The Art of Sharing


How should we know how much to share with others in terms of personal things?

—james, usa


Dear James,

Welcome to the club “Art of Living,” in which there is no fixed rule, but only an appropriate reaction to any given situation. In each situation, when deciding how to behave, we need to balance these two questions:

  1. What do the teachings say?
  2. What is the specific situation?

So in your case, what do the teachings say? They say that sharing is noble, it expands the ego, and brings happiness to the giver. Swami Kriyananda writes: “Sharing is the doorway through which the soul escapes the prison of self-preoccupation. It is one of the clearest paths to God.” Yogananda teaches us a prayer: “What I receive, teach me to share with others.” So that should be our general attitude.

But then comes the second question: what is my specific situation? You might reflect: “I’d love to share, but in this situation can I afford sharing my personal things? Is it wise? Is it good for the other person if I share? Will he respect and appreciate what I give? Will he handle my possessions well? Is it the right thing to do?” Swami Kriyananda for example is a very generous man, but has never shared all his personal belongings with everyone.

In short, we are called to develop a generous attitude of sharing, while not being obliged to share as a rule. Let’s say you have a car. Your decision might be not to share it, if you know it might easily get trashed that way. On the other hand if you know that you are quite attached to it, and that’s why it’s hard for you to share it, then you might consciously decide: “In this case, I’ll share my car.” Spiritual teaching is never black and white, but an art. How much to share (since that’s your question) too is an art: you will find no quantity in any textbook.

Here is another important point concerning the art of sharing: even though the teachings may call us to share selflessly, we sometimes may have to admit serenely: “I am simply not ready for this yet.” That “yet” is important, it keeps you moving in the right direction. At any rate, our teachings are neither dogmatic commandments (“you always have to share!”), nor do they make you relax comfortably where you are (“I just can’t share – this is the way I am and always will be!”). Swami Kriyananda explains that yogic teachings are directional.

I wish you growing happiness in the art of sharing,