Is charity a selfless act, or is it an act done to earn good karma? Devdutt Pattanaik explains.
The biblical, or Abrahamic, worldview informs the Western view, just as the Hindu worldview informs the Indian worldview. The Bible speaks of a beginning and an end, Genesis, and Apocalypse. Thus the biblical worldview is finite. The vedas speak of a world that is anadi, without beginning, and without end, ananta. Thus the Hindu worldview is infinite. What does this mean in the practical sense?
It means that the biblical worldview focuses on solving problems using material things that have a finite existence, while the Hindu worldview focuses solving problems using psychological ideas that challenge material finiteness. The Bible speaks of a promised land that will be granted to the chosen people. It also speaks of blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth. The vocabulary is about having, or not having. By contrast, Ramayana and Mahabharata end with Ram giving up his kingdom and walking into the river Sarayu and Pandavas giving up their kingdom and walking up the Himalayas. It’s all about letting go.
Western society focuses on the material more than the mental, because the material is empirical. Everything is viewed in terms of wealth, and holidays. He who has money to spend and time to enjoy is blessed indeed. Monastic orders in the West therefore embracing poverty and serving the poor to uplift them from the status of ‘have-not’ to ‘have’. Equality is about making creating a world where there are no ‘have-nots’.
Placed in a biblical framework it makes sense, for it means you are aligning with God’s commandments and following the path of love preached by Jesus.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.