Essay #1. Giving is getting.
(Examiner will pay special attention to the candidate's grasp of his/her material, its relevance to the subject chosen, and to his/ her ability to think constructively and to present his/her ideas concisely, logically and effectively).
Question #1. Giving is getting.
Think about the feeling you get right before you give a gift to someone that you know they will like. There’s no other feeling like when that person accepts the gift and smiles. The act of giving is the act of receiving, and the act of receiving is the act of giving. So today, think of someone in your life you can impart with a gift. It can be in the form of a compliment, a prayer; you can be the person who listens to them or makes them laugh. You will find that by transferring this gift to them, you are on the receiving end as well.
Ask yourself this question? Is it easier for me to give or receive? For many of us, it is much easier to give. We may have grown up being told that it is better to give than to receive. We have been told that being generous is noble and receiving and accepting praise is prideful. When someone gives you a compliment and we are able to actually receive it with grace and gratitude, it gives them a gift back. We are energetically telling them that they matter. That what they say matters. That we are truly receiving the essence of their communication. The energetic cycle remains unbroken and expands. When we receive, we are giving and when we are giving, and they receive it, we are getting something back. Giving and receiving is the same energy.
Let’s understand the importance of giving through some of the issues where it matters the most. The World Bank sets the standard for extreme poverty at $1.90 a day, according to recent data. Currently, 702 million people, or 9.6 percent of the global population, fall into this category, struggling to survive on that amount or frequently less. While sustainable development is critical to the elimination of extreme poverty, individual giving plays a crucial role in combating extreme poverty. For example, malaria is the single biggest drag on the African economy. Funding anti-malaria bed nets has played a significant role in reducing the incidence of malaria and childhood mortality. Further, helping to fund medications to fight diseases can mean a child is able to stay in school, or that a parent is able to continue to work to support their family. Donating can help provide the resources that are essential for a better standard of living. Extreme poverty is a result of many factors — historical, as well as current economic, political and social causes. But the fact is that helping people now not only reduces unnecessary suffering and saves lives, but helps create the conditions that favour eliminating both extreme poverty and many of the factors that maintain it.
When we give, we are more likely to get back: Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when we give to others, our generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.” What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
Let’s explore the essence of giving in the context of our society. Why give back to society? Giving back or donating to the causes that you care benefits not only the charity but also benefits you. There are too many advantages of giving back that you can even realize. Giving back will make you feel deeply rewarding at heart. Millions of people have a habit of constantly giving to the society to support causes that they believe in.
For example if we help others in need it gives an immense level of satisfaction. There will never be a perfect time to give back as we are not living in a perfect world. But there are always a few people who need help in tough situations. Irrespective of the economy being in doldrums and the interests rates rising, it is human to donate to people that need money. Our financial difficulties only last a while, but their last for a lifetime. It helps in strengthening of personal values.
Giving has a boomerang effect. Love comes for love. Give respect and dignity you get back the same. When you support people in crisis, you are never let alone by them when you are in a crisis. Giving is really getting in this sense. Should we match our giving exactly with what we expect to get? Yes and no. A student or an athlete has to give more efforts for higher and better performance. But there are times when our capacity of giving does not match or reflect the extent of our feeling. Think of Krishna-Sudama or the gift of Magi. The feeling and idea behind giving is what matters more, the capacity cannot constraint the beauty and positivity of giving. Think of Ram-Shanti episode or squirrels contributing small pebbles in Ram’s effort to make a bridge to Lanka to bring Sita back.
Giving makes a family better. Look at your mother. Look at your teacher. Look at your doctor. Look at house maids, sweepers, cobblers, car and rickshaw pullers, all of them give more than what they get, but they make the world not only going, but better than what it is. Giving makes a society better. Look at Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teressa and Nelson Mandela. Look at scientists and inventors, they all made the world better and more loveable. Giving is the noblest act of all indeed.
Conclusively, we may be disappointed at times that we do not get back as much we give; nevertheless, it should not always restraint us in giving. We should give only to the neediest, but this does not stop us from giving diamond to our beloved. It is a matter of priority and that determines the deservedness of giving. Some thought also needs to be given on deservedness of the recipient. All scruple should be used, but giving cannot always be done to get back individually some reciprocal benefits. There may be larger benefits of giving for the sake of society, goodness and humanity.
Do good get good. Do bad get bad. When we hurt others, others also hurt us. When we leave people helpless at the time of need, they also leave us when we need them most. When we do not care and become extremely self-Centre, we lose friends and often create more enemies. Good karmas and good dharmas help, bad ones wreck us.
Question #2. A meaningful life can be summarized in three words; Work, Prayer and Love.
The first and the foremost question arises here is, what do we mean by a meaningful life? The answer to this question varies from different streams of studies, believes, individual and philosophies. People tend to associate the meaning of life with the accomplishments of career or fulfillments of personal life desires. If we look with this perspective then we tend to lose the ground for those who are unable to achieve their dreams and would render their lives as worthless or as meaningless.
According to some, a meaningful life is a construct which has purpose, significance, fulfillment, and satisfaction of life. According to a general perception those who possess a sense of meaning are generally found to be happier, to have lower levels of negative emotions. Theories around the meaningfulness of life encompass the sense of purpose, efficacy, value and sense of positive self-worth.
