My old friend had come to meet me along with his three friends. He is an ex-NRI. The purpose of this visit was to invite me to join a social and charitable organization (non-profit association) that they plan to roll out soon.
“Please give one solid reason as to why I should join in your association?” I asked.
He said: “Plenty….This institution is a platform for your charitable social service. You can also donate some money to avail tax benefits, meanwhile helping poor. And after all it is a great punya (good deed) and heavenly quality…”
“Friend, thanks for your fabulous and gracious offers, but I am sorry that I can’t join you…”
“Why Uday? Can you give at least one solid reason?” he snapped back.
“Plenty…First, I am not yet a member of any social, political, charitable, religious or any sort of organization, association, clubs or anything like that…”
“Why? Is it bad joining hands? Are you being an individualist?”
“Not at all…On the contrary, the Buddhist philosophy says “Sangham Saranam Gatchami” (I take refuge in the community). We Hindus believe in “Satsang” (being with good/righteous companions) to maintain the awareness…so, joining hands or being together is most important aspect of life….But that would just happen, without any marketing effort. For instance, when a death happens in our village or a pooja performed, the neighborhood would join together – that was our culture… But, my perception is that any planned organization will eventually become corrupt…”
“That’s not correct. How can you say that?” his friend asked
“My perception can be wrong…But, any organized movement will become institutionalized after sometime. There need to be a system and money to run an institution…eventually (or mostly) it becomes commercial establishment. And then, internal politics, manipulation, nepotism, corruption etc would pop up. Is there anything free from commercialization ? Be it a temple, church, ashram, mosque, any religious/spiritual institution, whatever…” It is a fact that lot of institutions collect money from abroad in the name of charity. But they spend money for religious conversions (to increase market share of religions), business of terrorism, land acquisition or for the flashy life-style of the managers.
“But I know of an ashram that does good job by helping poor…”
“There definitely are exceptions. I am sure there are thousands of organisations in the world that help the poor and the needy! But nothing comes free in this world. Everybody has a motive…”
“Can you provide some financial support then?”
“No! I don’t do much charity. I am not generous. I am just a lower middle class family man, still struggling to live…I don’t have so much money to evade tax….”
“I thought you were a generous person who believes in ‘dana’ (giving) or zakat…” his friend said.
“Am I responsible for your wrong notions about me? I don’t give alms to beggars or biksha to Brahmins until and unless I feel intuitively to do so…I believe in empowering the poor rather than making them always remain in poverty…Yes, I try to do my bit – sharing and caring in my own way. Should I let others define my way? Those who are destined to contact me, will come to me…Then I would go by intuition…”
He didn’t say anything. They looked each other as if there is no use in wasting time with me.
“I understand people have many concepts about social service and charity. Some will donate to temples, churches, mosques and think that it will fetch them punya. Some people donate to charity institutions. It depends upon personal choice. Some people make donation to institution thinking as if “my responsibility is over”. After running the cost of institution, how much would really reach the poor and needy?” I continued: “There are some people who donate money as part of their spiritual journey – may be as a ticket to the promised heaven. I don’t know how much their respective gods would charge for the entry to their heaven…Since I don’t believe in heaven and hell; I don’t need to reserve a ticket.”
“But you have written “manav seva is madhav seva” (The service of humanity is the service to the lord) in an article (http://udaypai.in/). Now, god is giving you an opportunity to do a punya and you are kicking it out to become a paapi (sinner)…” his friend, another NRI, who was little bit upset on my behavior, said. Obviously he is trying to instill his fear in me.
“Sir, I don’t need to prove anything to you. And I am not worried about what god would do if I don’t listen to you. Should I follow your concept of paapa and punya? Did you know – if you give alms or biksha to an undeserving person, you could be sharing his paapa too” I replied.
“How will you know if a person is deserving?” my friend asked.
“Only intuition can guide you. When you give alms, you may directly or indirectly be helping a racket, mafia or criminal network – you won’t know. In case your intuition doesn’t work, spend some time to research before doing such “charity” work” I looked at them and said: “I am not discouraging you… You may please establish an institution, you can invite VIPs, politicians and film stars to inaugurate it so that you can make sure that you get adequate name and fame.”
“Uday, I am sorry, but you are being bit arrogant and pessimistic. It is very unlikely of you. Seriously, how do you expect me to do ‘manav seva’ then?” my friend asked.
“Find your way out or choose your path. Doing charity is the most important aspect in our dharma. Giving is not confined to money or materials. Our ancestors said that if we don’t share, we have no right to live in this world. Charity begins at home. Ask yourself – do I really want to help others or I want to get other’s certificate that I am generous and good”
“If I really want to help genuine people?” he asked.
“Open your eyes and see your neighborhood. You have lot of money – you can help those who are needy and genuine, for which you don’t need any institution or label. If possible, please don’t let the receiver know that you are giving. So that he/she won’t feel inferior to you. Let him/her think that it is an act of god. Then, then you become the god…” I said.
Suddenly his friend got up and told him: “Let’s go. He will mislead you…”
My friend looked confused. I just smiled at him. We shook hand and parted.
PS: I would like to add this from the post of Sahana Madhyastha : “People who want to be charitable and those who receive charity think mostly in terms of money and materials alone- that is the most primitive charity that can be done to the ones who are very poor and needy in terms of material things.
What about other kinds of charity? Being charitable enough to give a smile, a pat, a listening ear , silence, words, love ,compassion and guidance towards truth.
Or, are there no receivers for these?”
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org