Giving (charity, Daan-Punn, ਦਾਨ-ਪੁੱਨ …) is an art – very fine art indeed.
First, the Gurbani’s edict is that charity must be performed with discerning intelligence. Otherwise — if performed ignorantly or foolishly — the effects will come back to haunt you! You cannot escape.
When performed unintelligently (lack or absence of spiritual Wisdom), the act of charity inflates our false ego-sense or Haume (false pride, stubborn mindedness, envy, attachment, lust, greed, anger etc.). It is this false ego-sense which then begins to think that by giving it has become somebody, noble or virtuous. Simply put, indiscriminate charity is shunned by the Gurbani (Gurmat). Why? Because there is no spiritual advancement of the giver or the receiver in such charity. We often hear explanations such as, “Well, once I have given charily, I care less but the receiver does with it.” This is a great fallacy, which is totally refuted by the Gurbani. If the receiver is unworthy, then you have involuntarily become instrument, accessory or partner in whatever the receiver does with your charity. That is, in truth, charity performed unintelligently (ignorance-passion) injures both the giver and the receiver! This is how the statement “Paap and Punn are both the same” comes true. Whenever imprudent or defective form of charity is offered to unworthy people or unworthy places, you can be sure they will certainly utilize it for nefarious activities to spread trouble in the society or the world. It’s like casting pearls before a frog or a crow! Thus, unintelligently or imperfectly motivated charity gives encouragement to “satanic life”. Wealth in the hands of fool is worse than the poverty of the learned.The Gurbani alerts us as follows:
- ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥: Aklee parh kai bujheeyai aklee keejai daan. Nanak aakhai raah eho hor gallan saitaan ||1||: One should read (Bani) with intelligence, and then understand its real essence (i.e., assimilate it). Also, one should use intelligence in giving charity. Says Nanak, this is the True Path; other things lead to Satanic life ||1|| (sggs 1245).
- ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਏਹ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਜਿਨ ਕੈ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਭਰਮੁ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਦਿਤੇ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤੇਹੋ ਜੇਹਾ ਧਰਮੁ ॥1॥: Do not call the wandering beggars holy men, if their minds are filled with doubt. Whoever gives to them, O Nanak, earns the same sort of merit. || 1 || (sggs 1413).
Second, the Gurbani says one has to give without harboring any pride to what is given away.
- ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਅਰੁ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਿ ਮਨ ਮੈ ਧਰੈ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਹਫਲੁ ਜਾਤ ਤਿਹ ਜਿਉ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Those who make pilgrimages to sacred shrines, observe ritualistic fasts and make donations to charity while still taking pride in their minds — O Nanak, their actions are useless, like the elephant, who takes a bath, and then rolls in the dust (sggs 1428).
Third, when one gives, it has to be done with no expectation, attachment, desires, insincerely, ulterior motives, etc., whatsoever. Giving with such quality or attitude of non-magnanimity constitutes giving in Doojaa-Bhaav (duality, Maya, illusion…). To the contrary, the Gurbani says that any giving should be performed in a manner that helps eradicate evil passions.
- ਪੰਚ ਮਰਦ ਸਿਦਕਿ ਲੇ ਬਾਧਹੁ ਖੈਰਿ ਸਬੂਰੀ ਕਬੂਲ ਪਰਾ ॥੪॥: Panch marad sidak le baadhahu kher sabooree kabool paraa ||4||: Tie up the five demons of desire (lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride) with faith, charity and contentment, and you will be acceptable ||4|| (sggs 1083).
- ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਜੇਤਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥: Isanaan daan jaetaa karahi doojai bhaai khuaar: People take their cleansing baths, and give to charity again and again, but they are ultimately consumed by their love of duality (sggs 34).
Last – but not least – charity implies we give or contribute out of our “truthful” earnings (also called Dasaan Nohaan Dee Kirat Kamaaee). The majority of us give in charity in hope for sanctifying dishonest living or ill-gotten wealth. For example, first we dishonestly accumulate wealth with corrupt means. Then, in a futile bid to sanctify it, we give some of it to charity institutions, to build temples, to open hospitals, to Langar or free food distribution, and so on. Bigger the charity or donation, bigger the corruption behind it!
- ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਗਾਵੈ ਗੀਤ ॥ ਭੁਖੇ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਘਰੇ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ ਮਖਟੂ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਕੰਨ ਪੜਾਏ ॥ ਫਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਣ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਲਗੀਐ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥: Slok Ma: 1|| Giaan vihoonaa gaavai geet ..: Slok Ma: 1. The one who lacks spiritual wisdom sings religious songs (for the sake of earning bread). The hungry Mullah turns his home into a mosque (or he also goes to mosque for the sake of bread!). The lazy bum has his ears pierced to look like a Yogi. Someone else becomes a panhandler, and thus loses his self-respect. Someone calls himself a guru or a spiritual teacher, while he goes around begging for bread – don’t ever touch their feet. One who truthfully works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has – O Nanak, he knows the path ||1|| (sggs 1245).
- ਸਤੀ ਪਾਪੁ ਕਰਿ ਸਤੁ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥: Satee paap kar sat kamaahi: Men of charity gather wealth by committing sins, and then give it away in donations to charity (sggs 951).