In this article, Dāna Dharma u Pādrī Dāl Saheb (The Dharma of Charity and Padre Dall Saheb), from Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.1, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura discusses a speech made by Charles Henry Appleton Dall (1816–1886) on the subject of charity in India, and he explains how Dall’s statements are ‘unscientific’ and mistaken.
Dall was the first American Unitarian missionary in Calcutta and stayed in India for 31 years until he passed away. He was well-known to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who was, for a while, part of his church congregation. Bhaktivinoda met daily with Dall and they had many discussions on religion and philosophy together. Under the direction of Dall, Bhaktivinoda studied the Bible and Unitarian works. Dall had hoped to convert the young Bhaktivinoda to Christianity, but their talks on theology eventually gave more of an impetus to Bhaktivinoda to study the path of bhakti.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
Some unscientific remarks have been made in a speech by Pastor Dall Saheb on dāna–dharma (the dharma of giving charity) at a meeting of the Bengal Social Science Association on 9th April 1880. There are many good things in his speech, but in the section where he has expressed his views on Sākya-siṁha’s renunciation and in respect to Hindu and Muslim sannyāsīs and bhikṣus, it is clear that his Western intellect has abandoned the refuge of pure science. The Āryans have no regrets about losing their independence, rather they are extremely happy during the reign of the British mahātmās. British nobles are also of Āryan descent, therefore in this regard, they are the younger brothers of the Indians. Brotherly affection is inherently natural, thus the affection that Indians show towards the British monarchy is by no means reprehensible. If an older brother becomes weak in his old age, the younger brother will have to take charge of the kingdom and take care of the elder brother. This is a perfectly innate activity. We experience all sorts of happiness under English rule, but from time to time we only suffer due to one thing. The extent to which Indians have advanced through deep thought, and how far they have advanced in social matters by means of all those conceptions, is not fully considered and acknowledged. Even intelligent persons like Dall Saheb cannot understand how carefully the Āryan ṛṣis have written laws concerning the dāna–dharma! If the ancient laws of the Āryan ṛṣis, which are full of knowledge, are worshiped, human society will become further advanced.
There are two types of intrinsic natures amongst humans, namely āsurika-prakṛti (impious natures) and daiva-prakṛti (pious natures), as we find in the Bhagavad-gītā, dvau bhūta sarga loke’smin daiva āsura eva ca. Many activities, laws and scientific methods are derived from āsurika tendency. Similar arrangements are also produced according to daiva-prakṛti. When the asurika instinct is strong within many people or within nations, then their food, knowledge, laws, governments, thoughts and activities all stem from āsurika-bhāva (an impious mentality). On the other hand, the activities of those races that are great in daiva-prakṛti, all stem from daiva-bhāva (a pious mentality). There is a science to both natures, and this opinion is supported by that science. Daiva-vidhi (laws of piety) are all cherished by those men whose natures are daivika, and the āsurika-vidhi (laws of impiety) are cherished by those of an āsurika nature. Similarly, these two kinds of mentality are also found when giving in charity. The scientific rules that the ṛṣīs have established about giving in charity are dear to those who act according to daiva-prakṛti. It is not welcomed by those whose nature is āsurika. Dall Saheb’s nature is strong, that is why the Āryan rules on giving charity are being discussed. He accepts science, but the science that he advocates is not supported by daiva-prakṛti.
In order to satisfy those people who ascribe to daiva-prakṛti, I will set out to summarize all the rules of Āryan charity and its science. Needless to say, those people of an opposite nature cannot respect these rules.
According to the philosophy of the Āryans, charity is the only dharma of man. There are three types of charity, namely nitya (eternal), naimittika (occasional) and kāmya (with a specific selfish desire in mind). Nitya and naimittika charity are prescribed, and kāmya is unavoidable for some persons. All actions have some very subtle, internal, scientific disposition. Charity is also an action, thus, it must obviously have the same mood. Let us see—what is that scientific disposition?
The dharma of the ātmā is called rati (attraction) which is beyond gross matter. When that rati is applied to bhagavat–tattva, then bhakti appears. When it is applied to people of equal status, it is called maitrī (friendship). When it is applied to those in need it is called kṛpā (mercy) or dayā (compassion). According to these three types of instincts, there are three types of charity. In the engagement of bhagavat-bhakti and in friendship with other jīvas, all charitable deeds are nirguṇa (free from any mundane tendency), in other words, they are the eternal activities of the ātmā. When serving the devotees, a combination of charity and respect for sādhus are examples of this. These two activities are the natural and eternal dharma of mankind. Those persons who are purely engaged in bhagavad-bhāva (deep awareness of Bhagavān) are not very good at earning money, therefore showing respect towards them with a mood of devotion is also a type of charity. There is also friendship in that. Such charity is the best of all charities. The scholar Dall Saheb has become discouraged after seeing this kind of charity prevailing in Jambudvīpa.
