Indian way of daana versus toxic Western charity
Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, who travelled across India for 14 years from 630-644 CE, has left a riveting account of life under Emperor Harshavardhana of Kanauj. His most spectacular description is of Harsha’s attendance at a solemn festival which was celebrated at the end of every five years. The event was held in 643 CE at a great plain located towards the west of the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers, and was called the “Arena of Charitable Offerings” as from very ancient times kings from different parts of India frequented this spot for the purpose of practising charity.
Historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar writes in ‘Ancient India’ (1) that the emperor amassed his entire treasure at the venue before the ceremony began. Hiuen Tsang describes the ceremony, which lasted around three months, in detail:
On the first day the emperor installed the image of Buddha and distributed precious articles of the first quality and clothing of the same character.
The second day they installed the image of Aditya Deva (Sun God) and distributed in charity precious things and clothing to half the amount of the previous day.
The third day they installed the image of Isvara Deva and distributed gifts as on the day before.
The fourth day they gave gifts to 10,000 Buddhist bhikhus, each receiving 100 pieces of gold, one pearl, one cotton garment, various drinks and meats, flowers and perfumes. (‘Meats’ most likely refers to sweetmeats.)
For the next ten days, alms were bestowed upon those who came from a distance to ask for charity.
For the next month gifts were made to the poor, the orphans and the destitute.
By this time the accumulation of five years was exhausted. Except the horses, elephants and military accoutrements, which were necessary for maintaining order and protecting the royal estate, nothing remained. The king even freely gave away his gems and goods, his clothing and necklaces, earrings, bracelets, chaplets, neck-jewel and bright head-jewels.
All being given, he begged his sister an ordinary second-hand garment, and having put it on, he paid worship to the Buddhas of the ten regions, and exulted with joy with his hands closed in adoration.
The ceremony being over, the assembled kings severally distributed among the people their money and treasure for the purpose of redeeming the royal necklaces, head-jewels, court vestments etc and restored them to the king; and then after a few days these same things were again given away in charity, as before.
Thus finished the remarkable ceremony which Emperor Harsha performed after the example of his ancestors, at the end of five years. As he informed the Chinese pilgrim, this was the sixth of its kind during his reign.
It can be said without the slightest conceit that such kind of institutionalised charity is rare in the world – whether in the past or present, and is unlikely to be repeated in the future. The Hindu tradition of daana or giving not only has no parallel, but it continues to this day. Despite all the hardships of modern living, the breakdown of the joint family system and the destruction of the trade guilds by the British, daana continues to this day.
The ‘India Giving Report’ by Charities Aid Foundation says 84 per cent of 836 million Indian adults give at least once a year. (2)
In early 2012 the Central Statistics Office concluded a four-year study, Non-Profit Institutions in India, (3) to measure the broader non-profit sector. This gives us the most credible source for measuring the size of giving to non-profit sector organisations. The report revealed that the non-profit sector derives almost 70 per cent of its income from private donations, offerings and grants. The sector has over 15 million volunteers, who account for over 85 per cent of the sector workforce, by far outnumbering the 2.7 million paid staff in associations.
What this indicates is that at the grassroots, informal and individual level, charity in India is nearly six times greater than the organised sector which also includes the western aid organisations such as Oxfam, World Vision, and USAID.
Oxfam: Aid to nowhere
Western charity is essentially a racket. Compare India’s grand concept of detached giving with the food-for-sex scandal at World Vision and the British charity Oxfam. What could be more uncharitable and sinful than an aid worker asking for a person’s most important possession – their honour – in lieu of a handful of rice? But this is exactly what has been happening with Western charities.
In February 2018, World Vision admitted that its aid workers traded food and cash for sex with survivors of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Desperate survivors of the disaster were forced by paid employees of World Vision – which received £17 million from the UK Government last year – to have sex or pay money for World Food Programme aid. (4)
Oxfam employees threw parties with prostitutes at a guesthouse known as the “pink apartments” rented by the charity. Some of the “prostitutes” were girls aged 14-16, below the age of consent. (5)
Worse, it has come to light that aid workers were sexually abusing children in Haiti a decade ago. Children as young as six were being coerced into sex in exchange for food and necessities, according to a damning report by Save the Children. (6)
The report identified “every kind of child sexual abuse and exploitation imaginable”, including rape, prostitution, pornography, sexual slavery, assaults and trafficking. One 15-year-old girl in Haiti told how “humanitarian men” exposed themselves and offered her the equivalent of £2 to perform a sex act. A six-year-old girl described being sexually assaulted and a homeless girl was given a single US dollar by a “man who works for an NGO” before being raped and severely injured, while boys were also reportedly raped.
