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Give to Live

Monday, 18 February 2008 / Published in Articles, Karnamrita dasa / 4,045 views

By Karnamrita dasa

Sometimes people want to know what I am about spiritually. I often think how could I explain to someone in a moment about our path of Bhakti-yoga or Krishna consciousness??

When someone casually ask what I believe in, looking for a nutshell understanding, they sometimes do so to categorize me. I really wish people would understand that there is only one Divine system in the Universe known by infinite names, and represented by many religions, instead of trying to think they have the only way, and all others are wrong. Still I try my best to look for ways to share the similarities, while celebrating the differences.

Besides all its’ more esoteric ideas and philosophy, Gaudiya Vaishnavism or Bhakti-yoga, embodies universal truths that most religious and spiritual people accept.

For instance, the idea that it is better to give than to just receive (to just be “on the take”), is a universal truth understood by people of all religions. In addition people understand that giving is actually getting, or by giving you are nourished and benefited.

In a broad sense we can tell people that Krishna consciousness is all about learning how to give, rather then just being an exploiter. So people should be encouraged to begin the process of giving somewhere, somehow, to someone. Ultimately from our vision giving to God and saintly persons is the highest giving (because we receive the true benefit of giving), yet everyone has to begin, and should be encouraged.

In many places in the Gita different levels of giving are recommended according to the consciousness of the people involved. Everyone should understand the ultimate purpose of giving—-pleasing Krishna and realizing our eternal nature as a servant, cooperator, or giver to God.

There are different results obtained by where or who one gives to, and according to our motivation. Yet regardless of their understanding, people should learn to give as a way of life. Different types of giving may be encouraged as outlined in the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gita—-one size doesn’t fit all because people vary in their material and spiritual advancement, yet the basic principle of giving is for everyone.

People can give something to benefit humanity, living beings in general, or to better the environment. Giving or sacrificing our wealth for a good cause is beneficial and purifying. In the Gita’s 4th chapter after describing many types of sacrifices, Krishna says that “… without sacrifice [i. e. giving] one can never live happily on this planet or in this life, what to speak of the next.”

When we understand our true natures as givers, then we should look for that place that we can give unlimitedly. Only God can accept unlimitedly and reward us in a way that is satisfying to our soul. The ultimate giving is to give our soul to Krishna in love. We are already his, but in material consciousness we are serving or giving to the body, mind and senses. That selfish giving entangles us. When we begin giving back to Krishna we begin to understand our nature as souls, and that our real self interest is to serve him. Then we will fully embrace the idea that to give is to live.

We should think deeply about how giving is really the basis of life and will determine our future in this life and the next. Giving includes withholding where we should have given (we are then giving to our illusion, or selfishness, or negative judgment etc.). We give not just on the physical external plane, but also within on the emotional/mental level (love, compassion, hate, envy, anger etc).

What we GIVE OUR ATTENTION to is what attachments are made of, which keeps us bound to those things or people. We could say giving is what consciousness is all about. Our “job” or goal as devotees is to understand where our giving should be placed for the best benefit for everyone. And even when we are trying to give to Krishna, how much are we giving, and what are we withholding? For instance, when we chant the holy name, are we giving attention to his name, or our thoughts for the day after we finish our rounds?

As souls our nature is to give to Krishna, as a part of the body serves the whole body. When we give to and love Krishna everyone is benefited. And when we give to and love others we see this in relationship to Krishna, whom they are part of and who is within them and everything else. So we can’t help but give. As aspiring devotees, we have to become conscious givers.

Here is a saying I received from a dear friend:
When we go to the grave, all we have left is what we gave!!

Meditation on Giving

I found that this topic on giving is a powerful meditation on life, by seeing giving as the nature of the soul, the function of consciousness. Here is an affirmation:

I am a giver. My life is a treasure. Giving is the way my wealth is utilized. Each day provides an opportunity to share what I have been given.

Try coming up with your own.

Here is a meditation we can use when we remember:

Moment by moment let me ask myself:

“What am I giving? Where am I giving? To whom am I giving?” And then, “Why am I giving?” (which means what is my motive?)

An example of this meditation for chanting might be the following (meditating on giving before chanting also can be setting our intention. I am a big advocate of setting our intentions before any activity):

As we chant our daily rounds or “japa” of the Hare Krishna mantra we can think of how it engages us in giving.

What am I giving?

I am giving my time, attention, prayers for perfection and love, and trying to love.

Where am I giving?

I am giving at each moment of the present, in my mind, in my heart, out loud through my bodily voice in the immediate area.

To whom am I giving?

I am giving my attention and trying to love Radha and Krishna through their holy name, to the Supersoul in my body and within all things, to my personal Deities, and the pleasure of my gurus.

Why am I giving?

I am giving my attention and feeling to the chanting of the Lord’s holy name to please Radha and Krishna, to become purified of my material consciousness, to revive my eternal nature as a loving servant of Krishna, out of duty to my guru, Lord Chaitanya, and all the devotees, as service to them, as worship, as prayer for perfection, and because I am by nature a giver.

