Shibi, you raised an issue that is so dear to me - the "giving" habit of Indians - particularly Hindus. You are mostly correct in what you say, but I will add a few comments ..
shibi wrote:India is not a poor country. There are many rich Indians and there is a growing middle class having much larger disposable income than before. But Indians generally aren’t very generous while contributing for charity. While there are many organisations in India doing good charity work, there is scope for much more.
Yes, Indians do not do this. Not having a religious set-up with any real or implicit control on people (for 80% of population, the Hindus) is a big reason. I assume people of other religions, say Christians, also do not do religious charity to the level their counterparts do in other countries as tithe - again possibly influenced by the behavior of the people of majority religion!! - but the Christians give so much more than the Hindus to the charitable activities organized by religious institutions.
US spends about 1.85% of their GDP on charity i.e. over US$250 Billion per year. It is estimated that low-income households in the US spend around 4.5% of their income on charity and many Christians contribute 10% (called tithing) or more of their income. I don’t know how much of this money goes outside the country. But India gets around $0.6 billion a year, which is only 0.25% of total US charity funds and considering the fact that every one in six of humans live in India, it isn’t much. So we cannot reasonably say that US is targeting India will all their money.
I didn't say that the US or anybody is "targeting" India. First of all, "targeting" is not a word I would use, as it implies some bad intentions. Yes, Vatican and other churches do take India as THE most important place where the Christianity has to be spread. They don't do that with any malice at all. The point is that I do not believe there is ANYTHING wrong in Christians from abroad trying to tell Indians to change their religion, and I do not believe that the charitable activities that goes with evangelization are done as a "trick" in the minds of the people contributing the money either. What *is* wrong in their wanting to spread the word they believe in, and do it with charity??? ... Shibi, you may find it hard to believe, but I am being very honest when I say this - every word of it.
I only complained about the tough spot that leaves the Hindus in. A helpless spot because the Indian philosophy later called Hinduism, is just not founded on similar principles as the western "religions". I am saying it in the broader perspective of the political economy that goes with the religion, and not just about conversion. The old Indian systems were not like the western setup of the religion's having poilitical/economic control. The society was not set up based on individual wealth creation, but rather on doing the duty they were the best-suited to do. Sure the Hindu treatises always acknowledged the human tendencies towards individualism, and they did not have an easy solution to prevent it -- so the high principle of "chAtuRvaRNyam" (the four color societal classification) which was to set up a society of people doing what they were best suited to do. This is the precise reason why bhagavatgIta has Krishna, saying "I made chAturvaRNyam" during the moments when he was being one with the universe to pass on wisdom to Arjuna! -- but I digress ... As some of the scientific purANAs even worried, individual "pursuit of happiness" and wealth creation were bound to happen, and the classification based on work suitability was bound to become a feudal system based on birth-rights. The Brahmins who were well-defined as the ones not to ever think of creating wealth but to be the "professors" of the science (the vEdAs, later called "religious" texts by westerners once they reached India) ended up as the ones with money and power! ... But it still did not result in centralized religious control and no Indian brahmin really ever became powerful enough for a national or regional economic set-up with taxation going straight to the religious setup. With increasing world interactions, once other places in the world developed different individualistic "wealth creation" systems/religions and influenced the Indian civilization that already existed for millenia before, the writing was on the wall that the Indian system needed to evolve to one where the religion was powerful at the economic/political level. That never happened and it was not going to happen under the Indian philosophies that came to be called Hindusim. This is Indian history as per Jay (who is not a historian of any hue
) - and it is amateurish to the core, I know!
Back to the charity matter, the fact is that unless some level of peer-pressure is there, as exerted explicitly and implicitly by say the church, and the society gets conditioned to giving to charity, what people would give to charity is simply what the Hindus give in India - which is, pretty much "minuscule"!! .. In other words, there is nothing in the Indian genes that make Indians to be any less compassionate/helpful to others compared to the foreign genes! .. It is well documented that any Brahmin sadhu who walked into any house would get food and accommodation anywhere in India, even as recent as a few decades back (not so much now!). In a society where people had reduced expectations on wealth creation and pursuit of happiness, charity was not a big issue, really. People were happy with what they had and there was enough food and other things to go around. The malayalis know the legend of 'mAVEli nADu vANIdum kAlam
' ('the times when mahAbali ruled KErala') that ONam celebration is about. It is not a lie that such systems existed in India - and it is documented quite well by foreign traveler diaries over thousands of years. India was such a country over millenia, but once the ideas of individual wealth creation and "savings" came in, as in the western countries, THEN you needed charitable contribution systems of the kind the powerful religious institutions set up in the Christian and Muslim countries. That was never there in India.
