Indian Style Philanthropy

Conversations about charity and philanthropy often make me acutely uncomfortable.There is a bit too much sanctimony, one upmanship and pretence for my tastes.Unfortunately ever since Warren Buffet came up with his “The Giving Pledge” , philanthropy is frequently in the news and such conversations have become increasingly commonplace. I just don’t think much of using social pressure to get individuals to comply.It just offends the Libertarian in me.Moreover,I find it hard to see every act of charity I hear of as completely altruistic and having to go through the motions of pretending otherwise is a drag.Worse , I’m all too aware of my own motivations and social expectations of altruism makes giving so stressful.

For people like me ,I come across something interesting while reading last Thursday’s Economic Times newspaper.In an article reviewing the book  “Stages of Capital: Law, Culture, and Market Governance in Late Colonial India” by Ritu Birla there is a mention of different types of donations practised by traditional Jain merchants of Jaipur such as:

  • anukampa-dan, a gift given out of compassion;
  • ucit-dan, a gift given out of duty;
  • kirti-dan, a gift given to earn fame;
  • abhay-dan, a gift of fearlessness;
  • supatra-dan, a gift of religion.

This approach of accepting that donations have various motivations,and according all such donations, irrespective of motivations, legitimacy makes it so much easier to talk about charity,gifting and philanthropy.It doesn’t expect the giver to be a altruistic saint all the time.Nor does it demean the receiver since he/she helps the giver to get something of value in return.Overall it saves a lot of agony and agonizing in the giver,receiver and society at large.

About Keerthika Singaravel

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