Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving is a privilege which only we humans have. Sharing is possibly something which animals and birds also do. But consciously GIVING is a capacity only humans have. That is why I have called the blog as “Gift of Giving”.

Take the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. What prompts Gates to do so much for society at large? Warren Buffet is well known for his uncanny investments, but he has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. With The Giving Pledge he co-founded with Bill Gates they have got 200+ billionaires from 23 different countries to pledge giving to 50% or more of their wealth in charity. The signatories include David Rockefeller, Sara Blakely, Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Bezos, etc. 2013, our Azim Premji became India’s first signatory to The Giving Pledge. Premji has raised his total lifetime giving to $21 billion; he became the world’s largest contributor (to charity), being named as Asia’s most generous philanthropist in the year 2019 by Forbes. Wealth wise, Ambanis have more!! One hears of their taking, but little of their giving. Obviously Mukesh has not heard Anne Frank’s ” No one has ever become poor by giving”.

Giving is considered noble, elevating; rather than the complementary act of receiving. In Giving, the needs and desires of the receiver are given precedence. A conscious effort is made to fulfill these needs, sometimes even to the exclusion & suppression of desires of the giver. The most classic example would be of a Mother making sacrifices and adjustments to see that her child does not want at all. Even the unspoken needs and desires are sought to be fulfilled, whatever personal or monetary cost it entails. A mother’ motives are tough to analyse and understand as they go beyond the realm of reason.

There is an old anecdote about a child stuck on top of a mountain and crying. Everyone in the village gathered, but the mountain was so treacherous, no one dared to climb up, to bring the child down. Even as all were standing around debating, the mother had reached the top and was walking down with the child wrapped on her back. Trained mountaineers asked how she could go up when even they hesitated, her one line reply was ” It was not your child”. All of us who have received a mother’s love will know, no one can give more than a mother!!!

Gifting and Giving go hand in hand in many traditions. Consider the simplest example of birthday party. You would never go empty handed. And if there is a child with you, s/he would expect to come back with a “return” gift, even if it is a mere chocolate bar.

Sudama, forced by his wife to visit his friend Krishna, went with a bag of puffed rice, as a gift for his childhood friend. The Raksha Bandhan festival is sealed with a gift to the sister, however old or wealthy she is. The Padva in Diwali sees the wife receiving a gift from the husband, the Bhaiyya Duj again rewards the sister. Pune even has a gift for the son-in-law as a part of the Diwali giving. During childhood, Eid celebrations meant receiving Sheer Kurma from Muslim friends and of course rich, almond laded lamb curry for Bakri Eid. Within Muslim households grown ups are expected to keep “Iddi” envelopes/gifts ready for distribution at Eid ul Fitr and would even be entitled to receive their own share of gifting for the occasion. . We will soon get into the Christmas season which began with the 3 Wise Kings who came to call upon the Baby Christ bearing gifts. This giving tradition continues till today. Immediately after Thanksgiving in end November, the “festival shopping” season begins for the X’mas giving. So Giving is a part of our experience & culture.

I am reminded of a story I had heard which is set in the Church context. As we know a collection plate is circulated after the Mass to raise resources for the Church’s activities. An over aggressive, enthusiastic young girl was asked to take the collection plate around. She pushed the plate under the nose of an old goat like me and said, Please give…. a big contribution….Give till it hurts” And the world-weary old-fogey replied with a twinkle,” The very thought of giving hurts!”

But jokes apart, when we give, we get a glow, a feeling of satisfaction, an inner peace. the power equation is also well defined, the giver’s hand is on top and full; while the supplicant’s hand is below and empty. This has been true from times immemorial. Remember the Michelangelo’ painting of Creation!

Often the giver falls into the trap of the God Game, thinking himself superior. Whenever I have felt such false pride, I recount for myself my favorite Zen story. During a time of famine, a Zen master went around the countryside begging for money, foodgrains and clothes from all to help the afflicted. He carried a jute sack on his back, & whatever he gathered through the donations of all, he would put in the sack; then go forward, to seek another donor. Once he reached the court of a King in interior China. He put down the sack he carried on his back & made his pitch. The king asked his minister to give a donation of 20 gold coins. When the minister gave him 20 gold coins, he put them in his sack, swung the sack back onto his back, and started leaving the court. The King stopped him and said,”Master, though I am a king, 20 gold coins is a big donation” “So?” asked the Master. “So should you not thank me for this handsome donation?” asked the King. “Why should I?” said the Zen Master,” It is the Giver who should be grateful!”. He swung his sack back, and left without a backward glance.

