In an ancient Indian epic, Arjuna, a famed warrior questions his divine charioteer, Krishna, about the noblest giver in the land. "Karna is without doubt the finest example of generosity in the kingdom," Krishna informs him. The answer irks Arjuna. Karna is one of his biggest rivals on the battlefield. He frowns deeply and says nothing. Krishna, noticing Arjuna's furrowed brow and the competitive gleam in his eyes, hides a smile. The subject is dropped for the time being, but several days later, Krishna devises a skillful test.
"Do you see those two mountains ?" Krishna asks Arjuna, as they are riding together one evening. As Arjuna turns his gaze, the tall peaks in the distance begin to shimmer and reflect the light. The two mountains have turned into solid gold. "Now Arjuna, I have a task for you," says Krishna, " You must distribute these two mountains of gold among the poor villagers who live in the foothills. Let me know when you have given away every last pebble of it."
Excited by this opportunity to impress Krishna and the world with his philanthropic abilities, Arjuna summons all the villagers together and addresses them grandly. "Listen," says Arjuna, "For I bring glad news. I will be distributing these two glorious mountains of gold amongst all of you." A gasp of wonder and delight rises from the audience, and the air fills with songs in praise of the great warrior Arjuna. Energized by the admiration Arjuna sets about creating a master plan for the collection and distribution of the gold.
For two straight days and nights he shovels gold ceaselessly from the mountain. Not stopping an instant for food, water, rest or sleep. And yet, to his bafflement and utter dismay, the mountains remain undiminished. The more he shovels the more there remains. Forced to the brink of exhaustion, he seeks Krishna out. "I must take a few days of rest before I continue," he confesses wearily.
In response, Krishna summons Karna into his presence. "Do you see those two mountains?" Krishna asks of Karna. "Yes," returns the noble warrior. "You must distribute them among the poor villagers who live in the foothills. Let me know when you have given away every last pebble of it." Without a moment's hesitation Karna calls out to two villagers who happen to be passing by at that moment. "Do you see those two mountains?" Karna asks them. "Yes," comes the response. "Those two mountains of gold are yours to do with as you please," says Karna with a smile bright as the sunrise. And just as easily as he utters these words, he bows to Krishna and walks away.
Arjuna sits dumbfounded by this turn of events. Krishna turns to him, his voice rich with a love and wisdom beyond the ages. "Arjuna -- in your mind the gold occupied a place of high value, and you were sub-consciously attracted to it. You had a muddied approach to giving. You tried to strategize and divide up the gold according to who you thought was most worthy of the gift. But these petty calculations tired your spirit, and over time, you were forced to realize that the mountains' abundance is far beyond the capacity of your individual head, heart and hands." Arjuna silently absorbed the truth of these words into his being.
"And what about Karna?" he finally ventured to ask. "The gold meant nothing to Karna," returned Krishna easily, "For him the true gift was not the gold but the act of giving in itself. He had no calculations to make, nor was he seeking anything in return by way of acknowledgement or praise. He offered everything with a clear heart and a pure mind, and having given he moved on to meet the next moment. And that, dear Arjuna, is a true sign of a person on the path of Awakening."
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the act of giving being more important than the strategy of giving? Can you share a personal story of a time when the distinction between the strategy of giving and the act of giving became clear to you? How do you reconcile 'giving without strategizing' with 'mindful giving'?
Loved the story.
Giving is not about showing people that you give but giving it secretly without any exchange.
Loved the message, beautiful.
It is always worthwhile to come to this site. It's like a temple ð
Recently, Audrey mentioned Adam Grant's book Give and Take - and mentioned the idea of 'closeted givers'. I liked the idea of outing the givers - because there is a large number of givers who prefer to remain anonymous and closeted. This silence is clouding the way the world may be experienced - so lets out the givers and make it okay to give so easily that it is normal and public - like all ordinary behaviors.
The story comparing Arjuna and Karna is perfect. I love it because it is all of us. I cannot count the times in my life that I have gotten caught in the "greatness of my giving," emphasis on "my." How perfect an example to model: giving without thought, then, moving on into the next moment. One of my personalities is "the teacher," so, too often I find myself getting absorbed in the desire of sharing my wisdom. I am in a new relationship with a woman who is so unattached to her instinctual wisdom, her words are always just her opinion with no desire to do anything other than
"utter the truth." She never tries to instruct, and because of this, she becomes, like Karna, the best giver of all of us.
