Question: In Bhagavad Gītā 17. 22, Kṛṣṇa says that charity, dāna, performed “adeśa-kāle,” at the “wrong place and time,” is dāna dominated by tamas.
After having looked through different commentaries (Rāmānuja, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, and Śrīdhara Svāmī), I could not understand what Kṛṣṇa means by “wrong place and time.” Śrīdhara Svāmī mentions aśucisthane, an unclean place, but how can any place be defined as such? Should dāna be performed only at a holy place? In Skanda Purāṇa (Maheśvara-khaṇḍa 4, Kaumārikā–khaṇḍa 78), such things as “houses, palaces, schools, earth or land, a cow, a well, marketplace, hospitals, and foodstuffs” are referred to as dāna, so it is impossible to give them as gifts only in a holy place. Which places are considered to be śuca, or clean, for dāna?
Further, what would be considered an impure time for dāna? Are astrological calculations taken into consideration while defining an auspicious or inauspicious moment for dāna?
In Gītā 17.24, Krsna says “yajna-dana-tapa kriyah,” or activities related to sacrifice, charity, and austerity. Do each of these activities adhere to the same rules of purity of time and place?
Answer: Activities related to karma-yoga can be performed with a material motive, sakāma, or as one’s prescribed duty, niskāma. If it is performed sakāma, then one has to adhere to scriptural injunctions to get the desired result. If one does not follow the injunctions, then one will not achieve one’s goal. There are also rules describing one’s prescribed duties, such as reciting morning prayers, performing the srāddha ceremony, etc. All these activities have to be performed at a specific time, called the proper time. If one does not perform them at that specific time, then the time would be considered improper. Similarly, there are also prescriptions about the place where the activity is to be performed. An impure place could be a crematorium, gambling house, bar, slaughterhouse, a place of prostitution, etc.
The injunction is not to give charity in an aśuci place. It does not say that it must be given only in a tīrtha-sthāna like Vrindavan. It is certainly wonderful to give dāna in a tīrtha but it can also be given in other places.
The second factor in dāna is time. Time can refer to a particular month such as Kārtika, also called Dāmodara, or a special occasion, such as during solar or lunar eclipse, or a special day such as Janmāṣṭamī, or some special muhurta.
Impurity also refers to the unclean state of the donor, i.e., when there has been a recent death or birth in the family, when one has not taken shower after sleeping or an evacuation or has an unclean mouth, or when one has contacted an impure object.
However, if the charity is performed as an act of devotion, without a material motive, then the rules of time and place do not apply. One should still follow the prevalent convention so as not to confuse or upset others.
Question: What are your thoughts about veganism? Animal rights advocates assert that one should not take milk from the cows as it belongs to the calves. How can a Vaiṣṇava reconcile such statements with their tradition? I would also like to know your views on ahiṁsā milk. Can we consume milk even when the cow is not slaughtered for meat? What about the notion that one should not use animals as a resource?
Answer: A cow in good health gives much more milk than is needed by her calf. If the calf is overfed, it will have diarrhea and may die from that. I have seen it practically. So there is no harm in consuming ahiṁsā milk.
I don’t know what is the source of the statement that one should not use animals as a resource. Historically, we have always seen that animals are domesticated and used by humans. Kṛṣṇa Himself is a cowherd boy, which means that they were an agrarian society that kept animals for farming. Balarāma carries a plow, which is pulled by bulls in farming. Kṛṣṇa also drives chariots pulled by horses and rides in carts pulled by bullocks.
In Vyasa’s samadhi, he saw jiva, jiva’s conditioning, Maya, and Krishna. He also saw the solution, which is only by Bhakti yoga that we can get out of this conditioning. He composed Bhagavatam after knowing this. We should know that he wrote this book to propagate Bhakti yoga. It is very dear to Vaishnava devotees.
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