The Significance of Daana

Introduction:

dAna is one of the important constituents of dharma acharana prescribed by our shAstras.  Be it the shrutis, smritis, puranas, itihasas or later day shAstra granthas, all of them have given great importance to dAna. dAna fetches immense puNya and destroys great sins.

Out of the many karmas suggested in the shAstras such as yaga, homa, upavasa, tapas, adhyayana and so on, dAna is also an important karma. Especially in kali yuga, dAna is most needed since it is the easiest way to burn pApa and acquire puNya.

Our elders have rightly identified that a man’s hands are adorned by dAna, and not by golden bangles.

“dAnEna paniH na tu kaNkaNEna”

dAna for humans:

Once, a group of dEvatas, asuras and mAnavas approached brahma and requested him for granting knowledge on what dharma to follow.

brahma advised all three of them to perform “da”. Since dEvatas are always immersed in bhOga, enjoyment of pleasures, he asked them to practice “dama” or control of senses. Asuras are always inclined towards cruelty to others. Hence brahma asked them to practice “daya” or kindness.

human beings are always full of lObha or greed. To give up something is unnatural. Hence brahma asked humans to practice dAna. Thus dAna came about as a great tapas and prayaschitta sadhana for humans.

dAna under any circumstance:

shAstra ascribes such great merit to dAna that irrespective of how it is done, the donor still gets puNya.

a) shraddhayA dEyam – one should perform dAna with full shraddhA or devotion. One must do it with the conviction that it is meritorious since it is prescribed by shAstra.

b) ashraddhayA dEyam – one must give even if one doesn’t have conviction. dAna is the activity and shraddha is its constituent. Just because one lacks a constituent, the activity itself cannot be given up.

c) shriyA dEyam – one should give dAna with a completely pleasant mind. One must give as much as possible.

d) hriyA dEyam – even if one doesn’t have the generosity to give dAna, he should do it at least looking at others who are doing so, even if with a sense of competition or guilt.

e) bhiyA dEyam – it is fine even if one gives dAna due to fear of naraka and poverty that may strike if such a dharmic activity is not done.

f) samvidA dEyam – one should do with good knowledge of what actually dAna is. He should do it with the knowledge that it is actually the paramatma inside the donee who is actually accepting our humble offering. We should do it with the prayer that paramatma should become pleased with our dAna.

The hierarchy of dAna:

There are 3 main categories of dAna – satvika, rajasica and tamasica.

That dAna which is done with belief and with a sense of duty; that which is done in an auspicious place and at an appropriate time; that which is done without a sense of expectation (from the receiver) and given to a deserving person – such a dAna is said to be satvika.

dAna which is done with some expectation in return, or that which is done in order to obtain swarga or comforts; that dAna which is done from wealth acquired through dubious means – such dAna is said to be rajasica

dAna which is done at inappropriate places and times; that which is given to non-deserving receivers; that which is done without following any procedure or by insulting the receiver – such dAna is said to be tamasica.

Another classification of dAna is in terms of uttama, madhyama and adhama

dAna which exceeds ones capacity is uttama (best)

dAna which matches ones capacity is madhyama (par)

dAna which falls short of ones capacity is adhama (below par)

The six attributes of dAna:

There are six attributes of dAna and the same has been highlighted very well in the Mahabharata, Anushasana Parva.

dAtA pratigruhItA cha dEyaM sOpakramaM tathA |
dEshakAlau cha yattvEtaddAnaM shaDguNamuchyatE ||

1) dAtA – or giver. The person performing the dAna, if he is clean, of good character and with devotion to Lord and full of conviction – such a giver is the best.

2) pratigruhItA – or receiver. One who is from a good family, is well educated (in the shastras), performs dharmic duty without fail and has a good character – such a person is the best pratigruhItA

3) dEya – or that which is being given. The substance which is being given as dAna should have been acquired through dharmic means. Stolen property, illegally acquired material, that which has been gained by cheating or troubling many others – such dEya are to be avoided as they bring no merit.

4) upakrama – or state of the substance. One should always perform dAna of that which is very dear to self.  Giving away what is precious brings great hita and puNya to the giver.

5) dEsha – or location. dAna which is performed in teertha kshetras, on the banks of rivers, in holy cities and in places where satvik people have resided is best.