The worst problem is that the secular constitution of India will never allow the Hindus institutions to ever get any political or economic power and to influence (even subtly force) Hindus to GIVE
a portion of their wealth to the religious institutions to be used for charity. Indian state cannot allow powerful religious systems set up with national laws while say the Christians do not have such an explicit church setup that controls them, despite the fact that they don't need it, because the religious control and influence is in-built .. Who is going to ever tell the Hindu and nudge him/her to give? .. So, all we have for the Hindus to bring out charity are uncoordinated efforts by SathyaSai, Amritanandamayi, Swaminarayan etc .. "Drops in the bucket" in the larger picture, really, though they are all huge institutions.
I do not believe the Christians and Muslims ever think of the unwinnable situation the majority religion is facing, on the institutional front. None of this has anything to do with the spiritual aspects of the religions or any relative merits among them or whether one likes/hates others' religions, which is the direction in which everybody first thinks. I am speaking just plain facts and reality.
Yes, I personally agree with the Indian philosophies/science of human reality because the definitions of God and universe are things my scientific/logical background can agree with (and I can be at peace without finding conflicts with the definitions in Christianity and Islam either). To me, it would be a pity to lose the great philosophies as people look at them as just a "relgion" that you convert out of, under relentless global pressure from the socio/economic operations of world religions, which impart pressure not due to any malice but only the belief in the good in their religion! -- What I call, "a tough spot" .. I know I sound holier-than-thou there but this is the reality to me.
As per official figures, Indian organisations get around $2.5 billion a year from around the world. While a large part of it goes to Christian organisations, various other religious/ secular organisations benefit. For e.g., Sathya Sai foundation, Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Dalai Lama Foundation etc. get large contributions. How much do Indians contribute to charity? I have no idea but I think 0.1% of GDP could be close to reality and since India’s GDP is $1.25 trillion ($3.2 trillion in PPP terms) it will amount to $1.25 billion a year. So while overseas funds of $2.5 billion may seem large, if Indians were to contribute 1% of GDP to charity (which should be a fair contribution) i.e. $12.5 billion a year, the foreign contribution will not appear big. In essence, we Indians are not very generous when it comes to giving back to society and why blame the west for our stinginess?
Terrific numbers. I agree with you. I would totally support a tax code that simply takes an extra percent as "tithe" (though not 10% that the word comes from, but say 1 or 2) from Hindus, Sikhs etc, and give it on some sort of formulas for charitable religious activities. If the church would agree, let the Christian contributions to church also be through a line item added to the tax forms (there are European governments who facilitate tithe like this, right?) .. If the government cannot get motivated to do charitable work, let the religions do it. But let it be from ALL religions, not just those which get funds from abroad
. But the Indian constitution may not allow the state doing something like that (though it does seem to provide for the state to run temples and steal the money - and place nonbelievers in temple boards like in AP under YSR and Kerala under the communists) ..
The problem with Indians is that we would contribute generously for building a temple (or for that matter a church or a mosque) because we would like to see something tangible, like a building.
Oh boy, do I agree with you! .. Absolutely. As I have done fundraising for so many cultural and religious activities in the US, I know how the Indians behave, and it is no different at all from India. I know that I can raise $10000 from 10 people in the next hour for an ayyappa temple in L.A., while not even 3 of them would not give $250 each to support a leukemia patient in Kochi.
I also find it easier to raise funds for a "Hindu" cultural program, let us say to bring a speaker Vedic mathematics from Kerala, from my Christian friends than from the Hindus. I pick up the phone and call, and I can get a $250 commitment on the spot form a Christian malayali friend who is so much more used to keeping a noticeable portion of their income for such activities. I ask a Hindu friend who earns $150K for a $50 for the same talk and my strike rate would be 1 in 3. I know so many of my Hindu friends with over $200K annual income who have charitable contributions under $500 a year. That is 0.25 percent of their income! ... My Christian friend may not be interested in coming to hear the Vedic math talk - but he would just give me the $250, as he is conditioned better to give. He also knows he can call me later when he has the cancer drive at the Church and get my contribution for that, because I am by now conditioned to give a bit more than I used to earlier. That is a system of "giving" that has evolved in a small group. Easy to do that with a Christian who knows about its importance, than a Hindu, who has no idea about it, has never seen it done, and has never heard a priest or a community leader speaking (without being laughed off the stage) about giving 3% of the income to charity without much calculations! You see, no peer-pressure from anywhere, on a Hindu to give
.. And no conditioning to give
This is all not to say that Hindus do not give at all. There are many who give, and some communities among Hindus are known for giving and are well-conditioned for that -- the Gujaratis are so well-known, and among NRIs, AP doctors are so much known for it.
Man, we have digressed so far from YSR ..