6 comments

  1. 0
    Karnamrita.das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hari Bol Akruranathaji! Thanks for your well-wishing. I am really a novice at writing, yet I love the craft, and I put my heart and soul into it. It is my pleasure to be able to serve the devotees through what I feel called to do. My prayer to be able to inspire and assist the devotees on their progressive dance to the Lord of their hearts!

    I have been very busy the last 6 weeks working at a devotee friends New Age store 6 days a week while they are in India. I actually love the work as I connect with many sincere seekers. While working there I have the opportunity to really think about and apply myself as a giver to help the spiritual progress of others as well as to help them find balance and peace of mind in their life. So many people who come there are disenfranchised from the mainstream religions and are looking to find a place to feel connected to some aspect of Divinity. I do my best to be a light and guide so they can feel spiritually connected.

    I will share some of my experiences there in later blogs.

    your friend in service,

    KAd

  2. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have been gradually memorizing all the Gita slokas so I can chant whole chapters at a time while driving alone in my car. I find that by memorizing the slokas and word-for-word meanings (and going back over the purports as I do it), I get a deeper understanding of the entire argument.

    I have not yet tackled Chapters 16, 17 and 18, though. Thinking about sacrifice and charity according to the three modes makes me inspired and excited to start memorizing and chanting Chapters 17 and 18.

    There is a lot of talk about the need to understand varnasrama dharma, and that there is an unfinished 50% of Srila Prabhupada’s work relating to establishing varnasrama dharma. Chapters 17 and 18 promise to offer me a real goldmine of understanding these topics when I eventually dive into them.

    Everyone, no matter who he is, is giving in different ways, according to the directions of material nature.

    Sometimes we “give” involuntarily, and it hurts. (E.g., the boss calls and says you have to come in over the weekend to get the project done; or someone sues you and ultimately makes you pay for lawyers, and a settlement or judgment.)

    Krishna consciousness is a way of life in which we can give freely and lovingly, with deep satisfaction in the most proper and natural way. It is the perfection of giving.

    Mayavadis who identify themselves with the supreme may try to renounce giving. How sad for them, that they miss out on the sweetness of offering everything to Krishna.

  3. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hey, I was just thinking last night, “When is Karnamrta going to write another article?” It made me very happy to read this one today.

    This idea of looking for short, pithy explanations of Krishna consciousness is familiar to book distributors, who are always trying out new “lines”.

    Advertisers look for short, pithy slogans that attract people’s attention and convince them to buy the product. Preachers of Krishna consciousness are always doing the same thing, coming up with little slogans or sutras you can say in a brief encounter that makes someone want to read the book.

    “We are what we eat” is a favorite old slogan amongst health food advocates. “We are what and how we give” is very true, and very essential. I love it.

    Sacrifice and charity are of three kinds.

    In the 17th Chapter of the Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna about those who disregard the principles of scripture, and whether they are in goodness, passion and ignorance. (Krishna had ended the 16th Chapter talking about how important it is to act according to the scriptures and not whimsically)

    In response, Krishna tells arjuna about how people’s faith (sraddha) is of three kinds according to the three modes. In text 17.7, He says that the food we prefer is of three kinds, according to the three modes, and that similarly sacrifice (yajnah), austerities (tapah) and charity (daanam) are of three kinds.

    “Giving” relates not only to charity, but as Karnamrta points out is also essential to sacrifice. Sacrifice generally involves taking some portion of our hard-earned wealth and offering it as an oblation for the satisfaction of the higher power (demigods, or the Supreme Personality).

    In the 17th Chapter Krishna describes food, sacrifice, austerity and charity according to the three modes. In the 18th Chapter He gives His conclusion (although sages differ on this) that acts of sacrifice, austerity and charity should not be given up.

    Then He explains that knowledge, the object of knowledge and the knower — which are the three factors motivating action (codanaa, or impetus) — are also of three kinds according to the modes. Then He explains three kinds of intelligence and determination, and then three kinds of happiness.

    He concludes that people have prescribed occupations according to the four varnas (explained in terms of the modes) and that everyone should work according to his own occupation, and by worshiping the Lord through such work we can become perfect.

  4. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In our local ISKCON of Silicon Valley, our Deity of Lord Caitanya is not dancing, as in most temples. Instead, Mahaprabhu holds His lotus hands, palms upward, straight out from the elbow, giving mercy with both hands. In the same way, He orders us to give mercy.

    One time I went with Atma Tattva Prabhu to a comparative religions class at U.C. Berkeley. I was actually enrolled in the class, and we studied from Houston Smith’s big book (Prof. Smith came to lecture, which was a great opportunity for us). We brought different of our own religious speakers to class. There was a very sharp and charismatic Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka (he recognized me as a Hare Krishna in front of the class, even though I wore karmi clothes), some Muslims, Christians, Jews, we went on a field trip to a Sikh gurdwar, we had a Hindu from the local Fremont temple (who also was very complimentary to Hare Krishnas), etc.

