Indian Transplant Newsletter Vol. VII Issue NO.: 22/23 (Feb-Jun 2006)
Print ISSN 0972 - 1568

Hinduism and Organ Donation

Indian Transplant Newsletter.
Vol. VII Issue NO.: 22/23 (Feb-Jun 2006)
Print ISSN 0972 - 1568
Print PDF

Om Gam Ganapataye Namah

(I surrender myself to you, lord of the hosts)

Lord Ganesha is a much loved deity of the Hindus , since he is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity. His blessings are invoked when a new venture is started – be it a new home or a new business. The elephant – headed god , in a manner of speaking , representing a new life. Today intensive research in xenotransplantation (inter – species transplantation) is underway the world over – myth has become a reality.

Hindu legends have numerous examples of organ donation and transplantation , so this concept is actually embedded deep in the Hindu psyche. Kannapa , a tribal hunter , was a devoted follower of Lord Shiva. Once a priest at a temple objected to his offering meat to a Siva Linga(symbol of lord siva). Lord Siva wanted to test the extent of Kannapa’s devotion and so he made blood pour out from the right eye the Linga. Kannapa tried to treat it with herbs but failed. So he gouged out his right eye and used it to cover the bleeding wound. Then the left eye of the Linga began to bleed. Kannapa was about to goug out his left eye when he was stopped by Lord Siva. This was the ultimate act of devotion through donation of a part of oneself.

In another story , Rishi Dadhichi gave up his life so that his bones could be used to fashion Varja , the thunderbolt weapon , for Indra , King of the gods. The varja was used by the devas(gods) in their fight against the demons. Rishi Dadhichi is believed to have said , “It is better that my bones help you attain victory , rather than rot in the ground”. Yet another popular story is about King Shibi who was willing to sacrifice himself in order to save the live of a apidgeon who had sought his protection. The story goes that the gods wanted to test the compassionate and righteous nature of Shibi , and so they assumed the form of a pidgeon and a hawk. The pidgeon begs for Shibi’s protection , but the hawk says that Shibi is depriving it of its rightful prey. Shibi then offers himself to the hawk instead of the pidgeon , even though it means sacrificing his very life. Hindu scriptures supports the concept of compassion(Karuna) and selfless giving(daan). In the list of the ten Niyamas(virtuous acts) Daan comes thied.


In the chapter XII of the Bhagavad Gita , the way of Devotion , Lord Krishna talks about the qualities of a true devotee.

“Non – envious , friendly and compassionate towards all beings , free from idea of possession and ego – consciousness, sympathetic in pain and pleasure, forgiving, always contented, contemplative, self – controlled, of firm conviction with his mind and intellect dedicated to Me – such a devotee of Mine is dear to me”


Hindusim is based on the concept of Dharma (righteous living). It believes in Karma and rebirth – that the sum of a person’s action in the present  states of existence affects their future fate. Hindus believe that the soul is eternal and imperishable whereas the body is perishable. The Bhagvad Gita describes the relationship between the soul and the body very simply -


“A a person puts on new garments giving up the old ones the souls similarly accepts new materials bodies giving up the old useless ones.”


So one should try and alleviate the sufferings of a fellow human being since compassion (karuna) and love/maitreyi) are the hallmarks of Hinduism.


Scientific treatises from ancient India, like the Sushruta samhita, have described surgical techniques and transplantation. The author, Sushruta (6th century BC) was a great surgeon and a teacher of repute. In the Sushruta Samhita he describes numerous surgical operations, including those for obstructions in the intestines, removing ureter or bladder stones and for the removal of cataract of the eye. He also described a variety of surgical instruments. But, most importantly, his was the first reasonable account of skin transplantation and plastic surgery. He used autografted skin in nose reconstruction (rhinoplasty).


Hindusim s the third largest religion in the world with approximately one billion followers. It is considered to be the oldest living religious tradition in the world and its essence is embodied in the prayer -


“Sarve bahavantu sukhina

sarve santu niramayah

Sarve bhadrani  pasyantu

ma kascit dukha bhagabhavet

Aum shantih, shantih shantih “


Let all living beings be happy and without disease

Let us all realise the truth, let no one suffer from misery.

Peace, peace, Peace.


To cite : Shroff S, Navin S. Hinduism and Organ Donation. Indian Transplant Newsletter Vol. VII Issue NO.: 22/23 (Feb-Jun 2006).
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