An acquaintance once shared a thought which left a deep impression on me. The awareness had existed within me earlier I guess and reading and reflecting on the same drew it up to the surface. It has been brewing in me for a while now and I found this the right place to discuss it.
Whilst giving has always been held at an upper hand and taking at a lower, in reality it may not be so.
A giver may simply enjoy giving and derive pleasure from the feeling of having helped someone in need.
She/he may have a developed social-conscience which can bring up guilt at having so much more than many people around. For e.g. the twinge one may experience at walking into a beauty parlour only to beautify oneself, while a woman labourer working just outside looks on quizzically and wistfully, wondering what the haloed portals hold for well off women (which she can never hope to have on her own dusty, rough skinned person). This may force one to part with some cash, simply to pacify the unease one is feeling.
Similarly is the act of giving alms to the innumerable beggars. The more mutilated and miserable the beggar, the greater the need to give despite the argument that beggary has turned into an organized, money-making racket.
A giver may also have a few axes to grind, one being satiating the ego, consciously or sub-consciously. The self-esteem of a person can become heavily dependent on the feeling of worth derived from giving, so much so that giving then becomes what any addiction is- a crutch. An addiction, good or bad, harmful or harmless is still an addiction. It is something that slowly takes over our ability to choose and becomes an overpowering need that demands fulfillment, devoid of logic.
Then there’s the Shylock giver, a term coined at the spur of the moment. This giver is the one that demands the proverbial pound of flesh, be it in returning favours in cash or kind or via emotion, i.e. gratitude. This kind seems to me the most soul-sapping and verbally or subtly asserts that the giving needs to be met with huge amounts of gratitude, in the form of servitude, bowing to the giver’s will at all times and even groveling.
Only if schools could set out a few hours a week in which children are taught the art of awareness and contemplation, a host of inner needs would be met. A giver who has absorbed and practiced such learning would be able to sift through the chaff of strange reasons that motivate and finally reach a point of purity, where the giving becomes such that one hand does not get to know that the other hand has given. Only then is it possible to give for the sake of giving.
Whilst a receiver has generally been held in lower regard, a receiver has things to offer, even just by receiving.
A receiver (we are not talking about people who ask for alms on the streets) has to tread the fine line where grace meets need. One has to hold one’s self-esteem clear and away from damage and if one can’t do that, then one better stay away from this role. If the act of receiving is whittling away at our own view of our self then we had better manage within our means, or learn how to politely say ‘No’ to a giver.
A receiver has to be freely grateful alongside of maintaining one’s dignity, which is quite a balancing act.
The Buddhist bhikshu’s manner of receiving alms seems so beautiful to me. It is detached from the giver, detached from oneself and detached from the object or service received. The receiving and the giving is sustained by mutual compassion, unstained by anything else.
If we could relate to each other and our-selves via Compassion, all the give and take of thought, word, feeling and objects that life entails- would be so beautiful, so relevant.
About Sunila Vig
Sunila lived in Australia for twelve years and all over India as a child. Now she lives in Bangalore, India with her family.
She is a lecturer of Communication to MBA students and is apractising Yoga teacher.
Sunila was introduced to books by book-loving parents at an early age and devoured them at every opportunity. Nature, music and art mean a lot to her and she loves solitude and noisy fun in equal measure. She expresses herself through a variety of creative channels-singing, pottery, sketching and writing.
Sunila writes fiction and poetry both in English and Hindi. Her debut collection of short stories in Hindi, “Nirjharr”, was published by the Karnataka Hindi SahityaParishad.
Poetry and short stories authored by her have been published in a variety of medium.
She is a Post graduate in English Literature from Kuvempu University in the verdant Malnad region of Karnataka, that has given the world a large number of writers and artists.
She can be reached through her FB page https://www.facebook.com/SunilaVigAuthor?ref=hl