Thursday, 15 August 2013

On Generosity in Indian tradition versus other traditions

Re-reading the Kural this morning, I am struck by how different the emphasis in our own (Indian) traditions is, compared to other traditions, regarding who should be grateful, for what, and in what manner.

In the Koran, for example, the emphasis is on human duty to God - and it is God Himself who seems to be grateful to humans when they do right (which I find strange, but then there are elements that appear strange to me in all systems of belief including those in philosophy, science, psychology, medicine, economics, and so on).

For the Jews (and therefore for followers of Jesus the Lord, whether Hindus or others) the emphasis is on God's generosity to humans for the gifts of life, abilities and talents, food and shelter and humans ought to be generous to other humans because of gratitude to God, which should motivate us to want to love God, and motivate us to become like Him. We should be generous because generosity is God-like.

However, in the Kural, it is the human being who receives from other humans who ought to be grateful, totally and forever ....

In other words, the Biblical view is that the recipients of God's love and grace (that is, all human beings) ought to be so grateful that they long for God, and long to be like God - and, therefore, in turn, become generous.

In the Kural, the emphasis is on humans who have received anything (however small) from other humans, feeling a sense of indebtedness to those who have been generous - a sense of indebtedness to a donor that should last forever.

The chapter on gratitute in the Thirukkural has the following ten couplets only (presented at from the book: TIRUKKURAL with translations in English by Rev Dr G U Pope, Rev W H Drew, Rev John Lazarus and Mr F W Ellis Published by The South India Saiva Siddhantha Works Publishing Society, Tinnevelly, Limited. India (1982):

Kural-101 Assistance given by those who ne'er received our aid, Is debt by gift of heaven and earth but poorly paid. (THE GIFT OF) HEAVEN AND EARTH IS NOT AN EQUIVALENT FOR A BENEFIT WHICH IS CONFERRED WHERE NONE HAD BEEN RECEIVED.

Kural-102 A timely benefit, -though thing of little worth, The gift itself, -in excellence transcends the earth. A FAVOUR CONFERRED IN THE TIME OF NEED, THOUGH IT BE SMALL (IN ITSELF), IS (IN VALUE) MUCH LARGER THAN THE WORLD.

Kural-103 Kindness shown by those who weigh not what the return may be: When you ponder right its merit, 'Tis vaster than the sea. IF WE WEIGH THE EXCELLENCE OF AN BENEFIT WHICH IS CONFERRED WITHOUT WEIGHING ITS RETURN, IT IS LARGER THAN THE SEA.

Kural-104 Each benefit to those of actions' fruit who rightly deem, Though small as millet-seed, as palm-tree vast will seem. THOUGH THE BENEFIT CONFERRED BE AS SMALL AS A MILLET SEED, THOSE WHO KNOW ITS ADVANTAGE WILL CONSIDER IT AS LARGE AS THE PALMYRA FRUIT.

Kural-105 The kindly aid's extent is of its worth no measure true; Its worth is as the worth of him to whom the act you do. THE BENEFIT ITSELF IS NOT THE MEASURE OF THE BENEFIT; THE WORTH OF THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED IT IS ITS MEASURE.

Kural-106 Kindness of men of stainless soul remember evermore! Forsake thou never friends who were thy stay in sorrow sore! FORSAKE NOT THE FRIENDSHIP OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR STAFF IN ADVERSITY. FORGET NOT THE BENEVOLENCE OF THE BLAMELESS.

Kural-107 Through all seven worlds, in seven-fold birth, Remains in mem'ry of the wise. Friendship of those who wiped on earth, The tears of sorrow from their eyes. (THE WISE) WILL REMEMBER THROUGHOUT THEIR SEVEN-FOLD BIRTHS THE LOVE OF THOSE HAVE WIPED AWAY THEIR AFFLICTION.

Kural-108 'Tis never good to let the thought of good things done thee pass away; Of things not good, 'tis good to rid thy memory that very day. IT IS NOT GOOD TO FORGET A BENEFIT; IT IS GOOD TO FORGET AN INJURY EVEN IN THE VERY MOMENT (IN WHICH IT IS INFLICTED).

Kural-109 Effaced straightway is deadliest injury, By thought of one kind act in days gone by. THOUGH ONE INFLICT AN INJURY GREAT AS MURDER, IT WILL PERISH BEFORE THE THOUGHT OF ONE BENEFIT (WHICH WAS FORMERLY CONFERRED).

Kural-110 Who every good have killed, may yet destruction flee; Who 'benefit' has killed, that man shall ne'er 'scape free! HE WHO HAS KILLED EVERY VIRTUE MAY YET ESCAPE; THERE IS NO ESCAPE FOR HIM WHO HAS KILLED A BENEFIT.

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