Social
Buddhism and Charity
RAKHAL CHANDRA BARUA
04/08/2011 01:56 (GMT+7)
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   The Buddha, the blessed one is a simple man battling for light. He is in possession of enlightened sentiments. One day he noticed the backbone-breaking trouble of a year old man and a dead body. This brought a great change in his mind. This changed his way of thinking. He became grief-stricken and panic-stricken. He abandoned the comfort and luxury of the palace and sat down under a big shadow Banyan tree. Under this tree, he absorbed in the deepest meditation. By this, he explored the truth of Salvation from sufferings of humanity and our liberation from birth to rebirth. The heavenly feeling made him Lord Buddha.

    The supreme sacrifice, which he made in his life for the sake of the humanity, is the best example of ‘Dana’ or ‘Charity’. This small word, ‘Charity’ has occupied a great place in the Buddhism. He was the earliest torchbearer of individual welfare. He was a great humanist who aims at human welfare. He asked his disciples:

    “Caratha, Bhikhave, Carikam, Bahujanahitaya, Bahujanasukhya, Lokanukampaya attaya, Hitaya sukaya…..Debmanussana.” (Go ye forth, oh Bhikhus, on a mission for the welfare of humanity, for the happiness of men, out of compassion, for the benefit and happiness of…..men.)

    The above-uttered lines show that Buddha’s life is a symbol of sacrifice (Dana-Charity). His fore-sightedness, far-sightedness and sentiment of charity bring fullness and perfection of, humanity. After his enlightenment, he first teached the utility of ‘DHARMA’ to the five (5) disciples and advised them to propagate his teachings, which bears testimony of charity.

    According to ever-awakened Buddha, charity means ‘Dana’ (Alms-giving). In broader sense and in spiritual notion, Charity means an act of kindness that is generated from the universal love, generosity and tolerance. It is, no doubt, a virtue of disposition to think well of others. Charity is universal altruism that can be exchanged with each individual irrespective of religion, or nationality. He was not only a great lover of humankind but of all living beings as well. He was certainly more eager to help the poor, the destitute, and the downtrodden and make for an egalitarian society. The Buddha claimed that he was a human being who being moved by the sufferings of humankind had been looking for the emancipation from those sufferings and struggling for peace and He is not a God. This unmistakably shows that he had a keen sense of the dignity of human beings.

    In order to cultivate the quality of Charity, we need intellectual integrity, moral earnestness and spiritual insight. Therefore, we should improve our mental faculty on which all welfare activities relating to Charity depends. Again, mental faculty depends on ‘Shila’ (Five Precepts) Shila generates sympathy. Out of sympathy, welfare is initiated. Welfare encourages charity. Buddhism and Charity are co-related and inter-dependent. Therefore, an elaborate discussion regarding ‘Buddhism and Chariy’ is very vital. Now I am going to throw light upon some important and related factors concerning about the topics which will help us to understand the topic very easily.

    According to Buddhism, one man/woman’s happiness is linked directly or indirectly with other man/woman’s suffering. This is true for all nations and countries also. Every country is dependent, some way or the other, on another country. The world of ours has become very small, because of modern transportation, communication and information technology. Here every one’s life is influenced by, and in its turn, influences the life of every one else. Happiness and peace being our common goals, we ought to employ common and universally applicable means of achieving these goals. Wisdom of compassion, goodwill and friendliness, tolerance and enlightened understanding are the obvious basic principles to mould our behaviors and to build a better life.

    In the real sense, Buddhism is probably the only humanitarian and universal religion that propagated without fighting wars. As Arnold Toynbee has pointed out, Buddhism’s most distinguishing feature is ‘a code of altruistic ethics which teaches world and make over to others any merit he may acquire by his virtues.’ This spirit of self-sacrifice for the welfare of fellow human beings is in itself sufficient to cultivate the quality of Charity.

    As the Buddha has put it: One who takes care of oneself takes care of others. One who takes care of others takes care of oneself. One takes care of oneself by moral training, moral culture and moral development. One takes care of others by harmlessness, by goodwill and compassion that are the ingredients of charity. From the Buddhist point of view, there is no ultimate conflict between what conduces to the welfare of oneself and what conduces to the welfare of others.

    A conscious effort was made to influence societies through the Buddha’s doctrines during the reign of great Indian Emperor Ashoka (273-232 B.C.). Buddhism was rescued from being a set of some monastic ideals. Buddhism was put into action as practical faith helping to mould society. He established hospitals, social service institutions, universities for men and women, public wells and recreation centers that were the outcome of Charity.

