Prosocial behaviour and Daanam – Is it similar?

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Research on Prosocial behaviour steer to multiple social motives: altruism, collectivism (group welfare), principlism (a moral principle) and egoism and confirms that we are more social with untapped potential for social change. That we as humans (at times) are caring for people and issues other than ourselves.

Our Indian tradition espouses the value of Daanam (giving) but though somewhat similar to social psychology ‘prosocial behaviour’ (an antonym to antisocial) there are some striking differences and it offers us a widened perspective on acts of charity and benevolence.

There are similar notions in Indian thought: for example, Sikhism advocate daswandh , Islam’s zakat (compulsory arms tax) , and Judaism, tzedakah. Christianity extolling Charity (the Good Samartian) as also Confucianism, Jainism and Buddhism.

That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness. – Bhagwad Gita

Daanam is an act relinquishing (of all sense organ) the ownership (the attachment to one’s own), and investing this in a recipient, at the right time, without expecting any return. The essential difference with prosocial is that of ‘giving versus giving up’. While prosocial behaviour and philanthropic acts are driven by a blend of altruistic and self-interested motivations, the Indian notion explores deeply the underlying ‘motives’ and calls for selflessness. Reciprocity is not significant in Daan.

Daanam requires giving with Shraddha (reverence and respect) and also to one who has Shraddha and is deserving. The concept of Daanam includes physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual services (Seva) and is always discretionary.

In Indic tradition, Daanam is an essential quality in following the path of a karma yogi both in daily behaviour as also moral conduct. The subject is so important that it prescribes who should make Daanam, who should be the receiver and his deservingness (paatrataa), the context for giving and consequences, many of which could be outside the control of the agent (nimitta). In this, there is a leaning towards the situational rather than a disposition.

In one taxonomy Daanam has the following constituents: two ‘bases’, six ‘domains’, six ‘limbs’, six ‘consequences’, four ‘kinds’, three ‘types’, and three ‘destructions’. Each is elaborated in precise shlokas. Daanam is linked to the trigunas, and its’ motivation as also Kaal (time) and Desh (region). In Daanam humility, prayerfulness, thankfulness, equality, impartiality, compassion must be inherent. Our ancient texts distinguish Daan that is given in faith, without faith, Daan given with a sense of shame and guilt or fear.

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