Having obtained from Mother Earth the food that sustains us, it will be sheer ingratitude if we do not, in return, do some act of charity that will endure after our death. In olden days, people built temples, rest houses or mantapams, or dug tanks or wells. Some people constructed resting stones on which those carrying loads on their heads placed their burden and rested for a while before resuming their journey. Yet others erected rubbing stones on which cattle could rub their itching hide. Public benefactions have now taken the forms of schools, colleges and hospitals. Co-operative banks and stores are institutions where a number of people can work together for the common good. Gujaratis and Marwaris have founded “gosalas” for taking care of dry and decrepit cows. Pasumatams are being maintained in some places in Tamil Nadu for obtaining milk for worship in temples. The usefulness of these cowsheds can be extended by taking in dry cows also.
We regard the cow as the abode of Sri Lakshmi and show to her the reverence due to a mother. Therefore, cow slaughter is regarded as a heinous crime. Some states have passed legislation banning the slaughter of cows. It is significant that Afghanistan, a Muslim country, has passed such legislation. In India, the Hindu-Muslim differences were made an excuse in the past for not bringing forward any such legislation. After the attainment of freedom, the States have been empowered to legislate on the subject. The Madras State has under consideration a Bill to prevent the slaughter of milch cows. The difficulty in making the legislation applicable in respect of all cows seems to be the problem of taking care of decrepit animals. This is a field in which voluntary organizations can function, and if a movement for taking care of dry and decrepit cows was started, it will gain strength. This will also receive the support of other religionists.
Even today there is need for providing wells and tanks and for constructing temples. If every Hindu makes it a point to go to a temple everyday, as he ought to, many more temples will be needed. There are many dilapidated temples which can be renovated. Fortunately, these temples are so strongly built that they have withstood the ravages of time and neglect. The purpose of a temple is to remind us of God. Some may say that belief in God is superstition; but in the very process of denying God, they remember Him. Atheism, in this land, is mostly a political move; even the so-called atheists think of God when they are in difficulties. Not even a single blade of grass can grow without His grace. The food we take should be offered to God first, as a token of our gratitude for his mercy. Such offerings of food are made in temples for the community as a whole. There are even now a few persons in villages who will not touch food until they hear the ringing of the temple bell, which signifies that offerings have been made to God. Real happiness comes from peace of mind which we can secure only through bhakti. Bhakti will remove our ignorance, poverty and worry. One will be inspired with bhakti only if one leads a well-disciplined and regulated life.
While the purpose of education is to make us cultured and disciplined, it is rather paradoxical that there is, among the educated, much more indiscipline and disregard for the way of life that has earned for us, in the past, the reputation of being a highly cultured people, than among the unsophisticated illiterates. During the last few years, indiscipline has developed among students to a degree never before known in the history of this country. While this is to be regretted, we must attend to some basic matters which can change our mental outlook. We must introduce simplicity in dress and each one of us should make it a habit to wash his own clothes. If some pioneers ventured to attend offices in dhoti and upper cloth, the fashion will soon catch on. Pure food contributed to purity of heart. The majority of our people are vegetarians, and that is responsible for making us a peace-loving, contented and tolerant nation. It is these qualities that have won us respect in the eyes of the world. We must simplify our food habits further. The practice of each person cooking his own simple food that prevails among some people in the North is a wholesome one. This will prove highly useful in life and obviate the necessity for indiscriminate eating. A beginning in this direction can be made by each one cooking his food at least once a week. Butter-milk or kanji can be substituted for coffee and tea. Thereby we will avoid incurring debts and also save something, which can be utilized for charitable purposes.
We must develop devotion to God and a disciplined way of life (ozhukkam - ஒழுக்கம்) and render service to the poor and the needy, thereby contributing to the welfare of this country and the world at large.