6) kAla – sharad and vasanta rutus, vaishaka, karthika and magha mAsas, shukla paksha, pUrnima and the time of eclipses – these are most appropriate for dAna.

The relative merits of dAna:

Like mentioned earlier, the puNya obtained by dAna is proportional to one’s capacity to give away. Vishnu rahasya explains this with a beautiful example.

If three people who earn 10, 100 and 1000 rupees respectively give dAna of 1, 10 and 100 rupees, then the puNya earned by all three is same. However, if the person earning 100 gives 5 while the one earning 1000 gives 10, then the person giving 5 earns more puNya even though the other person donated double the amount. The amount of dAna, therefore, should always be measured against one’s own capacity and not against what others give.

Exigencies:

If a person is in great poverty (mahA dAridrya), then there is no pApa if he does not perform dAna.

The various dAnas:

a) anna dAna – is one of the most auspicious dAnas. This is one category of dAna where the recipient could be any person (no special qualification required). Anyone who is hungry is a satpAtra. anna dAna destroys many sins.

b) suvarna dAna – suvarna dAna brings great pleasure to devatas. It fulfills all desires of the giver.

c) gO dAna – the dAna of a cow gives thousands of years of swarga to the giver. It also ensures great prosperity to the lineage of the giver.

d) bhU dAna – the donation of land is extremely auspicious. It bestows long life, health and immense prosperity.

e) kanyA dAna – the dAna of a kanya to a suitable groom ensures one’s own lineage grows prosperously.

f) vidyA dAna – one who teaches a student gains great intelligence, confidence and retention ability.

g) tila dAna – one who donates tila (sesame) burns away numerous of his sins. He gets the puNya of having performed the agnishTOma yAga.

h) deepa dAna – donating deepa brings immense knowledge.

Many other dAnas are prescribed in the shAshtras, all of which have their own merits. Some other important dAnas are

Ajya dAna, vastra dAna, dhAnya dAna, lavaNa dAna, pustaka dAna, saligrama dAna, madhu dAna, ksheera dAna, phala dAna, kumbha dAna, ashwa dAna and so on.

shrI krishnArpaNamastu

References:

1) dAnada vidhi vidAnagalu – a book in Kannada by shrI rAma viTTalachArya, tattva samshodhana samsat
2) A history of Dharmashastra – volumes II and III – by shrI panduranga vAmana kAne
3) Srimadbhagavadgita – chapter 17
4) mahAbhArata – anushAsana parva
5) vishnu rahasya – chapter 38

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Mahabharata: Arjuna’s vow to kill Jayadratha

On the 13th day of the Mahabharata war, the Kauravas get together and kill Abhimanyu. Every possible rule in the warbook is broken to kill Abhimanyu. In fact, upon close inspection, it becomes clear that Abhimanyu’s death was destined that way by Lord Krishna in order to ensure the killing of all the major Kauravas is not even questioned.

When the war ends on the 13th day, Arjuna and Krishna, who were away fighting the Samsaptakas, come back to their camp. They are told the news of Abhimanyu’s killing. Arjuna is extremely enraged and wants to know the cause for the death of his dear son. He is told that Abhimanyu became alone inside the Chakravyuha because the Sindhu King Jayadratha blocked the entrance and did not allow the other Pandavas to get in.

Arjuna then makes a terrible vow to kill Jayadratha before sunset the next day. He announces that he will kill Jayadratha, come what may, unless Jayadratha runs away from the war or surrenders to him or Lord Krishna. Further, he announces that if he fails to slay Jayadratha, he will enter a fire and kill himself.

In his emotional state, Arjuna declares a vow that terrible fate should occur to him if he fails in his vow. He says that he will meet the fate of those people who make terrible mistakes in life. He declares that he will reach the Naraka (hell) meant for people who have committed big sins. He gives a list of the sins which are terrible and says he should meet the same fate as those who commit those sins would meet. The list of sins he talks about is extremely interesting. It gives a peek into the life and times during Mahabharata, their value systems, their beliefs and their Dharma. Some of the sins that Arjuna talks about is listed below (list does not cover all that Arjuna mentions)

