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Question: While having a meal in a public place, if a handicapped person tries to sell us items like pens or tissue paper, should we just donate if we can afford, without thinking if it is another cheating case? Or should we just donate to associations for the handicapped and assume they will take care of handicapped persona?

Answer: We should decide on a case by case basis. The truth is, it is indeed very hard to tell if a case is authentic. If we observe and think it is likely to be authentic, we can help. We can ask questions too, such as whether they are receiving aid already. If uncertain, we can choose not to. I’m not sure if handicapped associations’ aid network is comprehensive enough to provide adequately for all the handicapped, or if all of the handicapped are registered with them to receive benefits.

Question: How about old people selling tissue paper, whom we often see in public places, some of whom look physically fine? Should we just donate out of compassion and trust since we can afford the amounts we give?

Answer: Giving someone who is cheating would encourage more cheating, the creation of more negative karma, which harms both the cheater and the cheated. So, again, case by case judgement is needed. We can ask questions too. We don’t have to buy from them every time, and we can chat with them to find out more if we have time. Also, for the genuine-looking cases, we can just pass some money if we don’t need the items sold. When we give unconditionally, we can also say ‘Amituofo’ sincerely to connect them to Amituofo, for creating some blessings and for planting a karmic seed to subtly create affinity with the Dharma, to let them associate the Buddha’s name to compassion. If one eventually befriends them more, there can be more sharing of the Dharma too, if they are agreeable.

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