Those who devote their lives to the advancement of knowledge, and to the great work of science, have no respite from earning money. Helping them monetarily means charity on the basis of śuddha–maitrī (pure friendship). An example of such charity is when we bid farewell to scholarly professors.* This is also superior to ordinary charity. In both the aforementioned types of charity, it is necessary to search for a genuine recipient. One should help real devotees, real students and real teachers.
* This refers to when a professor retires, one should give some donation.
From compassion, charity is born with certain qualities and is of three types. Sattvika-dāna (charity in goodness), rājasa–dāna (charity in passion) and tāmasa–dāna (charity in ignorance). The definitions of these three types of charity are given in Bhagavad-gītā:
dātavyam iti yad dānaṁ dīyate ‘nupakāriṇe
deśe kāle ca pātre ca tad dānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smṛtam
(“Charity that is given without any expectation of reward, at a proper place, at an auspicious time, to a qualified recipient with the mentality that it should be given, is in the mode of goodness.” – Bhagavad-gītā 17.20)
Charity which is given out of a sense of duty to a person who has not previously given anything to the donor, or from whom nothing is expected in return, is sattvika. In such charity, deśa (the proper place), kāla (the proper time) and pātra (a proper recipient) are considered. The consideration of deśa is that, in a place where there is goodwill from plenty of donors, there is no necessity of charity. When the number of donors is high, but the number of recipients is even higher, then charity is required. There are many poor people at the holy tīrthas, so there is a need for charity in all these places. Charity is necessary in those places where there is a shortage of crops, famine or disease. These types of places should be considered. As far as time is concerned, when there is an abundance of recipients and their lack is increasing, then at that time, one should give in charity. Consideration of the recipient is an absolute necessity. The blind, crippled, extremely ill, poverty-stricken, those who are hungry due to lack of amenities, helpless old people, orphans and destitute widows—these kinds of people are recipients for sattvika charity.
yat tu pratyupakārārthaṁ phalam uddiśya vā punaḥ
dīyate ca parikliṣṭaḥ tad dānaṁ rājasaḥ smṛtam
(“However, charity that is given reluctantly, with the expectation of return and with a selfish desire for results, is in the mode of passion.” – Bhagavad-gītā 17.21)
If charity is made because the donor was benefited by the recipient previously, or he will benefit him later, such charity is rājasa-dāna. If sattvika charity is meagre, then it becomes rājasika. For example, when someone performing sattvika charity gives a coin to a recipient, that recipients shortage is removed, but if I have the capacity to give him a coin, and I only give him half a coin, then that is rājasika charity.
adeśa-kāle yad dānam apātrebhyaś ca dīyate
asatkṛtam avajñātaṁ tat tāmasam udāhṛtam
(“Charity that is given with disdain, at the wrong time and place, to an unworthy beneficiary, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.” – Bhagavad-gītā 17.22)
When there is time, place and recipients, but the charity is not sattvika, then that charity is tāmasika. Furthermore, if one’s charity is sattvika according to proper place, time and recipients, but one disrespects the recipient or shows contempt towards him, then that also becomes tāmasika charity.
The two types of nirguṇa charity that have been explained previously are nitya-dāna (eternal acts of charity). Sattvika charity is naimittika (occasional). Rājasika and tāmasika charity is kāmya (with a selfish desire for material benefits).
Kāmya-dāna cannot be removed from the world because human nature is not free, and until it is, then it is bound by certain qualities. Those in whom a sāttvika mentality has not yet arisen, will continue to perform kāmya–dāna. As soon as a sattvika mentality does arise in them, the thought of engaging in selfishly motivated charity will disappear. Hundreds and hundreds of different types of kāmya-dāna are inevitable in the work that Dall Saheb refers to as “New Charity.” With an impartial eye and taking shelter of daiva–bhāva, Dall Saheb will be able to see properly. When the world is free from pāpa and selfish activities, then kāmya–dāna will disappear. The scholarly Dall Saheb has made a mistake in regards to the theory of charity—there can be no doubt about this.