|Alms bag taken from a tapestry in Orléans, fifteenth century.,|
Alms or almsgiving is a religious rite which, in general, involves giving materially to another as an act of religious virtue.
It exists in a number of religions. In Philippine Regions, alms are given as charity to benefit the poor. In Buddhism, alms are given by lay people to monks and nuns to nurture laic virtue, merit and blessings and to ensure monastic continuity. The word comes from Old English ælmesse, ælmes, from Late Latin eleemosyna, from Greek ἐλεημοσύνη eleēmosynē "pity, alms", from ἐλεήμων eleēmōn "merciful", from ἔλεος eleos "pity".
Main article: Dāna
|Almsbowl as used by bhikkhus for going on almsround.,|
In Buddhism, alms or almsgiving is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk, nun, spiritually-developed person or other sentient being. It is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of normal society. The visible presence of monks and nuns is a stabilizing influence. The act of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk or nun and what he/she represents. As the Buddha has stated:
Householders & the homeless [monastics]
in mutual dependence
both reach the true Dhamma....
In Theravada Buddhism, monks (Pāli: bhikkhus) and nuns go on a daily almsround (or pindacara) to collect food. This is often perceived as giving the laypeople the opportunity to make merit (Pāli: puñña). Money should not be accepted by a Buddhist monk or nun, although nowadays not many monks and nuns keep to this rule (the exception being the monks and nuns of the Thai Forest Tradition and other Theravada traditions which focus on vinaya and meditation practice). In countries that follow Mahayana Buddhism, it has been impractical for monks to go on a daily almsround. In China, Korea and Japan, monasteries were situated in remote mountain areas where it could take days to reach the nearest town, thus making the daily almsround impossible. In Japan, the practice of a weekly or monthly takuhatsu took its place. In the Himalayan countries, the large number of bikshus would have made an almsround a heavy burden on families. Competition with other religions for support also made daily almsrounds difficult and even dangerous; the first monks in the Shilla dynasty of Korea were said to be beaten due to the Buddhist minority at the time.
In Buddhism, both "almsgiving" and, more generally, "giving" are called "dāna" (Pāli). Such giving is one of the three elements of the path of practice as formulated by the Buddha for laypeople. This path of practice for laypeople is: dāna, sīla, bhāvanā.
The exquisite paradox in Buddhism is that the more we give - and the more we give without seeking something in return - the wealthier (in the broadest sense of the word) we will become. By giving we destroy those acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to further suffering. Generosity is also expressed towards other sentient beings as both a cause for merit and to aid the receiver of the gift. In MahayanaTradition it is accepted that although the three jewels of refuge are the basis of the greatest merit, by seeing other sentient beings as having Buddhanature and making offerings towards the aspirational Buddha to be within them is of equal benefit. Generosity towards other sentient beings is greatly emphasised in Mahayana as one of the perfections (paramita) as shown in Lama Tsong Khapa's 'The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path' (Tibetan: lam-rim bsdus-don):
Total willingness to give is the wish-granting gem for fulfilling the hopes of wandering beings.
It is the sharpest weapon to sever the knot of stinginess.
It leads to bodhisattva conduct that enhances self-confidence and courage,
And is the basis for universal proclamation of your fame and repute.
Realizing this, the wise rely, in a healthy manner, on the outstanding path
Of (being ever-willing) to offer completely their bodies, possessions, and positive potentials.
The ever-vigilant lama has practiced like that.
If you too would seek liberation,
Please cultivate yourself in the same way.
In Buddhism, giving of alms is the beginning of one's journey to Nirvana (Pali: nibbana). In practice, one can give anything with or without thought for Nibbana. This would lead to faith (Pali: saddha), one key power (Pali: bala) that one should generate within oneself for the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
The motives behind giving plays important role in developing spiritual qualities. The suttas record various motives for exercising generosity. The Anguttara Nikaya (A.iv,236) enumerates the following eight motives:
Asajja danam deti: one gives with annoyance, or as a way of offending the recipient, or with the idea of insulting him.
