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A Discussion with Locanananda about Charity
by Malati devi dasi

Respected Locanananda Prabhu,

You have written the following, which included a question. It is to that question that I am replying.

Locanananda Prabhu writes: "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?"

Here are the grounds, which are not "my" grounds, but coming from personal experience with His Divine Grace and from information about the life and Teaching of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. I’ll be brief:

#1) 1971 Allabhad Kumbh Mela with Srila Prabhupada: Daily we went on morning walks with His Divine Grace. The walks were combined with Hari Nam and giving coins collected from the hundi to the diseased and distressed beggars. This was the Mela where brass Radha Madhava made Their Divine Appearance. During the darshan hours, pilgrims would offer Them assorted rupee notes and change into Their hundi. Each morning the change was carefully extracted and passed out during the walk and hari-nam. One morning Vishaka dasi asked Srila Prabhupada "Wouldn’t it be better to give them prasadam [as opposed to coins]?" (Actually,we were also giving out large quantities of kitcheree daily as well)

His firm reply was, "For them, this is prasad."

I was struck how we took our concept of "prasad" to exclusively mean a large plate of halavah or kitcheree! But it became clear to me at that moment that the mercy of Lord is really composed of compassion to the various needs of the conditioned entity.

#2) 197? Mayapur India: There was an argument whether or not to stop or decrease prasad distribution in favor of larger Hari Nam Parties. Srila Prabhupada nixed it, saying, "They cannot chant if they are hungry."

#3)1971 Bombay: I was offered some items by one our hosts that I felt that I did not need, therefore I politely refused. Srila Prabhupada stood up and apologized for me and simultaneously instructed me: "She does not understand. You are Brahmana, you must accept! It is being offered." (This may appear a reversal of the above topic, but it fits the understanding and mood.)

#4) In the early part of the last century, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati took a large group on yatra to Puri and that area. Near Tota Gopinath Mandir, they were beseiged by beggars and most of the devotees avoided them like anything, hands in their bead bags, chanting loudly. They were deeply chastised by His Divine Grace for being "enjoyers." He said that they were becoming hardhearted in their attempts to enjoy like Vishnu, extracting the service of Laxmi (meaning that they did not give Laxmi because they wanted to enjoy Her fruits).

Again, I repeat that I do not disagree with Locananda’s conclusion; however, I see there are many ways to reach out and offer that conclusion. Given from the hands of a devotee/brahmana, even an ordinary item becomes spiritualized and affords the reciever the opportunity of beginning his or her devotional creeper, and at the same moment builds appreciation towards Krishna and His devotees in the minds of the recipients.

Respectfully offered,

Your servant,
Malati dd

© CHAKRA 7 October 2001

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