Should I continue to help this old man?

I saw this old man the other day. He approached me and asked for some money. Without thinking much, I gave him $10 thinking that it may help him with a few meals.

Later on, I pass by the hawker centre and saw the old man again. However, he was sitting in a corner drinking beer. At that moment, I realised that my money could have been used to purchase the alcohol that the old man is drinking.

The next day, the old man came by again and asked for some money. Now that I know how he could be spending my money, I held back the donation.

I’d like to ask if I should continue to practice generosity on this person?


My take is there is no right or wrong whether we want to continue to help this old man.

Since now i know that this man is using my money to indulge in vices then i will stop helping him in this way so that he will not be harmed by my kind action.

I will continue to help him if there are other ways that are beneficial to him.

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Before learning Lamrim, my definitive answer would be not to help this person anymore as the old man is using the money to intoxicate himself, causing harm to his mind and body.

In addition, I would be thinking that the money I had given to him had been wasted and would have put to better use by donating to someone else.
I may even feel stupid and angry that I had given money to him in the first place.

I would then tell myself that I will be more careful and discerning about being charitable next time.

After learning Lamrim, I am able to start thinking from many different other perspectives:

  • that I had given the money due to an honest intent to do good and I should not feel bad about it
  • that it was my own assumption that he would buy food
  • by right the money given to him is his and he can do what he wants with it
  • that maybe his drink of alcohol is his solace for the week and brings him some comfort and my donation gave him hope that there are more kind people around
  • that my generosity can be without condition or expectation

@DesmondNgo said it nicely for me: There is no right or wrong :smiley:

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Good points. Maybe we can also continue practising generosity by giving a little bit of our time to engage him, find out what are his troubles and refer the person to respective government agencies (MP) or refer to the Path (Dharma)

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We should separate the two issues and not link it together. (the giving and how the recipient use your money)

At the point of giving, if your intent and motivation is purely to help, you are already practicing generosity.

Thereafter, when you see the old man indulging in vices, you should not link the previous act of giving with this scene. In fact, if you are practising 慈悲心 (Spirit of Enlightenment), you should think about finding out more on the old man’s situation to see what other ways we could help him further.

Master Jih-Chang mentioned a similar case before.

At the end of the day, his advice is:

  1. Give help if you wish to practice generosity or kindness
  2. Get more perspectives of the situation and see if there are better ways to offer better help.

Yes… perhaps I will help him in other ways. Maybe I will buy him food or other basic necessities. I suppose I should be practical and realistic. :thinking:

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Thank you @Jereme for sharing Master Ri-Chang’s advice - totally relevant to the question :+1:

My take-away from the video is that the focus is on our own motivation in doing the action (whether there is compassion) and then using this motivation to find the right method (with wisdom).

My first thoughts are, why did I give money to him in the first place? if I expected him to use the money to buy food or daily necessities, then probably giving him these items would be better than money. My second thoughts are, what could have happen if I stopped giving him money? He could have tried to con people or steal in order to satisfy his beer fix.

Actually if we want to give, it’s better not to have our own expectations of how the thing is going to be used. Who are we to judge? :grin:

As a beginner who practice generosity, wisdom is needed. The word here is “beginners” (unskilled cultivator ), if not all donations will come to nought. In state of helping it can become unwholesome. Bodhisattva help is wholesome. Karma have no mercy, we must keep in mind when practicing generosity. If you attain 无像 how you practice generosity is also wholesome, if not better not do it blindly. 一动不如一净。