As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj


"CHARITY begins at home." Telescopic philanthropy as been the butt of much undeserved ridicule. It is necessary in the interest of all to reconcile the apparently contradictory claims.

Altruism should imply an inclination for serving all entities and doing harm to none. The propositions which we shall attempt to develop are, (1) that the only way of really serving all entities is to serve Vishnu and (2) that if Vishnu is not served one is under the necessity of consciously and unconsciously extorting service from all entities which process is identical with the practice of undiluted malice against oneself and every entity.

Iconoclastic activities cannot represent the positive aspect of the substantive spiritual function. But there is a necessity for protest against the practice and promulgation of untruth under the name of truth. If sensuous living is practiced and propagated as the service of Vishnu and all entities, it becomes necessary to enquire seriously into the reason of such ideal of conduct. We are not advocates or apologists of sensuous living or asceticism. Neither of these is service of Godhead. Utilitarianism affects to believe in the positive value of fighting the problem of destitution with the resources of the so-called treasures of this world. This degradation of religion marked the triumph of the mentality of lucre-hunters to whom the only justification of religious practices has always appeared to lie in their worldly utility. This is the real principle underlying all forms of iconoclasm in its malicious abuse. All schools of Protestantism, whether it: be Christian or Islam or Brahmo or Buddhist, owe it to themselves not to degenerate into sheer malicious vandalism and a campaign of gratutous hostility against spiritual living.

The service of Vishnu is no concoction of erring mentality. It is above all challenge. It has to be realized by a rational and suitable procedure among other reasons for the real cure of the malady of erring mentalism. It is necessary to know oneself. Charity must begin at home. Everyone of this world has really a soul to be re-established in the natural position of a serving entity. The soul does not stand in need of the service of others, as the mind and body do. There is eternal distinction between receiving and rendering service. The greatest philanthropist of this world. If he is ever mindful of arriving at a proper valuation of his altruistic activities, needs must confess that he can render no service except by availing of a far larger share of the similar so called services of the other entities. If I open a leper asylum for the service of lepers, how do I propose to help them at all? Do I ever bother about the real cause of the disease that deprives the leper of the chance of enjoying the so called good things of this world? Am I sure that epicurianism represents the proper goal of our activities? Why am I solicitous for effecting the cure of leprosy? Is it for the purpose of enabling the leper once again to enter upon a career of dissipation with greater caution? Is leprosy bad in itself? Is leprosy harmful to the soul? Can anything ordained by Godhead be harmful to the soul? If it be really for the benefit of the soul, am I justified in opposing the beneficent purpose of Godhead? The answer to these basic questions requires that one should know oneself as he really is.

No religion incites to worldliness in any of its forms. No religion recommends its votaries to fight evil with the resources of worldliness. The Bible is supposed to be the text-book of utilitarian altruism. This view is due to deliberate misunderstanding of the plain meaning of the words of Jesus "not to lay up treasures for ourselves in this world" which are deluding and perishable by nature. The modern epicurian has scented the virus of unpardonable oriental asceticism having been interpolated into the epicurian teaching of the Bible. The modern man still hopes to deliver the world by means of worldly contrivances in the shape of commerce, industry and political power which confine their appeals ostentatiously to the lower side of our nature. The unprecedented progress of material civilization has been claimed to be the product of utilitarian activities directed to purely worldly purposes. But that is not the spiritual issue. This showy civilization should be considered as really harmful if it be turned into the means for prolonging the delusion that the interest of the soul is being served by the practice of worldliness.

Transcendentalism is not jugglery. In ruling out transcendentalism from the scheme of human life, the rabid type of empiric iconoclasm really rules out the spiritual reference and thus lays the axe at the root of all religious belief, erecting instead the rule of worldliness. Utilitarian altruism takes it for granted that the promotion of mental and physical development is tantamount to spiritual progress. Unlimited development of the limited is supposed to be the culture of the limitless. Aversion to Krishna is considered to be loyal service of Krishna. Denial of the soul appears as self-realisation. Admission of worldliness is, however, the categorical denial of the needs of the soul. The only problem of all true theology is how to serve the soul at all by the resources of worldliness which alone seem to be at our disposal in this world. It is a begging of the question to suppose the self-evident character of the compatibility of the one with the other.

The practice of worldliness does no real good to anybody and does positive harm to everybody. But the worldling is so dogmatically convinced of the duty of worldliness that he regards all those who serve Vishnu as the only enemies of all entities. Utter forgetfulness of one's higher nature can alone explain the existence of this terrible delusion.

Let us make the example of a familiar institution, viz., that of marriage, for the purpose of defining the respective attitudes of utilitarianism and Vaishnavism in regard to an important affair to human life. Protestantism is opposed on principle to the doctrine of celebacy even for the clergy. The married state is regarded by it as natural and beneficial for all persons. The ordinary reason for such attitude is really of a negative character. It is more or less an inference from the known bad effect of celebacy on the morals of the medieval clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. But the ideal of celebacy is never the less held by the Bible to be higher than that of the married state, for both sexes. Vaishnavism is opposed to sexuality for the reason that carnality is detrimental to the interest of the soul. Vaishnavism does not advocate universal celebacy. But it is careful to declare that the married state under proper safe-guards is a valued institution only for the reason that it helps to reclaim the married couple from the sin of carnality. Carnality implies an over-powering affinity to the pleasures of the flesh. The physical body is identified with the soul or at any rate is supposed to have the same interest as the latter. A sound physical body is considered to represent a sound condition of the soul. Vaishnavism seeks to impress the truth that the physical body is the result of practices that are harmful to the soul and represents interests that are adverse to spiritual well-being. This is something like asceticism at first sight, but is not really so. Vaishnavism is not the negation of worldliness as asceticism is. The soul has got positive and tangible interests of his own which are served by positive practices revealed by the Scriptures. Those practices have to be approached for their right understanding from the point of view of the requirements of the soul.

Thus everything that concerns the soul becomes necessarily the dominating interest. Spiritual utility is incompatible with worldly utility. If I lead a sensuous life I tend to approach the condition of the hog. If I lead the life of an ascetic I tend to become a zero. I can rationally desire to be neither. A middle course keeps me in the condition of an animal that is a little better than the hog but with hoggish instincts that require to be artificially checked. Such a condition should not be regarded as the natural state of the soul. There must be positive and absolutely wholesome functions for the soul. It is the business of religion to make the same available to all persons who have a real taste for spiritual living and an equally real dis-taste for the adulterated existence. Marrying and giving in marriage, eating and making others eat; form the round of duties of the physical body. These are the contents of the current altruistic practice even when it is sincerely resorted to. If all our energies are wholly engrossed is such pursuit, does it not amount to a perpetuation and propagation of the undesirable state of existence?