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Reply to Malati on Giving in Charity
by Locanananda das

To my dear godsister Malati devi dasi,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! It was reassuring to hear a member of the GBC confirm that the highest form of charity is to distribute Krishna consciousness. We all agree on this point because it is based on sastric evidence and the teachings of our spiritual master. The discrepancy we must resolve is in terms of the practical application of this instruction.

On one hand, you have agreed that to give Krishna consciousness to those who are suffering is the best form of charity, but on the other hand, you are proposing to raise money, not for spreading Krishna consciousness, but to give away to non-devotees to use at their discretion for non-devotional purposes. Is this not in conflict with ISKCON's purpose of incorporation? On what grounds do you justify engaging the institution in this type of mundane charity work?

Your question, "Who will you call if your home or the temple is on fire?" seems to imply that devotees have a civic duty to help finance their local fire department by giving them money, but this is not what was taught by our spiritual master, neither in practice nor in principle. Srila Prabhupada often referred to a verse in the Eleventh Canto stating that those who are engaged in propagating Krishna consciousness have no such obligation, devarsi-bhutapta-nrnam pitrnam:

"Whoever fully engages himself in the service of the Lord, O King, is no longer indebted to the demigods, the sages, other living entities, his relatives, the forefathers or to any man." (S.B. 11.5.41)

To explain this verse, he wrote in Easy Journey to Other Planets:

"A human being's only obligation is spiritual realization. Unfortunately, in modern civilization human society is too busy discharging national duties. Actually, NATIONAL DUTIES, SOCIAL DUTIES AND HUMANITARIAN DUTIES ARE OBLIGATORY ONLY TO THOSE WHO ARE BEREFT OF SPIRITUAL DUTIES.... As soon as one engages himself in the one single obligatory duty — the duty of spiritual perfection — then he automatically liquidates all other obligations without having to make separate efforts."

To think that a devotee of the Lord owes a separate obligation to the local fire department is an emotional response to a crisis situation, a natural reaction for a conditioned soul. However, to act on the basis of a sentimental wave is not supported by guru, sastra, and sadhu. If the fire department could extinguish the blazing fire of material existence, we should give them all of our money, but to my knowledge, only the spiritual master and Krishna have that power. Therefore, all money should be utilized to push forward the Krishna consciousness movement.

Srila Prabhupada gave us the real solution to the problem of international terrorism. We must chant Hare Krishna and engage others in chanting, educate everyone throughout the world in the science of Krishna consciousness, and distribute to them the remnants of food offered to the Lord. But to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to that mission, we first have to place our faith in the spiritual master's instruction that all other obligations are fulfilled by one who is attempting to attain spiritual perfection.

If you agree with this conclusion in terms of philosophy, why not accept the practical application? Bring your sankirtana party to New York and help us distribute Krishna prasadam and transcendental literature and hold kirtana continuously until the Holy Name resounds everywhere throughout the city. If that is not possible but you would be willing to contribute financially to help the preaching effort here, we would greatly appreciate your generous gift.

Hoping this finds you well, I beg to remain

Your servant,
Locanananda dasa

© CHAKRA 5 October 2001

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