Sunday 5 August 2018

Sister Nivedita on Love and Charity

The condition of our long-suffering masses is a matter of perplexity and solicitude to all philanthropists. But, there are
two kinds of philanthropists : one alleviates and the other seeks to cure. One acts from emotion, the other from judgment. The first acts promptly in an inferior arena. To bestow well and wisely is a mutual gain to the beneficiaries of our bounty and to ourselves, and we would not repudiate our sympathetic understanding, but we should decline to have anything to do with other encroachment and infringement of the law of charity. It is not fit that we should make it consist in the play of the emotions only, for it may be the merest responsive thrill of feeling.

The second philanthropist who is really vitally concerned, gives knowledge to his generation and provides for those to come, will enable multitudes to help themselves who otherwise would be subjects of perpetual alms-giving. By tracing out a path, and opening up a source that shall flow through future generations, he blesses the world, and places his conceptions of benevolence upon a much higher plane, calculated to afford help and happiness to a larger number of people.

The strength of a nation cannot be properly gauged by its population, but by the facilities for sustaining and nourishing life, enjoyed by its units. It is no wonder that many of our toilers prefer the uncertainties of death to a life of irremediable suffering, and the ever-present fact of famine, staring them in the face. We have no right to voluntarily
close our eyes to the hardship of workers and labourers, who may be said to represent the mechanism of society, the machinery that keeps life moving. It is cruel to reduce their lives to a shapeless mass that is quite at the mercy of external conditions and responsive only to the coarse touches of the animal and material.

To provide opportunity for development by increasing and improving their mental and bodily conditions, to teach them the value of life, would prove more useful to the impoverished sections of society than charity, which induces pauperism. This could best be accomplished by raising the standard of life, equalizing opportunities for boys and girls in the matter of free education, so far as law and custom can do it, and to build up for this ancient land of ours and for its responsibilities, a healthy, strong, upright and intelligent people.

                                                                                                Reproduced from the Prabuddha Bharata, January, 1907.

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