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Category: Giving

Giving and SV – part 4 of 4

The superb writings on Giving by Swami Vivekananda concludes below:

1. Ask, therefore, nothing in return; but the more you give, the more will come to you.

2. The quicker you can empty the air out of this room, the quicker it will be filled up by the external air; and if you close all the doors and every aperture, that which is within will remain, but that which is outside will never come in, and that which is within will stagnate, degenerate, and become poisoned.

3. A river is continually emptying itself into the ocean and is continually filling up again. Bar not the exit into the ocean. The moment you do that, death seizes you.

4. Be, therefore, not a beggar; be unattached.

Such amazing wisdom in these writings. It’s up to us to follow to whatever extent we can!

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Giving and SV – part 3 of 4

Giving is living, and so more gems from Swami Vivekananda are below:

1. None is there that will not be compelled, in the long run, to give up everything.

2. And the more one struggles against this law, the more miserable one feels.

3. It is because we dare not give, because we are not resigned enough to accede to this grand demand of nature, that we are miserable.

4. The forest is gone, but we get heat in return. The sun is taking up water from the ocean, to return it in showers.

5. You are a machine for taking and giving: you take, in order to give.

We are machines for giving, isn’t this an outstanding perspective?! Concluded tomorrow…

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Giving and SV – part 2 of 4

More gems from Swami Vivekananda on giving.

1. Learn that the whole of life is giving, that nature will force you to give.

2. So give willingly, because sooner or later, you will have to give up.

3. You come into life to accumulate. With clenched hands, you want to take.

4. But nature puts a hand on your throat and forces your hands open. Whether you will it or not, you have to give.

5. The moment you say “I will not”, the blow comes and you are hurt.

Continued tomorrow…

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Giving and SV – part 1 of 4

Swami Vivekananda was probably one of the most articulate realized-souls ever to be born. Apart from various topics, he specifically focused on the importance of giving. Giving as a virtue, and giving as a necessity. Here are some outstanding statements of his:

1. Give what you have to give. It will come back to you.

2. But do not think of what will come back to you from your giving now. However, it will come back multiplied thousandfold.

3. The attention must not be on what will come back.

4. Yet, have the power to give. Give, and there it ends.

Continued tomorrow…

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Sacrificial paradox

Was reading an interesting article by Sri Sri Ravishankar, about the paradox of sacrifice.

Of course we know that sacrifice is a good thing, because we are doing it for others, and it helps build selflessness. Sacrifice is also the foundation of yagna.

But sacrifice can only come from love. The example Sri Sri gives is of a mother who was scheduled to watch a movie, but then her child falls sick. Does she sacrifice the movie to nurse her child? Apparently she does, but in reality, it is not a sacrifice at all. The mother couldn’t care less about the movie because all her attention is on her child.

So love is key, and one can only sacrifice something they value (such as the movie). If there’s no love, there’s no sacrifice.

As Sri Sri concludes, for a wise man, there is nothing higher than the love for God. If that is his greatest love, then how can he sacrifice God? That is the paradox of sacrifice.

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50th best – part 3 of 3

This impact of the restaurant in question. How did they manage it going forward? What did they do better?

The owner, one Will Guidara, settled on something he called “Unreasonable Hospitality”, and who then further wrote a book on it as well.

One of the simpler examples he gives on the podcast with Simon Sinek is how he and his team figured out a way to know who is arriving at the restaurant, so that they are always greeted by their names. “Hi Mr and Mrs Smith, welcome to our restaurant.”, so that there is never any need to wait at the counter and give your name. Everyone loves being called by their name. But how do they know it’s Smith and not Roger or John or someone else? They’ve found a way!

Other examples include when a family from Spain had come to dine at their restaurant and never seen snow before. So the restaurant post-dinner booked an SUV to take them on a sled ride through Central Park. Another time, a couple’s flight for a vacation got cancelled and so the restaurant booked out their own private dining room, created a makeshift sand dump and water pool to mimic a beach experience.

