Part IIIFW 408-417. These questions were submitted to Sri Chinmoy by members of the Meditation Group in June 1978.
Question: What is charity?Sri Chinmoy: Charity is a form of giving. If we have ten dollars and we give five pennies, then we feel that we have done an act of charity. In charity, we give just a little, just a grain. Although we have a large quantity, we give just a portion of it and we feel that this is more than enough. We justify ourselves and say, “We have voluntarily given this little portion, but who has the right to tell us to give anything at all?”
There is a great difference between charity and self-offering. In the spiritual life, when we use the term self-offering, it means that we try to give what we have, unconditionally. What we have, we give to God or to mankind. Self-giving comes from the integral, entire being, but charity comes from an infinitesimal portion of our existence.
When we give something with charity, then we have a kind of inner feeling that the world will come to know of our kind action and appreciate and admire us. We tell others that we are giving something through charity, and then we wait like a beggar. Inwardly we try to see who is appreciating us or who is acknowledging our charity. So always there is some condition behind our gift.
Self-giving is a giving of the entire being: body, vital, mind, heart and soul. What we have and what we are, we are giving to the divine cause. This is the difference between charity and self-giving. Charity is a form of self-giving, but this self-giving is only in a very, very limited measure. It is by no means complete self-giving. Complete self-giving comes only from the spiritual life, only when we have the capacity to identify ourselves with the infinite Light and the infinite Vast.