    The Buddhist religious-cultural organizations have an important role to play in the community welfare services in the development activities for the promotion of Charity, equity and human right. In the social education, religious values can play an important role to build up social ideals and principles. The best and most successful way to make Buddhism popular now is to promote Buddhist education and other Charity-oriented activities. We can promote these activities by several significant ways.

    To organize, promote and carry on social, educational, cultural, and other humanitarian services, irrespective of race, cast, ethnicity, gender, religion and nationality, are the profound duties of all Buddhists. Dana or to do Charitable work is the best principle to relieve others from their sufferings. The Buddha teaches us to have innate loving-kindness for all living being, such as the handicapped, the aged, and the sick, the poor and even animals. Whatever can be beneficial and helpful to others, the Buddhists should be ready to extend their helping hands, to sacrifice themselves to bring benefit and happiness to the needy without having the hope of receiving any reward in return either here or hereafter.

    In fact, the practical approach of supremely Enlightened Buddha’s is liberation from the suffering. Buddha explains that human mind is restless. It is always running wild after the pleasant sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It is also unable to remain in any condition for long. It is changing rapidly. Therefore, it is the fastest of all mediums in the universe. It is disobedient and beyond control. It is very difficult for any person to prevent it from falling into valueless, useless, and unwanted thoughts. Moreover, it is obvious that the world has been in turmoil and restlessness for the reason of political, economic and social instability. Injustice, crimes, dissatisfaction, disagreement, and disobedience prevail everywhere. As a result, tense, frustration and confusion are developing rapidly.

    Underlying the scene, we see that people are giving more emphasis on material gaining than on mental development. The condition is worsen day by day and becomes aggravated with the passage of time. Depending on the profound truth, the supremely Enlightened Buddha called the mind “The lone wanderer” as because it wanders lonely being baseless and formless. Only a well-trained person can restrain it and can make free from the bonds of sufferings. It is also obvious that the mind suffers from rebirth at any time or even every moment. Apart from these, we are experiencing the deepest sorrow because of the separation from a loved one or loss of status or property to which we are greatly attached. We are frequently experiencing an unsettled state of mind due to our conflicting desire, unwholesome desire and boundless greediness. We are experiencing adverse feelings of harmful memory ban. Therefore, we are unable to remove our mental fixation on horrible or frightening sights.

    In consequence of these mental fixation on horrible or frightening sights and in consequence of these mental experiences, we suffer from sleeplessness and as a result, we loss our soundness of health and mind. Therefore, in Buddhism the Buddha formulated the system of development. The development of an individual’s life means steady and uniform development of mental aspect on which attainment, vivification and renovation of the quality of Charity depends.

    It is worth mentioning that modern technology has supplied us with countless number of devices and facilities to make the world enjoyable. However, the world will not be a paradise without mental development of every individual. The development of training is to make oneself progress and ennobled to raise the mind to a level beyond the reach of its extreme pollution and corruption. Buddhism always stresses mind as the focal point. A well-trained mind brings unending perpetual happiness. The Buddha did not neglect to encourage his disciples to learn how to train the mind.

    In order to develop the mind we have to follow the principles of doing well, which means merit making. We can earn merit by dispensing charity, by observing the precepts and truths that are important ingredients of mind development. By dispensing charity, we can develop the mind as this process abolishes miserliness and selfishness. By observing precepts we can present the mind from being overpowered by corruptions and pollutions. By way of imparting proper training and teaching in the academic institution, we can strengthens the mind and by making it purified and calmed, we can bring about heavenly bliss. In fact, accumulation of religious merit is the precious wealth.

    It is everyone’s goal to lead a noble life with ever-lasting happiness by avoiding sorrows and sufferings. However, we are inclined to hurt ourselves by drinking intoxicating things or by doing uncountable evil deeds in the family, society, and country at large. Specially, the young generations are addicted to drugs. They are jobless, aimless, restless, and hopeless. They are taking part in terrorism. They are, in the strict sense, morally degraded. They have plunged into darkness of ignorance. In no way, they should be brought to light with a view to bringing them to perfection. Therefore, meditation is the only gateway to physical and mental progress and development that will help greatly to develop the idea of Charity in their mind as well as in their life and will help to change their attitude to life.