Basically just going above and beyond one’s call of duty, and making the expieremce of working with a person just magical. The author says that each one of us can do the same thing at our own work, if we just spend some time to think about what would make the other person happy.

And oh by the way, I think the restaurant in subsequent years was rated not just 50th, but the first amongst those 50, so the best in the world!

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Charity for all

So many people to give charity too. But there’s not enough money to give. Not for one middle-class person at least.

But what are we giving the money for? To help the other person? Or to feel good about ourselves? Perhaps both?

Neither is necessarily good or bad. Here’s a line from a spirituality column in a magazine:

Even the 'charity' given to the undeserving, the scriptures tell us, makes it tamasic and, therefore, harmful to the giver, to the recipient and society at large.

Wow pretty dire consequences it seems! Can we even begin to fathom who is deserving or not? Impossible.

That’s why it’s best to donate to the charity that the Guru has chosen.

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My only interest

One of India’s ace investors, Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (RJ), lovingly called the Big Bull, passed away recently.

While a lot was said about his investing prowess, one exchange between his father and him stood out for me.

When Mr. RJ had setup a foundation in honor of his dad to give back to society, this is what his father told him:

"I have no interest in your wealth. I only want to know how much tax you have paid, and how much charity you have given."

All the focus was on giving back, one way or another. Noble thoughts!

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The art of war

Was reading about a war situation. One family of 6, two parents and 4 of their children, were stuck in their home as war broke out. They thought they were safe, until an enemy missile exploded barely 500 meters away from their home.

They dashed into their car and decided to make a run for the border. Only 5 of them though. Because the eldest, at 18 years of age, decided to stay back and fight for his country.

The other 5 somehow managed to reach the border, staying in all sorts of temporary encampments enroute. With great difficulty, they crossed over into the neighbouring country.

The husband ensured his family was safe, and the next morning began the drive back home, to join his son in the fight. Whether the wife and 3 kids would ever see their husband/father/brother/son again, was a question no one had the answer to…

Meanwhile, what silly tiny immaterial problem in my life was I complaining about again today morning?

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Back scratching

“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is a common expression.

This also nicely sums up Parasparam Bhavayantah from chapter 3 verse 11 of the Gita, which we have seen a few times before. The principle of helping one another. The understanding that nothing can survive independently.

One neat example is in the world of home deliveries. All these apps now use maps to ensure they deliver groceries or food or parcels in the quickest time possible.

But are these maps they have each created on their own? Not at all! They use Google Maps, for a fee of course. And that’s how Google Maps makes money too, because it’s not like you or I pay anything to Google for using their Maps. Parasparam Bhavayantah in action!

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Give or take

There’s this YouTube video with several million likes.

Its premise is this. The protagonist is out on the street, asking for a few dollars from passersby.

Most avoid him like the plague. Not surprising.

But the catch? He gives 100x back to anyone who gives him any money.

One guy gives a dollar, and gets back 100$. A lady gives 10$ and gets back a thousand!

People are so damn happy when they get the money, totally unexpected.

But there’s just one lady at the end of the video, who not just gives the protagonist some money, but also refuses to take the 100x. “Pay it forward, to someone who needs it more”, she says.

Would have been so good to have more like her, but clearly such people are rare. There are more people that would take a 100x from someone they don’t know. But lesser than those who would not stop to help in the first place 🤷

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Holy Cow – part 5 of 5

A follow up question or thought could be, “There are so many cows in the world. I cannot help them all. Would my seva even matter?”

It is true that we cannot save all the 300 million cows in the world. But any seva we do to even one single cow, will surely make a world of a difference to that one gentle individual! Such could be the power and impact of our gauseva.

We are taught in the rat race that if we work hard, and get success, then we will be happy. But spirituality teaches us the reverse. Be happy first and then work hard, and this will automatically bring worldly success.

