It is essential for everyone to have an obliging nature, but discretion must be used in deciding who should help and when.
The primary need of every field, for instance, is enough water for itself. Only if it has any to spare should it think of passing it on to another field that is in need. Similarly, those alone can be true philanthropes who have first liberated themselves; they re-incarnate themselves only to uplift others.
Now, does that mean that the common man should not at all think of doing anything for others? Not so at all. Everyone must have an inclination to make oneself useful to the deserving so far as one can, but there are the obvious limits of one’s capacities.
Real altruism consists in exerting for others, not with selfishness or pride of doership, but purely as service to God. This, naturally, is free from undesirable consequences. However, this is not easy; a common man feels self-righteous and falls an easy prey to self-esteem and pride of doership. Therefore, whenever a chance arises to do something for others, one should avail oneself of it but in a spirit of thankfulness to God for this grace, and begging for further similar opportunities to serve Him. If we fail to keep this thought in the forefront of awareness, there is no knowing when pride of doership will sneak into the heart and cause a downfall. One must maintain constant vigil in this regard.
The straightforward meaning of philanthropy or altruism is doing something for others. This evidently calls for two persons; the obliger and the obliged. The common man thinks in terms of two entities: himself, and the rest of the world. This “world” is obviously different for each individual, peculiar to each person. When we get a chance to do something for another, we feel elated at having obliged someone, thus falling an easy pray to a sense of superiority, and to egoism and pride. Even those reputed as philanthropists, but without firm faith in God, will sooner or later fall a prey to expecting or seeking public esteem and honour. All saints have therefore cautioned us to be specially vigilant about this. If we remain constantly in nama, egoism is naturally ousted, vigilance becomes easy, and the mind attains contentment and placidity.
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