Ramakrishna Paramahansa on Philanthropy

“God can be realized when a man acquires sattva. Householders engage in philanthropic work, such as charity, mostly with a motive. That is not good. But actions without motives are good. Yet it is very difficult to leave motives out of one’s actions.

“When you realize God, will you pray to Him, ‘O God, please grant that I may dig reservoirs, build roads, and found hospitals and dispensaries’? After the realization of God all such desires are left behind.

“Then mustn’t one perform acts of compassion, such as charity to the poor? I do not forbid it. If a man has money, he should give it to remove the sorrows and sufferings that come to his notice. In such an event the wise man says, ‘Give the poor something.’ But inwardly he feels: ‘What can I do? God alone is the Doer. I am nothing.’

“The great souls, deeply affected by the sufferings of men, show them the way to God. Sankaracharya kept the ‘ego of Knowledge’ in order to teach mankind. The gift of knowledge and devotion is far superior to the gift of food. Therefore Chaitanyadeva distributed bhakti to all, including the outcaste. Happiness and suffering are the inevitable characteristics of the body. You have come to eat mangoes. Fulfil that desire. The one thing needful is jnāna and bhakti. God alone is Substance; all else is illusory.

“It is God alone who does everything. You may say that in that case man may commit sin. But that is not true. If a man is firmly convinced that God alone is the Doer and that he himself is nothing, then he will never make a false step.

“It is God alone who has planted in man’s mind what the ‘Englishman’ calls free will. People who have not realized God would become engaged in more and more sinful actions if God had not planted in them the notion of free will. Sin would have increased if God had not made the sinner feel that he alone was responsible for his sin.

“Those who have realized God are aware that free will is a mere appearance. In reality man is the machine and God its Operator, man is the carriage and God its Driver.”

(Source: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

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