“When distributing gifts to the people of the town, they are not delaying. Looking again and again at His beautiful eyes, they receive bliss.” (Janaki Mangala, 135)
negācārū kaham̐ nāgari gaharū na lāvahiṃ |
nirakhi nirakhi ānandu sulocani pāvahiṃ ||
Like staying on a boat that has a leak, when living in Kali Yuga there seems to be a rapidly depleting supply of funds. There is always some bill that needs to be paid. As soon as money is earned, it vanishes. There is the bill for food, the bill for water, the bill for taxes, and so many others. Thus it is not surprising that miserliness would become almost a virtuous quality in such a time period. Know, however, that devotional service cures all ailments. When in the direct presence of the original person, who has beautiful eyes, instead of constantly worrying about the bank balance, fortune is liberally distributed to others.
Why is miserliness bad?
In the Shrimad Bhagavatam it is said that one who is miserly lives a hellish present life and is forced to suffer a hellish afterlife. The first part should make sense if we think about it. If my mind is consumed with thoughts on how to save money, get a deal, get something for free, cheat another person, etc., is that good? What does success in these endeavors really get me? If I am going to worry about something, that something should at least be worthwhile. If I get two doughnuts for the price of one, and in getting that I had to take so much effort, what is the use?
“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)
The existence is accurately described as hellish because being consumed with worry is not the right way to live. We go on vacation precisely so that we’ll have less worries. The good manager delegates responsibility so that he can stay more focused. If I am to focus on this thing or that all the time, when all those things relate to saving money, I am obviously missing out on life.
The afterlife will be more hellish because nothing in this world really belongs to us. I travel to some destination, find a spot that I like, and then mark the territory as mine. But I haven’t really done anything. The spot was there before. It will be there long after I am gone. This isn’t to say that the concept of property rights is invalid, but it should be inherently understood what it means to own property. Property is just a collection of matter – earth, water, fire, air and ether. We don’t create these elements. When we lay claim to something, it should be known to be on lease from higher authorities. We have to eventually give it up.
One who doesn’t understand this mistakenly acts like a miser, and thus they go against the standard code of conduct. Fortune is known as Lakshmi in Sanskrit, and it is named after the goddess of fortune. She has a unique character; she only serves God. She has no other interest. Her service is so pleasing that God keeps her with Him all the time. This is God in His personal form; His impersonal, unmanifest form pervades the entire universe.
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
The personal forms all have the original goddess of fortune or one of her incarnations with them. One who takes fortune and doesn’t use it for serving God, who is also known as Narayana, essentially steals Lakshmi. This theft is not good; it leads to bad things in the future. Whether we believe this or not, just see the same concept within our own sphere. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you or if you use it the wrong way, will you not meet difficulty eventually? So the same applies to the broader category of property on loan from the Supreme Lord.
Charity is one way to remove miserliness. The different kinds of charity are laid out in the Bhagavad-gita, which is a flawless presentation of Vedic teachings, which are the oldest in existence. Oldest in this case does mean best, as the ancient works from India speak to the constitutional properties of the living entity. Societal conditions evolve and change with time, but core properties of individuals do not. Pizza is pizza, whether it is baked today or in one hundred years. Similarly, the living spirit is the same in qualities whether living today or one thousand years ago. Therefore teachings which address these properties never become outdated.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see an instance of where miserliness is tossed aside. Not that the people involved could ever be accused of being miserly, but here they nevertheless do not delay in distributing gifts. The occasion is a sacred wedding, the union of the daughter of King Janaka and the son of King Dasharatha. So many rites and rituals are associated with a traditional wedding, and in this case one aspect involved giving gifts to the people of the town. It is said that charity given to the proper recipient, at the proper time, and with no expectation of return is charity in the mode of goodness.
“That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 17.20)
We can think of goodness as the right way to do something. Devotion is higher than goodness because it is more than just the right way; it is the best. The right way may land us in a better position materially, whereas the way of devotion sometimes appears to put us in a worse position. In charity in goodness, the understood benefit is that eventually the same money will come back to the donor multiplied by a large factor. In charity in devotion, there is no guarantee of the money ever coming back, but then it doesn’t really matter. In devotion there is love for God, which is the most valuable gift to have.
This verse from the Janaki Mangala explains the same truth. After not delaying in distributing gifts, the people in Sita’s wedding party received bliss over and over again by looking at the beautiful eyes of Shri Rama, the groom. Rama is Narayana and Sita is Lakshmi. Thus their wedding performed on this earth was a mere formality; the two are always together. In carrying out the wedding, the participants followed protocol. They gave charity when the time called for it. They were not miserly because they had both Sita and Rama there in front of them. Of what use is huge sums of wealth when you have the goddess of fortune in front of you? She is happiest when serving Rama. Would she not then be pleased with those who helped to make the union with Him a reality? If she is pleased, then there is no need to fear over destitution. She provides the devotee whatever they need to carry out their devotion. Here only the eyes were necessary, as the enchanting vision of Shri Rama was there for all to see.
From out of hellish fate to lift,
Be charitable in giving out gifts.
Appropriate time make sure to use,
And then the right recipient choose.
In devotion women liberally gave,
So that time with Rama’s vision to save.
Bliss moment after moment to come,
So happy that Sita and Rama one to become.
Categories: janaki mangala