Charity that expresses vanity ends in vanity (Gita Daily)

Published on Feb 23, 2015

Based on Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17, Text 21, By Chaitanya Charan Das (
Article – Charity is usually a noble expression of the human virtue of compassion. Few joys in life are as sublime and fulfilling as the joy of helping wiping someone’s tears or bringing a smile on their face. When done in a mood of helping others, charity expands our consciousness, by helping us tune to concerns beyond our immediate concerns.

Yet not all charity is done with the same level of consciousness – when done primarily as an expression of the ego, “Just see how good I am”, charity can keep the consciousness locked in the temptation of wanting to be a controller of matter.

The Bhagavad-gita classifies everything in material existence into a typology of three modes, wherein the modes are among other things shapers of the interaction between matter and consciousness. Normally, charity would be considered as belonging to the mode of goodness, but not always. The Gita (17.20-22) indicates that charity can be in any of the three modes.

When charity is done in the mode of passion (Gita 17.21), the purpose is expanding one’s sense of power and prestige in controlling matter. Usually, those in passion control matter for their own immediate sensual gratification, but sometimes that control can be for indirect gratification by helping others enjoy matter. Such charity ends in vanity – it doesn’t take us towards liberation, nor does it grant any lasting fulfillment. Given that the Gita right from it beginning takes us from outer appearance of matter to the inner substance of soul and ultimately the Supersoul, its analysis of charity is similarly meant to take us to the substance – to prompt deeper introspection so that our external expression of charity is accompanied by an internal intention of benevolence. The highest charity is spiritual charity – the charity that helps people link spiritually with the Supersoul.

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