The Dharma of Helping Others
From The Editor's Desk
(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)
Then the humans said to him, "Please tell us (something)." To them then he spoke the same syllable, "Da," and said, "Have you under-stood?" They said, "Yes, we understood, you spoke to us about 'datta, to give.'" "Yes," he said, "you have understood." Brihadaranyaka 5.2.2
Recently, there was a news report that two girls from the state of Telangana who were studying in a college were forced by their parents to return to their village and tend the sheep because they did not have enough money to educate them. The girls were eager to continue their education but were feeling helpless. We hope they found a savior. Hindu scriptures affirm that serving the humanity is serving God. While the saying is popular among people, it is not put to practice much. Missionaries take advantage of the indifference and uncharitable nature of wealthy Hindus and convert the poor by offering them moral, mental, and financial support. In life you have plenty of opportunities to help others even if you have not joined any philanthropic organization or club. You do not have to be even rich to help others. Helping others is an attitude or a mindset, which can be cultivated with effort. For that you have to begin to think of others rather than always about yourself, your family, or your personal interests.
If you are familiar with the history and culture of America, you will notice that those who went through the pain of the great depression of the 1920's, and their children who are still alive, have a different mindset and attitude towards money and wealth. They do not easily part with their dollars since they have seen how tough life can be without a secure financial background and support. Their experience made them financially insecure and taught them to be self-reliant and not to trust anyone, especially the government. You will find a similar mindset among the present-day Indians who are above 40. The older they are the more insecure they feel and more selfish and distrustful they are.
Their mindset does not seem to change much even when they live in the USA. They may spend a little more liberally, since they are earning more. They may also give some small charities to the temples that they visit out of fear, or go overboard in helping their children complete education since they do not want them to suffer from the same disabilities that they experienced themselves. However, when it comes to personal spending and lifestyle choices, most of them are very frugal and prefer to save and hoard rather than spend and enjoy. Their thinking may not have changed much even after they have become qualified for good social security benefits and accumulated decent 401k balances.
The reason is simple. Most of them come from middle-class families. They have lived in villages, where people were mostly poor and illiterate. Even if they hailed from decent families, they might have seen poverty all around them and known how it could hurt and limit people's happiness and Wellbeing. They know how tough life can be in this world without wealth. Therefore, even if they live in opulence, they cannot get over with their scarcity mentality, and accommodate others. Indians who work for charitable causes in the USA know how tough it can be to secure donors for welfare programs.
This is perhaps one area where a generational change is required. If the wealthy among the Indian community show a little more compassion and extend a helping hand to others who need help or to those who are engaged in social or community service, it will do a lot of good to their collective karma besides containing conversions. The help does not have to be always in the form of money or donations. It can happen in various others ways, like for example keeping your streets and surroundings clean, taking someone who is sick to a hospital, teaching a poor child how to read or write. For that you do not have to even part with your money.
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