|Listen to Prabhaata-rashmih Audio|
Harih Om Tat Sat. Harih Om Tat Sat.
Today I have to do recording for Mukthisudhakaram. That will be in the evening about 6 o’clock for about two and a half to three hours, I have to sit before the camera. So I am going through the Bhagavad Gita slokas which are to be explained today. We are in the seventeenth chapter which discusses Shraddhā-Traya-Vibhāgaha.
Man has got something called attention, attention, attention, carefulness, carefulness, concern, concern. This attention, care and concern, they are all almost together. How much attention are you going to give to any subject or any action that you are doing? When you give enough attention and you develop your own standard you will find all that you do will be of a class, a standard.
We call somebody a perfectionist. What does it mean? Perfectionist, perfectionist. He wants to do everything well, nicely, in a very satisfying and delightful manner. The same act done by three different people will be different from one another. What is the cause of this difference, what is playing in everybody? It is the degree, quality and kind of shraddhā.
The word ‘shraddhā’ cannot be translated in English. Nevertheless, we should explain it. So I always use two words – ‘assiduous application’. You must be able to apply your mind, apply your intelligence, apply your sensory organs like eyes, ears, hands, everything. How well can you apply, how long can you apply, how effectively can you apply? This is the difference between different degrees, qualities of shraddhā, assiduous application.
In that connection, I was thinking about dāna. What is this dāna? There are three items which have to be incorporated in a good human life. One is yajna, another is dāna, the third is tapas. Tapas means austerities.
What is Yajna? Anything that you do dedicated to God, as an offering to God, in remembrance and gratitude for Him is called a Yajna. Anything! You need not do a fire sacrifice, You can prostate before Him, think of Him, remember Him, chant the names of God, all these can be yajnas. Even your normal secular activities, if you to do them with a sense of surrender, offering to God, then all of them become uniformly a yajna.
Dāna is sparing whatever you have, a part of it for the sake of others for their hearty use, in fulfillment of their needs. This dāna, generally we say “sad pātre sadhu pātre ca”. You should give it to a good man and a deserving man. Is it possible always to find a good and deserving man, a person? And if so, who will judge? Will your judgment be alright, perfect? We cannot say. So you start looking for good people and deserving people and you give. There comes a time when you stop looking for good as different from bad. “I would like to give, so I give and whosoever comes asking for it, let me give.” That is also a loftier attitude. And ultimately, without expecting any kind of a result or an outcome, whatever you feel like giving and whomever asks for it, okay. Ultimately, you must feel and say that “In everybody lives God and whatever I give is to please the Lord and to give Him the satisfaction.” Then all our rules and regulations vanish.
I would like to emphasize that dāna is of two kinds. One is for the body. Such materials which are useful to the body, either for intake or for wearing or for living. You can gift a house, you can gift dress, you can gift food and other articles of use. So, anything that is given to the body. And in that, anna-dāna is considered supreme. Why? Every living organism has hunger. I once asked Vatsala who was a microbiologist doing her PhD program, “See, when you culture bacteria, do you give them food?”
“Yes, they ask for food and I should give them”.
“What food do you give?”
“Wheat powder.” she said.
Can you imagine? Things which cannot be seen, will be visible only before the microscope, they also have hunger and you have to feed them liberally. So, anything that has life, in order to thrive, grow and sustain itself, we have to give food. And the satisfaction that everyone gets when the hunger is appeased is uniform and the same. It is the same for an ant, a bee, a fly, a bird, an animal, a creeper, python and to the human. And everybody needs food at least once or twice in a day. This food is very, very important, very, very important. That is why anna-dāna is considered to be very supreme. Our sastras say all kinds of pāpa will be completely freed from by anna-dāna. Even killing a Brahmin is considered to be the most sinful, that Brahmahatya pāpa also will be undone.
But don’t think that dāna stops in the bodily level and material level. There is something more important and greater needed by the human. That is knowledge. If you can gift knowledge, that is the best. India was great because there were a number of people here, especially the so-called Brahmin group. Their life was given only to knowledge. They used to study the Vedas and ancillary texts by devoting five hours minimum every day. Full five hours. They used to chant Vedas any number of times. All that they have learnt would be imprinted in the brain that whenever they want, without a syllable of change, the memory will come, and they will be able to teach the others. Our Vedas were taught through the mouth, learnt through the ear. No writing was done at all.
What do you think of the devotion to knowledge, both in the student and in the teacher? Whenever one felt that he was competent to teach, he said, “I am going to teach. I will open my doors as to my children to all the others, seeking students seeking knowledge”. And then children used to come. And some teachers became very famous. They will teach and the students will also be permitted to move about inside the teacher’s house and family and they will do all kinds of work. Sweeping, wiping, cleaning, cutting fire wood, going to the forest, bringing fire wood, bathing the cow, milking the cow, grazing the calf, everything. So, at the end of the teaching, the students also became very good in handling life in all its aspects.
