Sometimes people casually ask what I believe in, looking for a nutshell understanding, so perhaps they will know how to categorize me. I really wish people would understand that there is only one Divine system in the Universe known by infinite names, and represented by many religions. Still I try my best to look for ways to share the similarities, while celebrating the differences.
Besides all its’ more esoteric ideas and philosophy the path I follow, Gaudiya Vaishnavism or Bhakti-yoga, embodies universal truths that most religious and spiritual people accept.
For instance, the idea that it is better to give or be in the consciousness of giving than it is to just be “on the take”, is a universal truth understood by people of all religions. In addition people understand that giving is actually getting, or by giving you are nourished and benefited.
In a broad sense we can tell people that Krishna consciousness is all about learning how to give, rather then just taking. When we give or sacrifice to benefit others our self expands, and when we are centered on trying to take from others or the environment, our self contracts. So people should be encouraged to begin the process of giving, somewhere, somehow. Ultimately from our vision giving to God and saintly persons is the highest giving (because we receive the true benefit of giving), yet everyone has to begin, and should be encouraged.
In many places in the Gita different levels of giving are recommended according to the consciousness of the people involved. Everyone should understand the ultimate purpose of giving—-pleasing Krishna and realizing our eternal nature as a servant, cooperator, or giver to God.
There are different results obtained by where or who one gives to, and according to our motivation. Yet regardless of their understanding, people should learn to give as a way of life. All types of giving may be encouraged—-one size doesn’t fit, though the principle of giving does.
Everyone can give something to benefit humanity, living beings in general, or to better the environment. Giving or sacrificing our wealth for a good cause is beneficial and purifying. In the Gita’s 4th chapter after describing many types of sacrifices, Krishna says that “…without sacrifice [i.e. giving] one can never live happily on this planet or in this life, what to speak of the next.”
When we understand our true natures as givers, then we should look for that place that we can give unlimitedly. Only God can accept unlimitedly and reward us in a way that is satisfying to our soul. The ultimate giving is to give our soul to Krishna in love. We are already his, but in material consciousness, we are serving or giving to the body, mind and senses. That selfish giving entangles us. When we begin giving back to Krishna we begin to understand our nature as souls, and that our real self interest is to serve him. Then we will fully embrace the idea that to give is to live.
We should think deeply about how giving is really the basis of life and will determine our future in this life and the next. Giving includes withholding where we should have given (we are then giving to our illusion, or selfishness, or negative judgment etc.). We give not just on the physical external plane, but also within on the emotional/mental level (love, compassion, hate, envy, anger etc).
What we GIVE OUR ATTENTION to is what attachments are made of, which keeps us bound to those things or people. We could say giving is what consciousness is all about. Our “job” or goal as devotees is to understand where our giving should be placed for the best benefit for everyone. And even when we are trying to give to Krishna, how much are we giving, and what are we withholding? For instance, when we chant the holy name, are we giving attention to his name, or our thoughts for the day?
As souls our nature is to give to Krishna, as a part of the body serves the whole body. When we give to and love Krishna everyone is benefited. And when we give to and love others we see this in relationship to Krishna who they are part of and who is within them and everything else. So we can’t help but give. As aspiring devotees, we have to become conscious givers.
Here is a saying I received from a dear friend:
When we go to the grave, all we have left is what we gave!!
Meditation on Giving
I am finding that this topic on giving is a powerful meditation on life, by seeing giving as the nature of the soul, the function of consciousness. Here is an affirmation:
I am a giver. My life is a treasure. Giving is the way my wealth is utilized. Each day provides an opportunity to share what I have been given.
Try coming up with your own.
Here is a meditation we can use when we remember:
Moment by moment let me ask myself: “What am I giving? Where am I giving? To whom am I giving?” And then, “Why am I giving?” (which means what is my motive)
An example of this meditation for chanting might be the following (meditating on giving before chanting also can be setting our intention. I am a big advocate of setting our intentions before any activity):
I am chanting my daily “rounds” or “japa” of the Hare Krishna mantra.
What am I giving?
I am giving my time, attention, prayers for perfection and love, and trying to love.
Where am I giving?
I am giving at each moment of the present, in my mind, in my heart, out loud through my bodily voice in the immediate area.
To whom am I giving?
I am giving my attention and trying to love Radha and Krishna through their holy name, to the Supersoul in my body and within all things, and to my personal Deities.
Why am I giving?
I am giving my attention and feeling to the chanting of the Lord’s holy name to to please Radha and Krishna, to become purified of my material consciousness, to revive my eternal nature as a loving servant of Krishna, out of duty to my guru, Lord Chaitanya, and all the devotees, as service to them, as worship, as prayer for perfection.