    By developing mind, we can eliminate fourteen Immoral (Akusala)-(1) Greed, (2) Hatred, (3) Dullness, (4) Error, (5) Conceit, (6) Envy, (7) Selfishness, (8) Worry, (9) Shamelessness, (10) Recklessness, (11) Distraction, (12) Sloth, (13) Torpor/ Drowsiness, (14) Perplexity. By eliminating the above-noted immoral, we can derive twenty-five morals- (1) Disinterestedness (Free from Greed), (2) Amity, (3) Reason, (4) Faith, (5) Mindfulness, (6) Modesty, (7) Discretion, (8) Balance of Mind, (9) Composure of mental Properties, (10) Composure of Mind, (11) Buoyancy of Mental Properties, (12) Buoyancy of Mind, (13) Pliancy of mental Properties, (14) Pliancy of Mind, (15) Adaptability of mental properties, (16) Adaptability of Mind, (17) Proficiency of mental properties, (18) Proficiency of Mind, (19) Rectitude of mental properties, (20) Rectitude of Mind, (21) Right Speech, (22) Right Action, (23) Right Livelihood, (24) Pity, (25) Appreciation. So, if immoral are removed, the spirit of charity for the purpose of welfare will surely develop.

    If we are in possession of these qualities, we can be able to realize the reality of life. Over and above, practice of Charity removes- ugliness, vagueness, sadness, restlessness, and witlessness. It brings and invites awareness, boldness, cheerfulness, fondness, goodness, greatness, happiness, kindness, smartness, vigorousness, freshness, and youthfulness in our practical life, personal life, and above all, in our social life at large.

    In view of above-mentioned explanation, relating to the usefulness as well as effectiveness of the practice of Buddhism it is the demand of the present age that the learning of Buddhism must be included in the syllabus of the academic institution as an important academic subject. The utilities, applications, approaches and procedures of Charity in the daily life, described in Buddhism, can easily be introduced in the academic institutions up to university level and for propagating and teaching effectively practical training is to be given to the devoted deserving teachers after completing theoretical lessons on Buddhism. For the reason of technological advancement, the world has become smaller. We can easily communicate with each other through media. Therefore, the lessons on Buddhism can be taught and practical course/lessons can be given through audiovisual process. In order to make the objectives of such teachings a success, we need international efforts. We need mutual understanding, co-ordination, co-operation, mutual trust and wholeheartedness. Over and above, international relation departments of different educational institutions of all Buddhist countries have to stand unitedly under a common religious flag of Buddhism. If so, we are sure to be crowned with unprecedented grand success.

   Meditation is even more necessary in order to improve our mind. It is meditation, which brings mindfulness to the young restless students, and then they can attain single mindlessness and thereby can get blessedness in their lives. Therefore, I suggest that learning of meditation also must be introduced as an Academic subject.

    Today, increasing hatred and narrow mindedness has captivated humankind. For the concord between man and universe, and progress of humanity, we need to think beyond vested and dogmatic interests. Buddhism is a philosophy that has the potency to go beyond these obstacles. It is a philosophy that can facilitate the progression of man and his society towards a progressed stage. However, this progression need not be considered, controlled or directed by a single person. Every individual has to be valued as an independent entity with the ability to live life with dignity, without being caged in prior inhibitions or mental baggage.

    In this respect, Buddha said, “I am not an Emancipator… I am a Pathfinder.” Buddha believed that Man’s life should not get trapped in the endless discussions of ‘life before Birth’ and ‘Life after Death’. He spoke about the present life, the life that one lives between Birth and Death; of how to make this life a happy and fulfilling experience. Thus, he put forth a new way of life, the ‘Dharma’ in which Dana of Charity is flourishing.

    Buddhism believes that individual and collective progress of humanity traverses towards a philosophy that is universally accepted. This progress is directed towards the values of freedom, equality and fraternity. The society that makes efforts to move towards, accept and practice these values is recognized as a Progressive society; and the one who does not, is tagged to be an unprogressive one. Buddhism is a philosophy that facilitates the progress of attaining these values. Hence, Buddhism is considered as a science of human and societal progress. Humankind and his society should stand for these values. For this, Buddhism is the way of life we ought to embrace.

    Man does not live an isolated life. He lives a societal living. Man and society are inseparable. Therefore, the only philosophy that will sustain in the future is the one that talks of man, society, and their relationship with each other. The philosophy that talks of human differences creates inferiorities among men. It leads man and his society towards destruction. The philosophy that propagates equality and promotes the well-being of man, his universe is the only ray of hope. Buddhism is the only philosophy that talks comprehensively about man and his society and this can only be evaluated by the way of Charity.

