India is wonderful in its own way. We say namaskar to businessmen but we touch the feet of dancers, singers and writers. We look enviously at those who wear a lot of expensive clothes but we touch with love the feet of those who wear almost none. A meeting called by a person to teach you on how to be a successful entrepreneur will attract fifty people ; a meeting called by a person to teach you to live life by not wanting anything will attract thousands. We forgive the bad because we believe that they will be punished in their next lives. We believe in reincarnation but we do little to ensure that we will have better lives next time. We believe in charity and yet we do almost none.
This week I am talking about charity. It has obsessed me for a long time and came into focus this monsoon when my flagship animal shelter of 31 years , Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre, collapsed under the weight of heavy rain, 4000 animals instead of the 200 it was built for and a medical team that did less and less as more and more animals pour in. I now spend 4 hours a day there and things look brighter. The doctors have doubled and are at work, the rooms that fell down have been rebuilt. But we are a long way from ideal status as all the facilities have to be doubled. The police and the wildlife department, the municipal corporation - all dump animals on us every hour of the day. But we do not get a single rupee from the government to look after them, Apart from that we have 24 hour ambulances that respond to 50 calls a day for free rescues. We have an OPD that caters to 150 people's animals a day, We have any number of pedigreed animals being dumped on us.
My hospital needs so many things: tiles, bricks , cement, a small van to pick up puppies, a new generator. It runs purely on donations and this month we posted a loss of Rs 2 lakh which always frightens me( The police dumped 35 camels on us that were going for slaughter. These camels were very sick and their feed alone has come to Rs 67,000 per week) . I need to make a lot of capital investment in Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre – ten rooms more for sheep, camels, doctors, staff , a new kitchen, 100 new kennels and a lot of repairs. Every morning , we make a list of companies and then I call them to see if they will donate something we need. Sometimes I have to go through a long monologue which bothers me and then am asked to call again as the person cannot take the decision. That embarrasses me. Sometimes , the person surprises me. Last month I rang up a company to ask for a washing machine and the CEO said yes , even before I finished my speech. I was thrilled !! He turned out to Shri Jyoti Basu’s grandson. Yesterday I called someone to ask for an OT light and since he seemed very gruff I trailed off by saying.... if it is possible. He answered “ Nothing is impossible. The word itself means I am possible so you will have your light. “ I was so joyous ! A company head has not even talked to me but has simply responded to an email and promised a cleaning machine. Bless him !! On the other hand , a club that donated 7 street lights made me come to meet them twice on Sundays ( my writing day) , for 5 hours each , took one million photographs with each member's family and then I had to pursue them for two months to install the lights. Not good. There are two people who hound me on a weekly basis saying that they will leave the money to animals in their wills – and they have a lot of it . But they refuse to give any now – and I am sure I am going to die before them !
I give as much as I can away because it makes good sense for my health, economically and karmically. For me , everything that is given away is like being put into a bank for me alone. This business of giving and taking for me is like being in a river. The river carries on flowing . I am simply bathing in the flow and enjoying the rush of water. I am always surprised by revelations of people who make thousands of crores through bribes and open loot. Where, how and when will they use it ? Madhu Koda and his gang looted Jharkhand's poor people and sent the money to a lawless African country called Liberia . Will they ever see it again? Is their quality of life better? Are they happier?
If the purpose of life is pleasure - and I am a firm believer in this - then the quickest way to get that rush of happiness is not to buy something but to give something away (or , in my experience, to plant something in the ground )
Charity makes you feel good. The giver is always indebted to the person he gives to because of that amazing flush of happiness that comes for a little while. You feel that you are some worth in the world , that you have done your duty and that you have a little value in the grand scheme of things. The Japanese have a saying that when you save someone's life , you owe them forever. That’s how I feel. In fact instead of feeling superior , you should thank the people that you have been allowed by the universal energy to give something to.
The laws of nature are constructed for your survival and for your emotional and spiritual advancement. Helping those in need is self defence because you will be helped when you are in need . If you believe in another life then any thing that makes another life feel better is acquiring Good Karma. And , if you believe the Gurus, you can trade that in for a good reincarnational slot on Earth.
To see what a bad survival policy selfishness or greed is look around you. The bad air, the terrible water, the poison in the food ... all your problems stem from some individual greed. Monosodium glutamate that kills so many people was banned in India - it took the bribing of one bureaucrat to allow it and now it is found as a secret ingredient in many edibles. Our current environment minister has given more mining licences in forests than anyone else. He has also repeated the act made by me 20 years ago that disallowed anyone from constructing near a beach. So he has destroyed , through a single person's greed , the forests and coastline of an entire country. Contrast that with a person who gives his entire life in charity by becoming a voluntary doctor in tribal villages. Or with a man in Gujarat who buys seeds with all his earnings and then goes to public lands to scatter them . Or someone who trains forest guards on how to catch poachers. Or someone who opens a daily feeding centre for the homeless . My mother always kept clothes for children in her car and gave them to anyone she thought needed them. See their faces - they are much happier than this minister .What a fun way to live !!
In the case of my hospital - I always tell the people who use it that it does not belong to me . I am just the caretaker appointed by the gods to handle it in this lifetime. Imagine yourself a wounded or sick or discarded little puppy. Would you not want a medical facility where you can be cared for ?
Find a place in your city that needs your charity. Start with feeding the birds. Every week give a donation to an animal shelter , a children's orphanage and a charitable hospital. Put a tap outside your house for water. I read about someone who gives away 31 things from her house every month. Choose a weird number and stick to it so that it becomes an adventure. And remember to give nice things: A biscuit to the dog is not charity. Charity is the biscuit shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.
Yogiraj M , whose book I told you about last week, says: When you serve a less fortunate person in any way — material or spiritual — you are not doing him or her a favor. In fact, the one who receives your help does you a favor by accepting what you give, and thereby helps you to evolve and move closer to the divine, blissful being, who in reality is within all. "
“Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot!" says Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavad-Gita. " My life is a result of what I have done in all my previous lives. I am bound to fulfil a certain role in this life and I can only act within it to a limited degree. But within that parameter can I change my luck ? Our holy ones say that it is possible to change one's fate though charity and meditation/prayer. Helping animals who cannot complain about their suffering or do anything for you in return would be the ultimate karma creation. So , in a way, if you like being selfish – charity is the ultimate shopping experience !
Here is nature's law: You can buy your next life ( or even this life's coming years) 's insurance policy by giving as much as you can in this life. If you keep the river flowing, you will insure that you get to drink from it as well.
- Maneka Gandhi