Panchangam - Almanack.......for some spirits is for a hole life, for a sannyasin it is a state that has to overcome as an Athlos achievement.
It was natural, when the various rules regulating the life of the community were drawn up by Brahmins, that they should have followed the universal law of human nature and have taken care of their own class. .Much is said about alms in the sacred books of the East ; but, to a very large extent, these books deal with the necessity of bestowing alms and gifts on Brahmins. In the Institutes of Manu it is stated that an oblation in the mouth or hand of a Brahmin is far better than offerings to holy fire, it never drops, it never dries, it is never consumed. A gift to one not a Brahmin produces fruit of a middle standard; to one who calls himself a Brahmin, double; to a well-read Brahmin, a hundred thousand fold; to one who has read all the Vedas, infinite.' Manu also says :" Let every man, according to his ability, give wealth to Brahmins, detached from the world and learned in Scripture ; such a giver shall attain heaven after this life."2 Very early in the statutes, a universal law is proclaimed, the spirit of which pervades the whole code. This law calmly lays down that whatever exists in the universe is all, in effect, though not in form, the wealth of the Brahmins ; since the Brahmin is entitled to it all by his primogeniture and eminence of birth. The Brahmin eats but his own food, wears but his own apparel, and bestows but his own in alms ; through the benevolence of the Brahmin indeed other mortals enjoy life. This is a broad principle to enunciate, so it is easy to see how there is nothing derogatory in a Brahmin's receiving alms. He takes but what is his own, and leaves a blessing to the giver.
According to religious enactment, a Brahmin's life is divided into four great stages, the first of which is that of a student. After being invested with the sacred thread and initiated into the Brahminical order he is supposed to leave his father's house and reside for some years with a religious teacher, as an unmarried student. This is in order that he may acquire a knowledge of the Vedas. During this period the student should live by alms, begged for by himself ; and although this state of things is perhaps nowhere carried out in its entirety in these modern days, still even now, at the investiture, the neophyte must ask for alms from those present as a part of the ceremony. Thus Manu says :
" Each day must a Brahmin student receive his food by begging, with due care, from the houses of persons renowned for discharging their duties, and not deficient in performing the sacrifices which the Veda ordains." Manu 183.)
A vestige of this old Vedic custom still remains, though it has changed somewhat in form to suit modern requirements, and is seen in a system by which the charitably disposed assist the poor Brahmin boys in their education, and in providing meals for them. One family will agree to give one or two meals a day to a certain student for a certain day in the week, and others will do the same until the whole week is provided for throughout the year. There is nothing lowering to the student in thus subsisting by charity. It is taken as a natural sort of thing and adds merit to the donors. It is not usual, I believe, to provide in this way for any other than Brahmin students. A poor student will sometimes say that he lives ' by weeks,' that is, each day of the week he gets his food at a different house.
The following extracts from the " Mahabharata," show the personal benefits to be derived from supporting students :
" Imparting knowledge is conferring a great boon.
Giving of food is most meritorious."
" Those who to the humble scholar
Give food every day,
Regularly and ungrudgingly,
With desire for heaven, (will obtain it)."
The laws and customs of India are very kind to the poor traveller and many who have occasion to move about from one place to another, though utterly devoid of means, are able to do so with comparative comfort. The traveller is always sure of a meal when he arrives at a village, if he waits until the midday or evening meal is served. The laws of hospitality in India are very real ; and it is imperatively binding upon those, who can do so, to give food to needy travellers, regardless of caste or condition. A Brahmin must go to Brahmins for caste reasons ; and a Sudra, or Panchama will go, in the first place, to his own. people by preference ; but if his own people cannot help him, he is sure of something, even from the Brahmin. To send a hungry suppliant empty away is not only unkind, it is a positive sin. There are many enactments on this point, and these are all held binding upon the hearts and consciences of the people. The following are specimens taken from the " Mahabharata."
"From whosesoever house
The stranger goes empty away,
His ancestors will perish
For fifteen generations."
