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Richard J. Bernstein Introduction ALTHOUGH PRA C TIC ES OF G IV IN G AND PH ILA N TH RO PY HAVE existed in most cultures throughout history, we tend to assume that the religious and philosophic grounds of these practices are more or less similar to those in European and Anglo-American countries. The illumi­ nating articles in this section by Diana L. Eclc and Amy Singer enlarge our cultural horizon of the history, motivation, and practices of giving in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Islamic cultures. We learn about the long history of giving practices and the ways in which giving is both incorpo­ rated into daily life and an expression of the deepest human values of these different traditions. In Islamic cultures the obligation to pay alms (zakat) is grounded in the Qur’an and is understood to be one of God’s commandments. Amy Singer shows how obligatory (zakat) and volun­ tary (sadaqa) charity have been integral to Muslim beliefs and practices since the time of Muhammad. Both forms of giving contribute to the solidarity of the Muslim community. We also learn of another form of voluntary charity, the waqf: the endowment of permanent structures such as mosques, hospitals, fountains that are intended to benefit of the community and perpetuate the memory of the donor. Eck explores gift giving—dana—in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain perspectives, explicating the meaning of giving in traditions that have long valued the renunciation of wealth and the “secret gift” as the most auspicious act of giving. Frequently it is the renouncers of wealth— holy men, ascetics, and monks—who are the primary recipients of religious gifts. These recipients are highly regarded because of the reli­ giosity that they represent. Dana is not premised on the structure of reciprocity; there is a duty to give to a worthy recipient without expect­ ing anything in return. Citing the Bhagavad Gita, Eck shows that a gift is social research Vol. 80 : No. 2 : Summer 2013 339 considered pure if it is given generously at a proper time and place to a worthy recipient who cannot give anything in return. In this moral world it is the donor who frequently feels gratitude toward the recipi­ ent. Eck describes a moral universe in which both the recipient and the donor are renouncers—the recipient has given up material advantages for a minimal life of asceticism and the donors give up their wealth and attachment. The practice of generosity has the purpose to further spiritual development of individuals and the community. Both articles expand our understanding o f the variety of the practices of giving and how they are integral to different moral and religious traditions. 340 social research ...


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