A similar sequence can be extended to cows. The reasoning is not that cows provide milk, which is useful, and hence cows should be worshipped as holy. Rather, because the cow is holy, everything that it produces is also perceived to be so.

If we get the chance to serve this most lovable of creatures, we should certainly grab the chance. It will provide peace of mind and other tangible and intangible benefits that can only be experienced first-hand.

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Holy Cow – part 4 of 5

Yet today, there is so much of cow torture and abuse, largely for commercial purposes.

Many cows are disposed of once they stop giving milk.

Do you know how many cows are slaughtered each year around the world?

300 million. Isn’t that shocking?

How insensitive is it, to chop off the hand that feeds us?

On the contrary, imagine the blessings one would get if provided with the chance to tend to this beautiful, peaceful and loving creature.

That chance is available, with the ability to participate (online in many cases, thanks to technology) in the seva of cows. Where gauseva is 100% seva, and 0% commercial. All cow products are either utilized within the premises or given away for free. And all cows are loved and cared for, no matter whether they continue to give milk or not.

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Measuring excellence

Jim Collins is an author who needs no introduction. In one of his defining studies, he has distilled down the excellence factors for any company, to 3 core elements. These are:

  1. Superior results (the company can be amazing on paper, but it needs to win in the real world)
  2. Distinctive impact (if the company disappeared, would it matter?)
  3. Lasting endurance (not just a one-hit wonder)

While these are amazing insights for companies, I also couldn’t help but realize these are amazing ideals for anyone striving for excellence to try living up to.

  1. Superior results – irrespective of the profession, can our clients feel they always get the best only with us?
  2. Distinctive impact – of course no one is indispensable and all that; but even so, if we disappeared from the earth tomorrow, how many people would miss us? Would we have left behind a legacy? Not for the money we provide others, but the compassion, listening ear, love and warmth?
  3. Lasting endurance – it’s easy to be good to people once or twice, but to do that lifelong? That would be most beneficial, not just to those being helped, but to the doer. A non-stop selfless attitude is no different from the pinnacle of spirituality.
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Creator Groomer

Most of us are working our day jobs, doing mundane stuff, often not liking it much.

And many companies too do not expect their employees to grow beyond a point either.

Seniors want to ensure their own seats are secure, and often happy slave-driving their juniors – and to make sure they do not leave the firm for whatever reason. Everyone is just thinking about themselves all the time.

But I came across a startup recently. The founder wrote an open letter, which to me was quite a lovely way to think about work.

His point, was that there are so many problems to be solved in the world. And folks working with him were encouraged to take risks, to disrupt, to be fearless, and to build and scale products with impatient optimism.

He also said, that if any of his employees would leave to found another startup, then he would go out of his way to invest in that new business.

Not just that, he would also enable the new startup to access his own set of VC/PE investors. How awesome is that?!

Not just giving jobs, but funding a potential job creator. Not just being a leader, but being a leader groomer! The magic truly happens when one thinks selflessly about others.

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C for critical – part 2

No one likes a dictatorial regime – where only one person calls the shots, much to the detriment of everyone else. But we are each dictators in our own rights.

When we receive flak or criticism from anyone, our guard immediately spikes, shoulders tighten, jaws harden, ego fires up, ears shut down, brain freezes – etc etc. exactly like a dictator would quickly shut down his country’s borders to apparently save himself from his enemies.

What do we want in life? Good results? Or good image? Of course both. But these are somewhat contradictory.

We may begin with some good results which then gives us some name and fame. But can we be right all the time? Can we guarantee the best process and results always? Hardly. Even the best workers may fall wayward. If in such times, one does not seek and implement feedback, then their results will suffer. If the results suffer, how can one maintain or even elevate their good image?

While criticism should not be given as Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends & Influence People, we on the receiving end of flak can surely train ourselves to look for the message-minus-emotion. Concluded tomorrow…

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Sacrificial – part 4

A final post for now on yagna or sacrifice. We saw some of the 12 different types of sacrifice mentioned in the Gita yesterday. Those are all nice no doubt, but the focus must be on the last one, the brahma yagna. The giving up of the ego, the self.