" Were he a sinner or an outcast,
Or even a Brahminicide, or parricide,
Whoever is entertained at meal time,
That stranger will cause the host to attain heaven." (Svargam.)
I do not quarrel with such casual mendicity ; I commend such almsgiving, though it is easy to see how the thing may be abused by the lazy loafing tramp. I cannot, however, view with any such complacence the regular systematic mendicity that abounds on all hands, and that must be a great drain. upon the resources of the people. I allude to the professional religious beggars, a fraternity answering in some respects to the begging Friars of the Middle Ages, although they are under no vows and do not live in communities. This profession is not confined to any particular caste or section of the community, and there are many varieties of it. It is impossible to give here a full and complete catalogue of the brotherhood. I can only take a few specimens, from which a fairly accurate notion may be formed of the whole.
First, I will give a description of the mendicant Brahmin. In inculcating the merit of almsgiving, it is always enunciated that the highest form of charity is to give to the Brahmin. Manu, after mentioning various conditions in which one may be placed, goes on to say :-
" To these most excellent Brahmins must rice also be given with holy presents at oblations to fire and within the consecrated circle ; but the dressed rice, which others are to receive, must not be delivered on the outside of the sacred hearth : gold and the like may be given anywhere.
Let every man, according to his ability, give wealth to Brahmins detached from the world and learned in Scripture : such giver shall attain heaven after this life" (xi. 3,6).
Whatever the original theory may have been, it is far from being the case that all Brahmins live in these modern days by gifts and alms. The learned professions and other walks of life are crowded with Brahmins, who labour for their subsistence as do others. Probably it is only the principle of the thing, as stated by Mann, that now survives ; though it is a principle that in various parts and in manifold ways is still acted upon. There is,' however, even now, a section of Brahmins who are professional mendicants, who depend for their daily sustenance upon the alms of the faithful. These are principally the Panchangam Brahmins. A panchangam is an almanack, the word being compounded of pancha, five and angam, a number or division. This alludes to the five specific things taken into consideration in computing by astrology, viz., the lunar day, the day of the week, the sign in which the moon happens to be, the conjunction of the planets and the combinations. The Panchangam Brahmin is one who, by studying the almanack, is able to state propitious or unpropitious times. He gets his livelihood by going certain rounds, day by day, from house to house, declaring the condition of things according to the almanack, and receiving in return a dole usually consisting of grain. He is not held in much respect by his own caste people, but he is looked up to by the other castes. He is consulted by his constituents, from time to time, when they wish to know the propitious period for any undertaking, such as starting on a journey, making an important purchase, putting on new clothes or new jewels, or when about to take up a new appointment, or when any other important event is contemplated. He is a Smartha by sect, a worshipper of Siva and. wears the marks of that god ; but at the same .time he respects and worships Vishnu. He dresses very plainly, or rather he dresses very little. He has on the loin cloth and an upper cloth is worn over his shoulder. His head is bare, but, as a Smartha should be, he is plentifully marked with the three horizontal white marks of Siva on the forehead, across the shoulders, on the breast and stomach, on the upper and lower parts of each arm, and across the back of the neck. He wears the sacred thread, hanging over his left shoulder, as a sign of being a twice-born. In his hands he carries a copy of the current almanack and a brass vessel in which he collects his doles. He does not confine his attention to Brahmins, but he goes also to the other castes, except the Panchamas and a few other sections of the community, considered to be too inferior for his attention. On going his daily round, when he comes to a house, he shouts out Hail Sita and Rama! (Sitaramabhyam namah) ; or Hail to the beneficent supreme god Rama! (Ramachendra, parabrahmane namah) ; or Hail to Siva and his wife Uma ! (Uma Maheshvarabhyam namah) ; or some other expressions of the same kind. The people of the house, upon hearing the call, present themselves, when he will go just inside and repeat the details of the almanack for the day, his particular point being to tell the unpropitious period of the day. After this he receives his dole of rice or, very occasionally, a coin or two. He then takes his departure to the next house on his list. The native almanack is headed with slams declaring the benefits to be derived from hearing the panchangam. The following is a specimen of these verses :
The punishmen that SOCRATES proposed for him self to the court was, his maintenance in the Prytaneum, which means that he receive free meals, an honor ordinarily reserved for Olympian athletes and other state benefactors. Such meals would be provided in the Tholos, the official state dining room. He then said his punishment should be a fine of thirty minae. Since a mina was equal to 100 drakhmai, and a drakhma was the average daily wage, 30 minae would have been 3000 days' wages, or over eight years' salary.