The rot began at the very top. Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s former head of operations in Haiti, has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a woman he helped in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. He received sexual favours in return for baby food and diapers he supplied the woman’s family. (7)
These are clearly not isolated cases. Oxfam, World Vision and other foreign charities as well as NGOs certainly commit such crimes elsewhere. It is only a matter of time before their crimes in other countries are exposed.
Travelling business class on your money
Western charities also have dodgy accounting which is encouraged by their governments. Many pay fat salaries to their executives who travel business class and stay at the fanciest hotels while the schmucks who donate to them travel cattle class. According to a British survey, the mean pay level of the highest earners in the top 100 charities was a mindboggling £255,000. (8)
World Vision’s total administration expenses amounts to a massive 52 per cent of its disbursements. That is, for every Rs 100 you contribute to the Christian organisation, only Rs 48 goes to the needy. Even that may be on the high side as these figures are based on figures supplied by World Vision. Because World Vision International is a “church”, it is not required to file income tax returns in the US. (9) The bottom line: Western charities are as transparent as the mafia.
Wrong type of charity
The Haiti scandal is not really an outlier in the world of charities. Reciprocity (or give and take) is at the heart of Western altruism. Lilavati Krishnan and V.R. Manoj write in the paper ‘The Indian Psychology of Values: The Concept of Daanam’ (10) that in the Western context, “reciprocation of a favour that has been accepted is a definite requirement on the part of the recipient. In accordance with a universal reciprocity norm, reciprocation involves a concrete return of the favour to the donor”.
This “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” type of charity is exactly why Christian charities offer food and shelter to orphans and the poor on the condition that the receiver will abandon the faith of their fathers and convert to Christianity. When Christian charities bring in relief supplies, there will be the inevitable copy of the Bible at the bottom of the hamper. This is a most cruel form of blackmail – pressuring a person when they are most vulnerable. It is also a form of cultural genocide as converts are advised to abandon their festivals and customs and start hating their motherland, its ethos, and its pluralistic character that allowed these charities to operate in India in the first place.
The fake character of British aid has been exposed in spectacular fashion in India. In 2012, when he was Finance Minister, former President Pranab Mukherjee tried to terminate British aid, amounting to £280 million. In fact, Mukherjee mocked the UK’s contribution. “We do not require the aid,” he said in parliament in August 2011. “It is a peanut in our total developmental expenditure.”
Further, according to a leaked memo, senior Indian diplomat Nirupama Rao proposed “not to avail of any further British assistance with effect from April 1, 2011” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by Britain’s Department for International Development”. However, London begged Delhi to keep taking the money because cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain. (11)
Britain’s ulterior motive was exposed when Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said aid to India was partly “about seeking to sell Typhoon” jet fighters.
Even the seemingly magnanimous giveaways of the West’s rich and famous come with conditions attached. A huge fuss is made over American billionaires (such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) when they donate most of their private wealth to charitable trusts. Such acts are not driven by a sense of charity but because of the high inheritance tax in the US. This is the reason why American billionaires transfer their immense wealth into ‘charitable’ trusts from which a considerable part of the income goes to their families.
Islam is no better. On May 24, 2014, at Kerala’s Palakkad railway station the police intercepted 456 children, who were being trafficked to an Islamic orphanage in Kozhikode. (12) The following day, another train carrying 123 children arrived in Palakkad. The children, all under the age of 12, were from economically backward families from Bihar, Bengal and Jharkhand had been purchased for Rs 1,500 each. It is an altogether different story that the owner of the charity belongs to the Congress party and was honoured by Sonia Gandhi. (13)
It is clear they were being taken to Kerala for conversion. In all likelihood the children (after a few years of madrassa indoctrination) would have been trained to do menial jobs (in mosques and Islamic schools) as nearly all Malayali Muslim youth leave for the gulf. Plus, a large number of Islamic charities solicit zakat (alms) for funding terror. (14) (15)
You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you the above ones are the types of institutions you should not donate your hard earned money to, but millions of Hindus loosen their purse strings to causes that work against the nation. These Hindus belong to two categories.
In the first category are those who donate out of a perverted sense of secularism whereby they believe donating to World Vision, Oxfam or Amnesty International will make them look progressive. They will casually leave envelopes addressed to them by these organisations around the house so guests will notice that they are sponsoring the education of a 12 year old tribal girl in Madhya Pradesh to the tune of Rs 1500 month. Ego boosted and conscience mollified, they can now head to the newest Mughlai restaurant or Mexican bar and blow Rs 15,000 on food and drinks. These people are not your drawing room liberals or ‘Bharat Todo’ leftists because in reality liberals and leftists are callous, tightwad individuals, who wouldn’t spare a few coins for their own mother, forget the poor and needy.
