Once, when I met the founder of a human welfare society, I suggested a little improvement on it by keeping all the items of the plan in touch with the plannings of the Bhagavad Gita. The whole theme of the Bhagavad Gita is to do everything in relation with the wish of the Supreme Lord. Arjuna was sufficiently educated in politics, sociology, family affairs, education and all that is required for human welfare, but he was lacking in the sense of service for the Supreme Lord. So far as Arjuna was personally concerned, he was actually quite cognisant, but he assumed the role of a common man who did not know how to work according to the plan and desire of the Lord. That was the beginning of Bhagavad Gita.
Arjuna pretended to become a pious man, and he desired to be nonviolent, refraining from the painful acts of bloodshed on the battlefield. Such a pious attitude, without knowing the desire of the Supreme Lord, was condemned by Sri Krishna. He described such a psuedo-pious attitude as befitting an unadvanced person. Piety, non-violence and all such good qualities are judged in terms of their purpose. A small boy, without knowing the effect of his pious activity, gave to his ailing brother some pieces of foodstuff when his brother asked for it. The ailing brother was suffering from typhoid fever and as he was a child, he asked his younger brother to give him the food. The younger brother, without knowing the result of his charitable work, gave this to the suffering brother. When the whole thing was disclosed to the mother, the charitable younger brother was severely punished for the food could well prove fatal to the diseased boy. This is our practical experience.
Simply to do charitable work without knowing the effect of it is to act in the mode of ignorance. So far as charities, penances and sacrifices are concerned, they are all of three qualities: Charity done in full cognisance of the authoritative injunctions is calledSattvik, or in goodness. Charity done with the purpose of getting something in return is called Rajasik, or in the mode of passion. And charity done in darkness, without knowing its effect, done under some superior pressure or request, is called Tamasik, or in the mode of ignorance. The same applies to other good works also. Tamasik charity and Sattvik charity are two different items altogether. One leads to degradation while the other leads to elevation. Therefore simple charity, penance and sacrifices may not be always good, unless accompanied by a descriptive and discriminative knowledge.
Human welfare activities in full scientific knowledge will certainly elevate the status of human society. Now, the aim of welfare activity must be first of all ascertained. This means we must consider the aim of life. Is the aim of life to live for a number of long years? The Bhagawatam says no. It is not such. Because, so far as longevity is concerned, the life of some tree is far longer than that of a human being: The longest duration of life of the human being is not more than 100 years. But in the vegetable kingdom some trees live more than one thousand years. A human being will answer that the tree may live for one thousand years but the signs of life are absent there. The main sign of life is breathing. The Bhagawatam, in answer to this, will say that there are many many big bellows which can breathe more vehemently than a man. So breathing is no special qualification. There are beasts who can produce more children than the human being. They also eat sumptuously according to their own standard of life. And so, according to Bhagawatam, which is the practical commentary on the Vedanta Sutra, the only aim of life should be to hear the message of the Supreme Lord, wherein only lies the sum total welfare of human society.
In the Bhagavad Gita the ultimate instruction is to surrender unto the will of the Supreme Lord, and in that manner the surrendered soul is protected in all ways by the Lord from all the frailties of human life. Arjuna understood this principle and he altered his decision to leave the battlefield. Therefore, to know the Supreme Lord and to know our eternally existent relationship with the Lord does not mean to give up all activities. But to know Him, our relationship with Him and our duties to Him is the highest knowledge. And to impart this knowledge to one and all is the highest welfare activity in human society.