A very beautiful story from the great Indian epic history, Mahābhārat:
King Yudhiṣṭra, the eldest of the Pāṇḍavas, performed a great sacrifice after the battle of Kurukṣetra was over. He gave very rich offerings to the priests and the poor. They were all impressed by the grandeur of this sacrifice. They praised him saying, ‘We have never seen such a great sacrifice in our lifetime.’
Just then, a small mongoose appeared. Half of his body was golden and the other half was brown. He rolled on the ground where the sacrifice was performed. He then exclaimed with sorrow, ‘This is no sacrifice at all. Why do you praise this sacrifice?’
The priests were aghast and angry, ‘What! You silly mongoose! Did you not see the sacrifice? Thousands of poor people have become very rich. Millions of people have been sumptuously fed. So many jewels and clothes have been distributed!’
The mongoose replied, ‘That may be a big sacrifice for you. But to me the sacrifice offered by the poor brāhmin was much bigger.’
‘What brāhmin and what sacrifice are you talking about? We never heard of this!’ said the priests.
The mongoose continued, ‘There was a poor brāhmin in a village. He lived in a small hut with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. Once, there was a great famine. The whole family starved for days on end. One day, the poor man brought some food home. When they were ready to eat, they heard a voice at their door. The brāhmin opened the door and found a guest at the doorstep. In India, we say, atithi devo bhava, which means ‘the guest is God Himself ’.
The brāhmin said, ‘O Sir! Please come inside. Please have a seat and have some food.’ He gave his portion of the food to the guest.
The guest said, ‘Sir, I am still hungry. I have been starving for the last fifteen days.’
The wife gave her share also to the guest. The guest ate this portion also, but he was still hungry. The son said, ‘Father, please give him my share also.’
The guest ate this and yet he remained dissatisfied.
The wife of the son said, ‘O Sir, please have my portion too.’ The guest ate this portion also and was fully satisfied. He then blessed the poor brāhmin and his family and departed in great joy.
I entered the hut that day and found that four persons had died of starvation. A few grains of rice were found on the ground where the guest had eaten. I rolled myself on those grains. Half of my body became golden. Since then I have been traveling all over the world to find another sacrifice like that.
Nowhere have I found one. Nowhere have I been able to convert the other half of my body into gold. This sacrifice of Yudhiṣṭra has not turned the other half of my body into gold; That is why I say that this is no sacrifice at all.’
Do not donate anything to the mission in the belief that I will help you pass through the gates of heaven. First of all, there is no heaven, and second, I am not its gatekeeper!’
The sacrifice that Kṛṣṇa refers to comes from a true sense of surrender to the Universe. When we enrich others what we can afford to give, it is no sacrifice. When we enrich others by denying ourselves, then it is a sacrifice. That is why most of the charitable work done by people, even with good intentions, does not fit into the essence of what Kṛṣṇa says here. Of course, it is better to enrich others rather than foolishly stuff yourself.
Enrich others for the sake of enriching. When you enrich others at your own expense, by denying yourself, you function at the level of the Universal energy; you function as part of the principle of Vasudaiva kuṭuṁbakaṁ meaning ‘The whole world is my family’ as said by Kṛṣṇa; you operate out of compassion. Then there is no compulsion or no moral injunction to give. There is no expectation that you will go to heaven if you give and to hell if you don’t.
That’s why, time and again, I tell people, ‘Do not donate anything to the mission in the belief that I will help you pass through the gates of heaven. First of all, there is no heaven, and second, I am not its gatekeeper!’
Many times even your enriching others has a selfish motive. You think, ‘If I enrich, I may get this, this, and this back!’ Do not enrich with purpose. Let enriching be a purposeless happening.
So enrich to give away what you need, not what you do not need!
Now, I am giving the right and complete reason for enriching. Because everyone is part of you, enriching every being is nothing but enriching some part of you. Only then are you practicing the tattva of enriching Vasudaiva kuṭuṁbakaṁ, the whole world as your family.
