Today I managed to deliver a ten-minute talk on the subject of ‘Charity in Hinduism’ as part of a multifaith school assembly for 100 Jewish 11 year olds at the Yavneh College in nearby Borehamwood. I shared a platform with a young Muslim, and another Jewish teacher.
What I found interesting was the Jewish and Muslim faiths requirement on charity for their members. Muslims giving 2.5% of their accumulated wealth and Jews giving 10%. I have looked for similar quotes for Hindus but have found nothing as measured as this, although of course charity runs through our Vedic scriptures as a constant religious principle.
It was heartwarming to see the Jewish kids being reminded by the visiting teacher that they must give 10% of their wealth as soon as they reach the barmitzvah age, around 13 or 14. It was also stressed that charity should be done without thought of reward and without favouritism. The story was told of the sage Maimonides who, on the Sabbath, walked through the town with a sack over his head, distributing coins by throwing them behind him as he walked. He remained anonymous and his recipients also.
For my part, I told the stories of King Rantideva who shared his food up to the point where he had nothing left, and King Shibi, who was so dedicated to charity that he even tore strips of flesh from his own body to provide alternative meat for a hawk who chased a white dove into the palace.
Charity purifies the giver and the receiver, and bring both closer to God.