“Upon observing the brahmana’s rigid vow, Lord Shri Ramachandra ordered His younger brother Lakshmana to deliver a pair of Sita-Rama Deities to the brahmana. The brahmana received the Deities from Shri Lakshmanaji and worshiped Them faithfully as long as he lived.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 9.11, Purport)
1. A house
“We are living in a house built by my forefathers. Several generations ago, the patriarch arrived in this area. They built this house for their family to live in, to be at peace, and to follow pious behavior. The house has remained standing all these years, and we descendants continue to benefit from it.”
2. A trust fund
“That person has so much money that they decided to set up a trust fund. There are several, in fact. The primary fund is for benefitting future generations within the family. For instance, the children don’t have to work, if they don’t want to. There is enough to cover expenses and more.
“There is also a scholarship fund. Students apply every year and a committee decides on the recipients. The award is enough to pay for the entire tuition to a four-year university. Blessed are the winners of that coveted gift.”
3. A well
“You might think it’s crazy to put value in something like this, but in our family’s village the well is everything. It was built long ago. The entire community benefits. They can get drinking water whenever they want. No one has to pay anything. The person who originally had it built ended up doing much good for everyone.”
4. A library
“The new library just opened. The building is outstanding. Modern throughout. All the latest features. There are plenty of books, obviously, but also areas for children to play and patrons to read in quiet. There are so many community programs, that the place is almost like it’s own city within a city. The library was built on the generosity of a single individual, who wanted to give back to the community.”
5. A culture of transcendental living
As a person advances in years, they start planning for the future that does not include them. Time dictates that every person must move on. The exact moment is never known, but there is a general idea based on actuarial tables and documented history.
This is a roundabout way of saying that we won’t remain here forever. We often leave people behind. We have assets which cannot travel with us to the next destination. In the area of estate planning, the central component is deciding to where the assets will go. To whom will they be bequeathed, is the question
With the above mentioned examples, there is always a limitation. If I have a house, only a certain number of people can live in it. If I set up a scholarship fund or something with a broader purpose, there is only a certain amount of money that gets kicked out every year, through the accumulated interest or investment returns.
With a public building or developed project for the community, more people will benefit in total, for a longer timeframe. Still, there are limitations. Buildings can get torn down. The library only holds a certain number of books. Wars cause a transfer of ownership of land, etc.
The best kind of endowment is that which will lead to the liberation of the people benefitting. The recipients of the donations will have a pathway towards true freedom in the sense of escaping the spirit-body combination.
In this regard, the simplest of donations can liberate countless generations. This is not a claim merely in theory. There is substantial supporting evidence. We have sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita and Ramayana. According to the current timeline of history, these Sanskrit works were put to paper thousands of years ago.
They are available to us through what is known as parampara. This is a chain of teachers. The knowledge arrives in something like a waterfall fashion. As long as there is someone to attach to the chain, the succession continues.
We have more recent works, such as those composed five hundred or so years ago, that have the same influence. Compositions that are derivatives of the original Vedic texts are as good as the originals. These works liberate countless souls who are fortunate enough to come in contact with them.
From the history of the avatara known as Shri Rama, we have the passing down of deities. A particular brahmana within the community was always sad whenever Shri Rama, the king, had to leave town on business. To alleviate the pain of separation, Rama personally donated a set of deities to this brahmana.
Worshiping those deities was as good as being with Rama. This is one way to understand the concept of Absolute. There is no difference between God and His land. There is no difference between God and the names used to address Him. And there is no difference between the archa-vigraha, used for the purpose of worship, and the object of worship.
Such deities can be passed down from generation to generation. Transcendental literature continues to have an impact. A person might even accidentally come upon a modern translation of such works, like Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and have their life transformed forever in the positive direction. This makes the transcendental culture of sanatana-dharma the best kind of endowment.
Best endowment to give,
That now eternally can live.
Other gifts certainly appreciating,
But vulnerable to depreciating.
Due to the influence of time,
But sanatana-dharma never declined.
That single gift from years ago,
Still blossoming desire tree to grow.
Categories: the five