In accordance with that understanding, giving 10% of one's income to guru and God, the source of all things, is a way to express our gratitude for all that we have been given.
The History of Tithing
‘You see, in ancient times, the king used to help the ashram. Nowadays, it is the devotees who help the ashram. But by them giving towards that – their 10%, through their hard work – it’s like they are giving part of themselves into the ashram itself. So, what is happening? In the ashram, all the prayers and all the sadhana that everybody is doing, they receive that also.’ –Paramahamsa Vishwananda
Traditionally, members of a congregation offer tithing in gratitude for their spiritual inspiration. It has long been a practice in many spiritual traditions, and it is a common practice today in churches, temples, and other religious institutions around the world.
Supporting the Guru's Mission
How can we support Paramahamsa Vishwananda's mission?
For devotees of Paramahamsa Vishwananda, we offer our tithing to Bhakti Marga. This is not simply a Bhakti Marga guideline, it is a direct instruction from our spiritual master, known as guru adesha. Gurudev instructs us to tithe in the same way that He asks us to give up smoking, using intoxicants, and eating meat. As initiated devotees of the Hari Bhakta Sampradaya, obeying our guru is a core value Following the guru's instructions to the letter helps accelerate our spiritual growth and transformation.
Making money is not the guru's main concern. His mission is wholly spiritual. However, for the mission to grow, it also needs material support from the devotees themselves. While devotees support and serve Paramahamsa Vishwananda’s mission through their tithing, Gurudev focuses His efforts on the spiritual upliftment of humanity as a whole.
By tithing, we inevitably take part in the mission's efforts to spread and pass on Paramahamsa Vishwananda's teachings and blessings. The opportunity to serve the guru in this way is not trivial.
Detaching From Lack
'Spirituality ought to be free!' That is what I was told when some of my acquaintances learned that I consistently tithe to Bhakti Marga. People often hold money in the highest regard and guard it tightly. Money enables us to live the way we do in terms of shelter, food, and comforts in our daily lives. Because money allows us to do all of these things, attachment to it is only natural. Many people, therefore, have difficulty tithing.
Tithing helps us to gradually detach from a fear of lack. The more we understand that guru and God are our true sources of abundance in every way, the more free we become. The practice also serves to increase our faith. Numerous devotee testimonies illustrate how assistance appears 'out of nowhere', new opportunities emerge, and devotees feel closer to guru and God, simply through the practice of tithing.
Giving From the Heart
'Charity that is done from a sense of duty to a worthy recipient, without expectation, at the proper place and time, is said to be sattvic in nature.' –Bhagavad Gita 17.20
According to Paramahamsa Vishwananda's commentary on this verse, 'giving is not just for show, but truly from the heart. It is when you give and forget about it, not even expecting anything, any gratification or even a thank you. This is the sense of duty. People with sattvic qualities don’t even expect the blessing of the Lord.'
Such people are constantly overwhelmed with gratitude and do not expect anything on the outside because they are overflowing on the inside. They give with sincerity and faith.
No one is more worthy of your generosity than your guru. What Paramahamsa Vishwananda does for each of His devotees is unfathomable and beyond our understanding.
How Tithing Changed My Life
Tithing has assisted me in becoming more selfless. It has made me less attached to money and changed other aspects of my life as well. Before tithing, it was only 'my' money. Now, I increasingly see money as a tool on my spiritual journey. Giving has made me mindful of others' needs and opened me up to love, help, and serve more with less hesitation.
Tithing helped me to recognise the presence of guru and God in my life. I was truly surprised to find that even after tithing, my needs are completely met. I can now appreciate and see Gurudev's and God's hands in many aspects of my life that I previously took for granted. I am more thankful for things like having food on the table every day and having a roof over my head. Tithing is a constant reminder that the Ultimate Source provides everything.
Tithing has helped me have a stronger faith in my guru and God. Being more aware of Their presence has strengthened my relationship with Them. Other devotees in the sangha have also shared stories and testimonies about how they, too, have experienced guru and God's presence in their lives. This serves to strengthen my faith and trust even more.
Seeing guru and God move in my life, and the lives of others, is undeniably more valuable than any monetary value given in tithing.
Even if you are not yet a devotee, I encourage you to start tithing and gradually increase your contribution. The effects will be visible in your life, and remember that guru and God always reciprocate in more ways than we can ever know.