Originally published in Science of Mind magazine, February 2017 issue.
A few years back, one of my friends was at the New Delhi airport looking for a taxi when a man from another nationality approached him. The guy looked in his thirties, casually dressed in a faded blue jeans and a beige t-shirt. He was looking a bit distressed. He requested if he could use a cellphone to talk to the person who was meant to pick him up from the airport, as he cannot locate him. My friend, out of sheer kindness, and the branding of Indian tourism, “Atithi Devo Bhava”, (meaning ‘Guest is God’), gave him his mobile phone. The man thanked him and began dialing the number. All of a sudden, he pushed my friend’s chest and ran away with the phone. My friend ran frantically after him but he just vanished into thin air.
This didn’t end there. When he went to the airport police to lodge a FIR, the police, grilling him for his ‘kind’ gesture, detained him for one hour. It was near impossible for him to make the police believe that he gave it just because he wanted to help a person. They reprimanded him for his ignorance and said that the ‘thief’ could be a part of some big anti-social group. My friend was left free only after they got convinced by checking from his employer, home, everywhere. He could never forget the act of kindness which went wrong.
All of us have encountered such incidents where we wanted to help someone and ended up getting hoodwinked. A friend disregarded our efforts, a beggar turned out to be a drunkard, a colleague faked illness, a business partner stabbed us in the back, an old woman feigned misery and so many other instances. It does blur our vision at times as to why an act of kindness is going wrong? Kindness is supposed to be a ‘good’ gesture, how is it giving us ‘bad’ results?
Are we to blame ourselves? This world? Karma? Universe?
A wealthy king has surplus to give and an image of benevolence to maintain. A crook too knows this. He will certainly come in a cloak of a beggar. It is for the king to comprehend and decide who is worth and who is stealing his kindness. A saint has nothing to give but blessings. A thief won’t go there. Apparently, he only deals in cash, not ‘kind’.
We, spiritually-inclined people, belong somewhere between the category of the king and the saint.
Kinds of Kindness
If we are helping someone expecting he might help us in future, we are doing a business deal. If we are helping someone because it will bring in followers and likes, we are doing image-building and boosting our pride. It has become a fashion statement to be associated with NGO and posting pictures of helping the kids or elderlies. Try doing it without the pictures; maybe then it might feel how it is supposed to.
If kindness is making us feel superior while helping someone, it is stemming from our ego. We feel happy in that superiority. That is why this superficial action is not responded well by the universe as we expect it to be.
Image building is one of the secretly trending topics in today’s social media-addicted world. The need to maintain an image of benevolence is what is diminishing the act of kindness. Showing off charity is no charity at all.
There is a story of Bankei and his compassion in one of the Osho’s books. He held spiritual teachings events which were attended by hundreds of his followers. In midst of the event, one of the pupils was caught stealing. Bankei ignored the case. Yet again, he was caught stealing and once more Bankei disregarded the matter. Other followers became angry and demanded that either that thief goes or they all will leave. Bankei smiled and told them they all are wise men knowing what is right and wrong. They can wish to study somewhere else if they want to. But that person whom they caught cannot even distinguish between right and wrong. How can he leave such a student? He needs to teach him the most out of all of them.
Such wise words do tell us that kindness is deserved by all. But then again, what if it is filling us with anger and frustration?
Hidden asterisk on Kindness
Kindness has annexed an asterisk mark over it in this time and age, Kalyuga. We have to be conscientious of whom we choose to shower kindness on. Not because of anything else but because we might be indirectly helping a bunch of criminals to thrive on an inhumane business. Examples include begging, flesh trade rackets and phony NGOs.
We need to be well-informed that the place where we are putting our share of kindness and sentiments is essentially the place which deserves it. It is disheartening that the most humane of the feelings too are getting caught in the web of practicality. Saintly compassion can be kept while imparting knowledge. Other than that, it has to be a well thought out decision.
Compassion to animals is one of the best. We do not expect anything from them. Well, maybe, love. We cannot deny the gratifying feeling which one gets from being in their company. Compassion is what comes from within. It can be for an animal or human but it is pure, untainted, and unconditional. We do not have to put a mask of kind-heartedness for that.
Let us shower kindness and not expect an outcome. Action without an intention of fruit is the true essence of karma. Our karma is to do the good; reaction from the receiving end has nothing to do with us. Our responsibility with the laws of nature is to be mindful of the fact that we spread positive vibrations through our deeds. The universe will take care of the rest of the domino effect.
May we be kind, do kind and know kind!