With this instalment, we conclude this series on the building of character. Hazrat Inayat Khan here urges us to open our hearts and develop the spirit of generosity. The previous post in the series is here.
The spirit of generosity in nature builds a path to God, for generosity is outgoing, is spontaneity; its nature is to make its way toward a wide horizon. Generosity, therefore, may be called charity of heart. It is not necessary that the spirit of generosity be shown always by the spending of money; in every little thing one can show it. Generosity is an attitude a person shows in every little action that he does for people that he comes in contact with in his everyday life. One can show generosity by a smile, by a kind glance, by a warm handshake; by patting the younger soul on the shoulder as a mark of encouragement, of showing appreciation, of expressing affection.One can show generosity in accommodating one’s fellow man, in welcoming him, in bidding farewell to one’s friend. In thought, word, and deed, in every manner and form, one can show that generous spirit which is the sign of the godly.
The Bible speaks of generosity by the word ‘charity’, but if I were to give an interpretation of the word ‘generosity,’ I would call it nobility. No rank, position, or power can prove one noble; truly noble is he who is generous of heart. What is generosity? It is nobility, it is expansion of heart. As the heart expands, so the horizon becomes wide, and one finds greater and greater scope in which to build the kingdom of God.
Depression, despair, and all manner of sorrow and sadness come from lack of generosity. Where does jealousy come from? Where does envy, aching of the heart come from? It all comes from lack of generosity. A man may not have one single coin to his name, and yet he can be generous, he can be noble, if only he has a large heart of friendly feeling. Life in the world offers every opportunity to a man, whatever be his position in life, to show if he has any spirit of generosity.
The changeableness and falsehood of human nature, besides lack of consideration and thoughtlessness for those whom he meets through life, and furthermore the selfishness and grabbing and grafting spirit that disturbs and troubles his soul, all these create a situation which is itself a test and trial through which every soul has to pass in the midst of worldly life. And when through this test and trial a man holds fast to his principle of charity, and marches along toward his destination, not allowing the influences that come from the four corners of the world to keep him back from his journey to the goal, in the end he becomes the king of life, even if when he reaches his destination there is not left one single earthly coin to his name.
It is not earthly wealth that makes man rich. Riches come by discovering that gold-mine which is hidden in the human heart, out of which comes the spirit of generosity. Someone asked the Prophet whose virtue was the greatest: that of the pious soul who prays continually; that of the traveler who travels to make the holy pilgrimage; that of the one who fasts for nights and days; or that of the one who learns the Scripture by heart. ‘None of them’, said the Prophet, ‘is so great as the soul who shows through life charity of heart.’