CHARITY AND KINDNESS IN MAJOR RELIGIONS


‣ In Indic origin religions

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism gives major emphasis on Charity (Daana)and Kindness (Karuna). The major source and motivation of charity and kindness implicit in Indic origin religions is given as below:


1. In Hinduism

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः। सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः। सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु।
मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

The above mentioned UNIVERSAL PRAYER a pious Hindu prays everyday literally translates to Om, May All be Happy, May All be Free from Illness. May All See what is Auspicious, May no one Suffer. Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Lord Krishna in Bhagvatgita (Chapter 12, Verse 13,14) guides Arjuna about the nature of devotees who are dear to him and thus Cherishes Kindness and Compassion:

अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्र: करुण एव च | निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: समदु:खसुख: क्षमी || 13||
सन्तुष्ट: सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चय: | मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्त: स मे प्रिय: || 14||

“Those devotees are very dear to Me who are free from malice toward all living beings, who are friendly, and kind. They are free from worldly attachment to possessions and ego, balanced in happiness and distress, and ever-forgiving.”

Further the Lord Krishna in Bhagvatgita (Chapter 16 Verse 01-03) guides that

अभयं सत्त्वसंशुद्धिर्ज्ञानयोगव्यवस्थिति: | दानं दमश्च यज्ञश्च स्वाध्यायस्तप आर्जवम् || 1||
अहिंसा सत्यमक्रोधस्त्याग: शान्तिरपैशुनम् | दया भूतेष्वलोलुप्त्वं मार्दवं ह्रीरचापलम् || 2||
तेज: क्षमा धृति: शौचमद्रोहोनातिमानिता |भवन्ति सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातस्य भारत || 3||

By describing Charity and Kindness toward all living beings as one of the qualities of Godly Men blessed with divine nature.



2. In Buddhism

Love (Mettā/Maitrī) and compassion (Karuna) are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. – The 14th Dalai Lama
Karuṇā is important in all schools of Buddhism. For Theravāda Buddhists, dwelling in karuṇā is a means for attaining a happy present life and heavenly rebirth. For Mahāyāna Buddhists, karuṇā is a co-requisite for becoming a Bodhisattva.

In Theravāda Buddhism, karuṇā is one of the four "divine abodes" (brahmavihāra), along with loving kindness (Pāli: mettā), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha).[2]

In the Pali canon, the Buddha recommends cultivating these four virtuous mental states to both householders and monastics.[3]
When one develops these four states, the Buddha counsels radiating them in all directions, as in the following stock canonical phrase regarding karuṇā:

He keeps pervading the first direction—as well as the second direction, the third, and the fourth—with an awareness imbued with compassion. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, & all around, everywhere & in every respect the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with compassion: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.[4]

Such a practice purifies one's mind, avoids evil-induced consequences, leads to happiness in one's present life and, if there is a future karmic rebirth, it will be in a heavenly realm.



3. In Jainism

The virtue of Charity is embedded Chaturvidha Dana i.e. four folds of charity. Among the four types Abhay Dana (saving life) is considered as the highest Dana (charity ) and is based on principle of “Live and Let Live”.

There are other main types of Dana (charity) mentioned are
- Ahara Dana (giving of food),
- Aushadhi Dana (giving of medicine),
- Shastra Dana (giving of wisdom, imparting knowledge including giving of books)



4. In Sikhism

ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1245}
(One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the Path.: Guru Granth Sahib)

The term Dasvand (ਦਸਵੰਧ) literally means "a tenth part" or the “tithe” and refers the act of donating 10% of one's produce/ harvest, both financial and in the form of time and service such as service (SEVA) to the Gurdwara and anywhere else. It falls into Guru Nanak Dev's concept of Vand Chhako (ਵੰਡ ਛਕੋ). This was done during the time of Guru Arjan Dev and many Sikhs still do it as on today.

The concept of Dasvandh was implicit in Guru Nanak's own line mentioned above. As the excavation of the sacred tank at Amritsar, and the erection of the central shrine, Harimander, began under Guru Ram Das resulting in a large amount of expenditure, the Sikhs were encouraged to set aside a minimum of ten per cent (Dasvandh) of their income for the common cause and the concept of Guru Ki Golak "Guru's treasury" was coined.



‣ In Abrahamic religions

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are also referred to collectively as Abrahamism, are a group of Semitic-originated religious communities of faith. The major source and motivation of charity and kindness implicit in Abrahamic origin religions is given as below:



1. In Judaism

An earlier Jewish source- Midrash proclaims regarding charity that “More than the benefactor benefits the pauper, the pauper benefits the benefactor.”

Tzedakah (: צדקה) is a Hebrew word meaning "justice" or "righteousness," but commonly signifies charity. Modern day charity is understood as a spontaneous gesture of goodwill and a symbol of generosity; Tzedakah is an religious obligation.

There are Eight types of Giving, as written in the Mishneh Torah, “Laws about Giving to Poor People", Chapter 10:7–14:
- Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming partnership with person in need; giving a grant to person in need; finding a job for a person in need, so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
- Giving tzedakah secretly to an unknown recipient via person or public fund that is reliable, prudent, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
- Giving tzedakah secretly to a known recipient.
- Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving tzedakah before being sought.
- Giving adequately after being secretly.
- Giving willingly, but inadequately.
- Giving "in sadness" (giving out of pity) Majority of traditional Jews practice ma'sar kesafim i.e. giving of 10% or tithe of their income to support those in need as Tzedakah.



2. In Christianity

Charity in Christianity is not just almsgiving, and should not be seen only as an obligation or duty. Charity is considered as one of the seven heavenly virtues considered by modern scholars as “God is love", (God is charity): 1 John 4:8. Charity is not optional but obligatory part of faith in Christianity. On various occasions (Gospel of Matthew) Jesus identifies himself with destitute and guides to love the neighbours. In response to the question from a lawyer, "And who is my neighbour? Jesus in story of Good Samaritans (Gospel of Luke) as telling the parable guides that neighbourhood may be anyone on the other side of the world, who is/are not ‘one of us’ but different from us, though not a immediate neighbour. Few of the major verses in Bible regarding charity and its importance are as given below:

- And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16
- One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. Proverbs 11:24
- A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25



3. In Islam

Like Judaism and Christianity, Charity is considered as Obligatory on every Muslim. Concept of Charity in Islam is called Zakat (Zakah). As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Zakat is a religious duty for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth.
It is a mandatory charitable contribution, often considered to be a tax. By Quranic rankings Zakah is next to Prayers in importance. The major religious verses and hadiths (saying of the Prophet) regarding charity are as given below:

- The charity of those who expend their wealth in the Way of Allah may be likened to a grain of corn, which produces seven ears and each ear yields a hundred grains. Likewise Allah develops manifold the charity of anyone He pleases, for He is All-Embracing, All-Wise. Quran 2:261
- “You who believe, do not cancel out your charitable deeds with reminders and hurtful words.” Quran 2:264
- Those who spend of their goods (in charity) by night and by day in secret and in public shall have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. Quran 2:274
- The Prophet said: “Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” – Al-Tirmidhi
- The Prophet said: “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” Al-Tirmidhi
- The Prophet said: “Charity obliterates sins just as water extinguishes fire.” Al-Tirmidhi



Conclusion:

Thus after going through sources, guidelines of various religions regarding Charity and Kindness it can be concluded that Charity and Kindness are one of the essential virtues of a Good Human Being with blessing of Almighty GOD and who is willing to help others and in-turn receives in reciprocation the help whenever needed.



Sources referred:

- Srimad Bhagavatgita
- Holy Bible
- Holy Quran
- Wikipedia
- Britannica