Today I had to pop out to buy something from the shop. I got to the shop and realised I had forgot to bring some money! Waheguru. So I had to go all the way back home, get some money, then go back to the shop. On the way back from the shop I heard someone say "Hello Manvir". I looked around and it was a Christian gentleman who works for a charity which provides food, shelter and guidance to homeless people. He is a very good soul and friendly chap.
It was a short conversation. He said, "Manvir, I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated hearing about Sikhism at the Inter-faith meeting. As always I find Sikh beliefs and way of thinking wonderful. What Sikhs believe just seems to make simple sense. Just wanted to say thanks." Dhan Guru, Dhan Teri Sikhi.
Last week's inter-faith meeting was on CHARITY & POVERTY. The speakers this month were myself and a Muslim Maulvi talking about Islam.
In summary this what was said for the Sikh perspective:
Charity is usually thought of as giving wealth, alms, gifts, donations, etc, which is assumed to be virtuous and noble. However, charity becomes a problem when it becomes an obstacle in one’s spiritual progress. (To this everyone was surprised and shocked - it was interesting to look at their reaction).
Guru jee tells us that charity must be performed with DISCERNING INTELLIGENCE (AKKAL). If performed ignorantly or foolishly without using intelligence, the act of charity inflates our false ego-sense.ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥"One should read (Gurbaani) with intelligence, and then understand it; One should use intelligence in giving charity."
Wealth in the hands of fool is worse than the poverty of the learned. Some people give charity in hope for sanctifying dishonest living or ill-gotten wealth. Gurbani says:ਸਤੀਆ ਮਨਿ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਦੇਣੈ ਕੈ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥“In the minds of the givers, contentment is produced by thinking about their giving. They give and give, but ask a thousand-fold more, and hope that the world will honour them…” (466).
ਦੇ ਦੇ ਮੰਗਹਿ ਸਹਸਾ ਗੂਣਾ ਸੋਭ ਕਰੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥
Charity replaces greed — it is giving up of one's inflated ego-centeredness. If giving charity does not replace our greed, then it's counterproductive thus worthless.
True Charity is that which is done without any consideration of return or expectation and should be given to worthy receiver to promote Truthfulness in the world – NISHKAAM SEVA. Through this one creates a more harmonious relation with the external world, i.e. society, home, workplace etc. However, giving must be voluntary and out of a genuine feeling.ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥“One who truthfully works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the path.” (1245).
ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥
Charity is good but it is NOT the END. Guru jee tells us that: Nothing is "equal" to NAAM Japnaa (devotional remembrance and meditation on God) for one's spiritual life development and invoking God's love.ਆਤਮ ਜਉ ਨਿਰਮਾਇਲੁ ਕੀਜੈ ਆਪ ਬਰਾਬਰਿ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਸਰਿ ਤਊ ਨ ਪੂਜੈ ॥੩॥“He may purify his soul, and give away in charity his body weight in gold; none of these is equal to the worship of the Divine Name” (973).
To illustrate true charity, I shared the story of Guru Nanak Sahib jee refusing Malik Bhago's meal and instead eating at Bhai Lalo jee's house. Malik Bhago thought he was doing an act of charity and religious merit by feeding the Holy people. However, his food was made with the blood money of the poor and abused. On the other hand, Bhai Lalo jee's meal was like milk made of pure and honest earnings.
To illustrate poverty, I shared the story of Sacha Sauda and how Guru Nanak Sahib jee started the tradition of Guru-Ka-Langar and feeding the needy and hungry. Also how Guru Nanak Sahib jee founded Kartarpur Sahib and got rid of slums to create an egalitarian society based on Truth and Naam. Gurbaani talks of the ideal society, which Bhagat Ravidaas jee call's "Begampura". I ended by talking about the story of Bhagat Puran Singh jee and Pingalwara charity in Amritsar.
Dhan Satguru Nanak Sahib jee
Note: Events over weekend...
Birmingham: National Kirtan Darbaar on Saturday evening @ Smethwick Guru Nanak Gurdwara
Southall: End of Month Youth Keertan on Saturday evening @ Southall Park. Ave Gurdwara