  • Killing one’s own parents
  • Sleeping with the teacher’s wife
  • Speaking ill of others
  • Taking away the wealth deposited in one with trust
  • Killing Brahmanas
  • Touching a Brahmin or Fire with one’s feet
  • Spitting into water (river, lake) or throwing excreta and urine into water
  • Bathing in the nude
  • Not taking good care of guests
  • Taking bribes
  • Speaking lies
  • Eating sweets in front of wife, sons or even servants without sharing
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Insulting those who are worthy of respect
  • Being an ingrate
  • Speaking ill of brothers
It is clear that the mistakes mentioned above are considered to be the worst by the Shastras. Hence Arjuna mentions them during his vow. One quick glance at the list is enough to realize that most people are into one or more of the above practices, every single day of their lives!
A million more lives is also not enough to wash away the sins one accumulates.
In fact, Sri Madhvacharya has revealed that on an average, a human being makes enough sin every single day of his life, after he turns 14 years, to earn him 10 more Janmas!

Bhima: The true follower of Dharma

Mahabharata is filled with numerous episodes of the great might of Bhimasena, the fearlessness of his actions, his adherence to Dharma and intense devotion towards Lord Krishna. Given the pollution of the Mahabharata text that has occurred over the ages, it is not strange to find many “versions” of Mahabharata today which have completely diluted the character of the Pandavas and made them look very ordinary. Today’s Mahabharata has almost become a story of ordinary people like us.

None has been a bigger target of mis-portrayal than Bhimasena. Whenever I tell people about how perfect the character of Bhima was, there is a great urge to point out the “fallacies” of Bhima. Without the help of commentaries like Srimadacharya’s Tatparya Nirnaya, one couldn’t be falted if he/she believed in the popular tales!

There is one episode, though, in the Mahabharata, which unequivocally extolls the greatness of Bhimasena. That single episode brilliantly brings out the numerous facets of Bhimasena’s personality. The episode occurs during the Drona Parva. On the 15th day of the war, Drona is made to give up arms and is beheaded by Dhrishtadyumna. This greatly hurts and angers Ashwathama and he begins a terrible fight against the Pandavas.

Greatly enraged, he draws out the “Narayana Astra”. The Narayana astra has no rival in the Universe. It was perhaps the Hydrogen bomb of those times! Most of them think that the war is going to end because of Ashwathama releasing that weapon. Lord Krishna at that time indicates to all Pandava warriors to drop their weapons and not fight the same. He reveals that the weapon would not hurt anyone who “surrendered” to it. Immediately, almost all the warriors drop their weapons. All but Bhimasena. Bhimasena declares that he would never drop his weapon, come what may. He says that it is against Kshatriya Dharma to “surrender”, albeit to the greatest weapon in the world. He says that it would be shame to drop weapons. He also asks Arjuna not to drop the weapon. But Arjuna says that he will not fight against the Narayana weapon and therefore does not raise the Gandiva.

http://www.mahabharataonline.com/translation/mahabharata_07196.php Page 471

Bhima proceeds towards the Narayana Astra and gets engulfed in the fire of the weapon. Arjuna and Krishna rush towards Bhima. Arjuna, in order to protect Bhima, fires the Varuna weapon. Krishna then reaches Bhima and asks him not to fight the weapon. Krishna holds Bhima and brings him down from his chariot. Bhima comes down immediately and stops the resistance in order to “obey” Krishna’s words. The weapon pacifies and does not hurt Bhima anymore.

http://www.mahabharataonline.com/translation/mahabharata_07197.php Page 473

This episode highlights several aspects of Bhima’s character. He truly displays fearlessness. Even against the most deadly weapon, he shows no sign of fear. Secondly, his sense of duty and adherence to Dharma is unmatched. Not only does he NOT give up his weapon, he proceeds to fight the same. This episode should be a eye-opener to those who have falsely made up stories of Bhima fleeing the battlefield on a certain other ocassion, presumably due to fear ! That is the worst kind of distortion of the Mahabharata one could think of!

The same episode also highlights the supreme devotion that Bhima has towards Krishna. He doesn’t blink an eye-lid in coming down from his chariot when Krishna asks him to do so. After all, following Krishna’s words is the first Dharma of Mukhya Prana (Vayu).

Yudhisthira’s deviation from Dharma

The fact that “Dharma” is an extremely subjective issue is well known. In any given situation, the answer to “What is the right thing to say/do?” is tricky to determine.  Having the right principles and firm belief in those principles is what comes handy in situations requiring a finer interpretation of Dharma.

