The moment we say charity, we are reminded of groups like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, and other such institutions involved in serving the poor and the needy. Yet we never think of doing charity to rich people, the idea seems preposterous. The very fact that charity is associated with poverty puts a question mark on it. It means that charity presupposes poverty.
Charity is derived from the Latin word caritas. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that originally, in Latin, the word caritas meant preciousness, dearness, high price. From this, via Christian theology, it was changed to mean an unconditional love for others, later to be reduced to “Generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless.”
Just think for a moment, if there were no poor, ill or helpless people in the world what would happen to your charity? Charity is a moralistic stance taken by rich people to rid themselves of feelings of guilt harbored because they know they have exploited the poor to amass their wealth.
Once Osho was asked, “In your vision, is charity a part of religiousness? If so, what would constitute charity? Following the Catholic concept, the Indian legislature that specifies:
1) relief for the poor
2) education and
3) medical relief, as being charity
What is the concept of charity in the eyes of a Buddha?
Osho answered: “The Catholic idea is relief for the poor. The idea of the buddha will be: there is no need for any poverty in the world. Poverty is man-created, and it is in our hands to destroy poverty. But all the religions have emphasized relief for the poor. But relief for the poor is not charity, it is not love.” 1
Why, in the first place, should poverty exist? It exists because there are a few people who are greedy. A small section of society goes on accumulating, while the greater proportion of society remains poor. Man has lived for centuries under such unbalanced odds. This exploitation can be completely stopped by changing of the perspective. Poverty is a by-product of greed.
First, eradicate the greed of the rich. Make them more loving, compassionate, and sensitive to humanity at large. Greed is a cancer growing within them and it has to be treated. The treatment is meditation, emotional fulfillment. It’s their inferiority complex that wants to look powerful in the eyes of others.
Second, change the definition of charity. Poverty has many levels just as human beings have many levels: economic poverty, mental poverty, spiritual poverty. The rich are spiritually poor, they are “needy, ill, or helpless” at a deeper level. Their behavior is pathological. They need meditative therapies that will cleanse their minds, making them secure and sure of themselves such that they can stop exploiting the poor. Serving the poor will not stop this exploitation; rather it will continue to support it.
While commenting on India recently Bill Gates said that the poor don’t know who is responsible for their plight, they are as if hypnotized into believing that it is their fate. The real service would be to educate the poor and empower them to see the reality, and at the other end of the scale awaken the handful of rich people to a broader, more human context.
By Amrit Sadhana
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1 The Rebellious Spirit – Meditation Is the Greatest Charity, Talk #1