The Act of Giving is the True Gift


In the Mahabharat, Arjuna, the famed warrior questions his Divine Charioteer, Krishna, about the noblest giver in the land. “Karna is undoubtedly the finest example of generosity in the kingdom,” Krishna responds. The answer irks Arjuna. Karna is one of his biggest rivals on the battlefield. He frowns but says nothing. Krishna, noticing Arjuna’s furrowed brow, hides a smile. The subject is dropped for the time being, but later, Krishna, the Supreme teacher devises a plan to teach Arjuna a valuable lesson.

As Krishna and Arjuna were riding together one evening, Krishna asks; “Do you see those two mountains?” Arjuna sees the mountain peaks in the distance shimmering in the sunlight. With a snap of His fingers, Krishna had turned the mountains into gold.  Krishna says, “Arjuna, I have a task for you! You must distribute these two mountains of gold among the poor villagers who live in the foothills. Let me know when you have given away every last pebble.”

Excited by the opportunity to impress Krishna and the world with his philanthropy, Arjuna summons all the villagers together and addresses them grandly. Arjuna says, “I bring good news, I will be distributing these two mountains of gold amongst all of you.” A gasp of wonder and delight rises from the audience, and the air fills with praise for the great benefactor, Arjuna. Energized by the admiration Arjuna sets about creating a plan for the collection and distribution of the gold.

For several days he shovels gold ceaselessly from the mountain, not stopping even for food, water, rest or sleep. And yet, to his bafflement and utter dismay, the mountains remain undiminished. The more he shovels the more there remains. In complete exhaustion, he seeks Krishna out.  “I must take a few days of rest before I continue,” he confesses wearily.

Krishna then summons Karna and asks of him, “Do you see those two mountains?” “Yes, my Lord” responds the noble warrior. “You must distribute them among the poor villagers who live in the foothills. Let me know when you have given away every last pebble.” Without a moment’s hesitation Karna calls out to two villagers who happen to be passing by. “Do you see those two mountains?” Karna asks them. “Those two mountains of gold are yours to do with as you please,” says Karna with a smile bright as the sunrise. And just as easily as he utters these words, he bows to Krishna and walks away.

Dumbfounded by Karna’s actions, Arjuna turns to Krishna and asks “Why didn’t I think of that?” Lord Krishna, the Ultimate Teacher explains with infinite love; “Arjuna, in your mind the gold was valuable. Subconsciously, you yourself were attracted to the gold, you regretfully gave it away to each villager, and giving them what you thought was a generous amount. Thus the size of your donation to each villager depended only on your imagination. Karna holds no such reservations. The gold meant nothing to Karna. For Karna the true gift was not the gold but the act of giving in itself. He had no calculations to make, nor was he seeking anything in return by way of acknowledgement or praise. He offered everything with a clear heart and a pure mind, and having given he moved on. And that, dear Arjuna, is a true sign of a person on the path of enlightenment.”

The lesson on giving selflessly was not meant for Arjuna alone; it was meant for every one of us. We can apply this lesson from Lord Krishna in our own lives.  We can give magnanimously and selflessly in various ways to Shree Radha Krishna Temple. This will not only help us progress in our spiritual journey, but immensely help the Radha Krishna Temple in reaching out to the community in many meaningful ways!