giving to beggars

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Post Reply
Billy5000
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:03 pm

giving to beggars

Post by Billy5000 »

I recently attended a dhamma talk and meditation group and the teacher was talking about generosity and kindness and gave an example about when a homeless person asks for money on the street. He said that you should not worry about such things like that they will spend it on drugs and that you should just be kind and give the money then let go and move on. Im not sure if this is wise. Wouldnt it be better to give to a charity organisation so you know it is actually helping. I found his comments to be a bit delusional.
soapy3
Posts: 250
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:54 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by soapy3 »

My father spent the last 30 yeas of his life volunteering to help the homeless. He told me it is true that many will use money to buy alcohol and other drugs. He recommended carrying cards for homeless shelters located in the city. That way when someone asks for money to buy food you can give them a card with the address of a place where they can get something to eat.
User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 7625
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Sam Vara »

If I have the time, I normally buy and give food instead of giving money. I've been cursed at and occasionally had the food refused, but most gratefully accept. One person was really insistent about me buying him some butane gas (for getting high on) but accepted sandwiches instead. This is of course me thinking that I know what is in people's true interests better than they do. It makes me feel a bit uneasy, but seems like the best solution.
User avatar
Bundokji
Posts: 3230
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2014 11:57 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Bundokji »

I usually give beggars without questioning their intentions. If they lie its their problem, not mine :smile:
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 5765
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Mae Wang Huai Rin, Li District, Lamphun

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Dhammanando »

Billy5000 wrote:I recently attended a dhamma talk and meditation group and the teacher was talking about generosity and kindness and gave an example about when a homeless person asks for money on the street. He said that you should not worry about such things like that they will spend it on drugs and that you should just be kind and give the money then let go and move on. Im not sure if this is wise. Wouldnt it be better to give to a charity organisation so you know it is actually helping.
I agree with the meditation teacher. It is when people give directly to the homeless person that they know for sure that their gift is actually helping. If they give to a charity organization it may be used for little else than paying the executive-level salaries of the charity's administrators. But when they give directly to a homeless person then they know that he will either use their gift for his stated purpose or else he'll blow it all on booze or drugs. In the former case they will have fed a hungry man; in the latter, they will have saved the man from needing to resort to petty crime to obtain his fix.
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
Billy5000
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:03 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Billy5000 »

Dhammanando wrote:
Billy5000 wrote:I recently attended a dhamma talk and meditation group and the teacher was talking about generosity and kindness and gave an example about when a homeless person asks for money on the street. He said that you should not worry about such things like that they will spend it on drugs and that you should just be kind and give the money then let go and move on. Im not sure if this is wise. Wouldnt it be better to give to a charity organisation so you know it is actually helping.
I agree with the meditation teacher. It is when people give directly to the homeless person that they know for sure that their gift is actually helping. If they give to a charity organization it may be used for little else than paying the executive-level salaries of the charity's administrators. But when they give directly to a homeless person then they know that he will either use their gift for his stated purpose or else he'll blow it all on booze or drugs. In the former case they will have fed a hungry man; in the latter, they will have saved the man from needing to resort to petty crime to obtain his fix.
You're presuming that all drug users are thieves which is incorrect. You're also presuming that charities are corrupt and that the money doesn't get to the needy which is also incorrect. You are also presuming that resorting to petty theft is a need. Being a drug addict is an illness robbing people is a choice. Giving money to them is enabling them. You think your $2 is going to stop them rolling someone for more? I dont think so.
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 18090
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: giving to beggars

Post by mikenz66 »

I agree with Ven Dhammanando. One shouldn't judge the homeless and one shouldn't underestimate the benefit of being generous to people, rather than collection boxes. Anyone I've ever talked to who has worked with homeless people speaks of how positive the experience can be.

Steve Armstrong http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/170/ speaks in some of his talks about his experiences of giving to homeless people. As I recall he speaks of how it really brings you face-to-face with your assumptions.

Unfortunately, I can't easily identify a particular talk, but these ones on generosity should be helpful:
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/170/? ... generosity

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
seeker242
Posts: 1027
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2012 3:01 am

Re: giving to beggars

Post by seeker242 »

If you attach strings to gifts, I don't think that is a good thing.
User avatar
Alobha
Posts: 565
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:27 pm
Location: Germany

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Alobha »

Sam Vara wrote:If I have the time, I normally buy and give food instead of giving money. [...] It makes me feel a bit uneasy, but seems like the best solution.
Didn't have those negative experiences personally but I do it the same way - I rather give food, never money. I have witnessed cases of "beggars" organizing themselves like doorstep brigades and visiting houses of old people to ask for money there. I saw the same people swear to old ladies on the street if they do not give money after the beggar kissed the old lady's hand against her will. You can't tell which people really need the money and which people may pull scams or use it for drugs. Encouraging and rewarding drugabuse or deception does not seem like a wise thing to do to me. A "Just give money and be done with it"-attitude seems like people often just want to get rid of the situation and don't actually care but that's just my perception. At least I do feel better when I put some thought into what food I buy and then give something which will certainly be used to sustain life.
Wouldnt it be better to give to a charity organisation
If you're involved with a charity enough to know how the money is used, it may be worth a consideration. I found personally giving food to someone in need a more beneficial experience for deveoping metta.
User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 7625
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Sam Vara »

seeker242 wrote:If you attach strings to gifts, I don't think that is a good thing.
Except if you are giving kites or yo-yos, of course.
santa100
Posts: 4494
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by santa100 »

Billy5000 wrote:I recently attended a dhamma talk and meditation group and the teacher was talking about generosity and kindness and gave an example about when a homeless person asks for money on the street. He said that you should not worry about such things like that they will spend it on drugs and that you should just be kind and give the money then let go and move on. Im not sure if this is wise. Wouldnt it be better to give to a charity organisation so you know it is actually helping. I found his comments to be a bit delusional.
We can use some simple approach like:
Ask the beggar what his most immediate need to use the money at the moment for?
1. If he says booze or drug, can just politely decline.
2. Else If he says something else like food, clothing, or other regular stuff:
2.1. If you have some times, get those things for him. That way, whether he said the truth or not, he can't blame you.
2.2. Else If you don't have time, oh well, just give him some money. He owes to his own kamma for what he says and does.
User avatar
no mike
Posts: 206
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:16 pm
Location: human realm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by no mike »

Sam Vara wrote:
seeker242 wrote:If you attach strings to gifts, I don't think that is a good thing.
Except if you are giving kites or yo-yos, of course.
Or wrapping the gifts in brown paper packages.
chownah
Posts: 9070
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by chownah »

Why do beggars in the US beg?
chownah
Billy5000
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:03 pm

Re: giving to beggars

Post by Billy5000 »

seeker242 wrote:If you attach strings to gifts, I don't think that is a good thing.
If you give money to someone and they then spend it on drugs then you are enabling their addiction and therefore you are complicit in their suffering.
User avatar
seeker242
Posts: 1027
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2012 3:01 am

Re: giving to beggars

Post by seeker242 »

Billy5000 wrote:
seeker242 wrote:If you attach strings to gifts, I don't think that is a good thing.
If you give money to someone and they then spend it on drugs then you are enabling their addiction and therefore you are complicit in their suffering.
I disagree because kamma is intention. Giving money to someone who has no food, so they can get food, is virtuous regardless of what they actually decide to spend the money on. Unless you are a Buddha with a divine eye who can predict the future, there is no way you can say every homeless person you give money to will not use it for food.

If you don't like giving people money, then one can volunteer at a soup kitchen or something. That's fine also. There are many different ways to practice dana.
Post Reply