Compassion Well Placed
Despite the honorable intentions of philanthropists, even their most efficient programs for helping others don’t go far enough.
By His Divine Grace A.C.B. Swami Prabhupada
IN THE NAME OF philanthropy … people are feeling compassion for suffering humanity throughout the world,” (SB 5.8.10) Srila Prabhupada writes. But “no one knows where compassion should be applied. Compassion for the dress of a drowning man is senseless. A man fallen in the ocean of nescience cannot be saved simply by rescuing his outward dress the gross material body.” (Bg. 2.1)
“Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul’s needs must be fulfilled.” (SB 1.2.8)
“Material compassion, lamentation, and tears are all signs of ignorance of the real self. Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization. …” (Bg. 2.1)
“A Vaisnava is para-duhkha-duhkhi; he is always unhappy to see the conditioned souls in an unhappy state of materialism.” (SB 6.10.9)
“It should be understood that sages, saintly persons, and devotees are not unconcerned with the people’s welfare. … Actual devotees and saintly persons are always anxious to see how the people can be made happy. …” (SB 4.14.7)
“Forgetful men do not know the right path of peace and prosperity. However, the sages know it well, and therefore for the good of all men they are always anxious to perform acts which may bring about peace in the world. They are sincere friends to all living entities, and at the risk of great personal inconvenience they are always engaged in the service of the Lord for the good of all people.
“Lord Visnu is just like a great tree, and all others … are like branches, twigs, and leaves of that tree. By pouring water on the root of the tree, all the parts of the tree are automatically nourished. … The modern materialistic society is detached from its relation to the Supreme Lord. And all its plans which are being made by atheistic leaders are sure to be baffled at every step. Yet they do not wake up to this.” (SB 1.1.4)
“A nondevotee works for his personal sense gratification or for the sense gratification of his family, society, community, or nation, but because all such activities are separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are considered asat. The wordasat means bad or temporary, and sat means permanent and good. Activities performed for the satisfaction of Krsna are permanent and good, but asat activity, although sometimes celebrated as philanthropy, altruism, nationalism, this “ism” or that “ism,” will never produce any permanent result and is therefore all bad. Even a little work done in Krsna consciousness is a permanent asset and is all-good because it is done for Krsna, the all-good Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is everyone’s friend.” (SB 8.9.29)
“One should understand that in the material world, however one may try to make adjustments, he cannot be happy. To cite an example I have given many times, if you take a fish out of water, you can give it a very comfortable velvet bedstead, but still the fish cannot be happy; it will die. Because the fish is an animal of the water, it cannot be happy without water.” (TYS, Chapter 3)
“Anyone who misunderstands this perishable body to be the self and who works for it in the name of sociology, politics, philanthropy, altruism, nationalism, or internationalism, under the false plea of the bodily conception of life, is certainly a fool and does not know the implications of reality and unreality.” (SB 3.5.11)
The Mission of Life
Lord Krsna taught, “It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence, and words.”
Srila Prabhupada comments, “This is the mission of life. One’s own body and the bodies of his friends and relatives, as well as one’s own riches and everything else one has, should be engaged for the benefit of others. …
“Of course, in human society there are many institutions to help others, but because philanthropists do not know how to help others, their propensity for philanthropy is ineffectual. They do not know the ultimate goal of life (sreya), which is to please the Supreme Lord. If all philanthropic and humanitarian activities were directed toward achieving the ultimate goal of life to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead they would all be perfect.” (SB 6.10.10)
“Humanitarian work may be temporarily beneficial for the body, but because a living entity is spirit soul, ultimately one can show him real mercy only by revealing knowledge of his spiritual existence.” (SB 4.29.1b)
The true humanitarian, therefore, is one who gives spiritual knowledge.
Such a person must be spiritually qualified as a servant of God.
