Sant Sangama - Multi Religious Confluence On Organ Donation, Bangalore

Monday, December 3, 2012
MOHAN Foundation organizes the first-ever seminar on religion and organ donation in Bengaluru on 4th December 2012

A Jain family in Delhi, a Christian family in the USA, a Muslim family in Saudi Arabia, a Hindu family in Malaysia, a Buddhist family in Sri Lanka - what is it that links them? The answer is these are families who have given others the gift of life through organ and tissue donation. Different faiths, one message - “Help one's fellow man.”

Religion and organ donation have a lot in common - both are subjects that evoke strong emotions in most people and both are subject to a number of myths and misinterpretation. And therefore they impact each other in many ways - both positive and negative. MOHAN Foundation, by organizing the first-ever seminar on religion and organ donation in Bengaluru on 4th December 2012, is attempting to bring these two topics together and create an atmosphere of learning and understanding.

The need for organ donation has never been felt more strongly than it is now. The incidence of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases is causing organ failure in India to reach epidemic proportions. For patients with organ failure, a transplant is the only way that they can get a new lease of life. Every year, there are approximately 210,000 patients who are diagnosed with end stage renal failure. But only about 3500 kidney transplants are done, most of them live transplants. The figures for liver and heart failure are also rising. There are hardly 300 liver transplants that have been done annually over the past few years, again mostly live transplants. The way forward is through deceased organ donation (from brain dead patients). And this has been effectively done in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, there have been 280 deceased organ donors from October 2008 to September 2012. In the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Chennai, which is the largest government hospital in the state, families of 84 brain dead patients consented to donating the organs of their loved ones, over the last three years. In Andhra Pradesh, there have been 137 deceased organ donors from 2002 to 2012.

The counselors while speaking to the families realized that many were unsure about what stand their religion had on organ donation. Some families expressed concern about their loved one not attaining salvation (moksha), about being re-born without certain organs, about their faith not approving of organ donation. The seminar on religion and organ donation seeks to address these issues. The fact is that all the major religions support organ donation.

Here is what different religions and religious leaders have to say about organ donation -

Hinduism

“For that which is born death is certain and for the dead, birth certain.. Therefore grieve not over that which is inevitable.” - Bhagavad Gita

Paropakarartham Idham Shareeram (This human body is meant to serve others) - Upanishads

“You can donate your organs. Nowhere in the scriptures has it been prohibited. Organ donation is not against religion or spirituality.” - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

“To donate one's body or any part of the body is not a sin. It does not mean that they will not attain moksha or find a place in heaven.” - Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamyji

Christianity

Protestants encourage and endorse organ donation. Catholics view organ donation as an act of charity and self-sacrifice.

“There is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures and sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs in a morally acceptable manner.” - Pope John Paul II

Buddhism

“Organ donation is an extremely positive action. As long as it is truly the wish of the dying person, it will not harm in any way the consciousness that is leaving the body. On the contrary, this final act of generosity accumulates good karma.”- Sogyal Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

“We honour those people who donate their bodies and organs to the advancement of medical science and to saving lives.”- Reverend Gyomay, President and Founder of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago

Sikhism

The Sikh philosophy and teachings place great emphasis on the importance of giving and putting others before oneself.

“Where self exists, there is no God. Where God exists, there is no self. The true servants of God are those who serve Him through helping others.” - Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib

Donating one's organ to another so that the person may live is one of the greatest gifts and ultimate seva to human kind and hence Satguru says: “Through selfless service, eternal peace is obtained. The Gurumukhi is absorbed in intuitive peace.” - Guru Granth Sahib

Jainism

The motto of Lord Mahaveer is “Live and let live” which encapsulates the main principle of Jainism. In Jainism there are 32 shastras which give a lot of importance to: Daan (charity), Sheel (character), Tap (fasting), Bhavana (feelings). They have various kind of “Daan” like - Abhay daan (saving a living creature from death), Supaatra daan (charity to Saadhu), Gyan daan (charity of knowledge), Vastra daan (charity of clothes) and Anna daan (charity of food). The best daan among these is considered to be Abhay daan.

Islam

“Whosoever saves the life of one person, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” - Holy Qur'an

Highest Council of Scholars, Riyadh

“Organs from the deceased can be transplanted to a patient, where the life of the recipient depends on the transplant, or if the continuation of the basic bodily functions of the recipient depends on the transplant. This is however, dependent on the deceased's consent, or that of his next-of-kin after his death, or by the decision of the leaders of the Muslim community,should the deceased be unidentified, or does not have any next-of-kin.”

This link between religion and organ donation needs to percolate into the public consciousness, only then will donating one's organs become a way of life…