The Art of Giving by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Dove_with_olive_branch.svgThe reason many of our traditional peace talks fail is that the people who talk of peace do not seem to have peace themselves. Each wants to grab something from the other. They go to their meetings with anxiety, thinking: “What can I gain from this person?” Sometimes, they can’t even agree on the shape of the table at which they will meet. Even children are better. To achieve peace, people must go with the idea of giving—not grabbing.

Through giving we have joy. I have seen that in my Master’s life. Instead of Sivananda, we often called him Givananda. He always enjoyed giving, because there’s such joy in giving and loving. By giving we never make enemies. Nations should learn this. We should always give whatever we have; we don’t need to grab from each other. Through caring and sharing we find ease within ourselves, and among our fellow beings.

Begin with yourself. If you have a surplus, choose the right people and give it to them: “See, I have no use for this. Come on, please use it.” That way we share our energy; we share everything we have with others. If we do this, there won’t be any haves and have nots–there will only be haves. It’s a form of communism no doubt, but without any violence. The old Communist regime in the Soviet Union believed in forcing people to redistribute everything. That’s not real sharing. Giving should come from the heart. You should give willingly, then there won’t be any animosity.Art of Giving 1

The people who receive will be grateful. If the government forces us to give up our property, then passes it on, the recipients won’t be grateful to us because force was used. On the other hand, if we share willingly with others, there is certainly enough for everyone on this planet. We should feel the whole world is ours. Whenever we feel it is necessary to help, go there and work. This practice is needed today. After all, which is more important, to feed your brother or walk on the moon? Sometimes the heart aches when it sees such ignorance. If you ever think of donating something, do it before the left hand knows, give with the right hand.

The gift should be given with the whole heart. Don’t even call it helping. Call it service, because you are the one who benefits by it. If a man begs from you, and you give him something; don’t think you are helping him, he is helping you. Hasn’t he given you the opportunity to show your generosity? If no one is there to receive, how could you donate? The giver should thank the receiver.

Please don’t give by knocking on the door and pushing yourself in. Human beings are not inanimate or just animals. They are endowed with a little extra knowledge and discrimination. You have the full liberty to use your discrimination for the sake of the person who is receiving from you. If a drunken man comes and asks you for another ten dollars, you will certainly know that he plans to take it and go directly back to the bar. If you think that this is unhealthy for him, you should refuse. In your refusal you are thinking of his benefit more than your own.

You Came Alone 1So always discriminate. Think before you give. Know the person well and find out how he or she is going to use your gift. Blind love can spoil a person. If you want to spoil a baby, give the baby whatever it wants to eat. The baby will want chocolate candy more and more and more. If you keep on giving, the next day you will be taking the baby to the doctor. Understand the gift of charity in this light.

If you ever have selfish expectations when you give something, this will eventually disturb your inner peace. Anytime you expect something in return for your effort, it’s karma. This is why we come across so many labor unions, labor departments, and arbitration boards. Whenever people expect something, there will always be some kind of tussle when they don’t get exactly what they expect. He expects more of your work; you expect more of his money. There is a continual tugging between the employer and the employee. To undue the tangles that come from this, you have to go to court. You’ve heard of many labor cases in court, but never a case fighting over free service.

Nobody goes to court in the name of service. Service is just one–sided. You give for the sake of giving, with no expectation whatsoever. There is never any trouble, either for you or the one who is receiving. If you are doing your work as service, the one who receives never feels obliged. That’s the best possible service. Whenever you give something, don’t even look for a nice thank you, a smile or a little appreciation. Why? If you miss the smile or nodding the head or the thank you, you won’t be happy: because you expected it. Suppose you give something to someone who is busy. He may just take it quickly, and continue what he is doing while you are waiting for some acknowledgement of your service. Then, you are disappointed because you didn’t get something in return.

Making the receiver obliged to you, is karma, and not Karma Yoga or true service. Karma Yoga is just doing for the sake of doing, for the joy of Art of Giving 3serving. That’s the very highest reward you can get. Suppose you offer a gift, and the person says, “Hey, is this all you can bring?” Still you feel fine, you’re not bothered by it. You already have the joy of giving something. Don’t be bothered by what he says. You wanted to give, you gave, you’re happy. Can anybody stop your happiness? Only you can stop and disturb that joy by expecting something in return. The minute you expect something in return you lose the joy, you lose your peace of mind. Before giving, you build up some tension. As you wrap the present, you think, “Oh, how beautiful it is. He is really going to love this.” Even before you wrap the present, when you were out shopping for the gift, you assumed things and built some tension. With such complications, the mind is not at ease even in what it is doing for another. You are nervous until you put it in his hand, and he looks at you and says, “Oh, it is beautiful, thank you so much.” Finally, you are relieved. “Ah, I really got him something good.” Until that moment, there was tension and anxiety. “Will he appreciate it?” Will it make him happy?” Even afterward,”“Did he really like it?”