“The Mendicant was a well respected part of daily life; their wisdom was often sought, asked and answered for a loaf of bread or a few alms.” Buddhism: A beginners guide: Part 2
“When she was in a neighborhood where there was a Convent of Mendicant Friars, she told me to remind her of the day when the children of the poor received the Eucharist, so that she might receive it with them; and this she did often: when she confessed herself she wept.” The Holiness of the Maid
“It was through the ingrained, but not enforced it must be noted, social welfare structures of his time that allowed him to enter on the path of a Mendicant, or holy man who was wholly dependant on others for his food and clothing.” Buddhism: A beginners guide: Part 8
“The traditional social welfare system that enabled a Mendicant to survive is still present in many parts of the Asian continent.” Buddhism: A beginners guide: Part 8
Siddhartha right then resolved go to Rajagaha, a large city in a neighbouring kingdom and once there, to live as a Mendicant.” Buddhism: A beginners guide: Part 2
“And then they flew right back again to confirm, if only in the sounds of horses hooves and railed wooden wheels, that great and esteemed Prince Siddhartha had indeed renounced the material world, and walked the open streets as a Mendicant.” Buddhism: A beginners guide: Part 2
“Mendicant Odysseus, the Laconian Women, the Fall of Ilium, the” Poetics
“I believe that he is an heretic; the devil take me, if I do not! he doth so villainously rail at the Mendicant Friars and Jacobins, who are the two hemispheres of the Christian world; by whose gyronomonic circumbilvaginations, as by two celivagous filopendulums, all the autonomatic metagrobolism of the Romish” Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel
“Mendicant friars, the Carmelites moved from Mount Carmel in Jerusalem to Cyprus in 1238 and thence throughout Western Europe.” Simon & Schuster: A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art
“Nights which we shall mention is that of "The Second Royal Mendicant," found in Comparetti (No. 63, "My Happiness") from the Basilicata, and in the collection of Mantuan stories.” Italian Popular Tales
Giving should be spontaneous and unrestrained. Some people give and are anxious to see their names published in the newspapers with their photos. This is not giving at all. You must experience extreme joy in giving. You must not think, "I have done a very charitable act. I will enjoy happiness in heaven. I will be born as a rich man in the next birth. The charitable act will wash away my sins." Give silently. Do not boast. Your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. It can be difficult to give a gift silently, without manifesting pride and without expressing to others.
* * *
Generosity, tolerance, kindness, compassion, affection and sympathy are all synonymous with charity. Greediness, harshness, ill-will, inhumanity, selfishness and unkindness are all the opposites. Giving should extend to all beings, whether humans or animals, in prosperity or in. distress. Tenderness especially goes out towards the young, feeble and needy. Generosity is self-forgetful kindness in disposition or action. It includes much besides giving.
Generosity is giving freely and kindly. A generous person has a large and magnanimous heart. A generous person always gives and gives. The essence of generosity is self- sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is the surrender of one's own self or personal happiness or comfort for the sake of advancing the interests of others. It kills egoism and leads to the descent of divine grace and divine light. Rejoice in the welfare rather than the punishment of an offender. Magnanimity is a greatness of soul that rises above injury or insult.
* * *
Charity is sharing what you have with others. Sharing destroys greed, removes selfishness and creates selflessness. Always give with faith, in plenty and with modesty. Giving with an unwilling heart is not giving. Think well towards suffering people. Pray for their welfare. This will accomplish more good than much money. Do not be mean-minded.