Some people remain dissatisfied with the purpose or meaning of life and say their life as meaningless. But philosopher such as Iddo Landau says that all of us have everything we need for a meaningful existence. He says that we overtly focus on what we could not achieve rather than thinking about what does matter. People actually fail to understand what meaning is. A meaningful life is one in which there is a sufficient number of aspects of sufficient value, and a meaningless life is one in which there is not a sufficient number of aspects of sufficient value.
Basically, we feel purposeless because we are not as accomplished in our profession as we dreamt of being. We could theoretically derive meaning from other things, like relationships, volunteer work, travel, reading, writing, caring and sharing, or creative activities. There’s a clear difference between feeling happiness and feeling meaningfulness in your life. And the difference is important, because they each produce different results long-term. So what is the difference? A happy life is about seeking pleasure and enjoyment, avoiding discomfort, and doing what’s best for you as often as possible, whereas a meaningful life is about connecting with and helping others, and contributing to something beyond yourself—such as family, nature, or your work.
The meaningfulness in our work can improve our performance, commitment, and job satisfaction, and that employees find meaningful work more important than salary, working conditions, or opportunities for promotion. Finding meaning in our work, however, is “intensely personal and individual.” There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to meaningful work. Meaningful work arises when an individual perceives an authentic connection between work and a broader transcendent life purpose beyond the self. Often, we find our work meaningful in relation to significant family members, bridging the gap between work and our personal lives. Meaningfulness is also associated often with a sense of pride and achievement, a feeling of fulfilling one’s potential, and finding one’s work creative, absorbing, and interesting. Even for those of us lucky enough to find all these aspects in our work, we don’t tend to feel meaningfulness as a consistent feeling. It’s more likely to be episodic, arising out of particularly challenging situations in which our skills and experience enable us to help others.
Lets move to other sources of a meaningful life i.e., Prayer. We praise our God and Creator, for the wonderful plans for our lives. When we are tempted to compare, and become dissatisfied with our status in this life, may we seek God first before wallowing in what we wish to achieve and accomplish in this world. As we search for a more meaningful life, let us seek more of Almighty: Thank you for the breath in our lungs that woke us this day, and the purpose you have for it. This is the day you have made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it. Open our eyes to see each other and the world through your perspective, Lord, not ours. Protect our minds and guard our hearts against the battlefield of comparison. The key to a more meaningful life is to filter all of it through you. Every day we wake carries a specific purpose, every life is crafted with care by you, our Creator. When it doesn’t “feel” that way as we walk out the days of our lives on this earth, we know you will be faithful to remind us if only our ears will hear and eyes choose to see. Prayer helps is many ways –
Let’s move on the aspects of love and relationship which make us more contented and satisfied. Many of us are so caught up in our own lives, so rushed and preoccupied, that we acknowledge the people we are interacting with only instrumentally. We fail to see them as individuals.
If you ask people what their most significant sources of meaning in life are, they, perhaps unsurprisingly, list their close relationships. One of the pillars of a meaningful life is a sense of belonging—which you can cultivate with your partner, children, and closest friends, of course—but also with your newspaper vendor, local chaiwallah, and even a stranger on the street. These micro-connections are sources of meaning we can all tap into to lead deeper and richer lives. When people feel like they belong, according to psychologists Mark Leary and Roy Baumeister, it’s because two conditions have been satisfied. First, they are in relationships with others based on mutual care: each person feels valued by the other. When other people think you matter and treat you like you matter, you believe you matter too. Second, they have frequent pleasant interactions with other people. Those moments can be joyful and fun, like when a parent and child play, or more emotionally neutral, like when a content couple holds hands while watching television together. But the key is that they happen on a regular basis and are not negative. Belonging isn’t a fixed trait of relationships; we can each build belonging with another person by doing certain things. One excellent way is to make sure we’re responding to one another’s bids. In relationships, people are constantly making bids for affection and love.
It is perceived of having interlinked between, a happy life and a meaningful life. However, happiness may be distinguished as relating more to biological needs and desires, such as the absence of pain or unpleasant experiences, while meaning is more cultural and abstract, relating to overall life satisfaction. According to a research, living a meaningful life is one of the several enduring pathways to happiness. Feeling more connected to others improved both happiness and meaning. A meaningful life is generally associated with positive functioning, life satisfaction, enjoyment of work, happiness, general positive affects, hope and in general a higher level of well-being.
Where there is love there is life. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. This subservience to put oneself in the service of others could be a meaningful action for some but for an exploiter it could not be a purpose or meaning of life. But what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, etc. are some of the people who devoted their lives for the purpose of finding the meaning of life in serving the others. Forest or trees might not have animal attributes but we cannot say that they are meaningless or purpose less. In-spite of being a stagnant part of nature, they also carry a meaning of protecting the Mother Nature from all the ills.
To be what we are and derive the maximum satisfaction from what we have, to serve the humanity, to find solace and peace, to care and share, to protect environment and every creature, to support each other in bringing up, all of these can give a meaning to life. It cannot be restricted in the definition of work, love and prayers only. The meaning of life might vary according to individuals.
Note: You have to write your answers on an A4 size sheet leaving margins on both sides based on UPSC pattern. Mention Your Name on 1st page and Page Number on each page. After writing the answer, Click pictures of each page of the answer sheet and upload them altogether (in JPG/JPEG/PNG format) in the comment section of the same question.