THE ESSENCE OF THE 3D’S -Daan, Daam, Daya


Hindu Scriptures stress on values that are universal and can be cultivated by all. The virtues of Dama- Self Restraint, Dana- Charity or giving and Daya- Compassion can be practiced by all easily. Read on to understand the essence of the 3D’s as they are collectively called in this article.

 Sanathan Dharma has always stressed on the cardinal virtues of compassion, charity and self restraint. The values espoused by this religion are universal and is not limited to people of any one age or time. One need not be a Bharathiya or for that matter a Hindu to appreciate the message of the Scriptures. This is perhaps why the great poet T.S. Eliot dedicated an entire section ‘What the Thunder said’ in his magnum opus The Waste Land to an instruction that appeals to humanity.

Then spoke the thunder
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed

Here the poet alludes to the wonderful episode in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Three kinds of beings – devas, manushyas and asuras- that is the divine beings, men and the demons lived under the tutelage of their father and Creator Prajapati. At the end of their period of study, each class wanted a specific instruction from their preceptor to which Prajapati uttered the syllable DA. Each took it to mean a different virtue based on their understanding and experience. The devas said they had to observe self restraint and exercise control to which Prajapati the Wise One said “so be it”. It was the turn of the mortal men and they took it to mean Give, Give in Charity wholeheartedly. The Wise One again nodded in approval. Now it was the turn of the demons, they took the syllable DA to represent Compassion or daya. Thus the enigmatic sound DA took on diverse meanings to different classes of beings and all were right in their own way.

This allegory could in fact represent the different natures within each one of us the Sathwic, the Rajasic and the Tamasic each represented by the Devas, the Manavas and the Asuras respectively. Viewed in this light the message is very powerful as these three virtues have to be cultivated by us gradually throughout our lives. After all, life is an interplay of emotions and we need to observe control over our indulgences and senses whenever such excesses are seen. Sense control is a personal discipline and our religion stresses on Yama – Ethical Discipline which includes Ahimsa (Non-violence), Satya ( Truthfulness), Brahmacharya (Control of the senses and celibacy) Asteya( Non-stealing) Aparigraha (Non-covetousness)and Niyama – Personal Discipline that includes Saucha (Purity, cleanliness), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas (Austerity), Swadhyaya (Self-study, study of scriptures) Ishwara Pranidhana (Surrender to God’s will).

Similarly Charity is a virtue that man has to remember at all times and the act of giving is not aimed at the beneficiary but is in fact a step towards progress for man himself. This message is all the more relevant in this age of crass materialism and the I-ME-MINE culture that has seeped into our lives. The rainbow fish by Marcus Pfister is a beautiful story that brings out the virtue of Giving.

The Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the ocean. His shining scales sparkle and shimmer. The other fish ask him to play with them, but all he wants to do is show off his beauty. One day a little fish asks Rainbow Fish to share one of his scales with him, but Rainbow Fish refuses. His selfishness and greed leave him friendless and sad. A wise octopus advises the lonely fish to give away his beauty, which he reluctantly decides to do. With each scale that Rainbow Fish gives away, he grows happier and happier. The Rainbow Fish learns the importance of sharing and reaps the joy from giving. The giver becomes joyful and happy. A very poignant message indeed.

The message sent out to the demonic beings was to show Compassion- another virtue sorely lacking in the world today. Compassion is born out of a heart filled with love and mercy. As the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare puts it

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the heart of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

Today we find people in various spheres perform their tasks without this vital quality of compassion. Imagine a doctor, a teacher, a parent or for that matter just about anyone in the world go about their tasks devoid of compassion. Not everything can be related to commerce and gain.

This particular episode in the Upanishads is thus a powerful message to humanity to cultivate, cherish and nurture these wonderful virtues of Daya, dama and dana. When Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbalakshmi, the Queen of Bhakthi Music was invited to perform at the United Nations on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, she concluded the performance with an Ode to Friendship Maithreem Bhajatha. This prayer was specially written for the occasion by the Saint of Kanchi, Paramacharya Chandrasekharendra Saraswati and dealt with universal brotherhood and peace as enshrined by Sanathana Dharma. The sage brings out the same message that we have seen above when he says

Maithreem Bhajatha , Akhila Hruth Jethreem,

Atmavat eva paraan api pashyatha

Yuddham thyajatha , Spardhaam Tyajata ,

thyajatha Pareshwa akrama aakramanam

Jananee Prthivee Kaamadughaastey

JanakO Deva: Sakala Dayaalu

Daamyata Datta Dayathvam Janathaa

Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam

Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam

Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam

 Translated into English

With friendship please serve,

And conquer all the hearts,

Please think that others are like you,

Please forsake war for ever,

Please forsake competition for ever,

Please forsake force to get,

Someone else’s property,

For mother earth yields all our desires,

And God our father is most merciful,

Restrain, donate and be kind,

To all the people of this world

Let all the people, live with bliss,

Let all the people live with bliss,

Let all the people live with bliss.

 “Live and let live”