Explaining it in a religious manner, this Anna-dana is such a holy act that our shastras say even Brahmahatya Pāpa is atoned by Anna-dana. What is Brahmahatya Pāpa? Killing the most innocent, sublime, spiritual and austere person called the Brahmin. The Brahmins are supposed to be like this. They are the custodians of austerity for the benefit of the whole world. I am not speaking about the Brahmins who are born in Brahmin families, a man who lives in the sattvik way with Brahminical traits as are prescribed or acclaimed in our scriptures. A man who lives an austere life, never harming anybody, feeling only good for the others, very innocent, who believes in austerity alone for everything and who is given to introspection over his own mind and who looks only to the self and God, for getting his delight and fulfillment. Now if anybody hurts him or harms him, that is considered to be the most heinous sin that you can imagine. Even that Brahmahatya Pāpa is relieved by Annadana, says our Shastras. So it is so very important.
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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
I was speaking about Anna-dana. It is primarily in connection with the Annavastra Danasatram we have been performing, conducting on behalf of so many people in India as well as outside for the past twenty-six years. You know this Anna-dana has got a great place in our culture. I would like you to understand it from a secular point of view and also from a religio-spiritual point of view.
Everyone, not only human beings, every creature born on the surface of the earth, has hunger and it needs appeasement. Hunger can be appeased only by food and food is what is called Anna. It does not mean rice or wheat alone. Any form of food. There are birds and reptiles. They may not eat rice or wheat. They have their own respective food items. The need for food and nourishment and also the joy or the fulfillment of appeasement are common to all creatures in this world. So in the Anna-dana, don’t think that human beings alone are included. When I went to Muscat a few years back, my host ‘X’ and also ‘Y’ I found that ‘X’ was everyday feeding, punctually, scrupulously a set of birds. She used to give them grains. In the Ashram also, whenever birds come, nowadays some peacocks, a very rare sight in this area, they were coming and we keep some food for them. They come and take, sometimes regularly, sometimes irregularly. So any creature if you feed, in the same manner, even water or nourishment you provide for a plant, particularly water, all this will be included in Anna-dana.
You know our shastras say दशपुत्र समो वृक्षः. One वृक्ष, a tree is equal to ten children. So, in planting the trees, in nourishing them, in looking after them, making them grow in an unhindered manner, so that they will shoot forth their leaves, flowers, fruits and the like, all these are included in this Anna-dana and a great Yajna it is. In the context of human beings, it is all the more so. After all, we are human beings. Our primary attention should be around the human beings around us. Understand that, suppose a king is travelling, and on the way he got hungry, he gets hungry, where will he go? Can he go to the palace and have his food? Certainly not! So he must get his food from somewhere, from one of the houses, if special arrangements are not there. So giving food, whether it is to a thief or a dacoit or a policeman or a holy Brahmin, when it comes to the question of appeasing hunger, we should never make a difference at all, is what I have to say. Hunger is common to everybody. In the jail, when people are taken, criminals are taken, their weight is taken at first and their weight is periodically taken to make sure that there is no undernourishment for them though they may be criminals. I would like you to understand it very well.
Now, explaining it in a religious manner, this Anna-dana is such a holy act that our shastras say even Brahmahatya Pāpa is atoned by Anna-dana. What is Brahmahatya Pāpa? Killing the most innocent, sublime, spiritual and austere person called the Brahmin. The Brahmins are supposed to be like this. They are the custodians of austerity for the benefit of the whole world. I am not speaking about the Brahmins who are born in Brahmin families, a man who lives in the sattvik way with Brahminical traits as are prescribed or acclaimed in our scriptures. A man who lives an austere life, never harming anybody, feeling only good for the others, very innocent, who believes in austerity alone for everything and who is given to introspection over his own mind and who looks only to the self and God, for getting his delight and fulfillment. Now if anybody hurts him or harms him, that is considered to be the most heinous sin that you can imagine. Even that Brahmahatya Pāpa is relieved by Annadana, says our Shastras. So it is so very important.
