June 03, 2005

Eight degrees of charity. A hierarchy of giving.
  • And Israel will not be redeemed except through tzedaka, for "Zion will be ransomed through judgment and returned through tzedaka." True. True.
  • Very cool. Would that we could all follow those rules (guidelines?).
  • I like this, excepting that this charity applies mostly to fellow jews.
  • "Most religions emphasize the importance of charity, but Lord Buddha’s approach differs in that he explains mainly the psychological aspects of giving and is not so interested in the externals. Why is this? Because perfect giving is realized only when the mind of miserly attachment had been completely released; this is a pure mental thing. True charity is more than simply giving things to others. From the Buddhist point of view, material giving is not necessarily charity. True charity has to do with the mind , giving mentally – training the mind to overcome miserliness. Miserly attachment is in the mind. Therefore, the antidote must also be mental." -- Thubten Yeshe
  • nice post, jb. This has always been my favorite concept out of Maimonides. In his Guide for the Perplexed (one of the greatest book titles ever), he ranks it a bit differently. The highest form of charity is to leave money in the robes of the rabbi, so that the rabbi doesn't know who it's from and you don't know where the money is going. Sounds a bit like Abiezer_Coppe's quote.
  • I like that quote, Abiezer. If I weren't such a lazy poster,* I would have found some interesting links on the medieval and early modern concept of caritas (in English "charity"), which doesn't really mean charity as we understand it today, but the Christian love for fellow humans and for God. To be out of charity with your neighbour was to be out of love and right feeling with them (sorry, that's awkward). You weren't suposed to take communion if you were fighting or out of charity with anyone. I find it interesting to think about this concept - this is what our ancestors meant when they gave money to the poor. I did google "caritas" and came across several pages, including a few Catholic charity organisations, an Albertan health care company and the bar Lorne used to own on Angel. (This was the only entry in Wikipedia, actually, but I'm heading over to add the more formal meaning.)
  • I certainly remember charity retaining some of that wider meaning when I was brought up to it as a boy jb. 1 Corinthians 13:13 springs to mind: 'And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' (But it seems lots of the newer editions render charity as love here any way.) The deeper point about the Buddhist idea of 'perfect giving' is really tied up with the whole doctrine of the self. I won't expand on that here (mostly because I'd horribly misrepresent it), but it's really what is radically different about Buddhism as I see it and what makes it appeal. But my miserly mind endures.
  • Yes, I think it depends on which English bible you use. The version I had used love for that verse, which is also used in the Revised Version (according to the OED). Would that be the revised King James? (Is there a point to revising the King James - it's so pretty already :) I think I get a little about what you mean regarding the Buddhist approach - that it's not about what giving can do for other people, but for you? I have wondered about this myself, that the the most important purpose in giving would be for the changes it can make in you.
  • I'd say not quite jb - the focus is on abandoning attachments and ceasing to make a 'self' who gives and an 'other' who recieves. In the Mahayana teachings when one can do that the bodhisattva heart of true compassion arises. But I'm getting out of my depth here. I'd contrast that with Christian love because of the notion of the soul and that it seems it must ultimately derive from a transcendent God who is Love. But I'm over my head on that one too!
  • Interesting. I wonder how positively people would gush about a Christian charity concept, espoused by the villain-du-jour "red staters," that encouraged charity only towards other Christians?
  • Abiezer - that sounds very interesting. I think what initially intrigued me about these ideas was the way the giving was ranked. The first is a bit obvious, but the idea that it is better to give anonymously than knowingly is less so. I took a course with someone who studied charity who believed firmly that the greatest value of charity was because it was personalised and created personal relations, as opposed to social welfare. Perhaps it is about humility, on not giving to be seen giving?
  • The personal relationships created by giving are fascinating aren't they? To stray a bit off topic, I became aware of a whole school of study of gift exchange when I read a book called "The Flow of Gifts abour reciprocity in a Chinese village community. Although it's not charity for the most part, it touches on the relationship consequences of giving. It reminded me of why I think the Rabbi is right about the superiority of anonymity - there's that traditonal resentment of the poor to the 'Lady Bountiful' figure distributing the squire's largesse - people would have prefferred not to be left indebted for their basic needs, and that's what accepting charity would mean. Many recipients felt shame at being put in that position and you get in to that 'We don't need your bloody charity' pride. So I'd say that would be the downside to your friend's position - since gift giving ineveitably creates these social debts in human interactions, if you don't do it anonymously you risk discomfiting the people you want to help.
  • the bill & melinda gates foundation could get over $30 billion from warren buffett