“While Krishna was going to the fruit vendor very hastily, most of the grains He was holding fell. Nonetheless, the fruit vendor filled Krishna’s hands with fruits, and her fruit basket was immediately filled with jewels and gold.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.11)
Friend1: Charity is good, right?
Friend2: What do you mean by “good”?
Friend1: It’s good for you to be charitable.
Friend2: Sure. At the time of birth the living entity goes into exploitation mode due to ignorance. If you didn’t know that there was a higher purpose to life, why wouldn’t you be worried about others surpassing you?
Friend1: What do you mean by “surpassing”?
Friend2: If you find out that someone makes more money than you, aren’t you a tiny bit jealous?
Friend1: I am, I must admit.
Friend2: We’re jealous because we think that somehow they have gone ahead of us in reaching the goal of the human life. We also worry that if others have everything, we won’t have anything. Hence the rush to explore new lands. There is a competition to see who will plant their country’s flag in a new area first.
Friend1: There’s also the drilling for oil. There’s the protection of commodities and the competition to invent the new product that everyone will want.
Friend2: So there’s all this exploitation going on. No one wants to divulge their secret; lest they throw away their advantage. In this light, being charitable is good. It removes us from the fever of competition for a brief moment.
Friend1: So if someone is charitable, they are serving God?
Friend2: Not necessarily. There are different kinds of charity: goodness, passion and ignorance.
Friend1: Oh, so like the three modes of nature? So there can be charity in darkness?
Friend2: Yeah. Think of it like giving money to a thief who is about to commit a crime. You think you’re being nice, but you’re actually helping them do something bad, like kill or steal. The recipient is not appropriate and neither is the time. There is no higher authority sanctioning your charitable act, either.
Friend1: What about passion?
Friend2: That’s pretty easy to understand. Think of it like giving charity to someone in the hopes that they’ll do you a favor later on. Or perhaps you want to receive a plaque from the organization which you can then hang in your company’s office. There is motive; you’re expecting some kind of return.
Friend1: And so goodness would be charity that is to the appropriate recipient, done at the appropriate time, and without any expectation of return?
Friend2: Exactly. Shri Krishna explains all of this in the Bhagavad-gita. Charity in goodness is sanctioned by shastra. It’s like following tradition, rites, or sacraments. You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.
Friend1: So if that’s the case, the majority of charity that takes place is not in goodness.
Friend2: Even if it were, in the human life you want to transcend the three modes of nature. Obviously it is better to be in goodness, sattva-guna, than the other three modes. Still, even if you are in goodness you have to take birth again into the same environment of exploitation. That’s not a preferred reward.
Friend1: Can there be charity that is beyond goodness?
Friend2: Yes. Recall the fruit vendor in Vrindavana. She went to the house of Nanda Maharaja one day ready to sell her fruits. In exchange she would get grains. Nanda’s son had seen these transactions go on many times, so He decided He would give it a shot. Since He was so young, He could barely contain His enthusiasm. His tiny hands couldn’t hold all the grains that were necessary. So while running towards the vendor, most of the grains fell out of His hands.
Friend1: Oh, that’s too bad. What did the vendor do?
Friend2: She gave Him more fruit than if He had paid her properly.
Friend1: Why did she do that? To be nice?
Friend2: She had pure love for God. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Vrindavana, the residents are on such a high level of consciousness that they forget that Krishna is God. They are not afraid of Him. They do not ask Him for things. Instead, they constantly offer things to Him. They sacrifice the results of their work for His benefit. And actually, this is no sacrifice. The fruit vendor turned around and saw that her basket became filled with jewels instead of fruit.
Friend1: Oh wow. That’s pretty cool.
Friend2: This charity was done on a whim, so some may be tempted to say that it was done in ignorance. She also got the reward of jewels, so maybe it was in passion. She had no expectation of return, so maybe it was in goodness. But since it was done out of pure love for Krishna, her charity was in pure goodness. There is no inappropriate time for such charity. There is no inappropriate amount, either.
Friend1: Her attitude is quite instructive to me. I would think that losing that much fruit would cost her a lot. She probably didn’t make that much money to begin with.
Friend2: So whether you make a lot or a little, if you withdraw for even a second from the mindset of pursuing profit and turn towards love for Krishna, you will be benefitted so much. This is the secret known to the bhaktas, who have abandoned all hopes for material enjoyment, renunciation, or mystic perfection. They remember the fruit vendor and the blessing she got from a single kind gesture. Therefore they try to make as many of the same offerings as possible every single day. Anyone can do this easily by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In ignorance with others always competing,
Charity for helping this attitude defeating.
In passion for something to earn,
In goodness not expecting return.
No thought when in ignorance descending,
Pure goodness all three transcending.
Like when fruits to Krishna the vendor gave,
Unmotivated, no thought of herself to save.
In bhakti never a loser to become,
Valued gem from genuine offering one.
Categories: the fruit vendor