaaryameva thath — in Bhagavad Gita 18th Chapter

Daanam, GIVING, as a Sacred Practice has been accorded a very high status in the Sanathana Dharma, placed on the same level of Yagnyam and Tapas — Yagnyam being the propitious offering to ALL the ELEMENTS in Creation and Tapas being the observance of physical and mental austerities.

In this essay, I will try to keep the focus on Daanam and not talk so much on Yagnyam and Tapas.

The significance of giving can be explained from several perspectives. First of all, our Vedas recognize that for any system to remain healthy, many important parameters have to be in circulation and not stagnant. For example, a healthy human being is one whose blood circulation is healthy. A slowing down of the blood circulation can and does lead to a deterioration of health.

A healthy person also has to maintain a healthy balance between eating food and expending the energy (by way of physical work) which can be seen as the “energy cycle” of the individual. If one tends to eat more than one expends, over time his / her health will suffer.

A river is considered clean and healthy only as long as the water keeps flowing. The moment water stagnates, it starts becoming less and less healthy. In nature, we observe that oxygen, nitrogen and water are part of a healthy cycle. When oxygen depletion happens, it indicates a breakdown of the cycle, resulting in Air pollution. A breakage in the water cycle leads to droughts and floods.

In exactly the same manner, wealth is also a key element whose circulation is essential for the health of the society. This fact is acknowledged by modern days economic theory also, but this principle was known to our Rishis of the yore and they wove this principle into our Dhaarmic lifestyle by incorporating Daanam as an important aspect of any sacred ritual.

There are any number of things that can given as part of Daanam — money, gold (Swarna Daanam), land (Bhoodaanam), cattle (Godaanam), clothes (Vasthradaanam), cooked food (Anna Daanam), grains, education (Knowledge) and even physical help (Shrama Daanam)

By institutionalising Daanam as a central part of all Dhaarmic activities, our Shastras ensured that wealth does not stagnate and accumulate in the hands of a few but is shared as widely as possible in the society.

While all of the above are examples where the recipients are a few limited individuals, there are other charitable activities that the Vedas mention as a means to acquire Punyam (positive virtue that can give the performer a better life in the future). These include planting trees, digging of tanks and ponds, constructing schools, hospitals and public amenities such as rest houses for travelers (known as Chathrams) and even creating lakes etc.

By enshrining these acts of charities as exhalted Activities (Punya Karma), the Shastras / Vedas have provided the road-map for building and preserving a healthy and thriving society.

The above view of Daanam is from the macroscopic / societal perspective. From the individual’s perspective, the act of giving has a greater significance, for the spiritual progress to be made.

Human beings inherently tend to accumulate material possessions,  since material possessions are supposed to provide material security. Most of humanity associates peace, security and happiness with having more and more material possessions and wealth.

Whether this is true or not is debatable but this is what is observed for most part in this world.

That the act of giving is inherent in Nature is beautifully captured in the following Shloka:

परोपकाराय फलन्ति वृक्षा: परोपकाराय दुहन्ति गावः ।
परोपकाराय वहन्ति नद्यः परोपकारार्थं इदं शरीरं ।।

Paropakaaraaya phalanthi Vrukshaah
Paropakaaraaya duhanthi gaavah
Paropakaaraaya vahanthi nadyah
Paropakaaraartham idam Shareeram

Paropakaaraaya phalanthi Vrukshaah
The trees bear fruits for benefitting others, not for the trees’ own benefit

Paropakaaraaya duhanthi gaavah
The cows provide milk for benefitting others, not for the cows’ own benefit

Paropakaaraaya vahanthi nadyah
The rivers provide water for benefitting others, not for the rivers’ own benefit

Paropakaaraartham idam Shareeram
This Human body is also meant for benefiting others …in serving other people and living beings

सात्त्विक, राजस & तामस दानम्

Another aspect of giving is the attitude or the mentality with which one gives. Some people share their possessions whole-heartedly while some others do so grudgingly, often with a feeling of reluctance or under pressure. Some others yet may give something with the expectation of something else in return.

These aspects are beautifully analyzed and described in the Bhagawad Geetha by classifying the very act of giving into three categories सात्त्विक (Saathvika), राजस (Raajasa) & तामस (Thaamasa)

दानम्  (Daanam) when performed with the full knowledge and acceptance that this is the Righteous act to perform and while it may not bring any immediate or direct benefit to oneself, will certainly result in the well-being, happiness and peace in the larger society is categorized as Saathvika in character

दानम्  (Daanam) which is performed with the expectation of receiving something else in return as a quid pro quo is categorized as Raajasa in character .

The Shastras want to tell us that material possessions have an inherent limitation when it comes to providing us with peace, security and happiness and for this reason, would like humanity to desist from the grabbing mentality, to reduce the emotional attachment to material possessions. This will eventually help us overcome the in-built greed that drives human motivation

Most importantly, the ultimate truth about this life is that death is inevitable and when death comes, we not only have to leave all our material possessions and wealth behind, we also have to let go of our body.

In Taittariya (तैत्तरीय) Upanishad, the Mantra श्रद्धया देयम्, अश्रद्धया देयम् (Shraddhayaa Deyam, Ashraddhayaa Deyam) occurs…the first part श्रद्धया देयम् (Shraddhayaa Deyam) is easier to understand, that every act of Giving has to be performed with sincerity and faith (श्रद्धा).

However, the more interesting aspect of this Mantra is its second part अश्रद्धयादेयम् (Ashraddhayaa Deyam) which lends itself to be interpreted in two different ways (अश्रद्धया अदेयम् — Ashraddhayaa Adeyam) meaning “Do not give without a sense of sincerity and faith” and (अश्रद्धया देयम् — Ashraddhayaa Deyam) “even if you are suffering from a lack of sincerity and faith, go ahead and still give”, and just by getting into the habit of giving, one can develop a sense of sincerity and faith over a period of time.

Keeping all these facts and factors in mind, the Shastras wish to inculcate in us the habit of giving, right from a small age so that we learn to give without feeling pain and eventually even learn to give with a smile.

Thus Daanam is a vital exercise that we have to practice in our everyday life in order to achieve spiritual progress and eventually attain Liberation



Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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