Beautiful story. Two thoughts: the act of giving should always be with no expectations & with no strings attached. It is important for the giver to think deeply about what is being given; is it what is truly needed by the receiver? This story illustrates this powerfully by allowing the receiver to decide what is best. The philanthropic and charitable world could learn much from this story. :)
Having just returned from presenting at a Storytelling Festival in Iran, there were countless experiences of Iranians giving from their hearts, minds and souls in ways that lifted us all up, connected us and created deep & lasting bonds. Grateful for the experience!
Hugs to all of us.
Mindful giving is giving from the heart. <3
I always say that I give because I'm selfish. I love the way it makes me feel. Now I need to practice this selfless form of giving. Thanks for sharing.
This reflection is so appropriate for me at this time as my journey of Giving to strangers is in the initial phase. Thank You.
Very stunning example of giving. It seem to go even above the level of giving-with-no-selfish-intent. I feel very happy to read this example and be aware of such level of giving. Thanks for this post...
Amazing story and really struck me hard.. But had another parallel thought, have found that the ego typically comes in any act of kindness. We can usually hear people talk about the number of trees they planted or the number of people they have helped.. although there is nothing wrong in those phrases..the challenge is for the giver not to be there when the giving happens :)
Thank you for this wonderful narrative from the epic Mahabharat , ancient Indian wisdom that has withstood the test of time . For me Giving represents just give , without any agenda of my own , from the bottom of my heart and then moving on . That is it .
God gave . . . God gives . . . And God continues to, in Love, give. As a thank you to my Father, I use His gift to pass along His gift to others. God demonstrates, perfectly, the act of giving without "strategy". God's gift begets life. "Strategies" gift begets confusion. . . Lots of strings attached.
I love, too, how God's gift cannot be "bought". It comes with the price we each put on our faith, trust, hope and relationship with Him. Too, we cannot lie re our motives to God! Thanks be! There is equity in Him. His gift is the same for all who believe.
"I only get to keep that which I am prepared to give up. In Western terms, virtue is its own reward. There is no hope of redemption in doing good in order to be saved. Only by doing good for its own sake, without seeking reward, can we attain salvation." That quote by Sheldon Kopp is a favorite of mine. When I give simply to give or in response to a need, my giving is pure. When I give with some ulterior motive such as to get something in return or inflate my ego or to make the other happy, my giving is strategic. I think I saw at a young age that giving can be pure or manipulative, and the distinction became more obvious over time. A great deal of giving is strategic, and pure non-strategic giving stands out as special. Sometimes my giving is strategic even when I think it's pure. Being mindful of my giving helps me be aware of my true motives and be aware of whether I'm giving with or without strategizing.
To begin, it is important to reflect on how personal the act of giving is, and that judgment has no place in this discussion. That said, the pressures of society on the act of acknowledging giving and elevating it to miraculous heights creates significant conflict for youngsters seeking to make a difference in this world, to make it a better place, to encourage love and support, and to celebrate day to day acts of kindness reflected in a smile that may have taken an enormous amount of courage to express. The act of giving is steeped in a philosophy of ‘do your work, share your fruits, then let go.’ The act of giving is demonstrated time and time again in the Sanskrit words for clear light and non-attachment: vairagya and aparigraha. In response to the phrases above “giving without strategizing” and “mindful giving”, there is a slight difference only in the word selection. Both concepts are born from a deep sense of encouragement and confidence. Both can be intensely felt and also taught. Both share the same focus-presence…being in the present moment. Both are readily accessible when we are ‘awake’, and when we live every moment in gratitude for the breath, for connection, for awareness, for this very moment, in love. Both are practice, not destination. Both can be expressed without money, and are available at any given moment, and impulse, with no worry or concern as to outcome, recognition, reward, award. Consider the ancient tree in the forest and the blessings it offers just for its existence: shelter and shade, place for occasional rest, interconnectedness above and below ground, roots developing new paths in solid rock, breath, cleansing, microbial interaction, support and structure for creatures great and small, bending from the external pressures of the elements and yet exhibiting an immense inner strength borne of place and time and oneness with what Is…we are this wonderful being reflecting and transforming light-becoming light-and gifting the light to others around us. This is the ancient tree’s art and dance of giving, and it is ours…