As individuals, we are not isolated units, but are a part of the society we live in. All of us are connected to each other. This is what our Vedas also teach us. “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” i.e. “the whole world is one family” is a fundamental principle of Vedic philosophy.
Society helps us to grow as individuals. So while we take from the society, it’s only right that we also give back. Because its only then will we have a true sense of belonging to the community we live in.
Each one of us therefore has a social responsibility to work for the welfare of people, outside our immediate circle or the community. This is individual social responsibility.
Individual social responsibility is not exclusive to betterment of people; it also means, what we as individuals can contribute towards improving our environment.
Our ancient scriptures have described what charity is and what its benefits are.
In Chapter 17, Shloka 20, the Bhagawad Gita says,
दातव्यमिति यद्दानं दीयतेऽनुपकारिणे |देशे काले च पात्रे च तद्दानं सात्विकं स्मृतम् || 20||
“dātavyam iti yad dānaṁ dīyate ‘nupakāriṇedeśhe kāle cha pātre cha tad dānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smṛitam”
“Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness”.
In Chapter 18, Shloka 5, the Bhagawad Gita says
यज्ञदानतप:कर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् |यज्ञो दानं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम् || 5||
yajña-dāna-tapaḥ-karma na tyājyaṁ kāryam eva tatyajño dānaṁ tapaśh chaiva pāvanāni manīṣhiṇām
“Actions based upon sacrifice, charity, and penance should never be abandoned; they must certainly be performed. Indeed, acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance are purifying even for those who are wise.”
In Chapter 18, Shloka 6, the Bhagawad Gita says
एतान्यपि तु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलानि च |कर्तव्यानीति मे पार्थ निश्चितं मतमुत्तमम् || 6||
etāny api tu karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā phalāni chakartavyānīti me pārtha niśhchitaṁ matam uttamam
“These activities must be performed without attachment and expectation for rewards. This is my definite and supreme verdict, O Arjun.”
The Ramayana also concurs in the following verse:
“pragaṭa chāri pada dharma ke kali mahuṅ ek pradhāna
jena kena bidhi dīnheṅ dāna karai kalyāna [v6]”
“Dharma has four basic tenets, one amongst which is the most important in the age of Kali—give in charity by whatever means possible.”
The Skandh Purāṇ states:
nyāyopārjita vittasya daśhamānśhena dhīmataḥ
kartavyo viniyogaśhcha īśhvaraprityarthameva cha [v7]
“From the wealth you have earned by rightful means, take out one-tenth, and as a matter of duty, give it away in charity. Dedicate your charity for the pleasure of God.”
In Islam, all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth are required to give 2.5% of their total wealth to the needy as ‘Zakat’.
Sikhism also requires Sikhs to donate one-tenth of their earnings as “Daan” towards the common resources of the community.
As doctors, we should devote 10% of our time to charity in the form of free OPDs or camps.
Charity is selfless; therefore any act of charity teaches us “aparigraha” or non-possession or non-attachment; it fosters an attitude of helping others; the joy it brings to us is abundant.
Charity or daan or individual social responsibility is voluntary, but as Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”