I love this story because truly I have understood, it is the giver who should be grateful. Grateful that he has enough that he can give. Grateful that he has a full stomach and can spare some surplus. Grateful that I have met someone with whom I can share my wealth! This truth is indeed sublime. Throughout my life I have tried to teach my wife and daughter that we have enough and more. Someone did not question my capability and competence and rewarded me disproportionately. So now why should I grudge giving to others? What right I have to judge their status & deserving, when someone gave me more than enough, with no questions asked. Take heart in Don Williams’ number, ” I have quite enough to live/And my mind is free..” So my living principle, always give more that what others expect, and give it cheerfully. Sometimes, the first half is relatively easy, but giving cheerfully, with a smile, ensuring the receiver does not feel small or burdened; not playing the God Game; accepting that the Giver must be Grateful: That’s real giving!

The Maharaja of Giving in Mahabharata was Karna. Daan-shur Karna. When asked for, Karna even gave away his divine breast-plate and earrings (Kavach Kundala) though he knew this was a trick to make him mortal & vulnerable in war.

A lesser known side-story is Arjuna became angry for Krishna praising Karna for his supreme generosity. Krishna told Arjuna he would prove that Karna’s generosity was indeed superior. Sometime later, Krishna gave a mountain load of gold to Arjuna. Arjuna said he has no use for so much gold, called the populace and started donating the gold, using a spade. Arjuna felt great he was giving away such riches literally spade-fulls. Later Krishna gave the same gift of mountain full of gold to Karna. Karna’s way was to call people, ask then to take however much they wanted. And he just walked away from the mountain of gold!! Proving thereby that he was a true Giver, supreme in generosity, far above Arjuna in this regard.

Remember, Giving is a virtuous cycle which will bring back for you, more than what you have given. That is the Law of Nature. As you Sow, so Shall you Reap. This is the Law of Feed Forward. What ever you have given to others, will come back to you multifold. Have Trust. Have Faith. Believe. Just Give.

At the end let me tell you a Hungarian children’s story, The Safe. There was a wealthy merchant who kept all his money in a safe. He commissioned the village mathematician and intelligent person to design a new safe, such that money kept in it would double!! Obviously the mathematician tried many designs, but money would not double in the safe.

Later, the Merchant was to go on a long travel. He summoned the Mathematician & threatened : by the time he comes back the Safe that doubles the money is made ready, else he will complain to the King!! He left on his travels giving the keys of his existing Safe to the Mathematician. The Mathematician opened the Safe and gave away ALL the money to the people in the village.

When the Merchant returned he found the Safe empty. He rushed out to confront the Mathematician. But en route every neighbour, who had been a beneficiary, called the Merchant to their house, treated him with lots of love & affection, heaped praises & food on him!!! The Merchant realised that though his paper money was gone, he had become much, much richer. He understood that “Everything we give to others will, sooner or later, returns to us, whether or not it be in a form we expected”

Remember, Always Give more than what People Expect & Do it Cheerfully : your friendly neighbourhood vikibaba

21 Replies to “Gift of Giving”

  1. Excellent perspective. Much needed in today’s world. My own experience has been that even when I buy the most expensive things, those experiences don’t give me the happiness that I feel when I give something to others. Giving is natural to humans and this basic nature just gets hidden in the cloud of ego and greed.

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  2. Lovely article Vikas. You have beautifully brought out the “the Gift of Giving” and the various examples of Givers across countries, religion and strata.

    The issue remains , as Nitin Joshi mentioned, how to get into the Action mode ?
    Most of us are embroiled in questions
    1. Whom to give- do we give to our family first or do we give to the needy who we know or do we give to Unknown. I know of people who do not give to their own family , because they think that once you give they will take advantage and ask for more. Some are worried that if you give to other than family members, they are not being fair, as there might be someone in the family who is needy.

    2. Do we give directly or contribute to government relief funds or charitable organisations.

    3. How much do we keep for ourself and how much do we give?

    4. When do we give ? Many of us do charity based on events- either when someone is distress, on birthdays and anniversaries which is good . But should we wait for events ?

    5. Should I contribute to a person or for a purpose or cause ?

    All these questions are valid and important but generally lead to analysis paralysis and the end result we don’t Give.

    We need to make the act of Giving a Practice or a every day Habit. We can ask every night “ what is it that I can give tommorrow ? “ As Preeti Shirodkar has also written you need not only give money, you can give physically, intellectually and emotionally. You can give your time.

