Peter Buffett - on the dualities of giving

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By Nrsimhananda das

Dear Mr. Buffett,


The Daily Mail reported today that you say “charity is a perpetual poverty machine” and that “rich people giving away money eases their conscience but doesn’t solve the problem.”  All true.  But what is the foundation of the dysfunction?  

In brief, I learned from the ancient wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita which describes charity in the mode of ignorance, charity in the mode of passion, and charity in the mode of goodness.

Charity 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.” - 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 doesn’t 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 – purifying one’s 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, that’s 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 — whether it be pebbles, stones or gold — as the same. – 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/

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1 Puskaraksa das

…/…

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.”

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on July 31st, 2013
2 Puskaraksa das

The above is actually just the end of the article published by Peter Buffett, one of the sons of Warren Buffett, in the Opinion Pages of the New-York Times:

The Charitable-Industrial Complex
By PETER BUFFETT
Published: July 26, 2013

“I had spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences. But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

…/…

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on August 3rd, 2013
3 Puskaraksa das

…/…

“Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Micro-lending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.”

…/…

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on August 3rd, 2013
4 Puskaraksa das

…/…

“What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.”

Here ends the article.

As a matter of fact, I thought that before trying to give some lesson to others, we also have to take into consideration what they have to say, all the more in this case, when they are in a position to give a lot more in charity than we may be.

Hare Krishna

Jaya Sacinandana Gaura Hari

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on August 3rd, 2013

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