In the Mahabharata, Lord Bhimasena is a follower of the Bhagavata Dharma. One of the principles of this route is complete surrender to the Supreme Lord Vishnu. For the followers of this path, whatever Lord Vishnu states constitutes Dharma.  Bhimasena demonstrates this on numerous occasions. One such occasion was the slaying of Dronacharya.

On the 15th day of the great war, when Acharya Drona was staging an impressive battle destroying thousands of Pandavas, Lord Krishna decides that the time to end Drona has come. He instructs the Pandavas to adopt a seemingly incorrect method to kill Drona. He advises them to tell Drona that Ashwathama has been slain. This, he says, will make Drona lay down his arms. The reaction of the Pandavas clearly reflects the extent to which they follow Dharma. I reproduce the below paragraph from Ganguly’s translation of the Mahabharata.

“Beholding the sons of Kunti afflicted with the shafts of Drona and inspired with fear, Kesava, endued with great intelligence and, devoted to their welfare, addressed Arjuna and said, ‘This foremost of all bowmen is incapable of being ever vanquished by force in battle, by the very gods with Vasava at their head. When, however, he lays aside his weapons, he becomes capable of being slain on the field even by human beings. Casting aside virtue, ye sons of Pandu, adopt now some contrivance for gaining the victory, so that Drona of the golden car may not slay us all in battle. Upon the full of (his son) Aswatthaman he will cease to fight, I think. Let sonic man, therefore, tell him that Aswatthaman, hath been slain in battle.’ This advice, however, O kin was not approved by Kunti’s son, Dhananjaya. Others approved of it. But Yudhishthira accepted it with great difficulty. Then the mighty-armed Bhima, O king, slew with a mace a foe-crushing, terrible and huge elephant named Aswatthaman, of his own army, belonging to Indravarman, the chief of the Malavas. Approaching Drona then in that battle with some bashfulness Bhimasena began to exclaim aloud, ‘Aswatthaman hath been slain.‘ That elephant named Aswatthaman having been thus slain, Bhima spoke of Aswatthaman’s slaughter…”

All the Pandavas know very well that Krishna is the Supreme Lord himself. Still, Arjuna outrightly rejects the advice. Arjuna’s action is even more difficult to comprehend because just 15 days earlier, he listens to the Gita and swears that he would completely follow Krishna’s instructions (Bhagavadgita – Chapter 18 – Shloka 73). Clearly, this constituted a complete deviation from Dharma. Yudhishtira only hesitatingly accepts to do this.

Bhimasena, on the other hand, proceeds to kill an elephant named Ashwathama and immediately informs Drona that Ashwathama has been killed. Drona, expectedly does not believe him because he knows that Bhimasena always does what Krishna asks him to do. So, he questions Yudhishthira.  According to me, Bhimasena’s anticipates this and therefore kills the elephant. Otherwise, if Drona would accept his word itself, Bhimasena wouldn’t have even blinked to say the same without even bothering to kill the elephant.

Yudhisthira, with great difficulty, tells Drona that Ashwathama has died. He whispers at the end that it was an elephant that had died (“Ashwathamo hatha kunjaraha”). The chariot of Yudhisthira, which always stayed a few inches above the ground, comes down after this “Adharma”. Outwardly, it would appear that the chariot came down because of the lie. But, the real reason is that Yudhisthira did not follow the words of Krishna, which was Adharma and hence the chariot came down.

One of the names of Vishnu in the Vishnu Sahasranama is Dharma (“Dharmo dharmaviduttamaha….”). The Dharma in the world is governed by Krishna. What he says is Dharma. Hence, Yudhisthira not following Krishna’s words is very much against Dharma.

There is one more reason why Yudhishthira did a grave mistake. Just before the commencement of the war, on the battlefield, the Pandavas approach Bhishma and Drona. They seek their blessings and ask them how they can be slain. At that time, Drona clearly tells them (link – Page 101) that they would need to make him give up his arms in order to kill him. In effect, Drona permits them to do whatever is necessary to make him give up arms. So, Krishna was only advising them to follow the option provided by Drona. Even after this, Yudhisthira refuses to comply!

