(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 20 April 2014, Durban, South Africa, Lecture: The real meaning of charity)
Charity begins at home! It begins with us being generous not only with our money but with ourselves. Vaisnava charity means to give yourself. It is like, we do not ask for your money but we ask for you. Give your life. Gandhi had a movement and there was a big lawyer who was working for the British and making a fortune. Gandhi approached this lawyer…
Gandhi said, “Join my movement.”
He said to Gandhi, “Please do not ask me to join your movement. Ask me for money. I will give you money.”
Gandhi said, “We do not want your money. We want you.”
Then he forced him to join his movement and he became a big leader and without him, the Gandhi movement would have never been pushed forward.
So we want you. We do not want you to just come and put a bottle of milk with some fruits on the altar. We do not just want some donation in the box. No! We want your life because that is real charity – to give yourself! That is the greatest charity, to give ourselves to Krsna. That is real charity. That is what we want. That is our aim, fully.
But that is not easy. I thought I will do that. You know, when I was thirteen, twelve actually, the Beatles came to the Netherlands and that was a big change. All the young people stopped going to the barber on that day; the barbers went bankrupt overnight. That was it and I was also one of them. I had long hair and it was completely white. Extremely white, whiter than, much whiter than Bhakti Caitanya Maharaj and I was very proud that I had such white hair because no one else had. When there was a crowd, I would stand out and everyone would say, “Oh!” I was very proud. Then I joined the Hare Krsna movement and I shaved it all off! Then it grew back in this ‘mouse’ colour which I have now. I lost the white colour. Just see, Krsna took it away, what to do!?
I thought with that sacrifice, I had done it, that I had given myself in charity but it was not so easy because I found that internally, I was holding back. I put on the neck beads, I put the tilak, I said the prayers but inside my heart, I kept my own space. Oh yes, externally I chanted, I showed my devotion but inside my heart, there was a secret chamber. In that secret chamber, I kept hidden my secret material desires and I did not show them to anyone. I was hiding them and no one could see that they were there but they were there.
It could be seen in my lack of love. It could be seen in my lack of really being happy. It could be seen in my lack of being kind to anyone and everyone. It showed that I still did not melt. It is said sneha is an advanced stage of love and in that state of sneha, the heart begins to melt. So the heart melting, means that one becomes extremely compassionate and kind towards everyone but when that little secret private chamber in my heart was still there, holding on to my own selfish desires, the result was that hard-heartedness did not leave me. Oh, it is not so easy, not so easy. Real charity is not so simple. Real charity is a big challenge, big challenge!