Thursday, March 24, 2011

Charity & Sacrifice

“Warren Buffet and Bill Gates contribute billions to charity” screamed the headlines in leading newspapers. The rationale for their magnanimous gesture - any surplus wealth left after taking care of all our requirements, and that of our children, are much more useful if donated in charity. Now, both of them are on a crusade to persuade other wealthy people to do likewise.

When I read the news of this extraordinary generosity of the two richest men in the world today, I was reminded of a story which features in our Puranas. Once, a very wealthy & powerful King had organized a huge Yagna or sacrifice. The practice of those days was that the King, upon the conclusion of the rituals, would give away large sums of wealth, grains, cattle, clothes etc. as charity to the needy people who would throng such occasions.

The king felt blissful and blessed after he had given away significant part of the wealth that he had accumulated through conquests, taxes etc. Suddenly, a hare appeared and started rolling on the grounds in front of the king. He noticed that one side of the hare was golden and the other side was normal. Intrigued, he asked the hare as to what it was up to.

The hare replied that it was in search of a worthy sacrifice to ensure that its body became fully golden. It said that half of its body became golden when it rolled in the floor of a peasant whose sacrifice was extraordinary. The King wanted to know more about this. So, he asked the hare to tell him the story of the peasant and his sacrifice.

The hare informed the king that there was a family of peasants who were very kind and charitable. They would often starve due to poverty and, on the days they could afford, would eat their meal only after feeding more needy people. One day, as they were about to eat, after starving for 3 days, they had a visitor who was hungry. They gladly invited him for sharing their meal. After he had been fed, as the family sat down to eat, another visitor came who was also very hungry. By the time they fed him, all the food in the house was over. They only had water left to drink. Just before they could have it, another visitor came with dogs and said that the dogs were thirsty. So, they even gave up the water for the dogs.

They gave up their lives in this manner and attained the highest goal. The family was blessed because they did not distinguish between themselves and others. Their sacrifice was indeed greater than any charity that people do after taking care of their needs. The hare rolled on their floor and became half golden. Since then, he was searching for a similar level of sacrifice so that he could become fully golden. The King, after hearing the story, realized that his effort, although praiseworthy, paled in comparison to the sacrifice of the peasant family.

Charity is when you feel for others. Sacrifice is when you treat others as yourself.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Use time well

I met a 75 year old man yesterday who is working as a senior executive in a large firm. He said that although he retired many years ago, he has allowed himself to be persuaded to continue employment and put his talents, knowledge and experience to productive use. His wife passed away recently of cancer and he regretted that he could never spend enough time with her or his children. It seems she always complained to him that his work was his first wife and she was only his housekeeper. I could sense that he was deeply upset over his neglect of her.

This meeting set me thinking. Sometimes we are confused about our priorities. We tend to focus on the the wrong things only to realise and regret much later. We get employed to sustain ourselves and our families but get carried away and imagine that our career is of paramount importance. We begin to enjoy the rat race and do not know when to stop. We begin to crave for continuous success in this race and want to win at any cost.

Of course, there are some people who are clear about their goals and purpose. If career is indeed ones sole pursuit, it is great to be focused and dogged about it. However, for most people, career is not the sole goal. They seek happiness in the family front too. Some have spiritual goals too. For such people, it is frustrating to be unable to give adequate attention to other goals. One should not end up as a successful yet unhappy or dissatisfied person due to neglecting other goals.

It would be useful, from time to time, to step back and re-evaluate our direction and our time allocation to various activities. Are we allocating sufficient time for our physical well being? Are we giving enough quality time and attention to our loved ones? Is recreation, rejuvenation and connecting with God featuring in our calendar? Are TV & computers becoming an obsession? Is there any mismatch between our priorities and our activities?

The time to course correct is now. Do not let inertia dictate your life. Get in control of your time. Because without our realising it, we are getting older and exhausting our precious and limited time.

Use your time well.

“Put your family first. I’ve yet to see an obituary that says, “He died peacefully surrounded by his stockbroker, his accountant and his golf partner.” - Robin Sharma

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.” - Robin Sharma