The Art of Giving

Last weeks Fortune magazine named Apple the most admired company. Being a fan of Apples innovative products for some time, I read the article with pride. The article was very interesting and talked a great deal about Steve Jobs and his struggles to get where he is today. bxp67488.jpgHowever, there was one thing I learned from the article that disappointed me, and that was the fact that Apple is one of the least philanthropic companies in the world. On the other hand, Bill Gates company Microsoft may have been 16th on this list, but they are considered one of the most philanthropic companies globally. This article facilitated some personal thought to my own quest in giving enough back to the community, and what the importance of charity is in our Sikhi. Wand kay shako is one of the three main concepts of Sikhi, which encourages Sikhs to share their earnings with those less fortunate than ourselves. Guru ka Langar is a way in which we distribute this concept in the Gurdwaras. Dasvandh is donating a tenth of our earnings. It’s interesting that there are many religions that uphold the concept that “a tenth” of your income should be donated to charity in some form.

Although I know that other religions are strict in making sure this donation is made on an annual level, I am not sure whether we are as philanthropic? How much are you as families donating to the cause of Wand kay Shako? We are lucky to be a part of a religion that is so progressive and way ahead of the times. There is even more we can do to be more involved in the concept of “giving back”, because there are a growing number of organizations that are allowing us to contribute our “dasvandh” for a great cause – such as Sikhcess, Sikh Coalition, Sikhnet, and Sikh Giving. Many of these organizations have been started by our generation, which shows we truly are a generation of change and a generation of humanity!

Our elders have contributed to causes such as building new Gurdwaras, but personally I have a problem with the extensive buildings of Gurdwaras in one area. We should want to create unity for our community, and instead we are dividing ourselves more and more in this country. Contributing to a new Gurdwara would be a great cause, if we can contribute our views and make inclusions such as a senior centers, classrooms for children, and extensions which will allow our community to become more wholistic.

There is so much we can do, and we should all be inspired by the many unique ways in which we can “give”. There are camps for youth, like the Jakara Junior Camp, Film projects like Sikhnet’s, and ways to contribute to your local library through Sikh Coalition’s Library project. How have you “given” lately?


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13 Responses to “The Art of Giving”

  1. Camille says:

    I think this depends a lot on how a person feels their contribution should be valued. I often meet people who are eager to raise money for a gurdwara because it's a physical structure that they can point to when discussing their magnanimity. I think it would be fantastic if we conceptualized dasvand more broadly, as many of our ancestors did. What if funds were put into community centers, programming, Sikh schools/libraries, health centers, etc.? I also think it would be great if we thought about distributing dasvand outside of our own community. I don't think the intent was to have money funnel back through the gurdwara (which is where many people give their dasvand each week), but it does make sense to do things that way if a gurdwara is a locus for service and redistribution. I suppose the underlying question is whether or not dasvand is a tithe or whether it's a wealth redistribution mechanism. I would argue the latter, and I try to send my money towards programs that focus on the social concerns or issues I care about. That often means giving money to non-Sikh entities. I'd be happy to spend it in Sikh circles if I felt it was going towards a program or project I thought was worthwhile.

  2. Camille says:

    I think this depends a lot on how a person feels their contribution should be valued. I often meet people who are eager to raise money for a gurdwara because it’s a physical structure that they can point to when discussing their magnanimity. I think it would be fantastic if we conceptualized dasvand more broadly, as many of our ancestors did. What if funds were put into community centers, programming, Sikh schools/libraries, health centers, etc.? I also think it would be great if we thought about distributing dasvand outside of our own community. I don’t think the intent was to have money funnel back through the gurdwara (which is where many people give their dasvand each week), but it does make sense to do things that way if a gurdwara is a locus for service and redistribution. I suppose the underlying question is whether or not dasvand is a tithe or whether it’s a wealth redistribution mechanism. I would argue the latter, and I try to send my money towards programs that focus on the social concerns or issues I care about. That often means giving money to non-Sikh entities. I’d be happy to spend it in Sikh circles if I felt it was going towards a program or project I thought was worthwhile.

  3. Abinaash says:

    Possibly a way to enact this transition of dasvand not being used solely for the gurdwards would be to go to the committees of the gurdwaras and request donations from the gurdwaras to these specific organizations and more. I realize this is something that will not come easily, but I think that if we have the energy to be hosting seva events, creating organizations on it, and asking our generation to follow in this peer leadership then we also have an obligation to communicate and make a fair attempt at including the gurdwara. After all, the gurdwara is still the center of our community, whether there is a majority of youth participation or the participation of the elder generation.

