What is benevolence?
Well, Google says it’s “the quality of being well-meaning; kindness.” But the strange part is that the Google definition’s card doesn’t show any origin of the word. This suggests that the act of being kind is a centuries-old idea and a highly integrated part of human nature. But along with that, the word usage has dropped significantly over the last two centuries. Well yes, there are synonyms, but the drop in usage can only suggest that we don’t talk about being benevolent as much we should.
This brings us to the fact that people might not realize, but kindness is everywhere and the world can never have enough of it. From materialistic, financial, counseling help to ‘being there, spending time, uplifting mood and being friendly and just to all… Kindness can take up many forms. But these are not acts of benevolence. Because benevolence extends beyond the self and refers to selfless kindness. When someone is kind, without seeking any gain, that is benevolence.
One of the key aspects of benevolence is not expecting any return. We often help other people, but if it is in expectation of getting something in return, then it’s not true benevolence. Even if you expect any Punya or goodwill, that is still not pure benevolence. Not only is this highlighted in mythology but there are also several contemporary examples, especially during the times of COVID. There are so many people who give selfless service be it healthcare workers, or volunteers who help to arrange oxygen and coordinate logistics. There might be many who are after money, or fame but a lot of them are silent, working behind the curtains, making the society not topple itself over.
Benevolence is not also just about big things, but also about small things in life. Donating billions of money is good, but even if you console a sad person and encourage them, the act goes far and beyond. Developing this quality can go a long way to be optimistic, live a worry-less life, and make the world a better place.
A lot of donation efforts and care-taking is posted on a social network. This is definitely a good act and might encourage others to do so too, but if the motive behind doing good things in life is showing it off, then that is a very scary sign. And sadly, a lot of young people are doing just that. Again, doing good for society is highly appreciable, but benevolence is something that should come from within our hearts (preferably souls)
In the ancient times, the kings cared about their citizens, they really did. Their goal was to make their kingdom prosper. There were also great kings like Chandragupta Maurya, who wanted their people to first and foremost stay happy, or Shri Ram, who did not care about his comforts, but about the people. We generally have selfless care for our loved ones, our family (which lacks heavily in other countries), but it creates a bias. Instead of caring just about our citizens, our family, etc. If we cared about the world and the souls, without any discrimination as the family of God, most of the world’s prevalent problems (like climate change, diseases, poverty) could be solved.
Greed and selfishness are the cause of most problems in the world. A small example of an experiment conducted on 10 people each given one balloon in hand and told that after 5 minutes whomsoever has a balloon in hand, will get a prize. As soon as time started, everyone tried to burst each other’s balloon, just after 2 mins no one had balloon in hand. Instead, if there was “coexistence” and no one downplayed each other, everyone would have got the prize. The tendency to pull others rather than rising together is problematic.
The mindset needs to change from “I” to “We”
This not only applies to humans but also extends to every single creature in the ecosystem. Benevolence to nature and all living beings will stop any exploitation of nature and there would be complete “Coexistence”.
The Hierarchy of kindness
People often see an injured dog and feel pity, or are sympathetic. We help him, take care of him, etc. But was it from our hearts, or was it because we saw it in a bad shape?
The extent to which anyone shows or expresses kindness can be arranged into a hierarchy:
Pity < Sympathy < Empathy < Compassion < Benevolence.
One needs to be kind for all of those, but to be benevolent requires selflessness.
People fight wars for their religions. From where did the notion of promoting your religion or cult become so widespread, which involved destroying your own species just one with a slightly different belief. It is unfathomable, how brainwashed these people are to literally kill others whose ideologies are slightly different. Where is benevolence, is it not taught?
And yes, it is not taught. It cannot be taught.
But in the system, where some children are brainwashed while others are taught that guns are really normal, how can they inculcate such simple and basic human qualities. Our society has grown to such an ignorant state of disappointment, that to show-off strength or promote agenda, or whatever the reason is; we are failing to impart basic human knowledge.
In the US, the system of compulsory volunteering in schools, (as per research) leads to retaliations; because being imposed to volunteering, they end up never volunteering again after high school. Similarly, benevolence is something that must be a calling from within and can’t be just merely imposed by fear of God (i.e. hell and deeds/karma), because it’s about the feeling associated of giving selflessly.
Benevolence shouldn’t be inculcated through the fear of education system or fear of God, but inspired from within.
Having debates at a young age, showing the children the right path, teaching human values when young can benefit to such an extent, we have not thought yet out. When children are taught about anything at a really young age, or at least the values of goodness, it will deeply affect them to actually care about the world they live in.
The Sad Irony
On one hand, people live with a dog their entire life, and consider it as part of their family; while they do not even hesitate eating animal meat. People say, oh the world is full of benevolence and goodness, so many efforts are being done, but have we thought about animals?
Why are humans so selfish about themselves? It is not just about other fellow species, but also about other living beings and the actual planet we live on 🌍. True benevolence is achieved when you care about the other soul, the entire world; not only the soul you met with, but the ones who you do not even know exist.
I believe, the only way the world can survive the fire we are in, is by being benevolent. And not just with the people we care about, but with everyone. We need radical decisions (some even controversial) to save our civilisation with goodness. The original concept of being benevolent helped in the survival and wellness of ancient civilisations, and we need to bring it back. Being enforced benevolence will not help as well, it has to be something that comes from within.