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Vocation as highest worship

Sunil Kumar

Where is excellence in India? Look at common Indians working in the unorganised sector, e.g. house-wife, craftsmen, handicrafts, carpet, saree weavers, Moradabad brass-works, lijjat papad; Uduppi restaurants, newspaper delivery, diamond courier, Bombay dabbawalla, paanwala, garagewalla, Indira street-markets, etc. They do not ask for fancy salaries, offices, etc. but focus on customer satisfaction and fulfilling society’s needs. It is because of the many transporters, that wheat from Punjab is collected, transported and made available in a small Kerala village! Imagine if it was to be handled by MBA’s or PSU’s! The Dabbawalla’s are now a case study discussed at Harvard Business schools.

What can we learn from them? They are ‘Small-Self-Managed-Business-Units’ directly responsible and accountable for customer-satisfaction. They have no managers, directors to please (other than bribery to the host of educated inspectors, policemen, etc.!). They work as a family, have a sense of ‘ownership’ of work, and can decide what is to be done, when, how, by whom. They may be illiterate, but learn on the job, have no unnecessary supervisory levels; they are totally accountable, take full responsibility for customer satisfaction and get paid only based on the results.

Why do we work? Most of us work to make a living; but many of us are now being educated to seek and make more and more money and profits so that we can draw fat salaries and live in much more than the needed comfort. Simple living and high thinking are no longer the ideals today!

How should we work? Traditionally, the culture of Bharat was based on the ingrained wisdom that our daily work, Vocation, businesses, were not just to earn a living, but a way to fulfill the needs of samaaja and society, because ‘samaaja’ literally means ‘same as or equal to God’. So the work literally becomes a highest form of worship – worship of God.

When we offer and give our best for the good of the society, then our work and vocation, sweeping or ruling, leads to chitta-suddhi, purity of mind. And, the more our mind gets pure, the more we are able to feel and experience our divine potential, and therefore grow in feeling of ‘apanapan’, oneness, with more and more. This leads to the inner experience of peace, happiness and fulfillment which manifests in spontaneous feelings of love, care, concern for others.

Thus, our daily work is our opportunity to transform our vocation itself into ‘Karma-yoga’, a means to realise our highest goal of life.

So, the principle is: “Vocations exist to satisfy the needs of society”. “Wages and profits are our compensation for service to society”. No work is low or high; whatever may be our work the only question is whether we are striving for quality in work, fulfillment of our duties, kartavya-palan, as service to society. Simply by doing our duties to the best of our abilities, we purify our mind and remain on the critical path to happiness, peace, i.e. highest perfection.

Mahabharat quotes an incident: A monk after many years of hard tapas comes to a village for bhiksha, and though he calls ‘Narayan, Narayan’, there is no response. So, he feels angry and is irritated. Immediately he hears a woman calling from inside “I am not a bird; please wait since I am attending to household duties, after which I will attend to you.” The monk is silenced and surprised that she knew of ‘a bird’; for only this morning, he had looked at a bird in anger, and instantly it died! So, when the housewife comes and gives alms, he asks and she explains what the monk has achieved by tapas, she has achieved the same, merely by sincerely doing all her duties. She then directs him to another village and the monk learns of Karma yoga, from a village butcher, which is known as ‘vyadh-Gita’.

Thus, wisdom of Bharat asserts that for attaining the highest perfection, what matters is ‘kartavya-palan’; not caste, not sex, not status, not wealth! And therefore, we should choose a vocation according to our inherent tendencies, talents, where we can excel and serve society, instead of looking for a work beyond our character and competence, for selfish purposes. India was a ‘sone-ki-chidiya’ because all people, irrespective of status or caste, did their respective duties in the spirit of worship. The ideal is god-realisation through work; not promotion and money as we think today.

Do organisations follow and promote this principle? In the modern era we are dependent on organisations for almost everything. Are organisations working effectively to fulfill needs of the society? How do we rate their effectiveness? Are they conducive to our individual ‘growth’ also, or do they focus only on making profits? How do we rate individual growth? In terms of money, character, achievements and happiness?

Decision-making: In spite of all IT, gadgets and technology, it is people who still make decisions. Decision-making is always ‘subjective’, an inside-out approach. We create our destiny at those ‘defining moments’ when we must choose between various shades of right and wrong. Our choices depend on our ‘desires’ and deeply held beliefs, our worldview. Decisions taken over many years form the very basis of our worldview and character.

Governance, schooling, training programs must focus on awakening our viveka by giving us a healthy worldview of reality – clarity on purpose of life and role of work in attaining it. They must help us choose a vocation where we can be ‘useful’ and where we are not a parasite on society. Unless we struggle and awaken this ability to ‘choose’ and ‘act’ upon the long-term good over immediate gratification, we are not fit to be in positions of power and authority.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

via TOI Blog

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