Spirituality in Numbers

Source for most details: Sadachara Vinoda by Sri Vyasanakere Prabhanjanacharya

Three

  • Abodes of Vishnu : Shweta Dvipa, Anantasana and Vaikunta
  • Ultimate gains : Jnana, Bhakti and Vairagya
  • Yogas : Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
  • TApas : Adi Bhoutika, Adhyatmika and Adi Daivika (Tapatraya)
  • Itihasas : Ramayana, Mahabharata and Pancharatra
  • Gunas : Satva, Rajas and Tamas
  • Lokas : Svarga, Martya and Patala
  • Trimurtis : Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara
  • Lakshmi Rupas : Shri, Bhu and Durga
  • Mimamsas : Brahma, Daivi and Karma
  • Avasthas : Jagrut, Svapna and Sushupti
  • Nadis : Sushumna, Ida and Pingala

Four

  • Vasudeva Rupas : Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha
  • Muktis : Salokya, Sameepya, Sarupya and Sayujya
  • Vedas : Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva
  • Purusharthas : Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha

Five

  • Narayana Rupas : Narayana, Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna
  • Gavyas : Gomutra, Gomaya, Goksheera, Godadhi, Goghruta
  • Panchamruta : Milk, Curds, Ghee, Sugar and Honey
  • Yagnas : Deva yagna, Brahma yagna, Pitru yagna, Bhuta yagna and Manushya yagna
  • Panchanga : Tithi, Vaara, Nakshatra, Yoga and Karana
  • Pranas : Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana
  • Bhutas : Prithivi, Ap, Tejas, Vayu and Akasha
  • Tanmatras : Gandha, Rasa, Rupa, Sparsha and Shabda
  • Jnanendriyas : Eyes, Ears, Tongue, Nose and Skin
  • Karmendriyas : Speech, Hands, Feet, Excretory organs
  • Pandavas : Yudhishtira, Bhimasena, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva

Six

  • Shanmahishis of Krisha: Jambavati, Nila, Bhadra, Mitravinda, Kalindi and Lakshana
  • Aris : Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Matsara
  • Vedangas : Shiksha, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chandas, Jyotisha and Kalpa

Seven

  • Narakas : Rourava, Maharourava, Vahni, Vaitarani, Kumbhipaka, Tamisra, Andhatamisra
  • Dveepas : Jambu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Kusha, Krouncha, Shaka and Pushkara
  • Rivers : Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri
  • Maharshis (for Vaivasvata Manvantara) : Atri, Vasishta, Kashyapa, Goutama, Bharadwaja, Vishwamitra and Jamadagni
  • Maha Kshetras : Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwara, Kashi, Kanchi, Ujjaini, Dvaravati
  • Maha Kshetras of Parashurama Kshetra : Udupi, Subramanya, Kumbhasi, Koteshwara, Shankaranarayana, Gokarna and Kolluru
  • Kandas of Ramayana : Bala, Ayodhya, Aranya, Kishkinda, Sundara, Yuddha and Uttara

Eight

  • Aksharas of Om : a, u, ma, nada, bindu, ghosha, shanta and atishanta
  • Lakshmis : Dhana, Dhanya, Bhagya, Santana, Soubhagya, Jaya, Vijaya and Gaja
  • Ashtanga : Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi
  • Vasus : Drona, Prana, Dhruva, Arka, Agni, Dosha, Vastu and Vibhavasu (dyou)
  • Dikpalakas : Indra (east), Agni (south-east), Yama (south), Nirruti (south-west), Varuna (west), Vayu (north-west), Kubera (north), Ishana (north-east)

Nine

  • Bhakti : Shravana, Kirtana, Smarana, Padasevana, Archana, Vandana, Dasya, Sakhya and Atmanivedana
  • Navadvara : Eyes, Ears, Nostrils, Mouth, excretory organs

Ten

  • Vishnu’s avataras : Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki
  • Upanishads : Ishavasya, Mandukya, Kena, Taittariya, Kata, Aitareya, Shatprashna, Chandogya, Mundaka and Bruhadaranyaka
  • Arjuna’s names : Arjuna, Phalguna, Jishnu, Kiriti, Shvetavahana, Bhibhatsu, Vijaya, Krishna, Savyasachi and Dhananjaya

Eleven

  • Rudras : Raivata, Aja, Bhava, Bhima, Vama, Ugra, Vrushakapi, Ajaikapath, Ahirbudhni, Bahurupa and Mahan

To be continued….