Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Charity is the disposition to think favourably of others and do them good. Charity is universal love. It is liberality to the poor. It is benevolence. That which is given to relieve the needy is charity. In a general sense, charity means love, benevolence and goodwill. In the theological sense, it is universal goodwill to men and supreme love to God.

True charity is the desire to be useful to others without thought of recompense or reward. Charity is love in action. Charity begins at home, but it should go abroad. The whole world is your home. You are a citizen of the world. Cultivate a generous feeling for the welfare of the whole world.

It is a sin to hoard money. All wealth belongs to the Lord. He who lives only as a trustee of his property really belongs to the Lord and lives happily. He attains Moksha or eternal peace. The water of the Ganges cannot decrease if thirsty people drink it. So, also, your wealth cannot decrease if you do charity.

Give one-tenth of your income or six paisa per rupee, in charity. Give cheerfully, quickly, without hesitation. Defer not charities till death. Do charity daily.

What is Charity?

Every good act is charity. Giving water to the thirsty is charity. An encouraging word to a man in distress is charity. Giving a little medicine to the poor, sick man is charity. Removing a thorn or a glass-piece on the road is charity. To be kind and loving is charity. To forget and forgive some harm done to you is charity. A kind word said to a suffering man is charity. Charity is not confined to giving in terms of dollars, rupees, or shillings. Think well towards suffering people. Pray for their welfare. This will accomplish more good than much money.

Kinds of Charity

The best form of charity is vidya-dana, imparting wisdom. If you give food to a poor man, he again wants food when he becomes hungry, whereas, wisdom removes ignorance, the cause for taking a body, and destroys in toto all sorts of miseries and suffering for ever. The second best form of charity is giving medicine to the sick. The third best form of charity is annadana or giving food to the hungry.

Do discriminate charity in the beginning. Later on, practise indiscriminate charity. When you feel that every being is a manifestation of the Lord, it is difficult to discriminate who is good and who is bad.

Give to the poor, the sick, the helpless, and the forlorn. Give to the orphans, the decrepit, the blind, the helpless widows. Give to the sadhus, sannyasins, religious and social institutions. Thank the man who gives you an opportunity to serve him by doing charity.

Give with the right mental attitude, and realise God through charitable acts. Glory to those who do charity with the right spirit.

The Glory of a Silent Gift

Some people do charity and are anxious to see their names published in the newspapers with their photos. This is a tamasic form of charity. This is no charity at all. That charity which advertises ceases to be a charity. It is only pride and ostentation.

You should not advertise your charity and charitable nature. There must not be any exaltation in your heart when people praise you for your charitable nature. Charity must be spontaneous and unrestrained. Giving becomes habitual. You must experience extreme joy in giving. You must not think: 'I have done a charitable act. I will enjoy happiness in heaven. I will be born as a rich man in the next birth. The charitable act will wash away my sin. There is no charitable man like me in my town or district. People know that I am a very charitable man'. Bragging is mean and deplorable.

Do charity silently. Do not advertise. Do not boast. What your right hand does, the left hand should not know. It is easier to fight in the battle, but it is difficult to give a gift silently, without manifesting pride and self-glorification and expressing it to others.

Mean-minded Charity

Prof. XYZ, MA., Ph.D., gave a blanket in charity to a poor man. He afterwards thought, "I ought not to have given him a blanket". His heart was in a state of agitation and agony. He wanted to get the blanket back from the poor man. If you do such a kind of charity, you will not derive any benefit. You will not get purity of heart. Many worldly-minded people perform charitable acts of this description only. This world abounds in such charitable persons.

All are very generous for themselves. Many will take first class milk, or tea, and offer second class milk to their friends, and third class milk to strangers, neighbours, and servants. They will wait for three days for getting a good opportunity to use the old preparations of food, and then throw them to their servants with a painful heart. They do not like to part with these decaying things also. You will find such heartrending instances in all the houses of rich persons. How crooked are such people! What a small, constricted heart they have! Their lot is, indeed, not only pitiable, but also highly deplorable.

Always give the best things, best food, best fruits, best milk, best clothes to friends, neighbours, guests and servants. You will derive immense joy, strength, and happiness. Put this into practice and realise the benefits yourself.