“Only a person who is fully in Krsna consciousness can be said to be engaged in welfare work for all living entities. When a person is actually in the knowledge that Krsna is the fountainhead of everything, then when he acts in that spirit he acts for everyone.” (Bg. 5.25)
“If man does not serve God, how can he know how to serve humanity? If he does not receive information from God about how to serve humanity, what is the value of his humanitarianism? The best way to serve mankind is to preach the message ofBhagavad-gita so that everyone can become a faithful servant of God.” (DS p. 251)
“When a person is advanced in spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, he naturally becomes very sympathetic toward all living entities suffering in the material world. Naturally such an advanced person thinks of the suffering of the people in general. However, if one does not know of the material sufferings of fallen souls and becomes sympathetic because of bodily comforts, … such sympathy or compassion is the cause of one’s downfall. If one is actually sympathetic to fallen, suffering humanity, he should try to elevate people from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness. … As far as the material body is concerned, we cannot do anything for anyone.” (SB 5.8.9)
“There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. It is by destiny, or the laws of karma, that one must suffer or enjoy. For instance, if one is given a court order, he must accept it, whether it brings suffering or profit. Similarly, everyone is under obligations to karma and its reactions. No one can change this.” (SB 8.7.44)
“However, by the grace of Krsna, we may raise a person to spiritual consciousness if we ourselves follow the rules and regulations. If we give up our own spiritual activities and simply become concerned with the bodily comforts of others, we will fall into a dangerous position.” (SB 5.8.9)
“Love of humanity means raising people to the point where they can understand the real goal of life. We do not serve humanity by keeping people in darkness. We must enlighten others with knowledge, and ultimate knowledge means understanding God, our relationship with God, and the activities of that relationship. That is real humanitarian work. Mankind must be informed of the nature of the body and the soul and the necessities and goal of the soul.” (DS p. 409)
“Because people are without Krsna consciousness … they are being punished by the laws of material nature…. No one can check this, not even by introducing so many relief funds and humanitarian institutions. Unless the people of the world take to Krsna consciousness, there will be a scarcity of food and much suffering.” (SB 4.18.8)
“One should try to raise the consciousness of the conditioned soul to the platform of understanding that Krsna is his actual friend. If one makes friendship with Krsna, one will never be cheated, and he will get all help needed. Arousing this consciousness of the conditioned soul is the greatest service, not posing oneself as a great friend of another living entity.
“The power of friendship is limited; therefore we cannot be of any real benefit to the people in general. The best service to the people in general is to awaken them to Krsna consciousness so that they may know that the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend is Krsna. Then this illusory dream of lording it over material nature will vanish.” (SB 3.27.4)
“People are lacking knowledge of God, and we are preaching this knowledge. This is the highest humanitarian work: to elevate the ignorant to the platform of knowledge.” (Dialectic Spiritualism p. 16) Therefore, “Everyone … with a materially comfortable condition in this world should join the Krsna consciousness movement to elevate the fallen souls. … Instead of wasting one’s life for temporary bodily comforts, one should always be prepared to give up one’s life for better causes. After all, the body will be destroyed. Therefore one should sacrifice it for the glory of distributing religious principles throughout the world.” (SB 6.10.8)
Srila Prabhupada started the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on the principle that everyone should work for the highest welfare. While others were opening hospitals to attend to the needs of the temporary body, Srila Prabhupada was opening hospitals for the soul.
“There are medical clinics to cure bodily diseases,” he writes, “but there are no such hospitals to cure the material disease of the spirit soul. The centers of the Krsna consciousness movement are the only established hospitals that can cure man of birth, death, old age, and disease.” (Cc Adi 10.51)
In the centers for Krsna consciousness and elsewhere, people can solve the problems of life by performing the simple and easy sacrifice recommended for this age: “If people somehow or other assemble together and are induced to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, all the purposes of yajna [sacrifice] will be fulfilled. The first purpose is that there must be sufficient rain, for without rain there cannot be any produce….
“Therefore, in this age of Kali people all over the world should refrain from the four principles of sinful life illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling and in a pure state of existence should perform the simple yajna of chanting the Hare Krsnamaha-mantra. Then the earth will certainly produce all the necessities for life, and people will be happy economically, politically, socially, religiously, and culturally. Everything will be in proper order.” (SB 9.20.26)