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Guidelines for helping the needy

CHENNAI, JUNE 28. Innumerable moral codes are interspersed in our scriptural texts. Apart from these spiritual instructions, these holy books also contain glorious traditions which are being upheld by great spiritual leaders. Even today, they can be followed and one among them is the charitable disposition of some outstanding personalities. When the needy approached such men, they tried their best to alleviate their suffering and give them what they required. But in extending such help they were governed by three important guidelines. The Tamil version of the Mahabharata spells them out in the context of the strange assistance that was sought by an old man from Krishna and Arjuna when they were taking a stroll in a forest.

The gift that is extended should be exceptionally rare one, even if it involved a personal loss. An example of such an extreme sacrifice was that of King Adhiyaman. He was due to partake a fruit that appeared once in 12 years. If eaten, it would ensure longevity, fame and strength. When such a berry was ready, the distinguished poetess, Avvaiyar, visited him. Without any hesitation, he offered it to her as he thought if she lived longer, her contribution to Tamil literature would be much more outstanding. Avvaiyar praised his magnanimous gesture. Adhiyaman's name is still fresh in our minds. The second ideal is that the article so spared cannot be separated from him and still he should donate it. Lord Siva once tested a devotee asking for a very strange ``gift''. Even though such a request involved unimaginable sacrifice, he did not mind. (He was Iyarpagai Nayanar). The third factor is that the article required by the seeker and handed over to him should have earned him laurels and so must be very precious. Karna unhesitatingly donated the fruits of all his good deeds even as he was about to perish in the battlefield.

In his lecture, Sri K. P. Arivanandam said, Krishna and Arjuna agreed to satisfy the ``hunger'' of the old man who was none else than the God of Fire (Agni) and who wanted the ``Khandava'' forest to be set on fire. The chief of the celestials would not allow this and so he caused a downpour by which the flames would not rise. The Lord and His disciple obtained a rare bow, ``Gandiva'', and a chariot with four horses and achieved victory. ``Agni'' thanked them. Another noble tradition relates to the growth of a child depending on the attitude of its mother. When it is in her womb she should be kept happy and amidst comforts. Prahlada was able to gain spiritual wisdom and display devotion even as a child as he listened to the narration of scriptural episodes while in his mother's womb.

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