Recently, my daughter and son-in-law performed the naming ceremony (naamakaranam) for my new born grandson. A vedic priest conducted the ceremony per prescribed procedures. My daughter wanted to know what would be a fair payment for the priest’s services and how to determine that. What is the right action, dharma, to be followed? What do the vedas teach in this regard? “How much to give?”. She suggested I share a few thoughts in a blog.
There are several conveniences in the part of the world where I live. One of them is the clarity on the price that I have to pay for a service. Prices are advised up front. Normal understanding and expectation hovers in the 10-20 % range for tips in a restaurant or for a cab ride. But a plumber fixing a problem at my home does not expect, nor is he normally paid, a tip for the services he provides. There is clarity on what I need to do in terms of payment in these commercial transactions.
But the services provided by a priest are not commercial. They are spiritual. They hone my spiritual strength and skills. Commercialism is inapplicable in the spiritual field. In fact, it is outright detrimental to my spiritual progress.
The history of sanatana dharma is replete with vedic pundits being honored sumptuously. Sumptuous enough to support their livelihood in comfort. Plentiful enough to meet all their needs.
A lesson I learned from Shirdi Sai Baba is that compensation for labor must be made promptly and in abundance. [Remuneration of Labor]
Another lesson I learned from the Krishna incarnation is that I must serve the teacher readily with humility, fulfill his desires and please him. [The Divine Students]
The vedic pundit who performs various functions is not just providing his labor. He is also teaching and guiding to ensure the rituals are performed properly with exactitude. He must be honored appropriately.
This “appropriate honoring” coin has two sides.
Sanatana dharmic teaching prohibits asking for money. So the true vedic pundit will not wear a price tag. He will receive whatever honorarium that comes his way as a gift from God. This is one side of the coin.
The other side of the coin is that I’ve to determine this honorarium myself. How do I determine “How much to give?” Fortunately, Siksha Valli, Taitireeya Upanishad tells me what to do.
- Offer the teacher riches and treasures lovingly. Aachaarya priyam dhanam aahrutya
- Give it attentively (to fulfill the needs of the recipient), respectfully, sincerely, generously. Sraddhayaa deyam
- Do not give it inattentively, disrespectfully or insincerely. Asraddhayaa adeyam
- Give what you can afford. Sriyaa deyam
- Give with humility, in humility. Hriyaa deyam
- Give with a sense of fear of contamination from arrogance and ego. Bhiyaa deyam
- Give conscious of achieving lasting benefit and peace all around. Samvidaa deyam
I learn from this teaching that honoring a vedic priest is not a matter for my mind. It is a matter for my heart. I need to do a paradigm shift in my mind, listen to my heart and offer an appropriate honorarium to the vedic pundit. I must do this sincerely, lovingly, generously and fully attentive to his needs. I should stay within my means in doing this. I must not do this in any manner that disrespects him. I must do this in all humility, keeping my ego in check. I must be conscious of achieving an all around peace from my loving action.I must offer this in full gratitude for the beneficial service provided by the priest.
When I approach it this way, answering the question “How much to give?” correctly becomes rather easy actually.
The appropriate honorarium is also called as dakshinaa sometimes. Dakshinaa means a loving and courteous donation.
But today dakshinaa has become more of a thing collected than donated. Pundits and priests stipulate a range of “dakshinaas” for the litany of services they perform. The service receivers part with their money with an attitude of “buying a service”. A spiritual ritual becomes a commercial ritual. Vedic teachings are given a go by.
But, fortunately, I do come across now and then a few vedic pundits strictly adhering to the dharmic teachings. They do not ask a fee for their services. I see people honoring them appropriately and lovingly per the vedic teachings. I feel good when I see this divine vibration in their acts.