Bhaya danam deti: fear also can motivate a person to make an offering.
Adasi me ti danam deti: one gives in return for a favor done to oneself in the past.
Dassati me ti danam deti: one also may give with the hope of getting a similar favor for oneself in the future.
Sadhu danan ti danam deti: one gives because giving is considered good.
Aham pacami, ime ne pacanti, na arahami pacanto apacantanam adatun ti danam deti: "I cook, they do not cook. It is not proper for me who cooks not to give to those who do not cook." Some give urged by such altruistic motives.
Imam me danam dadato kalyano kittisaddo abbhuggacchati ti danam deti: some give alms to gain a good reputation.
Cittalankara-cittaparikkarattham danam deti: still others give alms to adorn and beautify the mind.
According to the Pali canon:
Of all gifts [alms], the gift of Dhamma is the highest.
—Dhp. XXIV v. 354)
From apostolic times, the practice of giving alms was urged upon Christians The offertory is the traditional moment in every Roman Catholic Mass, Anglican Eucharist, and Lutheran Divine Service when alms are collected.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches the collection of alms and tithes has not been formally united to the offertory in any liturgical action. However, either having a collection plate in the narthex or passing it unobtrusively during the service is not uncommon. In Orthodox theology, almsgiving is an important part of the spiritual life, and fasting should always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. Almsgiving in the name of the deceased also frequently accompanies prayer for the dead. Those whose financial circumstances do not permit the giving of monetary alms may give alms in other ways, such as intercessory prayer and acts of mercy.
In most Christian forms of worship, a collection is made of "tithes and offerings" given for the support of the church and for the relief of the poor, as an important act of Christian charity, united to communal prayer. In some churches the "offering plate" or "offering basket" is placed upon the altar, as a sign that the offering is made to God, and a sign of the bond of Christian love.[note 4] In addition, private acts of charity, considered virtuous only if not done for others to admire, are a Christian duty.
Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
The outward and an inward giving of alms: Here Jesus places the primary focus on the motives behind such acts, which should be love.
Rather, give as alms what is inside, and then everything will be clean for you!
Giving of the rich versus the poor: Here Jesus contrasts the giving of the rich and the poor
He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.'
Giving out of Love and not out of duty:
He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Main articles: bhiksha and karmkand
Bhiksha is a devotional offering, usually food, presented at a temple or to a swami or a religious Brahmin who in turn provides a religious service (karmkand) or instruction. According to Vasishtha Samhitha (Chapter XXIX):
Through Alms giving to poor obtains all his desires,
(Even) longevity, (and he is born again as) a student of the Veda, possessed of beauty.
He who abstains from injuring (sentient beings) obtains heaven.
By entering a fire the world of Brahman (is gained).
By (a vow of) silence (he obtains) happiness.
By staying (constantly) in water he becomes a lord of elephants.
He who expends his hoard (in gifts) becomes free from disease.
A giver of water (becomes) rich by (the fulfilment of) all his desires.
A giver of food (will have) beautiful eyes and a good memory.
He who gives a promise to protect (somebody) from all dangers (becomes) wise.
(To bestow gifts) for the use of cows (is equal to) bathing at all sacred places.
By giving a couch and a seat (the giver becomes) master of a harem.
By giving an umbrella (the giver) obtains a house.
He who gives a House to a poor family obtains a town
He who gives a pair of Shoes obtains a vehicle.
Now they quote also (the following verses): Whatever sin a man distressed for livelihood commits, (from that) he is purified by giving land, (be it) even "a bull's hide".
He who gives to a Brâhmana guest a vessel filled with water for sipping, will obtain after death complete freedom from thirst and be born again as a drinker of Soma.
If a gift of one thousand oxen fit to draw a carriage (has been bestowed) according to the rule on a perfectly worthy man, that is equal to giving a maiden.
