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Sunday, May 16, 2010


According to the account of Genesis, given in the Bible, when God created the universe He made man in His own image and likeness and gave him dominion over all His creation. On the dawn of their life, spent in the garden of Eden, both Adam and Eve lived like other creatures of air and earth. They, however, were the only creatures who longed for a better life and craved to improve upon their environment.

As numbers were added to the progeny of Eve, human relationships took their first shape leading ultimately to the evolution of human society. Self-abnegation and magnanimity were at the root of this proliferation of relationships. It is magnanimity that still binds humanity in intimate bonds. What we call the code of moral values is but another name for virtue of magnanimity in man.

As magnanimity could only be demonstrated through speech and actions, the deeds and utterances of human beings provided the framework for social morality. Social morality aims at bettering individual human life and making it useful to others. In fact, in individual life too social considerations play a very important role. In his personal life man is welcome to live nude but it is the social morality which forbids him from doing so because it has deleterious effect on society. Similarly, theft, murder, deception, violence etc. are considered immoral.

The point to notice is that if an individual does not add to the beauty and health of society, his way of life should not detract from it.

The other dimensions of magnanimity are open-mindedness, love, patience, respect for other’s feelings and controlling one’s emotions. Contrariwise, narrow-mindedness, hatred, impatience and lack of consideration for other’s sensibilities are regarded as immoral in our social code. Every phase of human history has condemned such immoral acts.

A narrow-minded person does not look beyond himself and is thus unable to differentiate between social good and social evil. Consequently, he forgets his social responsibilities and concentrates on self alone. Large-heartedness is the sine qua non for moral values. A narrow-minded person can neither be considerate nor affectionate towards others, be they his nearest relations. Narrow-mindedness stands in the way of his appreciating the feelings and problems of others which are very vital for sensible human behaviour.Affection arises when one is able to identify those who are physically or socially weaker than oneself. Lack of affection leads to usurping of other’s right and privileges.

Every religion enjoins upon its followers to be large-hearted. Lives of prophets and religious teachers are illustrations of magnanimity in action. Without the quality of magnanimity Jesus Christ could not have said at the time of his crucifixion “Forgive them O’ Lord, for they know not what they do.” It was large-heartedness that impelled Lord Krishna to rush bare-footed out of his palace to receive and welcome poor Sudama at the gate. Again, it is the same virtue that made Lord Rama prefer fourteen years’ exile in forest to the princely life of Ayodhya’s edifice. Through magnanimity alone he

honour his father’s commitment to his step mother. Many such examples are available in the pages of Indian history which prove that sacrifice for the cause of humanity is possible only on account of large-heartedness.

Emperor Dadhichi donated his bones for the well-being of his subjects. The ever-truthful Harish Chandra, for upholding the truth, renounced his palace and served as a petty tax-collector at a funeral ground. Lord Rama’s ancestor king Raghu prepared to attack Lord Kubera, the God of wealth, for the sake of a beggar. Gautam Buddha did not mind a scuffle with his brother to save the life of a bleeding swan. Emperor Ashoka, even after winning the battle of Kalinga, sent his son and daughter as bhikshus to spread the Buddha’s message of non-violence and co-existence. They are all exemplary characters of Indian history who portray enviable and worth emulating large-heartedness.

The object of every religion is to arouse the inherent goodness in man and to keep him away from evil. Normally, we are very sentimental about religion and out of blind faith develop a sort of craziness. This attitude, bordering on lunacy, develops in the absence of large-heartedness. Fanaticism in man develops in the measure his large-heartedness deserts him.

The basic function of education is also the same as of religion. Our scriptures say, “Saa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye”, education is which that liberates us. Liberates from what? From narrow-mindedness, from selfishness, from self-projection and from self-seeking. Since these vices impel us towards darkness, we pray “Tamaso ma jyotirgamya” lead us from darkness to light, in fact, a journey from mortality to immortality. This expedition is man’s voyage from un-truth to truth. The first condition for the voyager is to be large-hearted. On this journey path to truth if large-heartedness is missing the goal eludes man.

The first lesson in magnanimity one imbibes from his mother. The mother who sacrifices all her own comforts to see her child grow is the finest example of self-abnegation and magnanimity. Every child sucks this virtue along with the mother’s milk but as he grows older, his personal needs and compulsions start weighing so heavy with him that even the mother becomes just a member of his family.

Friendship also has its roots in large-heartedness but this large-heartedness is always limited and conditional. This virtue comes under severe test when friend steals a march over you, money wise or status wise. You may be happy to see him equalize with you but beyond that you may not be able to digest. But father and teacher are two such characters who have much superior standards of their large-heartedness. Their magnanimity stars where that of friend’s ends. If you achieve only what your father had , the old man feels cheated by fate. He sincerely wants you to go much beyond the heights he scaled in his career. The same is true in the case of teacher. If you do not rise up to his expectations of over-reaching him, he curses himself for not motivating you enough. All other elations, including real brother, unconsciously keep their feeling of magnanimity to certain limits.

Sparing something out of your hoards is not magnanimity. Magnanimity is to spare when your means are limited and your own needs are pressing. You are not magnanimous if you donate a thousand rupees out of your surfeit of wealth because by doing so you are buying a sort of sop for your ego. But you have only one piece of bread between you and starvation and out of that piece, your sparing a bit for another hungry person is magnanimity. Similarly, giving alms is no magnanimity. Our scriptures have defined bestowal as “danam samvibhajanam” daan is equitably distributed wealth. Bestowal is not charity; it is a taming of your possessive instincts. Giving alms to see your name included in the list of donors in temples or educational institutions is again no magnanimity because thereby you have camouflaged your desire of getting publicity.

Serving humanity without a selfish motive, making sacrifice for others with no reward in view, sharing other’s sorrows and miseries unmindful of the return and considering all human beings as your neighbours, as Jesus desired, and obeying his injunction “Love thy neighbour as thyself” are true signs of magnanimity.

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