A message from within and a timely lecture help remove a
devotee’s doubts about the spiritual value of his job.
Every morning I was dragging my body to the office, and every evening I was crawling back home like an ashamed, beaten serpent. My heart was constantly hammering my mind with the thought that I should quit my job.
I analyzed my work through the lens of Krishna consciousness and found it degrading and contrary to the principles of Krishna consciousness. I work for a retail company where I create propositions that entice people to buy more and more. I started feeling that any kind of work is equivalent to contributing to maya’s trap of increasing material desires.
I was disturbed constantly by the realization that I’m on the path of Krishna consciousness to escape the influence of maya, but I’m busy creating material allurements for others. I then asked myself if my judgment was right. If I were to start evaluating different occupations, I could find fault with every kind of work. And if I really want to quit my work, I should go to a village, till some land, rear a cow, and live a simple life practicing Krishna consciousness.
But I don’t kill animals or sell liquor. I don’t gamble or do any illegal work. I have a simple job, so what is my problem with this work?
These mixed feelings put my mind in turmoil.
My poor, crooked mind didn’t understand that it was my consciousness that needed to change, not my profession. The sun of my confidence had set into the darkness of weak-heartedness, unaware of the ray of hope approaching.
I decided to go to the Sunday feast at the Hare Krishna temple in Chowpatty, Mumbai. Sitting on the vyasasana was a tall man with a strong built and a dark complexion. His name was Devamrta Swami, and he was speaking to the audience. He had a calm smile on his face, and he always seemed ready to break into loud laughter. He did so several times a few minutes later.
He started his lecture with the very question burning in my mind: Can we be Krishna conscious in the workplace?
Yoga of Work
He started off by saying that we should ask ourselves why we are working. If we work for ourselves, we will never be happy and satisfied. Krishna consciousness is about pleasing Krishna’s senses.
In the Bhagavad-gita (3.1) Arjuna asks Krishna, “O Janardana, O Kesava, why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You think that intelligence is better than fruitive work?” Prabhupada explains: “Arjuna also thought of Krishna consciousness or buddhi-yoga, or intelligence in spiritual advancement of knowledge, as something like retirement from active life and the practice of penance and austerity at a secluded place.” But when Krishna explained to Arjuna the importance of karma-yoga, Arjuna understood his real dharma, or duty. Krishna explained that Arjuna was not fighting for himself but for Krishna.
“If Arjuna can give up all his prejudices and fight a big war which involved killing his loved ones then each one of us can do our work very peacefully,” said Devamrta Swami.
He then said that people might believe that devotees don’t work hard and smart. But if as devotees we discharge our duties well and intelligently, that impresses people, and we become brand ambassadors of Krishna consciousness.
“If we develop an attitude of offering everything to Krishna,” he said, “then Krishna gives us intelligence and we perform our duties perfectly.”
I hadn’t asked him the questions that were tormenting me, but he answered them all. A new sun dawned in my consciousness, and his words were like a ray of hope. I now knew why I was never happy and content in my work: I was working only for the satisfaction of my own senses and ego.
I had become so attached to my work that it had become my identity, and I had left behind the real quest for my true identity. I had forgotten that I should try to serve the Lord with the work He has provided instead of offering it to the hunger of my own ego.
Now I understand that since I am not doing any work that violates the basic religious principles no intoxication, no meat-eating, no illicit sex, and no gambling I should focus on my work and be honest in my duties.
From Devamrta Swami’s lecture I understood that every act of a devotee should be an offering to Krishna. A devotee should try to work for Krishna’s sense gratification, and thus should feel obliged to work. We should understand that just to be identified as a servant of Krishna is a wholesome individuality. This point helped me understand that each of my acts is a means to serve Krishna.
The lecture was an important milestone in my journey in Krishna consciousness. Since then, my moroseness has gone away, and I am excited to go to work. In fact, I try to perfect my work because now I believe it’s one of the ways to please Krishna.
At times I still forget and get carried away with the flight of my ego, so I’ve placed a reminder on my office desk: “Remember, everything is an offering to Krishna.”
I don’t want this truth to leave my mind. I want it to stay with me forever to keep reminding me of my true identity: servant of Krishna. Like a true devotee, I want to be always in the trance of the service attitude. I want to please the object of my service, Lord Krishna. Then, as He did through Devamrta Swami’s lecture, Krishna will answer all my doubts. To keep my faith intact, I need to be patient and listen to the calling of my heart when it says, “Hang on!”
Manish Goel has a post-graduate degree in Business Design and currently works as a part of the strategy team with a leading retailer in Mumbai. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wisdom in the Workplace
In this world, exploitation is inevitable. To survive, people are exploiting each other. But from the spiritual perspective, we should have the mood of servitude, and try as far as possible not to go beyond what is necessary. Killing living beings is one sure thing that will bring horrible reaction.
In business, our motivation should not be to destroy others. Our motivation should be to be the best we could be. We may have to try to defeat competition, but not in a malicious way. If we are actually trying to destroy other peoples’ lives, we are going to get all the karma of that 100%. But if are trying to do better than others, trying to defeat others our competitors and we try to do it, as far as possible, in an honest way with integrity, there would be some karma, but that would be minimized. And if we give some of the profits for spiritual, charitable purposes, then that can be removed. If we are doing things in a malicious way, then even if we give it in a spiritual charitable way, the karma will be on us. And if we are trying to do things with proper integrity, proper honor, and we give results in charitable spirit, for spiritual cause, and at the same time, we are purifying our own heart by chanting God’s name and spiritual purifications, then we can rise above those minimal karmic situations. And they will not seriously affect our lives.
If we are using our business profits for a cause that is helpful to others as well, if we have a spirit of compassion rather than a spirit of greed, then the karma is minimized and nullified. When we are motivated by greed, selfishness, and inconsideration of how we hurt others, or hurting people beyond need, then serious karma may come upon us. Great accomplishments are not as satisfying or not as important as great qualities. (Radhanatha Swami) (excerpts from a lecture)
Devamrta Swami adds later:
The only thing more I can offer is perhaps that you should ensure that the point of Krishna’s actually benefiting from the results (the fruits) is clear. I would stress that as the major priority in working for Krishna.
It’s the attitude as well as the fruits that’s where the action is, the bhakti dynamics.
Hence, I always say, “go to work to give, not to get.” Go to work to give a pure and vibrant Krishna conscious lifestyle to yourself, your family, and then to as many other persons as you can. Widen the circle of divine care, giving, and sharing, as much as your circumstances allow. And remember, among the circle of other persons we work for, the Deity is the Supreme Other Person.
In this way work becomes a yajna to benefit the world (including the self and the family) with Krishna consciousness.
Going to work focused on getting getting money, getting prestige, and getting “fulfillment” is miserable, miserly, krpana.”