Charity – spiritual or mundane?
Some pious people give charity, seeing it as an investment in a bank that lasts beyond death – the good karma will benefit them in their future lives.
This vision of charity as a karmic investment can make such pious people seem not compassionate, but calculative. As spiritualists seeking liberation from the law of karma, we may become calculative in another way. Knowing that we get reactions not just for our bad deeds, but also for our good deeds, we may refuse to give charity to protect ourselves from reactions. Such an attitude can make us heartless, or at least seem heartless.
The Bhagavad-gita (06.32) states that the topmost spiritualists see the essential equality of all living beings and strive to benefit them. This means that they are not at all heartless; they are wholeheartedly concerned with the welfare of others.
When we see our essential equality with people, we understand that they are at their core, souls, and they need spiritual care the most. So, we share the best spiritual care by connecting them with the one who cares the most for them, God, Krishna. He is the whole whose eternal parts we all are. When we learn to harmonise in love with Him, we find life’s highest fulfilment. Having glimpsed this fulfilment through our devotional practices, we want everyone to relish it. So we share Krishna’s message of love with them. And the Gita (18.68) assures that such sharers are granted pure spiritual love.
However, devotees share Krishna not primarily for their own liberation but simply for sharing happiness. And to aid people in coming closer to Krishna, devotees do whatever it takes, including caring for people materially if necessary.
When we share Krishna’s message with the intent of truly helping others, then our engaging in that supremely compassionate activity becomes truly infused with compassion.
He is a perfect yogī who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna! – Bhagavad Gita 6.32