Sagun Nirgun

23: Charity

In the Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita, the Lord imposes the importance of ‘Charity’. ‘Charity’ is the voluntary giving of food, clothing, education, medicines, etc. to those in need. Items offered to others without any expectations is true ‘Charity.’

‘Charity’ can be Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic but only ‘Sattvic charity’ is recommended in the Shastras. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya is the founder of the Banaras Hindu University. The land on which this university stands was a kind donation from the then King of Kashi, Narayan Singh. The king said, “Whatever area you cover by walking all day is yours.” Pandit Malviya received thousands of acres of land. This is an excellent example of ‘Sattvic charity.’

Each one of us should give to charity within our capacity. Food, water, and clothing are essential for survival and hence the scriptures strongly recommend this form of ‘charity’. In the Mahabharata Ashvamedha Parva, in a dialogue between Dharmadeva and King Yudhishthira, Dharmadev advises the king, “O king! In a small village near Kurukshetra, a poor family donated all the food they had to those in need. They went hungry but were content for they had satiated the hungry. The entire family received the Lord’s blessings. Listen to this. I also accepted a few morsels of food that the family donated, and there was a transformation within me. However, I did not have such an experience here. The truth is that the poor family’s ‘charity’ is far superior to the donations you made in your Ashwamedha yagna.” The take home message here is that ‘charity’ is successful when it is given to the people in need.

The Padma Purana states, “Give and so shall you receive.” Unless we invest our income, we will not receive an interest. Similarly, only when we give with an open heart, shall we experience true happiness. Sant Tukaram aptly states in his abhanga – “this world thrives on give and take.”


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