I thought of telling you something very significant. This is from Sreemad Bhagavatham. Krishna had completed his mission virtually in life, destroying all the wicked people who were constituting an unnecessary load to the earth to an unbearable level. So he came down in a human form and organized matters, instrumented matters in such a manner that all the wicked people assembled in the battlefields against the virtuous people. And in that process, the wicked as well as the virtuous, all of them died. And the earth was relieved and he was about to depart. It was at that time that Brahma came and entreated Him that “You have already lived five years more than the human allotted span of 120 years. Please come back.” Then He said “Yes, I shall come back, but my lineage and clan have become very proud because of my birth and exploits. They have been helping me in organizing this warfare in different areas, so they have become proud. In my presence they will be controlled by me. They will listen to me. The moment I leave them, nobody will challenge them and they will not heed anyone. Like the ocean overflowing the boundaries, they will start spreading destruction to the society. So I will myself bring about their destruction and then come back, along with them.”
Now, how the family or the clan was destroyed because they incurred the curse of some sages? The curse was pronounced by them and the entire Dwaraka was being overtaken by ill omens. A number of ill omens started appearing on the scene. So He called all the people, elderly people of His family and lineage and told them, “It is not right for us to remain in Dwaraka. It is already under the clutches of destruction, evil forces. Let us immediately go to the holy place called Prabhasa-tirtham. There we will go, take bath in the holy waters, and we will start giving gifts, a number of danas, very good and great gifts to those people who deserve it and we will atone for all the sins.” And this is the verse he says,
vṛjināni tariṣyāmo dānair naubhir-ivārṇavam
“You understand, in spite of my presence, in this place Dwaraka, ill omens are sufficiently displayed and we are out to be destroyed very soon. So let us go very soon and have bath on the one hand and give a number of gifts, dana. That Dana Dharma should be done so that all our sins will be atoned and we will be delivered from them. In which manner, र्नौभिरिवार्णवम्, just like through the boats we are able to cross the sea, oceans, in the same manner, the entire worldliness we shall be able to cross.”
Now Krishna himself is exhorting his own large family members and the Dwarka residents to go to Prabhasa-tirtham and to make Dana very profusely. “Very good, rich, selected materials should be given and we should worship all the recipients by giving Dana and that is the only way we shall be able to have some relief from whatever calamity we are going to face.”
I think nothing more is required to make all of you understand how imperative is the habit of Dana, how important it is in human life, to enrich everyone with the advantages, the blessings and benedictions of Dana. While it is secularly very important that everyone gets his or her food, religiously and spiritually also it has got a great, holy and benedictory effect. Whenever you give Dana, don’t be stingy, be liberal, and give the best of items and in a most careful manner, loving manner, respectable manner. The ego that ‘I am giving and another man is taking’, that feeling should not be there. And Dana is not alone for the poor families or poor people. For the poor people, it is okay. It may be a desperate need.
You know, in some of the temples in Kerala, nowadays it has started in many temples, Anna dana is very important. The deity of the temple will gain more and more brilliance, spiritual brilliance and benediction, only when Anna dana is held in the temple. In temples like Guruvayur, then there is a place called Dharmasthalam in Karnataka, where thousands and thousands of people are fed. In Gujarat, it is immensely there. In many places in the North, there are places where Goshalas are held. In Gujarat, I am told, there is a place where twenty-seven thousand cows are kept and fed and all the milk products, cow products, are given freely to the people. I was told that 400 kilograms of atta are everyday made into rotis and these are distributed by people voluntarily who come and take the material, distribute it to the surrounding houses, going in a bicycle. Our country is very much given to Dana and every one of you should understand that this is very important.
There is an Ayurvedic organization in Kerala, it is called Kottaikal Aryavaidyashala, it is actually a trust, P.S. Warrier who installed it, he organized a hospital, sales etc. in the initial years. Whenever the sales came down, he always said, ‘Let us give free treatment more’. Charitable treatment was increased. Whenever it was increased, we found that the sales also had increased. So it is something very, very sublime. It has got multiple, salutary and benedictory effects, I would like you to understand.
Our Anna-vastra Danasatram is held with this kind of a perception, this kind of a wholesome and elevating attitude and resignation. All of you are blessed who participate in this event. Even though from a great distance, you are participating and enabling the event to be. And while the recipients get the material part, you get the spiritual and religious, benedictory part.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.