    An ideal for any religious person is a simple and humble life through which he may be saved from being encumbered by any material objectives or by satisfying the ulterior motives and whereby he may devote his energy to his spiritual cultivation for the benefit of himself and others. Morbid craving for material gain leads us to cruelty, impurity, and selfishness for the reason of which the spirit of Charity does not develop. There are many people who observe, practice, and maintain Shila (Five Precepts) and their later years are devoted largely to charitable works. Therefore, there are charitable schools where poor children especially orphan are given free food, lodging, and education. There are also many charitable institutions where people are rendering services in commemoration of Charity as indicated in Dharma. According to Buddhism sainthood or a religious person can be recognized by his moral character, thought, word, and action. One, who has thoroughly purified oneself with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, is the perfect religious person from the Buddhist point of view. It is difficult to regard a person as religious, if he/she goes to a place of worship and prays only for the good of himself and his family with little regards for others on the ground of Charity. This action is performed merely with narrow-minded and selfish people.

    On the other hand, there may be some people who have neither attended any religious ceremonies, nor said prayers in place of worship, but follow the some basic religious principle by living a peaceful life trying to overcome their own weakness, and having sympathy, tolerance, and understanding for others under the shadow of Charity. Such people may be considered more religious than the one without blooming heart imbued cherished desire of Charity. From the above discussion, I believe that an ideal man enriches his mind of Charity by right view, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

    In fine, Charity in Buddhism, in comprehensive in its inner meaning- (1) Charity means to be present for the suffering, the sorrow, the tragedy, and to respond with compassion, love and kindness; (2) Charity is exchange of smile; (3) Charity means helping a child to read, visiting the infirm, helping a distress, providing medical aid to a sick person, providing shelter and food to a needy and thus make the world a heaven for all. (4) Charity means the unconditioned love which gently move and spread towards others, neighbors, friends, and above all to a stranger. To help others we should be free from ignorance and free from any kind of fear. At the time of helping others, one should forget one’s own interest and this is the supreme meaning of providing Charity. Charity is non-discriminative, unconditional, and unlimited. It draws its strength from the purest compassion. It inevitably brings spontaneous, true, and lasting joy. It is the result of good Karma. We should never expect reward in terms of Charity. The law of nature will take care of the effect of it. This is the Charity (Giving), supremely Enlightened Buddha taught.

    Charity should always be free of any condition. It should not also be linked with any kind of selfish motives. Charity means not only providing the basic human needs to the people but also providing the absolute security them. The best kind of Charity in the world is not to be cruel to anybody or any animal. If we were able to suppress our cruel nature, our best Charity would be performed silently. We know that man is the best creation in the world. Therefore, a portion of their rational love should spend for the animals, and trees. As their needs are different, we should also take care of them in every possible way. If we throw light upon the life of the Lord Buddha, we will see that there are many examples relating to it from the very beginning of his life to the ‘Nirbana’. The best example that the Lord Buddha showed is the supreme kindness to the wounded pigeon by saving it from the clutches of Debdutta and making it free after healing. We also see He was ready to abandon His Empire for the sake of that pigeon.

    In the context of our country, we feel proud by announcing that with the help of our limited resources; a lot of charitable works have been undertaken by the different kinds of organizations as well as individuals being influenced by the Lord Buddha’s principles of Charity. This kind of charitable works has strengthened the cordial relationship between the different classes of peoples irrespective of cast, creed, colors race, ethnicity, gender, religion and nationality. We arrange various programs relating medical aid, imparting education, providing clothes on festivals, giving relief, for the welfare of the mass people regularly that is praiseworthy in some context.

    The present world is full of anarchy and corruption. Humbleness and pity is absent in most of the people. This shows the poverty of our mind. This is also working silently to create a gulf among the countries, among us. We are gradually heading to a disaster where no Charity will remain in us to show others. We should bear in mind that he who gives alms bestows a fourfold blessings. He surely leads a long life with good appearance, happiness, and strength. So this is the high time every country followed the path of the Divine Charity initiated by the Lord Buddha, in every sphere of our life to make this world a peaceful, and harmonious habitation for all.

May all living beings be happy and prosperous.

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SUBMITTED BY: RAKHAL CHANDRA BARUA

Ex-Chairman

Bangladesh Buddhists Association

Buddhists Monastery,

Nandankanon, Chittagong, Bangladesh

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