    You referred to to Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. I recently read an article which said that when it comes to Charity, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates look upto Chuck Feeney as their Hero and Role Model. Having made Billions he had an interesting goal – “ To die broke”
    Feeney reached his goal recently, when he signed the papers to dissolve his charitable foundation, since it no longer has any assets.
    Feeney said “ To those wondering about giving while living , Try it. You will like it. “

    One final thought ,

    While I also believe that it is important that we need to give while we are living, most of are not Chuck Feeney.
    We all want to live comfortably and also ensure that others who are dependent on us live comfortable. In the process we will leave behind some wealth when we die for our beloved.

    A recent survey indicated that 84% of the respondents had not prepared a Will and More than 40% did not have a statement of their networth or a statement of their assets in terms of insurance policies, shares, PF etc
    In these circumstances, many a times the beneficiaries do not even know what you have left behind for them and these moneys remain unclaimed.
    The amount of money unclaimed in terms of dividend, shares, mutual funds Insurance, PF, unclaimed bank accounts on a conservative basis in India alone is more than Rs 150000 crores. Yes – one lakh fifty thousand crores.

    Let us ensure that if we are not able to give today, at least make a statement of networth – a statement of what we own and what we owe and a Will to ensure that what we have today is put it proper use when we are gone.

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  3. Hi Sir,
    It was so rich and fulfilling that it made my day when I read it early in the morning after my prayer. I feel the blog post of yours have elevated itself to a different plane – from ‘purpose of living to the purpose of life’. The problem many of us face (I can only talk about myself) is not being able to make the ‘giving’ a pleasurable experience but remaining happy with the ‘mechanical’ part of giving. Many times I encounter the challenge within myself (sometimes turn into arguments with my better half who always lived with the same feeling of plenty in her mind when we lived in a rented one room apartment 40 years back at the start of my career as well as now and would find many receivers always) that would this ‘giving’ will not make me poorer! We have read about ‘risk-averse’ managers but here we have ‘give-averse’ mind sets. This can only change when we have many such living examples around us and their contributions are well publicized. Another aspect is ‘giving’ need not necessarily be only thru’ money (alms) but for many other items which could be apparently non-monetary or not so much that can be measured in billion dollars or so but has far reaching impact from long term perspective. Yesterday while reading the contributions of our past President late Shri Abdul Kalam on his birth anniversary – I saw some very interesting lesser-known contributions which is so much distinguishable from his usual Agni and Prithvi image – that he formed a trust PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas), Developing low-cost ‘Kalam-Raju’ stent with Dr.Soma Raju for rural population, Developing a low-cost tablet for rural healthcare use and also contributed in production of lightweight calipers for polio-affected children to reduce pain while they walk. It is true that he dedicated all his savings for these activities but the impact of such contributions probably could not be measured much in monetary terms. These are the people who probably are the true replica of Karna – they “Live to Die Empty”.
    Thanks once again for the lovely read Sir. Wishing you a lovely day.

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  4. Tulsidas came to know about a unique behaviour of Rahim. While giving alms to the poor, Rahim gave with extreme humility.

    While giving, he kept his gaze downwards towards the earth. He never looked at the person he was giving alms to.

    Tulsidas promptly wrote the following couplet and sent it to Rahim.

    “ऐसी देनी देंनज्यूँ,
    कित सीखे हो सैन;
    जयोंज्यों कर ऊंच्यो करो,
    त्योंत्यों निचे नैन”

    “O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving?

    As your hands rise (to give), your eyes look down”

    Completing the couplet which Tulsidas wrote, Rahim replied in extreme humility.

    His reply shows how evolved Rahim was as a soul.

    “देनहार कोई और है,
    भेजत जो दिन रैन;
    लोग भरम हम पर करे,
    तासो निचे नैन”

    “The Giver is someone else (God almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment.”

    Beautiful, indeed…

    While giving, he kept his gaze downwards towards the earth. He never looked at the person he was giving alms to.

    Tulsidas promptly wrote the following couplet and sent it to Rahim.

    “ऐसी देनी देंनज्यूँ,
    कित सीखे हो सैन;
    जयोंज्यों कर ऊंच्यो करो,
    त्योंत्यों निचे नैन”

    “O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving?

    As your hands rise (to give), your eyes look down”

    Completing the couplet which Tulsidas wrote, Rahim replied in extreme humility.

    His reply shows how evolved Rahim was as a soul.

    “देनहार कोई और है,
    भेजत जो दिन रैन;
    लोग भरम हम पर करे,
    तासो निचे नैन”

    “The Giver is someone else (God almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment.”

