Bhikshatana-Soup for the Soul


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We live in times where begging is a sign of abject poverty or perhaps laziness coupled with lack of self respect. It is generally looked upon as the last resort of an individual who possibly refuses to lead a procreative life.

Yet going on Bhikshatana or a tour of begging was a part of student life and that of the men who belonged to the Brahmana sect of the ancient Indian society. A little trip down our traditional society will reveal that the practice finds its roots in the Varnashrama system that was propounded and followed during Vedic age.

Those were times when people contributed to society in which they lived on the basis of their physical and mental capabilities. The students and Brahmins who expended their time in rites and rituals, research, learning and disseminating knowledge, had little time to take care of the daily logistics of life. Hence, society took it upon itself to sustain such members in their community as and when their help was sought.

Thus, Bhikshatana or seeking of alms came into practice. The seekers of alms would arrive at the doorsteps of their potential donors and call out loudly and humbly for their requirement. The charitable household would take stock of their situation and then the lady of the house would give away one or two items. Usually it would be some food grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts or a length of cloth according to their financial strength.

Rarely though, there were times when the seekers of alms would receive very little or face rejection or derision from the public in general. This experience taught the seekers to accept discourteous or negative response without feeling offended or judgmental. They learned the valuable lesson of humility in the practical way.

Moreover they imbibed the value of curtailing the impulse to save up or hoard for a future time. In other words, Bhikshatana served as soup for the soul to evolve as a mature personality.

Indian culture introduced and included the practice of Bhikshatana variously, with the intent of inducing charitable and humble traits in our society.

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