What is the importance of Penance and Charity in our life

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Aahaarastvapi sarvasya trividho bhavati priyah | Yagyastapastathaa daanam teshaam shrinu ||Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 7|| In the previous article we discussed the three kinds of food and yagya and their effects on the body. Gita categorises tapa (penance) and charity (daanam) too into three kinds, corresponding to the three gunas of satva, rajas and tamas.

Devotion to Guru, gods, elders and evolved beings, cleanliness, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-violence are the penance of body. Kind words, truthfulness, study of scriptures and chanting of Divine names are the penance of speech. Cheerfulness, placidity, contemplation on Divine, control over senses and purity of intent are the penance of mind.

When the threefold penance of mind, body and speech is performed with utmost devotion without the expectation of anything in return, it is called satvik. The penance that is performed for name, fame, popularity or any material gains, yields an uncertain and temporary fruit and is called rajasik. The penance performed out of foolishness and obstinacy, which harms self and others, is called tamasik. Black magic and dark arts fall in the last category and are a sure shot route to hell.

Interestingly, in the present times, there is only a handful minority that practices the tapa of satva. In such ashrams no fee is charged, the intent of sadhna is purely evolution, the Guru shows the sadhaks their shortcomings and puts them on the path to grow out of them. The darshans of devs and devis and experiences of subtler lokas are limited to such schools. Majority of the schools, lure masses with promise of momentary material gains and shower them with compliments with a view of extracting money and favors from them. A temporary happiness is experienced by the practitioner but the experience of reality evades despite emptying out pockets, tying on to the cycle of progressively painful births.

Just like penance, charity too is of three kinds and has matching effects. The charity performed as a duty, without the expectation of anything in return, at an appropriate time and place to the deserving is called satvik. Charity which is performed with a view of extracting a favour, service or rewards is rajasik and that which is performed with ill-spirit and without regard, out of time and out of place to undeserving persons, is called tamsik.

Charity should be such that the left hand doesn’t know what the right gave. Service to stray and wild animals, teaching the underprivileged and feeding the poor, with detachment, as per Guru vakya, are some examples of charity that accelerate ones spiritual journey. Effects of charity within ones kith and kin, or community to earn name, fame, appreciation, good will or services are limited and short-lived.

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