(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 07 October 2017, Canberra, Australia, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.27.25)
The essence of spiritual life is simple – to render devotional service to Krsna. This does not require very complex philosophical understanding. However, there are some injunctions which require analysis, for example, “One who does not give to charity according to the customs of the scriptures and who does not accept from charity are considered to be in the mode of ignorance.”
So giving to charity is very important. We have to be charitable because if we are not and we just hold onto things, we develop a deep attachment to matter. Therefore we have to give in charity but it must be done according to the scripture, otherwise what benefit is that charity? If we just give charity to the poor what will the poor do with that charity? If they engage in sinful activity then nobody will benefit. They will not benefit and we will not benefit.
I saw a ghastly scene in Calcutta. Near the Howrah Bridge, under the flyover, there are colonies of lepers. They do not look very nice because their fingers and their noses are gone. They look intense and naturally, we feel some compassion but also a little fear of getting too close. As I walked past, I saw how one of them picked up a stone and smashed the head of a sleeping dog. They killed the dog right there in front of my eyes and later when I had to walk back on the same road, I saw that they were cooking the flesh of the dog on a fire. It is a sinful little world there!
So, it not just poverty but they are deeply rooted in the mode of ignorance and endure the suffering that comes with it. It is not so simple to help, to be charitable. Mother Theresa would just take the beggars off the streets and offer them a bed. That was very good but how are we going to change their heart? How are we going to actually remove those sinful inclinations which brought them down to their ghastly situation?
Those kinds of questions come up in Krsna consciousness. In this way, we can see that to give or to accept charity is a complication. If one accepts charity and uses even one cent of that charity, then one will get some of the karma by which those funds were attained, unless one offers it to Krsna. By offering to Krsna, we can purify it. Yes, that is true but still to offer things, which have been obtained from a sinful source, to Krsna is not recommended.
Now in this age of Kali, it is very difficult because everything is tinged with sin. If we have to do a security check on whoever gives a donation to find out where the money came from and whether any sin was involved, it will become too complicated. But when the drug dealer starts to regularly give money to the temple then at one point it becomes a problem where you have to say, “Well, this is not ideal,” and it becomes a cut-off point. When a butcher gives a donation, we accept it to purify that butcher, to give him a chance to be saved from hell but at the same time if we just get a direct pipeline of money coming in from the slaughterhouse, then it becomes a bit compromised. So like this, even living according to scriptures is not just cut and dry.