    Atma Tattva’s theme was that Hare Krishna was “The religion of Love”. Of course he did not just stop at some vague idea of “love” but explained about spirit versus matter, sense enjoyment versus self realization, true love of Krishna versus material lust, but the theme “The religion of Love” was a nice slogan, nicely encapsulating Lord Caitanya’s formula, “Prema pumartha mahan.”

    Many of the students told me that they liked Atma Tattva’s presentation best of all (we had nice kirtan and prasad distribution). Not only hippies and New Agey types but even a serious Greek Orthodox student and some others said this.

    “The religion of Love” and the concept of a culture of giving go hand in hand. Real love involves giving without calculation of reward, and is only truly possible in the brahma bhuta stage.

    New Agers are certainly a good field for preaching, and I am happy there are devotees like yourself developing that field. How many of us, I wonder, did not go to New Age book stores before we became devotees? Who hasn’t done “I Ching”? Or read Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”?

    Some New Agers seem attracted to atheistic views, but that is prominent everywhere. If they are exposed to real, positive theism, many will warm up to it. As you say, they are disillusioned with mainstream theistic religion. Sometimes green devotees (I plead guilty) embody some of the qualities of mainstream religions that turn New Agers off. Qualities like self-righteous pushiness.

    (Continued . . .)

  5. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Some New Agers seem philosophically wishy-washy, lacking in substance. (The cynical humorist Fran Lebowitz quipped that “tricks” — young and beautiful lovers maintained by rich, famous, powerful New Yorkers — should never be permitted to use the word “energy”.) :-)

    Again, this is not necessarily a disqualification. If they become attracted by bhakti they will develop real spiritual knowledge in their own time. Hare Krishna is more about love and giving than it is about philosophy. We have an awesome, most perfect philosophy, for those who want to hear it, but many people who are deeply learned and very analytical nevertheless are not fortunate enough to be attracted to Krishna consciousness (“mayayapahrta jnana” and “asurim bhavam asrita”).

    I think that for preaching to New Age people we have to be very gentle, polite, genuine in our mood of sharing something nice with them. They tend to be very sensitive and tuned in to feelings rather than philosophy. They tend not to like people who criticize or challenge ideas of others, and prefer to see positive things accentuated. Maybe I am over generalizing.

    Personally I get a little impatient with all the wide-eyed gullibility of crystal healing and fairy circles and unauthorized astrology and ouija boards, but I recognize that impatience as my disqualification. On book distribution we always find the New Age types to be among the best customers. Often they are even vegetarians.

    For some reason we turn off many New Agers. Once, caught in a rainstorm, I requested the “Gateways” book store manager to let me store my book boxes inside, and found him unwilling. I could tell it was due to his sense that Hare Krishna’s are too “fanatical”, too willing to criticize different viewpoints, which makes us seem more like fundamentalists and bible thumpers. (I went to the boutique next door and they were happy to accommodate me, just to be friendly and neighborly, because they had no negative impression as the New Age manager did).

    Sometimes New Agers see us as “fanatics” due to their own conditioning, but sometimes I actually do act like a fanatic or a pushy preacher out to dominate and control others, and I have to work on that. I get “fruitive” and want to “do big”, rather than just give a lot of mercy. The mood of sankirtan is really one of “giving”, not of dominating or controlling, and New Agers can be sensitive to such moods.

  6. 0
    Karnamrita.das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One aspect of preaching or “sharing” our realizations for Grihasthas is to be expert in a particular field, speak it’s language well, and use that as a way to present KC to our “peers”. Devotees should be in all walks of life and speak within that particular “culture”.

    As a devotee who was an active “energy healer” for many years I am very comfortable in this crowd and the New Age people as well. I know how to speak that language and relate KC to those people. In the past devotees haven’t always appreciate my use of language to express our philosophy. In fact, 10 years or so ago, after giving a class in Alachua, some devotees complained that I was expressing “New Age” ideas. There are actually many overlapping points and some useful perspectives if we shift through it. In any case, I think I do a better job these days in my classes, though some devotees can only relate to our philosophy if it is presented with a particular language and emphasis.

    As devotees, if we want to be understood and respected, we had better communicate our interest and respect for other persons and their views. We can respectfully disagree of course, yet we have to look for points of agreement. I have found, especially in newer devotees a tendency to focus primarily on our differences, and sometimes even smashing a persons perspective, as if they were realized devotees. So much of preaching centers around having good relationships with others and being good examples. If people like us as persons, they will naturally want to know what we believe, and possibly want to take up KC practices so they can become like us.

    My personal belief is that fanaticism is the great enemy of the world, and is very unattractive in devotees. We can be convinced that KC or our KC group is the best FOR US yet generous and accommodating with others. New Agers or in fact many people will not take us very seriously if they think we “have” to convert everyone to “save” them, or if they think that we believe that only we are right. There are way to many religions like that already! Some of these religions have to make others wrong for them to be right.

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