Is charity not a good virtue?
The evil Duryodhana was plotting to kill the Pandavas by sending them to the city of Varanavata on a pleasure excursion and burn them alive in a house of lac. The attached Dhritharashtra approved of his plot. The citizens of Hastinapura were naturally attracted towards the virtuous Pandavas. Duryodhana wanted to win the favor of citizens so that they will not become suspicious of him and will prefer him as king to Yudhistir. He profusely distributed wealth and honors liberally and provided citizens with all kinds of amenities and pleasures. Here Duryodhana is profusely charitable. But are his intentions good?
Charity is a common place in the world around. The consumer industries of today are often very charitable before product launches by offering free plans and discounts. The modern-day politicians donate profusely before elections. The developed countries become charitable to developing countries. The industries want to lure customers. The politicians want votes. The developer countries want trade allowances and support at UN. They all have their own intentions (BG 16.17). They are crooked. This charity of theirs does not make them good people or our well-wishers. A crooked charity will not make the giver happy. It may achieve the external intended ends. Charity is good if it is coupled with compassion. It makes us happy and satisfied. Let us see how.
Charity – crooked vs compassionate
A crooked mentality means we appear as selfless to others but actually we are selfish within. We may be successful externally but internally we are fearful and anxious. We are afraid that our ill intentions may become exposed and our image may get affected. We are anxious whether our intended end gets achieved or not since we cannot fully control others. If our charity becomes successful, we become greedy and falsely confident (BG 16.11-12). Greed forces us to devise newer, efficient and smarter ways of cheating people (BG 16.13-15). In this way, there is no room left for happiness and satisfaction. We will become increasingly suspicious about others and lack trustworthy relationships. We end up becoming lonely.
A compassionate charity is one given with a concern for others with a genuine feeling to help and contribute. Our happiness is in seeing others helped. In this way, our heart becomes soft and expands. We receive more love and feel more loved. We will be inspired and willing to be more compassionate. The more we derive happiness by making others happy, our endeavors to become happy through selfish and sensual means decrease.
A charity with a crooked heart makes us empty and illusioned. A charity with a compassionate heart makes us content and cheerful.
The crooked mentality borne out of selfishness and sensuality can be rooted out gradually by the process of yoga i.e. connecting to God and we will be able to charitable to others in the truest sense (BG 5.25). Our connection and relationship with God established through the process of yoga broadens our outlook of people around us. We will be able to see them as part and parcels of God beyond the superficialities of color, race, age, gender etc (BG 5.7). When we go deep within ourselves through the process of yoga and fulfil our deepest need of heart, we will able to sense a similar deeper need in others and help them to identify it and fulfil it.