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334. Generosity and Vanity

Generosity in man rises to benevolence. It ennobles the human heart. Its opposite meanness is described as asking another man to do what one cannot do. Generosity is to give the other man what he by his best efforts cannot reach. To do so by exerting yourself to the utmost is desirable. Its cultured expression emerges when it is given to the other man before he asks for it. In another sense, Vanity is its opposite. We do not come across pure generosity or pure vanity. We meet with generous vanity or vain generosity. Timon of Athens was too generous. He learnt his lesson that it was not true generosity but was only vanity when he had to declare that he be buried where no man walks. Goldsmith was generous to a fault and ended up in debtor's prison.

Generosity is natural to the Spirit. Spiritual generosity, though informed of the same weakness to some little extent, is strong enough not to be offended by life circumstances. Spirit is naturally generous as Spirit emerges into existence by an expansive movement. The pure Spirit is all expansiveness and knows no failure of weakness. The weak person trying to be generous becomes vain because the generosity of the weak arises out of a desire to give what it does not have. These human traits were taken note of two thousand years ago and their wisdom is enshrined in poems. One such poem says the rich man's generosity is like the golden flower having natural fragrance. The poor man's flower wilts. The rich man's golden flower has no perfume. Both can be combined, the poem says, in a metaphor that does not exist.

Vanity belongs to the ego. Spirit gives generosity to a man. Generous behaviour brings the Spirit to the surface. While vanity cannot survive without generosity, generosity can survive without vanity. Shade needs light; light is not dependent on shade. Sri Aurobindo said the higher consciousness does not need the lower human consciousness, while the lower cannot exist without the higher. We can move to the higher and be rid of the lower. Generosity is a pleasant feeling and hurts no one. Vanity offends everyone who comes into contact with it. Vanity does good to others while it destroys the person. In a philosophical sense, vanity too does good to a person as its urge for expansion dissolves all the other weaknesses in him.

story | by Dr. Radut