Friday, July 15, 2005

The Real Purpose of Work

The Real Purpose of Work

We rush through life too fast sometimes. We dart from one meeting to another, as if our lives depend on them. "Just trying to make a living", we'd always say. But are we really?

The truth is that we all can get by with a lot less. Only thing is, we feel that whatever we are getting is not enough. We want more. We want more because we like to compare ourselves to other people--people who are richer and more successful than us. We want to be like them.

So we work hard to achieve our dreams. The moment we've achieved them, we realize that there are even higher mountains to climb; there are others whom we still envy. What we've achieved so far is still unsatisfactory. True, we are mildly proud of what we have achieved but still, it is not sufficient.

I don't need a lot of money, I just want more. But how much is enough? My feeling is that it'll never be enough, for as long as we have not learned to transcend the thralldom of material things.

We all should work hard for a better life. There is nothing wrong in chasing after material success. The problem only arises when we are too caught up in the rat race that we completely lose our sense of perspective. We forget what we actually want from a so-called "successful life". We associate all the trappings of wealth and equate them with success. We live by the standards set by others, because we are constantly benchmarking ourselves against the material success of others.

One must work towards one's goals, but one must not be attached to the fruits of one's labour. Enjoy them but don't get addicted to them. When you are no longer attached to the outcome of what you do, you have mastered a key tenet of karma yoga--one of the paths towards God realization, as expounded by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

How is it possible for one to be completely unattached to the rewards of work? If we are to feel "guilty" for desiring rewards, how is it possible for us to be motivated to work?

The true karma yogi feels joy and contentment in knowing that he is slowly working out his karma through the performance of his worldly duties, and he strives not to generate fresh karmas through non-attachment to the outcome of his work. You work, you give your best and then you start again the next day, wiser and better because you are now slightly more experienced. The true reward of work is wisdom.

You see, we gain wisdom even through doing mundane "no-brainer" jobs--as long as we execute them with calmness, concentration and creativity. All work requires us to play a role. If we play our roles well, the universe is a better place because each working individual contributes to the ecosystem of wealth and happiness.

Destiny has already defined a vocation for you. It is your duty to find out what it is--what Paulo Coelho calls one's "Personal Legend".

Work makes a person better. In pursuing work that is honest, sincere and creative, we hasten our spiritual progress. I've mentioned before, work is like a workout. And one's Personal Legend--if one finds it--is the optimal path, one's personal fitness program, for the evolution of one's soul. So let's all work on it.

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