In our Ashram we are doing both. What is meant by both? Anna-dāna and also Jnāna-dāna. Whatever I speak is knowledge giving, knowledge giving, knowledge giving. Unfortunately, the people do not know that knowledge also is gift like anna-dāna and other material dānās. They don’t know. But some people know the value of knowledge being given. There are some letters coming to me where they express their appreciation, they wonder and marvel at what we are doing.
There are some instances in our puranas where the greatness of dāna is extolled. A family, a family extending hospitality to a stray visitor, a Brahmana. And they were a very poor family living with a meager income. Actually, it is not an income regularly earned in their own manner. First of all, he was given the food, a share which was kept for him. He said, “I am still hungry.” So the father gave his share. He said, “I am still hungry.” Then the wife gave hers. He said, “I am still hungry.” The children also started giving, one, two, three and four, their shares. He felt that this family is a unique family. They really believe in dāna and they started giving even without keeping a small portion for themselves. That was the fulfillment for the giving heart. There are many stories like this.
You don’t say “I am giving dāna to God.” When you give something to sannyāsins, it is not dāna, it is an offering. That is why it is called pāda-kānikkai or pāda-samarpanam. In judging the pātra, the receptacle of dāna, Bhagavad Gita and other texts say that, the deserving of a man should be judged not alone by poverty. Poverty is one factor. He doesn’t have anything else to fall back upon but he must also have knowledge. Knowledge and austerity go together. Sannyāsins are a community who take up sannyāsa only for Brahma Jnana knowledge and to live a austere life. It is such people that take to alms, bhiksha. So, whatever is given to them is bhiksha. Now, if you start moving about you will find they are doing many other things also. So, after coming to know, you can decide what you will give, how much you will give and whether it should be this or that.
Our Ashram started with my giving knowledge to the others. A sannyasin doesn’t ask for knowledge. He simply goes and stands before a good householder family and then says, “Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya.” Immediately, the housewife understands “Here is one who has come to seek my help.” Sri Krishna emphasizes that whenever a sannyāsin goes and he even seeks bhiksha that it is called bhiksha, giving him bhiksha, it is a samarpana but that samarpana is in the form of cooked food, that’s all. That bhiksha is offered and then he accepts the bhiksha. The discipline and code for him, Sri Krishna says in Srimad Bhagavatam in His last advice to Uddhava. He receives food from different families and by giving him the food and his accepting and partaking them, you know what is happening? It is very interesting to know.
He is actually blazing or burning off the sin done by the giving family earlier and if possible, if there is going to be further also. So, giving sannyāsin a bhiksha is bestowing the best of reward for the giver.
Dahan-prāg-uttara-aśubham. The aśubha, inauspicious things which the householders would have gained in the past and are likely to gain in future, both of them are completely digested, dissolved and eliminated. So, a sannyāsin should always have this lofty attitude, lofty attitude. Some people come to the Ashram and then say “I would like to give some dakshina.” I used to tell publicly we don’t need any dakshina at all! You don’t give dakshina to God, you don’t give it to mahātmās also. Maximum you can do is you can make offering at His feet. That is the right attitude.
The point I wanted to emphasize is that dāna is of material things necessary for the body. It is also knowledge necessary for the mind, intelligence. Both are equally there, simultaneously there. In the North India you will find how the industrial people or marketing people, they go there with their bags full of currency notes and they say “I would like to conduct a Bhandara, a feast and these are the items I would like to offer. Let us know what is the cost of it.” They ask the Ashram people. They may say something and they are given a direction to prepare all the items. They will be served. That there is a bhandara feast will be announced and sannyasins, so many of them will arrive. So they are all seated in their order. Mahamadaleshwar, Mandaleshawar etc. And then, while they are having their food, the people who wanted to conduct the bhandara, that Yajamāna goes and he takes money from the bag and drops it on the lap of the person, a sannyāsin who takes food. It depends upon what is the level in which each is. He may give to Mahamadaleshwar 5000 or 10000 rupees and may be 2000, 3000, 1000, 500, like that lesser and lesser for the others. What makes them do so? You know in our country, North was always more prosperous than South. In South, we have rigorous ritualistic disciplines. There, they have hearty, innocent, innocent, devotional austerity. There is a great difference. So, this Bhandara, why is it done and why is money given? See after all when you give, giving is an act and it primarily benefits the giver. The other man is only, is only, a kind of a means for the purpose. So this dāna, yajna and tapas, these are very important in human life and all of them have to be ensured, pursued and incorporated in your life.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.