by Sunburst Friend and Vedic Astrologer James Kelleher    Helping people is a good thing to do, but it can be complicated. Sometimes the person doesn’t want the help you want to give. Sometimes they are even literally unable to accept help. Other times, you think that you can help, but find out that you have overestimated your ability to help them.

When he was alive, my teacher, Sadguru Sivananda Murthy and I had a conversation in which I asked him, “It seems to me that giving to other people doesn’t really help them most of the time. If you see a guy on the street who looks like a drug addict and he is asking for money for food, you get the impression that he is not going to use the money for food. He will probably use if for drugs or alcohol.  Should you give the man money?” 

Sivananda Murthy said, “Yes, just give him something. It doesn’t matter what he is going to do with the money. Besides, you don’t know, he might actually buy food with it. It’s not your job to control what he does with your gift. Give him the money because it is good for you. The gift of money will most likely not help him, but the compassion you feel when you give it will help definitely help you.

The motivation for helping someone can be complicated. Why do you actually want to help? Most people help others out of a belief or story about themselves. The logic goes like this. “I learned from my parents that good people help others. I am a good person. Therefore, I am the sort of person who helps others.” When the person finds an opportunity to help someone, they do it, at least in part because it confirms their story about themselves. It makes them feel good about themselves. There’s nothing wrong with this type of giving. We all have stories about ourselves. It’s a lot better to see yourself as a good person than to see yourself as a dirty rotten scoundrel. But that type of giving takes place in your head. It’s not a spontaneous thing, and it is rooted in the ego. 

Some people take if further by then telling their friends about their act of charity. They may not actually be bragging, but just sharing something they enjoyed doing. When other people acknowledge their generous act, that reinforces their story about being a good person even more deeply. I don’t want to sound religious here, but in his Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”. Most Christian clergy interpret this to mean that you shouldn’t brag about it when you do good. The Vedic interpretation of this is that you shouldn’t even take ownership of the action. The action should be spontaneous and so intensely present that you don’t even see yourself as the doer. That way, there is no sense of a story to reinforce. From the Vedic perspective, true virtue is the natural spontaneous expression of a truly silent mind. 

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krisna advises Arjuna to do his duty as a warrior and to protect the innocent, after first immersing himself in meditation. He tells him, “Established in Being, perform action.” Real virtue comes out of a silent mind. A silent mind has no agenda and is devoid of stories. Acting from a platform of silence, the mind doesn’t audit your action. There is no thought of yourself as a doer of good.

Unfortunately, most of us have minds that are constantly filled with an endless stream of thoughts, beliefs and stories. Does that mean that we should give up on trying to do good? Of course not. Just go for it and do your best. Actually, doing good, even if you are validating a story about being a good person, helps to quiet the mind. Virtue is simple. Like meditation, it brings greater silence to the mind. 

It’s just cause and effect, like in physics. According to Newton’s third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. What goes around comes around. As you sow, so shall you reap! That’s the simplified, but very true statement about karma. It’s just physics. Albert Einstein said that, “Compounding interest is one of the greatest miracles known to man.” I would add that the habit of doing good, is like putting money in a bank account that has compounding interest. The Vedic tradition holds that the law of Karma is the most relentless force in the Universe.

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