Conversations with self Society

What is true generosity?

Arjuna once confronted Lord Krishna and asked him “Why do people call Karna generous? I think I am equally so, if not more.” Lord Krishna smiled and told Arjuna that he would give Arjuna a simple test. With the wave of a wand he created a mountain of gold. He then told Arjuna to gift the gold such that nothing remained. Arjuna invited people from the neighbouring village, asking each one to bring a container, and using a shovel he began to dole out gold. When he found that a person’s container was full, he asked him to move on and then began to dole out gold to the next person. He continued this, and yet, he could not exhaust the supply. He then turned to Lord Krishna and said, “I am tired of giving so much gold, with the supply not depleting.” Lord Krishna then called Karna and produced another mountain of gold and repeated the same instruction that he had given Arjuna. Karna called persons from the neighbouring village and told them collectively, “Take all the gold you want and see that everybody gets enough.” He then turned to Lord Krishna and said, “I have executed your instructions.” Lord Krishna smiled and turned to Arjuna and said, “Do you see a difference?” Remorsefully, Arjuna said, “While I doled out the gold, Karna encouraged people to take as much as they wanted.” This indeed is true generosity.

Often times, we give to people advice, gifts, etc. All this we do with good intent, yet it is ‘we’ who give these, believing that we know what is good and right for the other. While this might be an act of generosity, it is still tainted by our decision and intent. When we, however, give to the others what they want in the manner that they want it, not from our frame of reference but from theirs, we truly demonstrate generosity, which is different from magnanimity. Magnanimity being ‘I give, what I think is good for you’, while generosity is ‘You take what you believe you want.’

People do not care how much you give them until they know that you give with care.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 7:07:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/what-is-true-generosity/article6818725.ece

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