    From my knowledge, this has never really been done before (please correct me if I'm wrong). So by doing this we involve the center of our community, the gurdwara as well as assistance with funding issues we are all too familiar with. Obviously one cannot simply walk into the gurdwara without prior preparation in presenting the project, idea, or cause of the organization and expect the gurdwara to automatically support it. It will definitely take work, but building this as a coalition will open the doors for further involvement. It could also serve as the initial level of collaborating between our generation and our parents generation.

    This really reminds me of something that my father said to me, basically that sometimes we (the younger generation) forget that together we all make up the Sikh community, and there must be certain levels of engagement, interaction, and communication between not just our peers but our elders as well; they are not gone yet.

    So what do you guys think? Can this be done? If so, what resources would be needed?

  4. Abinaash says:

    Possibly a way to enact this transition of dasvand not being used solely for the gurdwards would be to go to the committees of the gurdwaras and request donations from the gurdwaras to these specific organizations and more. I realize this is something that will not come easily, but I think that if we have the energy to be hosting seva events, creating organizations on it, and asking our generation to follow in this peer leadership then we also have an obligation to communicate and make a fair attempt at including the gurdwara. After all, the gurdwara is still the center of our community, whether there is a majority of youth participation or the participation of the elder generation.

    From my knowledge, this has never really been done before (please correct me if I’m wrong). So by doing this we involve the center of our community, the gurdwara as well as assistance with funding issues we are all too familiar with. Obviously one cannot simply walk into the gurdwara without prior preparation in presenting the project, idea, or cause of the organization and expect the gurdwara to automatically support it. It will definitely take work, but building this as a coalition will open the doors for further involvement. It could also serve as the initial level of collaborating between our generation and our parents generation.

    This really reminds me of something that my father said to me, basically that sometimes we (the younger generation) forget that together we all make up the Sikh community, and there must be certain levels of engagement, interaction, and communication between not just our peers but our elders as well; they are not gone yet.

    So what do you guys think? Can this be done? If so, what resources would be needed?

  5. My feeling is that Das Vandh is neither tithing nor wealth redistribution. It is a path to prosperity. Prosperity is not a static energy, it is a flowing energy. A pipe that has a clog cannot deliver water. We are the pipe, and our das vandh, seva, etc. is the water. If we do not give in the same flow that we receive, then problems will occur. In the West we are called "Consumers" more often than we are called "humans." A weak pipe that gets too much water will burst, meaning constant consumption will destroy us. A strong pipe will hold even if the water freezes, meaning even in times where we neither give nor receive we can keep it together as strong, devoted Sikhs of the Guru. And what about an empty pipe? Well that pipe/person will remember the essence of the water/prosperity/God's divine grace that came through.

    My strategy for Das Vandh is that I transfer 10% of my pay check to a separate account, each time I get paid. What's in that account is what I can give and I always find worthy causes. It feels great.

    Sat Naam.

  6. My feeling is that Das Vandh is neither tithing nor wealth redistribution. It is a path to prosperity. Prosperity is not a static energy, it is a flowing energy. A pipe that has a clog cannot deliver water. We are the pipe, and our das vandh, seva, etc. is the water. If we do not give in the same flow that we receive, then problems will occur. In the West we are called “Consumers” more often than we are called “humans.” A weak pipe that gets too much water will burst, meaning constant consumption will destroy us. A strong pipe will hold even if the water freezes, meaning even in times where we neither give nor receive we can keep it together as strong, devoted Sikhs of the Guru. And what about an empty pipe? Well that pipe/person will remember the essence of the water/prosperity/God’s divine grace that came through.
    My strategy for Das Vandh is that I transfer 10% of my pay check to a separate account, each time I get paid. What’s in that account is what I can give and I always find worthy causes. It feels great.
    Sat Naam.

