Common misconceptions about spiritual donations and gifts

Common misconceptions about spiritual donations and gifts

A donation is usually given with benevolence or sympathy whereas a gift is given with love and oneness

Acharya Upendra JiUpdated: Friday, February 10, 2023, 09:45 PM IST
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You must be giving gifts to your loved ones on various occasions. Their happiness on receiving your gifts brings you great joy. You must have also made a donation at least once in your life. But, have you ever wondered why it is considered a gift when you give something to your loved ones, and not a donation? However, when you give even a small fruit, a cloth, etc. to the poor, you treat it as a donation and not a gift. Why do you think this difference arises?

A donation is usually given with benevolence or sympathy whereas a gift is given with love and oneness. A donation is given with the feeling that you are helping someone in need whom you consider lower than you and think that you are doing a favour towards them. When giving a donation, most of you also expect to get tax exemptions in return. Whereas, a gift is given to your close relations on special occasions and you do not expect anything. This difference arises because you consider the person to whom you donate as a stranger and do not feel the same oneness. But, a donation is in fact a gift you should give with utmost love. Our own sages and scriptures advised donating with this attitude of oneness and love.

The Bhagavad Gita, Ch 17.21 - 22, says that a donation made with expectations, without showing respect, to the undeserving person is wrong. The correct attitude (bhav), as per Ch 17.23 -24, which you must have while making a donation is - ‘Om Tat Sat’ Bhav. Without this bhav, your donation is not correct. Let me explain this with an example. The courier person who delivers your parcel does not take any credit for it. He considers it his duty and delivers your parcel to you. He does not expect anything in return. Similarly, when you donate, you should donate selflessly with utmost oneness and love, by treating the person receiving your donation as lord himself and not lower than you. You should not donate with any expectations in mind. Today, most people donate only to get the donation receipts for getting tax exemptions. But do you ask for receipts or proof from your beloved partner when you give them a gift? There is no receipt in love! Big companies ask if their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligation will be fulfilled if they donate. Even organisations that accept donations try to attract people by giving them the benefit of tax exemption.

Today, gifts and donations received in an individual capacity are treated differently by our tax laws. Income Tax laws are generous enough to consider the gifts received from close relatives on account of natural love as tax-free. But what is the guarantee that love exists between these close relations? There is an entire list of relations such as a parent, spouse, sibling, etc. where you can receive a gift and it is tax-free. But, surprisingly, this list does not include the relation between a Jivit Guru and his Shishyas (disciples). The shishyas who are someone’s child, sibling, parent, etc. learn how to love unconditionally and live a moral life from a Jivit Guru. When the shishyas give gifts to their close relations they are tax-free, but ironically, when they give gifts to the Jivit Guru, the Guru is made to pay taxes on those gifts. The Guru Gita 3.186, says that, at the time of death, none of your close relations come to liberate you. Only a Jivit Guru to whom you have fully surrendered comes to liberate you from the vicious cycle of birth and death.

The bond between Guru and shishya is so special than any other relation, that a Guru unconditionally loves his shishyas as his own children and is lovingly addressed as Guru Mauli (mother), by them. So, when a shishya gratefully offers a gift in form of cash or in kind to his Guru, it is a token of his love and not a donation. It is so unfortunate that in a country with deep spiritual roots where this revered Guru-shishya parampara (lineage) itself originated, a Guru is made to pay taxes for the donations he receives in an individual capacity. Today the love and oneness between Guru-shishya is not understood correctly.

In Vedic times, our great Kings regularly offered gifts to the saints and Gurus from their own earnings and not from the kingdom's revenue. Do you think these great Kings made those saints pay taxes on the gifts they received? In fact, the Kings were anointed (Rajya Abhishek) by the Guru himself and Guru used to guide the King on the right and virtuous utilisation of finances, and not otherwise.

It is high time we understand the importance of donations to the deserving person as an act of Gift. No matter how much you donate, the Bhagavad Gita, 17.28 mentions that it will not fructify either in this birth or the next if it is not performed as per scriptures. Therefore, you must learn the right way of donating from a spiritually realised Jivit Guru. Because one of the highest ways to achieve worldly success and progress towards ultimate liberation (moksha) is by performing donations as per our scriptures.

(The writer is a spiritual leader and the founder of Antar Yog Foundation. To know more about the foundation, visit https://learn.antaryog foundation.in)

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