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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mastering the Mind

Mastering the Mind

Time to reflect. Time to let the mind return to its "original shape".

When one is busy, and one's mind is fully occupied with a thousand and one things, it is usually not wise to make major decisions. In the heat of the moment, we often make decisions that we regret later on. Allow time for facts to sink in first.

An equanimous state of mind is very difficult to maintain consistently in the tumult of our everyday life. But those who have spent time in deep reflection or meditation are less prone to agitation. They maintain a stillness within. And it is this stillness that is the wellspring of all our wisdom.

When you are still within, you are not carried away by the waves of thoughts and emotions that sweep through your mind and body. Whenever people get angry, impatient or emotional, you know they have no control of their mind. So they end up making bad decisions, doing things they regret later on and saying things that have hurtful consequences.

When stillness of the mind has been successfully cultivated, one's action are in harmony with the universe. Favourable coincidences happen. The timing of events become smooth. Things just seem to "flow" along nicely.

When you are agitated, vengeful, angry or bitter, the whole universe works against you. You are inviting trouble. Whenever you enter such a state of mind, snap out of it quickly. Again, you can only do so if you have trained yourself to have the ability to constantly execute "checkpoints" in your mind.

All the religion in the world is useless if they do not lead us towards this mindfulness and mental calmness. Heaven or hell begins in the mind. If only we know how to tackle this one thing, the world will be a much more peaceful place.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The World Within and Without

The World Within and Without

Work-wise, it has been a very busy week for me; a week when terrorism reared its ugly head again.

I don't blog so much on current events because there's usually nothing more that I could add to what's already in the news websites. I prefer to write about the world inside us--the world of the mind and the soul, simply because I spend a lot of time there, observing, analyzing and learning. The microcosm inside reflects that macrocosm outside.

The subtle laws of nature that govern the behaviour of thoughts, emotions and actions are the foundations of the macroscopic laws that determine the course of human affairs. The tussles of mankind are but the external manifestations of our inner struggles. If we master the dynamics of the forces within, we are in better control of our actions in the world without.

When action--whether good or bad--materializes in the external world, it is never without consequence. Even if you say or do something in the void--in the absence of people, with no tangible or visible effect to the physical world, there are still consequences. How is that so?

Every action stems from a thought. When a thought arises in the mind, it immediately affects and determine the next thought and consequently, the next course of action that one takes. The universe is forever changed. You are a different person now compared to the one just a second ago, because the thoughts you are thinking now is a direct consequence of your preceding chain of thoughts. A different you results in a different pattern of interaction with the people around you. Do not under-estimate this network effect. History is often altered because of one single thought in one person's mind.

What you are thinking now in your head is a reaction to what you are reading now (my thoughts). So you are no longer the same person. If you had not decided to read these sentences, a different set thoughts would have arisen in your head. And who knows, they would have led to actions that are vastly different from what you will now proceed to execute.

So at every instant, we are transforming into a new person. We are reborn with each thought. So choose your thoughts carefully. Choose what you read wisely. For what happens inside your head result in actions that determine the course of events in the world outside.