Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The greatest philanthropist

Before I begin the story let us take a deviation to find out the history of the word  ‘philanthropy’. While this word etymologically means “love of humanity”, it has come to indicate the giving or volunteering nature of a person. This word was first used in the adjective form by Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound (“philanthropos tropos”).
The world has seen many philanthropists over the years. Some have been recognised duly for their philanthropy while some others have been the unsung heroes. Here is a story of one such philanthropist who probably ended up on the wrong side of the great epic Mahabharata. 

Karna, the greatest philanthropist

One day the great warrior Arjuna went to Lord Krishna and asked him who,in his perspective, was the greatest philanthropist. The ever smiling Lord replied, “In my opinion Karna is the greatest philanthropist I have ever known”. Arjuna was disappointed as he had expected to hear his name from the lord. Then Arjuna dared Lord Krishna to prove what he had just said. 

The next day Lord Krishna called both Arjuna and Karna to a ground nearby. When the two arrived there, Krishna showed them both two mountains made of precious gems and gold. He then told both the warriors to donate the riches to people around. But the condition that he laid was that the man who did so before the sun set will be declared the greatest philanthropist. After setting the two men on the task the Lord took leave. Arjuna immediately started working on the task set. He gave hands full of the precious gems and metal to passersby. The more he gave away the more the mountain grew. Arjuna was growing tired while the mountain was growing taller. 

Meanwhile Karna was nonchalant about the whole task and dozed off to sleep. Arjuna wondered what Karna would do. When the sun was about to set Lord Krishna appeared on the scene. Instantly he knew what Karna was going to do. Just when the sun was setting, Karna called out to one of the passers-by and told him to take the mountain for himself and do good to as many poor people as he could with it. The man thanked Karna for the opportunity that he had provided and went away. Arjuna accepted his defeat.

The best in archery, Arjuna lost to Karna in philanthropy!

Lord Krishna then asked Karna why he had not even touched the mountain to which Karna replied, “Lord, how can I touch what is not mine?” 

The all-pervasive Lord addressed Arjuna. He said, “Arjuna, philanthropy is an attitude. You can develop it and master it over a period of time. If you have decided to give something away, you must not touch it. Touching it creates a bond between you and the object and then to give it away becomes difficult” he said.