Charity is a Cardinal Virtue

Verses of Vemana – 68

sudhi dhrustileka sukrunantativadu
pattaleka manasu paravidichi
kannupova bidapa gaki chandambuna
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: The Gita mentions twenty six ennobling qualities[1], attributes of the soul. Charity is the fourth of these cardinal virtues.Charity or almsgiving is meritorious. It cleanses the heart and restores it to its native purity.

India’s glorious epics are filled with men who were epitomes of generosity. One such noble soul is the great demon king Bali. Lord Vishnu comes to him as a midget, Vamana, asking for three paces of land in alms. Bali agreed. Sukracharya, Mahabali’s guru, realized the midget was none other than Lord Vishnu and warned Mahabali. But Bali stood by him word. As he took the earthen pot and prepared to grant the request by pouring water on the palm of Vamana to signify the donation Sukracharya took the form of a bee and blocked its snout. Lord Vishnu, the all-knowing, cleared the snout using a blade of sacred grass that blinded Sukracharya in one eye.

Vemana says that Sukracharya’s blind eye reminds one of the crows which is blind in one eye[2]. A fit reminder to one who is not openhanded!

[1] Chapter XVI, 1-3

[2] Vemana perhaps alludes to the story of Kakasura mentioned in the Ramayana.


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