Enrich others. Anything you see, anything you experience is extension of you. Anybody whom you experience in your life is extension of you. Your wife is the extension of your unbending logic. Your husband is the extension of your confusion. So, when you enrich them, the parts of you are enriched. When they feel completion, part of you will become complete.
Somehow, even in enriching you continuously have your own small understandings, small goals and small purposes. If you do the same work with a small reason, you will have small result. If you do it with higher reason, you will have higher result. That is why it is said, ‘You serving and an enlightened being serving, brings totally different result, even if both do the same action.’ Everyone, whether you accept or not, realize or not, everyone is part of you.
When people come and ask me, ‘Swamiji, my spouse is torturing me. Please somehow stop it.’ I tell them, ‘actually you torturing yourself is ten times more than your spouse torturing you. Please stop torturing yourself first.’
Kṛṣṇa says that enriching should be practiced because everyone is part of us. Nobody is separate from us. Only then does enriching become a selfless sacrifice, yajña bhāvitaḥ. There is a joy, a bliss that enters your being when you act out of sacrifice, selflessly to enrich others. The bliss is always there, but when you are free from the filtering root pattern and mind, you start experiencing that bliss. The garbage of expectations disappears and bliss is experienced.
This was the principle on which various sacrificial rituals came into existence in the vedic culture. These were instruments of mass meditation. The energy of the cosmic space (ākāśa) was captured by the vibrations of the air created by chanting mantras. This energized air fueled the sacred fire in the sacrificial fire pit (homa kunḍa). This energy was transferred to pots of water by physically linking the pots to the fire pit through many threads. This energized holy water was then sprinkled on bodies, deities and the earth to complete the energy cycle. All five energy points: space, air, fire, water and earth were connected through such a ritual to benefit humanity!
It was only a metaphoric offering of all that was sacrificed to the fire. During these rituals, great kings and nobles who performed the rituals gave away to those who lacked material wealth. These rituals helped to maintain material balance.
But, as the mongoose said, even the rājasūya yāga of Yudhiṣṭra, performed to celebrate his victory, lacked the spirit of enriching as the sacrifice of the poor brāhmin family. So enrich to give away what you need, not what you do not need!
We very conveniently forget an important fact, and take life happening for us with others for granted. Anything you receive without enriching, is stolen!
Kṛṣṇa explains enriching beautifully to Arjuna,
iṣtān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña bhāvitaḥ I
tair dattān apardāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ II 3.12
‘Satisfied with the selfless enriching, the celestial beings certainly bestow upon you the desired enjoyments of life. He who enjoys the things given by them without offering anything to the celestial beings is certainly a thief, yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ‘
Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa says, ‘If you don’t do yajña and give back to the divine energy, you are certainly a thief!’ Kṛṣṇa does not mean just pouring some offerings into a fire; He also means doing the proper authentic action. For example, if you are cutting a tree, you have to plant at least five trees. If you are taking water from the river, you should make sure that the recycled water is purified and added to the river.
Constantly enriching the source and keeping it alive for the next generation is yajña. Do not touch anything which you can’t replace, like sources which can be exhausted but not replenished. Do not use nonrenewable energy sources. Use only renewable energy sources. That is part of enriching yajña.
Kṛṣṇa is very clear. Listen! If you are not enriching, but only taking and enjoying, you are a thief. Asteya (non-stealing), one of the important vows of Sannyāsa, can be maintained only by enriching. Only when you continuously enrich others will non-stealing be maintained. Enriching is where life happens to you. I can say that enriching means infusing all the three tattvas of integrity, authenticity, responsibility into Satya, truth.
Life happens to us with others. Whether it is Sannyāsa or Saṃsāra, the joys of spirituality or the joys of the world, everything happens with company, with sanga! Understand, whether it is satsanga or dussanga, good or bad association, you need a sanga. Whether it is basic food or the ultimate luxury, everything happens to you with others. If you don’t enrich others, it is stealing and life does not happen to you. I tell you, decide to enrich everyone you see with these tattvas; in just a few months you will see that you are surrounded by gods and you are living in heaven. Go on enriching people.