Student: Morning Sir! Just thought you would be happy to know that yesterday I went to the
outskirts of Nairobi to feed thousands of starving children.
Teacher: How was the experience?
Student: Overwhelming! The look on the children’s faces when the van approached them was
simply delightful. I feel very fulfilled! There is so much poverty in this world and now I feel like
should contribute more of my time and money towards such charitable ventures.
Teacher: Will this solve their problems?
Student: Well if everyone simply dedicates some time and resources into helping such organizations then poverty will soon be completely eradicated! At least no one will sleep hungry. What Bill Gates is doing is truly phenomenal! He is giving £30 Billion of his wealth to his charity organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We need more people like him.
Teacher: What time did you feed the children?
Student: 10 am rough! Why are you asking?
Teacher: Please address the root of the problem!
Student: I don’t understand Sir,
Teacher: Covering up the symptoms will not make the disease go away. By 8 pm that evening,
they would have all been hungry again! What is the root cause of their hunger?
Student: Ahh! I think I know what you’re trying to get at! The root cause of poverty is lack of
education. If everyone gets sufficiently educated in schools and other educational facilities
then they will be able to solve their own chapatti problems. Right????
Students: That makes sense Sir. And in fact, Bill Gates and many other charitable foundations
are emphasizing just as much on educational development so that eventually people can get a
job, make a living and feed their families. At least this way no one goes to bed hungry.
Teacher: Really? No one will go hungry ever again?
Student: Yeah! Of course, this will take some time. Nothing happens overnight. Maybe in the
next 30 years! Maximum 50 years, I would say. We will have a poverty less world.
Teacher: You still didn’t answer my question. What is the root cause of hunger in this world?
Student: I thought we had concluded that it is a lack of education?
Teacher: This is still somewhat superficial. Go deeper
Student: I am still baffled, Sir. What more can there be?
Teacher: Even if you feed someone three times a day, and also educate them so that they can
then feed themselves, what guarantee is there, that they will not take birth into poverty again
in their next life? What is the root cause of poverty in the first place?
Student: Karma I guess.
Teacher: How long will you go on feeding them and educating them, when there is poverty in
the heart? It is this poverty in the heart that causes them to be born in such dire situations. They have performed some very inappropriate actions in a previous birth to be reduced to face this situation in this life. How will you deal with this? How will you control their actions? Who will destroy the seed to rape, to murder, to steal, to exploit?
Student: Well I guess the best thing would be to insert some moral and ethical education along
with academic education. Isn’t it? This will make them good humans and they will not have to face such poverty in their next life. But then again, who knows what influence people can come under and again become degraded in their ways. I don’t know, I ‘m getting a little confused.
Teacher: Let me assist you now. If you want to cut the problem at its root then simply give
them spiritual knowledge. This is the highest level of charity. There are three types of charity. The first type is a charity for the body – food. But the problem is that despite feeding someone, hunger strikes again just a few hours later. So a wiser person will consider the next level of charity which is a charity for the mind. As you said, this is education. They will then sort out their own economic issues of food, shelter, clothes, medicine, etc. But the wisest person sees that this again is only a temporary fix for one lifetime. How to fix the endless cycle of birth and death is the real solution to all these problems. And this can only be fixed through spiritual
education. This is known as a charity for the soul.
Student: Are you suggesting that we forget about feeding the poor and educating them
academically and purely concentrate on distributing spiritual knowledge?
Teacher: (Teacher Chuckles) Not at all. What I am suggesting that all three levels of charity
need to be given. Who wants to listen to any spiritual sermon on an empty stomach? So let these types of charity go on for feeding and educating. But without spiritual education, the problem will never end. There will always be empty stomachs.
Student: Ah! I get it! But how do I give spiritual education others when I barely know it myself?
Teacher: Quite simple. Dedicate some time and energy daily just like you were planning to do
with distributing food. Spend some time acquiring spiritual knowledge and then distribute it to others. Even those who distribute food to the poor need to accumulate it themselves first. You cannot give what you do not have.
Student: What about the others who are busy organizing the feeding and the educational facilities? Should they be encouraged to focus more on spiritual education?
Teacher: Yes. Though they should still continue these subsidiary levels of charity. After all, such
activities are very noble indeed. But everyone should understand that without giving charity for the soul, the charity of the mind and charity of the body are simply recurring problems. Does a real doctor cover simply up the symptoms or attack the disease?
Student: Does this mean that charity for the soul is only meant for those who are poor! Aren’t
most people in need of this?
Teacher: Very well understood. What is the point of being rich in cash but poor in the heart? Such a person will eventually find themselves on the street, with ripped clothes, full of malnutrition, and begging in people’s windows for coins in a future birth.
Student: How can I develop this spiritual knowledge so as to give spiritual knowledge to others?
Teacher: Quite simple. Nothing takes place without the Lord’s sanction. So be sincere and pray
to Him to reveal pure knowledge of Himself to you. The path will mysteriously open up. He will send you a real spiritual guide who will make you understand the sacred scriptures. Then as you gain the knowledge you can distribute it to others.
Student: I feel like I have a much better understanding of the link between charity and spirituality
Teacher: I will leave you with a very nice quote from the Bhagavad Gita that summarizes this
discussion. “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving this body, take birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
Kindly send all feedback and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
All our articles are based on the teaching of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, who
represents the teachings of the Hindu line of faith known as the Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya.