The Axe of Charity | Vibheeshana Gita

– Understandings from Swami Swaroopanandaji’s talk for Youth Empowerment Programme – 6th batch

Ees bhajanu saarathi sujaana
Birati charm santosh kripaana
Daan parasu budhi sakti prachanda
Bar bigyaana kathina kodanda

Charity is the Axe

We cannot cut a tree with arrows or a sword. Only an axe can cut something as thick and mighty as a tree. The mightiest enemy to fight and win is our own ego. There’s no way to kill the ego by arrows or using the sword. Heavy blows with an axe are required to cut it.

Everyone knows what charity is. Today, even corporate have to (they might not want to, but still they have to) spend a percentage of their revenue as CSR (Corporate Social Resposibility) for some social cause. The world agrees that helping the needy is one’s social responsibility. But how can this kill the ego? And why should one kill his ego? To find answers to both these questions, let’s discuss on what is ‘ego’?

Every living organism has got its ego. Ego means ‘knowing who I am’. When an elephant knows that it is an elephant, that is its ego. A crow knows that it’s a crow and not an eagle, it’s the crow’s ego. This ‘ego’ is not bad. The ego that we are talking about here is a feeling of superiority (or even inferiority) complex – a misapprehension that we are greater than what we actually are.

Once when Swami Vivekananda was in the West, a wealthy man went to see him. He was a renowned personality and everybody greeted him with honour and respect. He was expecting a similar treatment from Vivekananda but Vivekananda didn’t even look at him. The next day, he went and gave Vivekananda a big donation. Vivekananda simply accepted the donation without speaking a word. The man lost his temper. Never ever in the past had anyone treated him in such a way. He said, “I’m giving you a big donation. At least, have the courtesy to say Thank You.” Vivekananda immediately replied, “You should be thanking me that I’m accepting your donation.”

When a person does charity, he is the one who gets the merit of his kind deed. But he should be thankful to the person who accepts it without whom he couldn’t have done the noble act. In Hindu weddings, the father of the bride does ‘Kanyadaanam’ (donating the daughter) to the groom and bows in front of him, signifying that ‘The father gives donates his daughter (prosperity) to the groom’s family. May he (the father) not have the ego that he is the giver’. In return, the groom bows down to the girl’s father in gratitude for what the father has donated. Thus, both, the receiver and the giver, bow down to each other without taking any pride in their action. Hence, Kanyadaanam is said to be a Mahadaanam (Great Donation) in Hindu scriptures.

Charity is not a physical act of donation to poor people. Rather, it is a mental attitude with which one gives. Without having this right mental attitude, the physical charity can lead to increase his pride and ego. How can a person develop qualities like humility, love, forgiveness, compassion, etc when his heart is full of pride? When there is pride in a person, the most important person to him becomes the person himself and there is no room for others’ concern.

With the right mental attitude, if one does charity (donating anything that he has in excess – be it time, money or knowledge); he can cut his ego thus taking quicker steps for his inner evolution.

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