It does not mean just getting up and jumping into the fire. That would be quite useless in reality, as the heat would be too much to take, the burns fatal, and once dead, of what use is all this spirituality? Rather it is all about giving up at the mind level.

This last yagna is so awesome that it is better than any and all of the previous yagnas. One question though here could be – fine, I’ll do some of these sacrifices. Like I’ll give up some good of my liking. There, sacrifice done, now what?

As Swami Paramarthananda puts it, real yagnas need two conditions to be satisfied, otherwise they simply remain physical acts / exercises.
1. The first condition is that it needs the Lord (i.e, bhakti or devotion, maybe faith).
2. The second condition is that it needs a spiritual motive. Otherwise it would just become a material transaction.

Speaking of yagnas – here is an excellent fire homa that anyone can do.

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Sacrificial – part 2

Yagna as we know and saw yesterday, refers to sacrifice. The word and its associated action might seem simplistic. But it has the most profound effect of them all – the unbinding of karma!

The first word of verse 3 in chapter 9 of the Gita is Yagna.

yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara

Here is my Guru’s interpretation of this verse. “Man becomes bound by all actions, other than that done as sacrifice. Without being attached, you perform actions for Him.”

Worried about accruing karma for your actions? The simplest solution is here – do all work as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Guruji further adds in the purport thus, (with my musings in brackets):
1. This verse sums up karma yoga. (wow, entire karma yoga summarized in this one verse, what more do we need?)
2. All actions, good or bad, bind us to enjoy or suffer, this birth or next. (we know this, having seen karma in detail)
3. The only exception, is action done as sacrifice. This is how to come out of cycle of birth and death. (here is the solution to all our problems – but are we able to practise it?)

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Sacrificial

The word sacrifice in Sanskrit would be yagna. It’s a very important concept and is repeated multiple times throughout the Gita. Krishna also mentions that those who practice yagna, daana and tapa (sacrifice, charity and austerity) are dear to Him).

If we give something to someone, and get something in exchange, that is a transaction.

But if we give something to someone purely for the other person’s well-being, and expect nothing in return, that would be a sacrifice.

There are 5 types of maha yagnas prescribed in the scriptures. How do we practise these?

  1. Deva Yajna – for the Gods (sun, moon etc). We can pray with gratitude for the presence of all the deities around us.
  2. Pitri Yajna – for our forefathers and ancestors. We are here because of them. Tarpana is good to do where possible.
  3. Manushya Yajna – for our fellow humans. Being charitable, compassionate, loving and kind would be a great start.
  4. Bhoota Yajna – for the other living creatures. Feeding the animals, providing shelter for them.
  5. Brahma Yajna – for the soul inside us. Attending satsang, applying scriptural knowledge, attaining moksha.
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Not just a librarian

We learn and discuss much about giving and its importance. Yet we may be gnawed by doubt at the time of the act. Are we giving away too much? Does the recipient really deserve my generosity? What if s/he uses it for the wrong reasons? What if they turn out to be a fake, a hoax amongst hoaxes?

Meet Mr Palam Kalyanasundaram from South India. Probably around 75 years old now, he worked as a librarian for 30 years, and donated every single rupee he earned from it to charity. 100% of his income – wow what a feat. How did he sustain himself? By waiting tables at a nearby restaurant, and doing other odd jobs.

He was awarded the title of Man of the Millennium by the USA, being the first person in the world to give away his entire earnings for social causes, and given a gift of INR 300 mn. All the money was of course immediately donated to orphanages and to children’s educational funds. He had earned INR 1 mn as pension, which too he donated to the needy.

Mr Kalyanasundaram in an interview has said that there is nothing in this world that is more fulfilling or brings more happiness than donating one’s own hard earned income to charity. When he can do 100%, despite not being a billionaire or millionaire, surely we can do 10%?

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