They declare that cows, land, and learning are the three most excellent gifts. For to give learning is (to bestow) the greatest of all gifts, and it surpasses those (other gifts).
A learned man who, free from envy, follows this rule of conduct which procures endless rewards, and which through final liberation frees him from transmigration.
Or who, full of faith, pure, and subduing his senses, remembers or even hears it, will, freed from all sin, be exalted in the highest heaven.
Inspired from hinduism, Acharya Vinoba Bhave started The Bhoodan movement (Hindi: भूदान, Urdu: بھودان) or Land Gift Movement in 1951 was a voluntary land reform movement in India. As an experiment in voluntary social justice, Bhoodan has attracted admiration throughout the world. There is little question that it created a social atmosphere in India that presaged land reform legislation activity throughout the country. It also had a tangible effect on the lives of many people - over 5 million acres (20,000 km²) were donated.
Benefits of charity according to different Puranas:
1. VISHNU PURANA
By Making a Well - One becomes prosperous.
2. AGNI PURANA
To decorate a Kapila cow - One gets limitless fruits. The donater becomes wealthy and prosperous.
By donating a vehicle - One gets benefits of a Rajsurya Yagya.
By donating a tooth brush - One becomes very fortunate.
The Thread (Upanayana) - One gets benefits of donating clothes.
By donating secretly - One becomes free from all sins and attains heaven, destroys all enemies.
By donating a conch - One becomes successful.
3. BRAHMA PURANA
By donating camphor, sandalwood, precious gems, ornaments, musk the person gets very fortunate. He also attains salvation (Moksha).
4. NURSINGH PURANA
By giving knowledge - The person becomes egoless.
5. ADITYA PURANA
By donating gold - One makes the Gods happy, giver of goodfortune and salvation.
By donating silver - One makes Lord Shiva happy.
By donating Food and Land - One makes Lord Vishnu happy.
By donating Jaggery, Ghee, porridge, clothes - One makes the moon god happy.
By donating Mustard Oil, Jaggery, Red Moong Lentils, touching feets of elder brothers - One netutralises Malific effect of Mars
By donating Rice, Silver, Sugar, Flour, respecting Mother - One neutralises Malific effect of Moon
By donating Blanket, Iron, Balck Seasame, Mustard Oil, Black Cloths, respecting or giving to your employees, servants also - Neutralises Malific effects of Saturn
By donating Ghee, Food and a Pot - One becomes fearless.
By donating a water pot along with gold and sesame - One becomes free from sin. By donating Fuel (Gas Chulha) - One's digestion power increases.
By donating Medicine, Oil - One is free from ailments, gets long life and becomes happy.
By donating Different types of grains - One gets to stay for a thousand years in a Chandralok. He/she takes birth in a very noble clan on earth. He is not devoid of any food anytime.
Hindu scriptures say that every humanbeing are born in to Five important debts. These 5 debts are: debt to God, debt to Ancestors, debt to Humankind, debt to Guests, debt to Animals and plants (or debt to Nature) and they must repay those karmic debts during their lifetime.
Debt to the God for their blessings; paid by rituals and offerings.
Debt to Ancestors and teachers; paid by supporting them, having children of one's own and passing along knowledge.
Debt to guests; repaid by treating them as if they were gods visiting one's home.
Debt to Mankind (manushyarun) and applied this doctrine to all mankind. Mutual co-operation and serving others can help to repay this debt to mankind- like, giving money, clothes, home and land, to poor people, giving food and water to hungry people and helping orphans-or any other help that is appropriate.
The fifth debt to the cosmic elements and everything that arises out of them (bhutrun) is added. It means debt to Nature — a person is indebted to plants, trees, birds, animals and nature (called Bhuta Rin) — repaid by offering good will, food, water, or any other help that is appropriate.