The second category comprises practising, God-fearing but ignorant Hindus. They believe – despite stark evidence staring them in the face – that all religions are the same, and therefore it doesn’t matter what denomination they support. If you suggest they offer their money to Hindu charities like Ekal Vidyalayas instead of World Vision, they will say, “All charities do similar work. Besides, I’m already committed to donating to World Vision for five years. At the end of five years I’ll check the progress and then check out Ekal.” Five years down the line, World Vision will mail them a photo of a 17 year old claimed to be studying at some computer science institute in Bina or Satna, and these pious Hindu bumpkins wouldn’t have the slightest clue.
If you tell them that Christian charities do the handiwork of Western intelligence agencies and want to break India, they will reply, “So what, so many Hindus also want to destroy India.” They are like a brick wall.
If you belong to either category, perhaps you should see what ancient texts say about such mindless charity.
Consequences of wrong charity
The Bhagavad Gita says that daana which is given at an improper place and time and to an unworthy person is improper. (16)
An adverse consequence (dushphalam) follows when daana is made to a morally degenerate and unworthy recipient such as an atheist, a thief or one who creates mischief. So basically, if you donate to World Vision, which only wants to destroy Hinduism, and therefore the Indian nation state, you are accumulating bad karma. (17)
Praising oneself for making a daana, expressing regret after making a daana, and mentioning the daana repeatedly and unnecessarily will ultimately destroy all the good results of daana. This theme occurs in Bhartrihari’s Neetishatakam as well.
In traditional Indian texts, daana has been defined as an action of relinquishing the ownership of what one considered or identified as one’s own, and investing the same in a recipient without expecting any return.
Unlike Christianity, which says the rich can enter heaven as easily as a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, within Hinduism, wealth is regarded as a beneficial and positive value, just like love and morality — if pursued within limits. (18) The highest praise in Hindu history is not reserved for the generous but for those who regard wealth with indifference and are able, when the proper stage of life arrives, to renounce all their belongings.
Why not give away your riches in charity which you shall have to leave behind, after death, says the Vyasa Samhita. One who enjoys abundance without sharing with others is indeed a thief, says the Bhagavad Gita.
Charity is so deeply institutionalised in India that we have major literary works that deal exclusively on daana. Mitakṣara by Vijnanesvara is an 11th-century canonical discussion and commentary on daana, composed under the patronage of the Chalukya Dynasty.
In ‘Theories of the Gift in Medieval South Asia: Hindu, Buddhist and Jain’, Maria Heim lists some of the major Sanskrit treatises that discuss ethics, methods and rationale for charity in India. These include the 12th century Daana Kanda (Book of Giving) by Laksmidhara of Kannauj; the 12th century Daana Sagara (Sea of Giving) by Ballalasena of Bengal; and the 14th century Daanakhanda which is part of the voluminous Chatur-varga-chintamani (The Gem of the Four Aims of Human Life) by Hemadiri of Devagiri.
Quoting from several ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Dharma Shastras, Mahabharata (Daana Dharma Parva, Bhagavad Gita), Hemadri’s Chatur-varga-chintamani and some other sources, Lilavati and Manoj point out that the notion of reciprocity (which is ingrained in Christianity) “does not seem to be mentioned in the description of daana, although emotional and attitudinal reactions on the part of the recipient of daana (closer to feelings of gratitude, and respect for the donor) are mentioned as qualities of a worthy recipient”. (10)
Daana can be performed in a myriad of ways. According to the ancient Dharmasutra of Gautama, before a man eats, “He should give food first to guests, children, the sick, pregnant women, females in his household, and the old, as well as the menials.” (19)
According to Lilavati and Manoj, daana should be done as a routine activity because:
- It involves the giving away of wealth that belongs to everyone
- Everyone has an equal right to acquire wealth
- It is the duty of everyone to ensure that others are getting the proper share that is their due
- Whatever we consume in this world is only for the sustenance of the mortal body. This fact being common to everyone, one must ensure that such sustenance is possible for everyone.
- Nothing truly belongs to us we act as mere custodians of the wealth that actually belongs to someone else. When the real owner (in the form of a recipient) comes along, we return with due respect what belongs to him.
Philanthropy is alive and kicking
For 1700 of the past 2000 years India was the richest country on the planet. The Islamic invasions did considerable damage to India’s educational system and the economy, but the maximum economic destruction and the complete erasing of native education took place under British rule. After three centuries of poverty, India is on the cusp of creating great wealth.
With the explosion of private enterprise in India, especially after liberalisation, great changes are happening in the country’s philanthropy sector. India is once again close to the pre British era tradition of trade and industry supporting education and charitable works. Caroline Hartnell writes in ‘Philanthropy in India’ (20) that because of this explosive growth, Indian businesses are thinking about a long-term vision and a structured way of contributing to charity via a “portfolio of investments and interventions”.
