āCharity given out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person is considered to be in the mode of goodness. But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion. And charity performed at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons, or without proper attention and respect is said to be in the mode of ignorance.ā - Gita 17.20-22
So, charity performed in passion and ignorance may actually look good externally, but, in essence we are simply perpetuating the problem. Why? because these lower modes keep us entangled in bodily conception and materialistic way of life. Charity in goodness can be either material (mixed with passion and ignorance) or spiritual (pure).
The root cause of all maladies in this world is bodily conception of life. As long as people are in bodily consciousness, regardless of how much charity is given, the maladies will remain and even grow. This is the fruit of operating in the lower modes of passion and ignorance. The fault of charity in material consciousness (in any of the three modes) is that it doesnāt address the root of the problem.
I offer you some obvious questions and answers:
What is the point of donating to various charities?
The purpose of charity is two-fold ā purifying oneās self (i.e. detachment from matter and attachment to spirit) and faciliating the spiritual growth of others.
If all you are doing is throwing money at the problem vs. getting to the root of the matter you are no better than if you gave nothing or just slightly better.
Whimsical charity is no good. It is the responsibility of the person giving charity to understand the purpose and to learn the proper way of giving. Such an approach leads to enlightenment.
Is there a more effective way to deal with many of the problems that produce charities? Changing policies perhaps? Taking action? Shifting societal practices? Enforcing new laws?
If you actively cultivate spiritual knowledge and grow spiritually, thatās the best way to address problems and to bring about change or transformation in others. All kinds of nice inspirations to help others will come when you live a life in accordance with the laws of nature and that is spiritually progressive.
By giving to some charities over others does that make you bias and in truth negate the altruism behind the act altogether?
This an inherent awkwardness of acting on the material platform. You take one side, you become inimical to the other; you please someone, you displease someone else; you become addicted to success, you cannot deal with failure; and so on. The good news is that the path revealed in the Bhagavad Gita is trancendental to this duality. Following the wisdom therein, you are protected from materially-motivated bias and prejudice.
A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything ā whether it be pebbles, stones or gold ā as the same. ā Gita 6.8
I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the Bhagavad Gita so you can do your own study. Each individual who reads that sacred conversation will have a unique experience. I don’t pretend to be able to give you any magic formulas. However, I will be privileged if you would like to converse about the transcendent advice offered in this sacred text translated by a pure devotee who has no other interest that in the welfare of the people in general. That includes you, me, and everyone else.
YS, Nrsimhananda das aka David Shapiro
Note: Some text adapted from Spiritual Ideas Worth Living: http://www.yoga24×7.org/donating-to-charities/