ORGAN, EYE & TISSUE DONATION FROM A HINDU PERSPECTIVE:
DONATION, AS AN ACT OF
CHARITY, IS A WAY OF LIFE
By UMA V. MYSOREKAR, MD, FACOG
President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America
This article first appeared in the New York Organ Donor Network publication,
On the Beat, in the fall of 2007.
How does Hinduism view organ, eye and tissue donation? The most direct answer is that
we are never prohibited from any form of charity, including the donation of one’s body.
The idea of compassion and charity form the two main tenets of Hinduism and therefore
a Hindu should do whatever possible to eradicate the sorrow of others.
Hinduism is a way of life with a strong belief in life after death and the laws of Karma,
good and bad actions. The soul, unlike the body, is eternal. Hinduism is also called
Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion: We are obliged to live a life of Dharma or
virtuous living. Any form of charity is a part of Hinduism. As it states in the nine beliefs
that dictate our way of life, all life is sacred, to be loved and revered.
In this context, the concept of organ donation is not entirely new. Since time immemorial,
the verses of the Vedas from our sages have reinforced the concept of donating our
bodies. If a sage was passing by, he would have thought, “I have two legs … this person
doesn’t have any legs … let me give him one mine.” It was that simple.
A well-established story tells us about Emperor Chaivy who did not mind giving
anything that he possessed including any part of his body. In the 21st century, we call this
modification a “transplant.” Thousands of years ago, they called it charity.
A minority of Hindus are concerned that donation can affect Karma. In my opinion, God
knows whatever Karma we have done. For our part, the goal after death is that the soul
must merge with the Lord Supreme. This is the ultimate peace and enlightenment.
Another perceived obstacle may be that cremation must be carried out fairly soon after
death. In these cases, opposition to donation is not so much to do with the Karmic aspect;
it is only because there is not much time for families to think when death is unexpected.
This is why Hindus must be educated about donation in advance.
The Hindu religion says one should not feel sorrow at the time of death. Death is a part of
the living because the soul never dies. Life and death are equal. We should therefore
make our lives useful. Since one of the main tenets is charity for any human life, we can
make the best of it even after death. If Hinduism is a way of life, we can give a portion of
ourselves to others. When we give charity by way of our bodies, it is an act that serves
not the individual, but humanity at large.
The Hindu Temple Society of North America is located in Flushing, NY. Dr. Mysorekar,
who is also an obstetrician and gynecologist, is the only Hindu leader invited by
Presidents Clinton and Bush to participate in meetings aimed at promoting religious
tolerance and diversity.