Column: Yogi Ashwani


The purpose of sadhana is evolution and as you evolve you move up the pyramid becoming responsible for all those under you. A sadhak takes on this responsibility voluntarily, and charity is the foremost and the most important tool towards this evolution. Every major religion of the world prescribes charity as part of its practice. So let us do an experiment to understand why charity is a must for a person on the spiritual path. 

Step 1: Stand up and start inhaling
Step 2: Go on inhaling
Step 3: Go on inhaling 
Step 4: To ensure that no breath is given back to the atmosphere you must go on inhaling. 
Step 5: Continue inhaling. Do not exhale. 

No matter how strong your lungs are, you will have to exhale at some point. It is impossible to hold onto your breath endlessly. Do you realise that even something as precious as the life giving breath cannot be hoarded? For it would result in destruction. So, we need to hold on to only what is necessary for us, anything which is in excess of our needs should be given away. How? Do charity. 

One of the five yamas in the eightfold path of yog translates as charity. It is considered a purification. There is one very important thing we all should know about charity, we all think charity is giving something to the needy. But we never realise that whatever we are giving away is not ours because it’s not ‘you’ who is giving anything to anybody. You are just being the aid or the channel. Charity is ‘done’ and not given. You only do something for someone. The simplest definition of charity is when you do something for someone without expecting anything in return for it. Charity should be like – the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing because it is not the right hand’s business to know. 

When somebody in a public function goes and donates a lot of money announcing his contribution in front of a crowd, he is actually not doing charity but buying fame. There is nothing to be proud of when something is being done for others because the resources in the world belong to everyone. Someone gets a bigger share someone gets a smaller, but these resources are meant for each one of us, and are meant to be shared. So, if you are bestowed with fortunes, blessings and the capacity to share, then you should just give, you should just do it without any doubts or questions in your mind as to what use it will be put to, without thinking whether this person is worthy of it or not. There should not be any judgement attached to that act. You should not worry about what you gave to someone, or the use it will be put to. The person, to whom you do charity and what the person does with it, is not your business. In the Gita, Lord Krishna says that “judgement lies only in my hands”, what lies in our hands is the karma, the action. In order to judge another human, you ought to be perfect first and we know that only the Divine is perfect and no one else. 

People want to do charity at places where they are certain about its use. But how do you know which place and what is certain. It’s a state of mind. When you judge, it means that your state of mind is interfering with the charity you are doing. Then you are merely doing it for some satisfaction of yours. Charity should be free of judgments and attachments. Just thinking that one has done a good act by giving something to someone indicates his attachment with that act. If you feel good, happy, satisfied at the end of any action that means that action was done for your own ‘self’. This is attachment. Charity should be done and forgotten. Happiness and fulfilment should be in every action of yours. 

Now the question arises, does charity need always be in monetary terms? Charity need not be with money; charity can be kind words; can be helping someone; can be teaching, blessing someone, it can even be something as simple as a smile if someone needs that, at that moment, without expecting anything in return. It can be any act of help to someone without being directly benefited by it. Your work is only to act and do your karma as a channel and not count your blessings. For instance, in the Mahabharata there is a very beautiful depiction of the act of charity, which would clarify this concept further. Lord Indra dressed as a brahamin came down to Karna to ask for his armour and Karna knew that it was Lord Indra and the purpose behind that act was a well thought of plan to get his life, but since he came with both his hands spread out, asking for something, Karna just gave it. That is charity.

—The writer Yogi Ashwini Ji is the head of Dhyan Foundation, Delhi.
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May 2010

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