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Successful begging: Yogas of Sannyasa

Gifts, or donations, must be given, freely and for the right reasons. The purpose of begging, then, is not merely to raise the material requirements of food, medicine, money, or other necessities. The beggar who would become a conduit of donations (simply conveying the donations to a receiver) fails.

No matter how wholesome and healthy the food is that may be donated, it will soon be turned into excrement and urine. No matter how potent the medicine donated, the patient will eventually die. What is the worth of such food and medicine, except the use it is put to by the recipient - and the giver? The successful beggar provokes the conditions by which begging is no longer required: both giver and recipient are trained and strengthened in mind, body and heart, so they develop friendship and goodwill. Consequently, even the beggar who passively receives gifts or donations is also imperfectly practicing.

The fire sacrifice begins by asking, by begging. Yet the manner of the asking matters quite as much as the manner of the giving. Asking, if accomplished correctly, provides an opportunity for a disinterested stranger to give selflessly, and possibly to cease being disinterested. Receiving, if accomplished correctly, provides an opportunity as well: to understand the purpose of sacrifice. For what purpose did the numerous beings sacrifice themselves and die to become food for the giver? For what purpose was this food sacrificed and given to another? Merely to become excrement and urine? For what purpose is the recipient in requirement of the strength and health this food provides?

It is not difficult to observe there are many people in our community in need of health and strength, in need of food. Or medicine. Or other help. There are very many people in our community in need of food who cannot access our food banks, or our healthcare, or our various social services. There are very many people in our community in need of friendship. We should not lose sight of the importance of friendship; it is easy to forget when someone is hungry, or sick, that friendship is even more important - friendship is the whole of holy life.

Why then do we socially contemn those who resource to the food banks, who take advantage of our hospitals, who require our social services - when they have done nothing regrettable? Should a poor person feel shame for wanting a piece of candy as much as a solid meal? When a person begs for the benefit of their family, they are providing for their family - and dutifully, honorably discharging their obligations. Why do we feel contempt for the abjectly poor, the homeless? If we saw the homeless enjoying candy, would we think their ability to enjoy such a treat makes them unworthy of further gifts, of proper sustenance and support? Is the beggar who eats only bread and water more worthy than one who might enjoy a candy?

There is an uncanny antagonism against such beggars. Our City has invested in numerous signs to dissuade giving to beggars, suggesting that giving will not bring an end to their poverty. As if this is the reason a person should give to beggar - to end their poverty? There is antagonism against beggars, the expense and difficulty our City has gone through to prevent them from sleeping on public benches or other rest areas, in the public parks, or other places of resort is worth considering against the resistance we have in providing the homeless with proper places of resort, with adequate sanitation and police service. We regret giving them police service, and sanitation - we regret giving them subsidized healthcare, and food. We infringe upon their rights to vote, as if they were not our equal citizens.

There is nothing shameful in begging or poverty, even if these spiritual practices are undertaken involuntarily. Indeed, they are beneficial, whether undertaken voluntarily or involuntarily. Poverty is not a failure, or a weakness - or anything shameful. Not any more than wealth and strength is a source of pride or a sign of success.

That we have permitted our poor to become a public health hazard is without a doubt a fact. They fester in disease, and foment crime. Yet this is certainly our own fault - for they lack healthcare, sanitation and protection we are able to give. But perhaps there is some blame to bestow upon these beggars - for they have not succeeded in obtaining their needs.

A successful beggar must not permit themselves to become passive recipients of donations, nor may they permit themselves to lose sight of the duty and honor in their begging. A beggar must not permit their patrons from losing sight of the purpose and honor in giving. If we have become selfish and greedy, if we have lost our ability to perform such a small sacrifice, it is perhaps their fault. Indeed, when undertaken as a spiritual practice, beggars present an asset to the community we presently lack.