This perspective post was provided by Amar Erry, as part of our faith and giving series.
All Scriptures in Hinduism lay a great emphasis on the act of giving away part of your income. The Upanishads, a text containing the philosophical concepts of Hinduism, talks about dāna (giving to an individual, in distress or in need, as an act of virtue). The Upanishads states that the three characteristics of a good person are damah (self-restraint), daya (compassion or love for all life) and dāna (charity).
Dāna can also take the form of philanthropic public projects that empower and help many. Historical records indicate that dāna is an ancient practice in Indian traditions, tracing back to Vedic traditions.
The Rig Veda, one of the four sacred texts in Hinduism, contains the earliest discussion of dāna in the Vedas. The Rig Veda relates it to satya (truth) and to the guilt one feels from not giving to those in need.
Satrams, Dharamsala (Choultry) in parts of India, are one expression of Hindu charity. Satrams are shelters, or rest houses, for travelers and the poor, with many serving water and free food. These are usually built along the roads that connect to major Hindu temple sites.
As well, Hindu temples serve as charitable institutions. They collect donations (dāna) from devotees which are used to feed people in distress as well as to fund public projects.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj Movement, recommends that one must give away one hundredth of one’s income to charity.
In Hinduism, there are rituals that takes place around main festivals and no ritual is considered complete without dāna.
Amar Erry, President, Arya Samaj Mandir
Amar Erry has represented Hinduism as a scholar and as a community leader in Canada. Amar is the president of Arya Samaj Mandir of Markham since 1980 and President of the Board of Directors of the Vedic Cultural Centre in Markham, Ontario since 1996.