The Tragic Plight of Miserly People

The majority of householders are absolutely selfish in these days. Money is their blood. You will find cheerlessness and ugliness in their face. Worry, greed, passion, jealousy, hatred, depression, and all other evil qualities stick to the man who has the miserly nature in him, and they consume the very core of his heart.

If a miserly man keeps fifty thousand rupees, he will not enjoy the money, but crave for a lakh more. A millionaire will be craving to become a multimillionaire. Such persons will not give even a pie in charity.

They are first class misers. They hoard money in some way or the other. Their money goes away in medical bills. Their sons squander their money in drinking, gambling and licentious living. They die of broken hearts on account of bank failures, failures in speculations. Their final fate is bankruptcy and starvation here; torture in hell hereafter. Pitiable and deplorable is their lot. They have not eaten good food even one day. They have not worn good clothes even one day. They are mere caretakers of money.

Some officers retire from service and live on the banks of the Ganges, Narmada, and Jumna. They do a little Japa and meditation and study Yoga Vashishtha and the Upanishads, and imagine that they are Jivanmuktas. They entertain intense moha for their children. They remit their pension to their sons and grandchildren. They will not spend even a pie in charity. They are the embodiment of miserliness. They are hopeless, self-deluded souls! A miser cannot dream of self-realisation even in a thousand births. Lord Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God".

Miserliness is a great curse. It is an enemy of oneness and a friend of selfishness. Miserly persons are quite unfit for the spiritual path. Their very company is highly dangerous for spiritually-minded persons. They poison the whole atmosphere on account of their corrupted, contracted hearts.

You should have a very large heart. You should throw money like stones to the poor people. Only then can you develop adwaitic feeling and cosmic awareness.

How to do Charity

Share with others what you have. Keep a few pies in your pocket always and distribute them in charity daily to poor people. Practise this at once. In sharing, there is joy and peace. Sharing generates cosmic love and destroys greed. Sharing removes selfishness and creates selflessness. Sharing purifies the heart. Sharing develops oneness. Share with others whatever you possess, physical, mental or spiritual. This is real Yajna. You will expand. You will experience oneness and unity of life. This will be the Adwaitic realisation.

You should be thirsty to do charitable work daily. You should not lose any opportunity. You should create opportunities. There is no Yoga or Yajna greater than sattvic charity of the spontaneous type. Kama and Raja Bhoja did countless charitable acts. So they still live in our hearts. Charity should be given with faith. Charity should never be without faith. Charity should be given in plenty. Charity should be done with modesty. Charity should be done with sympathy.

The food you are able to give a guest may be meagre fare, but if you offer it with love, it acquires great power, nutrition and taste. If you serve your guest with rich dishes and proudly say, "All right, now that you have come, go and fill your belly", the food turns into poison. Whether he is a relation, friend, or beggar, whatever be the quality of the food you give, give it with love and affection.

Charity Purifies the Heart

Sins can be destroyed by charity. Lord Jesus says, "Charity covereth a multitude of sins". Charity is a great purifier of the heart. In the Gita you will find : "Yajna, charity, and austerity are the purifiers of the intelligent". If one can destroy one's miserly nature, a great portion of Sadhana is over. One has then achieved something substantial.

Develop this udara vritti. Then you can become a king of kings. If you give, the whole wealth of the world is yours. Money will come to you. This is the immutable, inexorable, unrelenting law of Nature. Therefore, give, give, give. You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. This is the secret of abundance and divine life.

Many have achieved power, popularity, peace and happiness only through a generous heart. Miserly persons never dream to have all these and achieve success in life. If you want wealth and children, do plenty of charity. If you want to become wise, serve old men and Mahatmas. If you want to get rid of sins, do Havan.

See God everywhere. Share with all. The major portion must be given to others. Destroy the ingrained miserliness. Your heart will expand. You will have a broad outlook on life. You will have a new wide vision. You can feel the help you get from the indweller of the heart. You can experience an indescribable thrill of divine ecstasy and spiritual bliss. This will give you tremendous inner strength.

Give plenty in charity. You will enjoy peace, plenty and prosperity here. You will go to heaven hereafter. You will attain purity of heart and moksha.