Repay to Five debts are called pancha-maha-yajna which should be performed daily by every human being is compulsory in hinduism. By these five yajna the worshipper places himself in right relations with all being, affirming such relation between god, ancestors, Spirits, men, the organic creation, nature and himself.
Kamandakiya Niti Sara
"Whenever you happen to come across any of these, don't fail to offer any thing suitable — food, cloth, vehicle, money, jewellery etc as appropriate — to a saint or a monk, a cow or such animal, a student (bachelor), temple, a worshipper, pregnant woman, child, hungry person, beggar, destitute, a dead body being carried. The help you do comes back in multiples later..."
"One may claim proprietorship to as much wealth as required to maintain body and soul together, but one who desires proprietorship over more than that must be considered a thief, and he deserves to be punished by the laws of nature..." reference to the source may please be given
Main article: Zakat
In Islam, zakat or the giving of alms, is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. Various rules attach to the practice, but in general terms, it is obligatory to give away 2.5% of ones savings and business revenue, as well as 5-10% of ones harvest, to the poor. The recipients include the destitute, the working poor, those who are unable to pay off their own debts, stranded travelers, and others who need assistance, with the general principle of zakaah always being that the rich should pay it to the poor. One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust.
The word Zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Zakat is the amount of money that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories of people.
This category of people is defined in surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: "The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise." (The Holy Qur'an 9:60).
The obligatory nature of Zakat is firmly established in the Qur'an, the Sunnah (or hadith), and the consensus of the companions and the Muslim scholars. Allah states in Surah at-Taubah verses 34-35: "O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah. announce unto them a most grievous penalty - On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, their flanks, and their backs.- "This is the (treasure) which ye buried for yourselves: taste ye, then, the (treasures) ye buried!" (The Holy Qur'an 9:34-35).
It is agreed between Muslims in all the centuries the obligatory nature of paying Zakat for gold and silver, and from those the other kinds of currency.
Zakat is obligatory when a certain amount of money, called the nisab is reached or exceeded. Zakat is not obligatory if the amount owned is less than this nisab. The nisab (or minimum amount) of gold and golden currency is 20 mithqal, this is approximately 85 grams of pure gold. One mithqal is approximately 4.25 grams. The nisab of silver and silver currency is 200 dirhams, which is approximately 595 grams of pure silver. The nisab of other kinds of money and currency is to be scaled to that of gold, 85 grams of pure gold. This means that the nisab of money is the price of 85 grams of 999-type (pure) gold, on the day in which Zakat is paid. (Current Gold Prices)
When is Zakat Due ?
Passage of One Lunar Year:
Zakat is obligatory after a time span of one lunar year passes with the money in the control of its owner. Then the owner needs to pay 2.5% (or 1/40) of the money as Zakat. (A lunar year is approximately 355 days).
Deduction of Debts:
The owner should deduct any amount of money he or she borrowed from others; then check if the rest reaches the necessary nisab, then pays Zakat for it. If the owner had enough money to satisfy the nisab at the beginning of the year, then the money increased (in profits, salaries, inheritance, grants...etc.), the owner needs to add the increase to the nisab amount owned at the beginning of the year; then pay Zakat, 2.5%, of the total at the end of the lunar year. (there are small differences in the fiqh schools here) Each Muslim calculates his or her own Zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one's capital. (Zakat Calculator)
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said 'even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.'
The Prophet said: 'Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ' He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.' The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further asked 'What if he cannot do even that?' The Prophet said 'He should urge others to do good.' The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.'
Main article: Tzedakah
In the Jewish tradition, charity is represented by tzedakah, justice, and the poor are entitled to charity as a matter of right rather than benevolence. Contemporary charity is regarded as a continuation of the Biblical Maaser Ani, or poor-tithe, as well as Biblical practices including permitting the poor to glean the corners of a field, harvest during the Shmita (Sabbatical year), and other practices. Voluntary charity, along with prayer and repentance, is regarded as ameliorating the consequences of bad acts.