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    1. Nikhil bhai
      Beautiful dohas explaining what Tulsidas and Rahim exemplified and we still struggle to appreciate
      I love the equation that is set….as the hands go up, so should the eyes go down
      Thanks for sharing
      and commenting
      It is due to comments like yours & JLS and Ramnath and others who take the subject so seriously and with their comments offer great insights and examples
      Your earlier comment about Haath De and Haath Le: even a drowning man still holds on and is unwilling to give
      The how and why is what makes life so interesting
      thanks yet again for your engagement

      ज़िन्दगी यूँ भी तो जीयी जIय
      न सोचि जIय, न समाज़ी जIय

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  5. Hi VS: you have chosen a theme very appropriate for the festive season that we soon will enter.

    in some of my interactions, i always give example of Bill Gates: after having enjoyed the status of being the richest person on the planet for years, what more does he still want? His actions show that he wants something more…PEACE OF MIND…personal satisfaction…real contentment…happiness…!
    if after amassing so much wealth, you still need to do something (giving to the needy) ,why not do it at any point in time ..irrespective of whatever wealth one possesses..!!

    all these stories reaffirm the same message: you need something more than your material possessions ..

    While in Atul, you may have heard about the philanthropic approach of the great founder..Shri Kasturbhai Lalbhai. He used to spend his morning part to take care of his businesses (earning money) and afternoons on social service projects (giving money) ! His was also a unique example…as per his personal lifestyle , he could almost be called ‘stingy’..but had an extra large heart while helping the needy!

    obviously, giving is not to be limited to the material aspects. One needs to see what the oither person wants. For example, spending quality time with an elderly ,lonely person will be greatly appreciated by the receiver.

    Overall a great piece again !You are a store house of anecdotes..which makes your communications so delightful!

    your sharing your wonderful thoughts through various blogs from time to time is also a gift that you give so willingly to your friends! We all are grateful for these marvellous gifts!

    thanks again..and wishing you and all your loved ones great period of festivities ahead!

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  6. very enriching in term value of giving. We all know this but how many of us get into the action mode is important. It is high time that we all start getting into the act of giving and truly understanding the purpose of life. Vikas Sir you are a very creative writer and I am sure a lot of people will start giving from now after reading.

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    1. Nitin
      many thanks for your comment
      agree many time urgent things take over our attention and important things get left behind
      But I think we have to keep dragging ourselves back to things that matter
      and I do believe OTHER PEOPLE DO MATTER

      Like

  7. Many Thanks Vikas Sir once again for this amazing blog..

    Many instances flashed back once I was reading the lines right from Motherly love of Hirkani of Raigad story and many more stories

    I always enjoy your blogs and please keep writing such amazing write ups . Looking forward for the next one

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    1. Shakespeare
      Praise from Shakespeare is especially we;come and heartening
      History is full of Hirakani and Jijau mata without whom History would be diffrent
      thanks for your words of encoragement
      keep writing in so I know am on right track

      Like

  8. Hi Vikas

    An excellent blog.

    Would like to share an old joke which does capture the human spirit when it comes to the concept of giving.

    ” A man was drowning in the Sabarmati River near Ahmedabad.

    Fortunately for him a group of tourists in a nearby boat spotted him and rushed to help him.

    One of the occupants extended his hand towards the drowning man and said ” Haath De ” (Give me your hand )

    The drowning man did not comply. The samaritan who was well versed with the local culture realized his mistake .

    He once again extended his hand and said “Haath Le” ( Take my hand ) and the drowning man immediately latched on to it.”

    Different folks perceive “giving” differently

    The divinity lies in those who give as an act of selfless goodwill/empathy .. in the words of a famous person ” Je peed paraayi jane re…”

    Nikhil

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  9. Good blog. I have personally seen those who don’t have much being more open to giving. Look at the poor, they share more openly, willingly and totally!

    Also giving physically, intellectually and emotionally, by sensing need or more importantly just because one likes to is the best form of giving!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Vikas… Another beautiful penned blog from your stable…
    The examples cited show u are a voracious reader and have well captured the subject before writing about it.
    We look forward for more gift from you

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  11. Vikas,
    You have penned it so very well. The thought of giving is good and actual giving is still better.
    On a personal note, although I donate generously within my means, I cannot come near my sister (Tai) who donates much more that what I do, although her means are limited. How and why such difference in approach in case of two children born to the same parents? I need to learn more.
    Secondly donating eyes and body is also a significant donation.
    Reference to Mukesh could have been avoided. There are many Indians who have plenty but they lack philanthropy, why blame Mukesh ? Moreover its not end of his life. Who knows, in later part of his life, he may donate more than anybody else in India.
    But overall the reading was enjoyable and made me look inwardly.

    Like

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