  7. […] I’d probably pick unity, mobilization, and empowerment. These concepts reminded me of our earlier conversation on <i>daswand</i>. In Kenya, harambee is a means of reaching across differences in […]

  8. Camille says:

    From my knowledge, this has never really been done before (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Abinaash, I apologize if it sounded like I prefer working outside of the gurdwara to engaging gurdwaras. This is definitely not the case. There are definitely sangats who have used the gurdwara as a locale for fundraising — for example, during Katrina many gurdwaras fundraised for the Red Cross, not for any Sikh-specific organization or issue. I've also seen gurdwaras come together to fundraise for Tsunami Relief. I think what we see (relatively) less often is fundraising for non-disaster relief, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. I also think there's a strong argument for helping gurdwaras affiliate with pre-existing organizations. For example, we may not need to staff and create our own health clinic, but I know plenty of health students and professionals who would be happy to offer free basic health services through a community center such as a gurdwara. I think those are the kinds of pathways where we should link folks up instead of recreating the wheel.

    Prabhu Singh, I'm not entirely sure I understand how your analogy links into prosperity, or perhaps I'm not understanding how you are defining prosperity. Could you clarify?

  9. Camille says:

    From my knowledge, this has never really been done before (please correct me if Im wrong).

    Abinaash, I apologize if it sounded like I prefer working outside of the gurdwara to engaging gurdwaras. This is definitely not the case. There are definitely sangats who have used the gurdwara as a locale for fundraising — for example, during Katrina many gurdwaras fundraised for the Red Cross, not for any Sikh-specific organization or issue. I’ve also seen gurdwaras come together to fundraise for Tsunami Relief. I think what we see (relatively) less often is fundraising for non-disaster relief, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I also think there’s a strong argument for helping gurdwaras affiliate with pre-existing organizations. For example, we may not need to staff and create our own health clinic, but I know plenty of health students and professionals who would be happy to offer free basic health services through a community center such as a gurdwara. I think those are the kinds of pathways where we should link folks up instead of recreating the wheel.

    Prabhu Singh, I’m not entirely sure I understand how your analogy links into prosperity, or perhaps I’m not understanding how you are defining prosperity. Could you clarify?

  10. In my analogy, I was referring to ourselves as a conduit to prosperity which is the water. Dasvandh is a guarantee that at least 10% of the water flows. Prosperity is both receiving the water and distributing the water. I never feel more prosperous than when I'm giving. However, everything that I receive, including the very breath of life, is a moment of prosperity for me. If I did not give Dasvandh, if I did not do seva, if I only took and never gave, I would never understand prosperity.

    Dictionary.com's definition of prosperity:

    a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, esp. in financial respects; good fortune.

    This relates to my analogy in that pipes are in a "thriving condition" when they are giving and receiving water in equal measure without problems. However a Sikh can be prosperous, "thriving," "flourishing" and "successful," in any condition. Most would consider only a working pipe to be thriving, however if we likened a Sikh to the pipe, then the pipe would have to be strong and flexible for all conditions and porous so that the essence of it's prosperity, duty, soul (the water) is ever within it.

    I don't see prosperity as, "I give this, I get that," or in some people's cases "I get this, I get that." I see it as a constant flow, in tune with our lives and our lifestyle (Dharma). Das Vandh is the Guru's instruction which will ensure that even those who are stuck can experience the flow of prosperity.

  11. In my analogy, I was referring to ourselves as a conduit to prosperity which is the water. Dasvandh is a guarantee that at least 10% of the water flows. Prosperity is both receiving the water and distributing the water. I never feel more prosperous than when I’m giving. However, everything that I receive, including the very breath of life, is a moment of prosperity for me. If I did not give Dasvandh, if I did not do seva, if I only took and never gave, I would never understand prosperity.

    Dictionary.com’s definition of prosperity:
    a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, esp. in financial respects; good fortune.

    This relates to my analogy in that pipes are in a “thriving condition” when they are giving and receiving water in equal measure without problems. However a Sikh can be prosperous, “thriving,” “flourishing” and “successful,” in any condition. Most would consider only a working pipe to be thriving, however if we likened a Sikh to the pipe, then the pipe would have to be strong and flexible for all conditions and porous so that the essence of it’s prosperity, duty, soul (the water) is ever within it.
    I don’t see prosperity as, “I give this, I get that,” or in some people’s cases “I get this, I get that.” I see it as a constant flow, in tune with our lives and our lifestyle (Dharma). Das Vandh is the Guru’s instruction which will ensure that even those who are stuck can experience the flow of prosperity.

  12. Lineg3n1us says:

    Huh… Slightly addled, but on the whole I like this post. You've got some fresh ideas. But please, write more lucid.

  13. Lineg3n1us says:

    Huh… Slightly addled, but on the whole I like this post. You’ve got some fresh ideas. But please, write more lucid.