All these anxieties are due to your expectations. Until he appreciated the present, you felt anxiety. Only when he smiled gratefully did you feel some happiness for a little while. That is borrowed happiness from outside yourself. It won’t last long, and you’ll want a little more the next day. You will have to buy a bigger present. You will want more and more and more. Even if you achieve his good will, appreciation, or love, you’ll fear losing it. You won’t want anyone else to look at him, or give him a present. “What if she gives him a bigger present?” Jealousy enters, as well as the fear of losing him. So when do you feel happy? Neither before nor after. It’s all a kind of business.

Watch out for business gifts. The gift is not just for the sake of giving. You go with a nice parcel today and come with a small petition tomorrow. Even God is not spared from such business gifts. You area bright beautiful candle for God, and soon after, even while He is appreciating your candle, you say,’“Don’t keep looking at that, listen to my request. I don’t have time to wait to ask this, I have to run the office. You can look at the candle later. Listen to me, this is what I want…”

art of giving 4It is like that everywhere. In Sri Lanka there is a well–known temple. The front entrance is always covered with seven screens. The esoteric meaning behind this is that seven sheaths hide the inner Self. Each year there is a competition among devotees to see who will donate the screens. It’s a particularly terrible competition to see who will donate the front screen because everything else is hidden behind that foremost screen, on which there is a big beautiful painting of the form of Lord Subramanya.

The competition is not simply for the painting, but how to show who gave it because the donor’s name is printed there clearly for all to see. Donated by Mr. So and So, 95 Main Street, Such and Such a Store, Colombo 5. His full address, his business, and maybe even his telephone number is written there. One year, a person who donated the front screen came and spoke to me. “Swamiji, did you go to Katarangama this year?” “Yes, I was there for the Lord’s festival.” “Did you see the screen in front?’ “Yes, it’s so beautiful.” “That’s me.” “Oh, you are the one whose name is on the screen?” “Yes, don’t you think it is truly beautiful?” “Yes, the picture is beautiful. What a great sin you have committed.” “What are you saying? Why do you tell me this?” “It’s a terrible sin. Sin doesn’t mean you did something to destroy somebody or anything like that. But you are ruining yourself. You are going to become a very big debtor.’“ “I don’t’ understand, Swamiji. Please tell me.” “Okay, take a pencil and paper. We’ll get into some mathematical calculations. Do you sometimes advertise your store in the paper?” “Yes.” “How much do you pay for a column of one inch?” “A one-inch column in the“Daily News is very expensive, Swamiji. They charge a thousand dollars.” “Ah. Take for example something like Life magazine. How much for one full page ad?”

“Maybe fifty thousand dollars.” “For that one page which will be seen for maybe a week, fifty thousand dollars. Now how many people are seeing your screen? Say about ten million. The screen you have put there has your name on it. Do you know how many millions of people are going to see that throughout the year? Is it not a big advertisement for you? God is not sending you the bill immediately. But He will keep an account of how many people have seen that how many times. The advertisement cost for your firm will be debited in your account there. You might have donated a hundred dollars for the screen, which will be credited to your account, no doubt, but the indebtedness of your account grows daily. If there are ten thousand people each day who pass the screen and read your name, figure at least a dollar per head; ten thousand dollars debit in your account each day; in a few days, fifty thousand dollars debit. For the whole year I don’t know how many millions you are going to have to pay back. How are you going to pay for all of this? When are you going to pay? You will have to be born again and again. Do you think this is a profitable business?”

Art of Giving 2“Swamiji, I understand your point. What am I going to do? I can’t just go and take the screen away now.” “We think God has no sense of calculation. He’s a first–class businessman. Remember, what you give, you get. If you give ten per cent, you only get ten per cent of God. If you give twenty–five percent, you only get twenty– five percent of God. He’s a fair businessman. Equal proportions, one per cent for one per cent. Suppose you give a hundred percent, what will you get? One hundred percent of God. “And your hundred percent is worth nothing maybe about one hundred per cent of flesh and bones, and some rotten stuff here and there, that even garbage people don’t want to take. Yet with all this rubbish, it doesn’t matter. He accepts your percentage. “Are you the one who gave to Me completely?” “Yes, I’m totally surrendering to You, Sir.” He accepts your surrendering. You are not of much use to God, but remember He is a fair businessman. “He has given his hundred per cent to Me. What am I to do? I have to give my hundred percent to him, otherwise I’m unfair.” So he gives Himself to you, one hundred percent. This is the secret of the devotion business.

(by Sri Swami Satchidananda, from the November, 2004 IYTA Newsletter)