Charity comes from one's sense of abundance! ~ Swami Chinmayananda
[Excerpts from commentaries, articles and letters by Swami Chinmayananda]
Q: What is Charity?
A: CHARITY is an attempt wherein I try to expand and bring into the ambit of my life all others around me, and grow to consider the other man’s needs and requirements to be as important as my personal needs. Charity must come from within as an expression of an irrepressible urge of one’s own heart. True charity springs from a sense of oneness between the giver and the recipient. To live seeking an identity thus, with at least those who are immediately around me, is to live away from the suffocating selfishness and the throttling grip of my body-consciousness.
Charity is the capacity to restrain one’s instinct of acquisition and aggrandisement and to replace them with the spirit of sacrifice. It is mainly employed in sharing the objects of the world that one possesses. Charity develops in one the capacity to detach oneself from the wealth that one possesses and share it with others who are poorer.
Charity must come from one’s sense of abundance. It should not be born of ostentation and superiority complex; it should be the outcome of fellow feeling and humility. Charity must be given with modesty to avoid feelings of egoism and vanity. Charity constricts the hearts and obstructs human growth if it is not honeyed with the spirit of love and the joy of identification.
It is not charity to make the needy feel small and humiliated. It must be given with sympathy because sympathy generates love in us. Unless this love element comes to predominate in us, compelling us to seek an identity with the cause, we will not be spiritually evolving along the path of charity. Charity blesses the giver with an inner abundance far outweighing what was given. He who feels impoverished by his giving has not done charity. To give without sympathy is to build a temple without the idol and is as futile as to paint a picture with black ink on a blackboard!
Q: What constitutes the correct type of Charity, and what is not regarded as Charity?
A: The right type of charity expects the benefactor to make no discrimination against the recipients of his charity. That gift given to someone because of one’s conviction that “it is an act that is to be done” is the correct type of “charity.” To aid a man in self-help is the right kind of charity.
Charity made with the RIGHT faith, to the RIGHT person, at the RIGHT time and place is SATTWIC. That which is given in charity with the hope of receiving in return some benefit, be it in any form, perhaps in a different time-place system, is RAJASIC. Gifts made at an improper time, in the wrong place, to an unworthy person, without respect, or with contempt, are charities of the dull-witted — TAMASIC.
Our inner treasure of love, kindness, sympathy and affection do not depend at all either upon our material circumstances or on our physical condition. More than that monetary help, your sympathetic attitude of expressing love for the “down and out” is a sufficient donation. Sometimes, a word of sincere sympathy, a look of love, a smile of genuine affection, a word registering true friendship can give the receiver more than a heartless cheque even if it be for a fat sum!
Charity is acceptable only when it toes the line of our own independent intellectual beliefs and convictions. Unless we are convinced of the nobility of the cause, and unless we have come to a correct and independent judgement upon its worthiness, “charity” should not be practiced. Every benefactor has the right, nay, a duty to enquire into the bonafides of the cause which he is trying to patronise. Having come to judge a cause to be deserving, give it your entire patronage; “Give in plenty; with both hands give!”
In the name of “charity,” many things are ordinarily done in society, destroying both the giver and the recipient. The giver gains in his vanity, while the recipient becomes an irredeemable idler and a moral wreck. To be charitable does not mean to be foolish. Misplaced charity does more harm than good. To borrow so that we may give plenty in charity is suicide. In a vulgar and misconceived sense of vanity, overdoing charity is again an ugly mischief that no fool would appreciate. Never lend money to others, especially when you know that the demand comes from one who has been an unintelligent spender. Don’t destroy the other by your charity. It is un-dignity to help one to destroy oneself. Don’t overdo even charity!
Q: Why should Charity be practised, and what are its benefits?
A: Be content with what you have and try to be a giver rather than a taker. Everything in Nature gives, never takes. The sun gives light and energy. The moon, the flowers, the trees, the birds, all give, pour out. Man is the only arrogant fool who thinks he can escape them all by taking to himself: “Why don’t you live in the world making the world indebted to you, rather than you indebted to the world?”
See the presence of the DIVINE in all loving acts of CHARITY. This gratitude is not confined to an individual but is an adoration of the DIVINE TRUTH dwelling in all hearts. A word of sympathy, a look of love, a smile of genuine affection can give the recipient much more than a heartless cheque, even for a fat sum. We make our home charitable enough for the near and dear ones and also for the respected and revered members of the society who are the upholders of our sacred culture and are the champions of our national and religious progress along the right lines. So be truly charitable in this diviner sense!