Giving provides you permanent happiness: Ajay Piramal

The Piramal Group chairman on his motivation to give


In fact, 40% of the people cannot access basic healthcare facilities in India, with living conditions of some of them being deplorable with no potable water and sanitation facilities. Photo: Manpreet Romana
In fact, 40% of the people cannot access basic healthcare facilities in India, with living conditions of some of them being deplorable with no potable water and sanitation facilities. Photo: Manpreet Romana

On what drives him

There are several reasons why we should give. Every scripture or religion you read or follow has stated the importance of giving back or giving. In chapter 3, verse 12 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says celestial controllers, being nourished and pleased by selfless service, will give you all desired objects. Also, one who enjoys the gift from celestial controllers without sharing with others is, indeed, a thief. According to the Gita, there is a twofold path of spiritual discipline—the path of self-knowledge and the path of unselfish work for others. The Bhagavad Gita clearly says that you have to give back.

In Christianity, in its teaching piece from Jesus in the New Testament, Sermon on the Mount, says “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Or take the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, his prayer, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, where he says, “To be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love and for it is in giving that we receive.”

Or you look at Islam, Muslims are mandated to give some part of their wealth, which is the concept of sadaqah or saddka. This concept is giving back out of compassion, love, friendship and generosity with all truth. All religions highlight the importance of giving.

On why you should give

In the last two decades, globally as also in India, a lot of wealth has been created, but almost all of it has gone to the wealthiest people. But I don’t see that the giving has increased in the same proportion. It is important to share the wealth with the not-so-privileged. We take many things such as education, healthcare and sanitation facilities for granted. However, there are millions without the same level of access. In fact, 40% of the people cannot access basic healthcare facilities in India. Living conditions of some are deplorable with no potable water and sanitation facilities. So we need to do more than what we are doing today.

On what do you derive out of giving

I believe giving provides you true happiness. Happiness that is derived out of owning a smartphone or a new car, or any object for that matter is short term and short-lived. It can change after seeing a better phone or a bigger car, etc. This is not a true form of happiness. But giving is one such thing that will grant you happiness from within, which is true and permanent. So, there is a selfish motive behind giving back as it gives me true happiness.

On karmic connection

I believe that the karma (or acts) you perform today have a consequence in the future, either in your current life or the next birth. Therefore, by giving back, you are securing your future by doing righteous things in the present life. Also, when you start giving, you set a good example for your next generation. So you make them better human beings; every person wants that his next generation is a good individual and a good human being, a better human being.

On what you give

The most joy really is where you not only give in terms of your money, but also in terms of your time as well. It is the involvement which gives me satisfaction. I spend 10% of my time in giving. Ideally I would want to increase this both in terms of money and time.

On the modes of giving

Giving can be in different ways. There are different modes of giving.

First, there is a tamas (ignorant) way of giving. The tamasic way of giving is without any real thought or consideration about the consequence of your actions. For example, giving money to someone who may use it for drugs or anything that is harmful. This mode of giving is the wrong way.

Second, there is a rajas (motion) way of giving. This is more about your own ego, you want credit for giving and there is a need to be acknowledged or thanked for your actions. Then there is the third way, which is satwik (pure). This is form-giving because you like the cause, and there is no wish for any personal recognition or gain. It is not necessary that your name is associated, it is a pure way. But then there is a fourth way, which is the divine way of giving. In this, you think that you are just a trustee or an instrument in sharing the wealth of God. The giver, despite having the wealth, thinks that he is not the owner of the wealth, but the trustee of the wealth. This is the highest form of giving.

On comparison of giving

I don’t want to compare the Indian way of giving or the Western way of giving. Each one has its own way. The important thing is giving.

On institutionalization of giving

There are two options of giving: either create your own organization or give to other organizations which are run by good people. So it’s really the team of people behind the organization that makes the difference.

We have been fortunate to create a robust organization of people who are experts in their respective fields. We explore the ways and means of giving and ensuring the sustainability of giving.

We, as an organization, either give through our foundation or through other institutions such as Pratham (a non-governmental organization, or NGO, working towards the provision of quality education to underprivileged children) and Annamrita (an NGO of Iskcon Food Relief Foundation providing children with the right nutrition to support their education).

On his focus

We focus on causes which we are passionate about and where a need exists. We focus on sectors such as education, healthcare, youth development, youth empowerment, environmental issues and encouraging Indian culture.

On treating a successful enterprise as giving back

Creating a successful organization or an enterprise is indeed a good thing as well, but you are getting several benefits out of it. This cannot be treated as giving. We can give more because we have accumulated more.

As told to P.R. Sanjai

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