“Many of these givers are first-time entrepreneurs, often tech entrepreneurs, who are not from traditional wealthy families. Many of these are bringing their intellectual and social capital as well as financial capital. They have generated a lot of wealth and are now looking to give back to the society that allowed them to prosper, seeing themselves as stewards of wealth rather than owners.”
A UBS report titled Revealing Indian Philanthropy (3) points out that many of these entrepreneurs, having grown up without wealth, are less concerned about preserving wealth for the next generation. Their relationship to the wealth they create leads to more freedom in distributing it. For instance, Kalpana Morparia, chief executive officer of JP Morgan India, has chosen to outsource her philanthropic initiatives to the Bharti Foundation, giving Rs 1.5 crore to set up and operate a school in Haryana.
Tapping into this sentiment, billionaire philanthropist Mohandas Pai of the Manipal Education Group and former Infosys CFO says every billionaire should contribute 2 per cent of their wealth to charity. Many of Pai’s friends and former colleagues have contributed to his Akshya Patra Foundation, which has a balance sheet of over Rs 200 crore and over 5000 employees. The programme aims to feed five million schoolchildren by 2020.
Alongside the new givers, members of the old order (who are no chumps by any reckoning) continue to do good work. For instance, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages one of the wealthiest trusts in the world, established schools in the area as far back as 1876. Today the TTD manages a number of explicitly social endowment schemes and runs at least 22 educational institutions in and around Tirupati, in addition to an ayurveda college, a vocational training centre and a university hospital. Such religious institutions continue to receive very large but mostly unreported donations every year. (3)
Time to banish the conversion crowd
It is clear that India doesn’t need the presence of foreign charities, which are basically probing arms of neo-colonialism, just as in an earlier era the sufis and Jesuits were the scouts of Islamic invaders and European imperialists respectively. Ancient Hindus allowed them in and then lost their freedom for hundreds of years, suffering hugely in the process, their temples and universities razed to the ground, their people enslaved and sold in markets of Baghdad and Afghanistan. The least we can do is learn from our own past mistakes and ban all foreign charities.
Vladimir Putin of Russia has set a fine example for the world by ordering USAID and the British Council out of the country. This was because of their interference in Russia’s internal affairs (translation: spying). It is highly likely that these two organisations are doing the same in India. The Chinese do not allow such organisations to even step into their country.
So why should India alone allow foreign charities to create and promote mischief? Are we suckers for charity? To its credit, the Narendra Modi government has chocked the funding of thousands of NGOs and charities that were carrying out anti-national activities. However, this isn’t enough as crooks always find a way around the law. A complete ban on all foreign charities and NGOs, starting with Oxfam, World Vision, Amnesty International and USAID should be imposed on an urgent basis.
What will the world think of India? Let the Lutyens Delhi crowd worry about that. More than 70 years the hero of these liberals, Jawaharlal Nehru, said the same thing: what will the world think if India took back its own territory in Kashmir. We know how it ended. This is the survival of India as a nation state we are talking about.
Just say no
And finally, if you had promised to support foreign charities and would like to stop but are confused, the ancient seer Gautama offers a solution to this conundrum in his Dharmasutra: “When a request is made for an unlawful (adharma) purpose, he should not give, even if he has already promised to do so.”
- Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Ancient India
- Charities Aid Foundation, ‘India Giving Report’, http://www.livemint.com/Specials/91k22CWjd0CU36or3ezHoN/Philanthropy-in-India-an-ageold-tradition.html
- UBS, Revealing Indian Philanthropy, http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/50924/1/Kattumuri_Revealing_India_philanthropy_2013.pdf
- The Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5404317/Charity-backed-Meghan-Markle-faces-food-sex-scandal.html
- BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43030705
- The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/oxfam-latest-sex-scandal-prostitution-rape-children-haiti-warned-2008-save-the-children-a8214781.html
- The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/oxfam-prostitution-scandal-roland-van-hauwermeiren-haiti-earthquake-deeply-ashamed-a8213196.html
- The Third Sector, https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-pay-study-2017-highest-earners/special-report/article/1427306
- Paddock Post, https://paddockpost.com/2015/11/11/where-does-your-1-to-world-vision-go/
- Lilavati Krishnan and V.R. Manoj, ‘The Indian Psychology of Values: The Concept of Daanam’, Infinity Foundation. http://drsirswal.webs.com/documents/Indian%20Psychology%20of%20values.pdf
- The Daily Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9061844/India-tells-Britain-We-dont-want-your-aid.html
- Sri Aurobindo, ‘Bhagavad-Geeta’, Chapter XVII, Verse 22, page 534,
- Lilavati Krishnan and V.R. Manoj, ‘The Indian Psychology of Values: The Concept of Daanam’, Infinity Foundation.
- Hinduism on Wealth and Poverty, Georgetown University, https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/hinduism-on-wealth-and-poverty