Vraja sabji market

Balancing Work and Life with Spirituality

Traducción al español

by Satya Narayana Dasa

Man has the basic instinct to exist. This translates into two forms—the need to maintain his physical body and the need to procreate so that he continues to exist beyond the survival of his body. These two basic requirements lead to further needs of food to eat and a house to sleep and protect himself from environmental factors such as unfriendly weather, enemies, ferocious animals and disease-causing insects. To accomplish all these he needs money and to earn that he needs to work.

Vraja sabji marketHe may be self-employed or work for someone else or both. But everyone must work. Before the advent of technology, the common man led a simple life, trying to fulfil the basic necessities of life. He did not have to toil hard for that. Most societies were agrarian. Family members worked together, if not, he had plenty of time to be with his family. He also had time for pursuing higher goals of life besides working for survival.

In other words, our life will be balanced only when we make our work our Sadhana (spiritual practice) to elevate our awareness from matter to spirit and from body and bodily products to the Self. This process is called Kriya yoga or Bhakti yoga. There is no need to renounce one’s work or family to attain balance in life. It can be attained remaining in one’s present state. The change is not external but in one’s consciousness. Without elevating one’s consciousness to the level of Self one will remain imbalanced in work as well as in life.

With the dawn of technology, many gadgets were invented and commercially produced for making his life comfortable. To acquire these products, he needed more money and therefore required to work more. Man became more and more occupied with earning money and had less time for himself or his family members. This brought a shift in the situation of the whole society.

To manufacture the products, big industries came into existence. The industries needed labour force to work in their manufacturing units. For this, people had to leave their home-towns or villages and move to the vicinity of the manufacturing plants. Alternatively, they had to commute long hours to and fro to the manufacturing industries. This brought a massive change in the simple life of human beings.

The rural settings changed into urban and people moved away from nature. Even agriculture became mechanised and needed less manual labour. Not only that, agriculture no more remained the major source of employment as most people had to engage in non-agricultural services. They became engrossed only in office-work or business with little time left for themselves or their family. The whole society started building on the guiding principles of consumerism.

The Present Situation

Human life has some pristine goals. At present these goals are found covered under the dust of economic development propelled by over-indulgent workers who have no time for self and their family. Nobody has the time to listen to the real purpose of life and if someone does have time to do so one can not hear it in the din and bustle of the modern world powered by the rat-race for economic development.

In the Puranas such people are designated as Asuric (destructive). In Bhagavata Purana there is a story of a demon called Hiranyaksha who had captured the whole planet for his enjoyment. He is called Hiranyaksha (Hiranya = gold or wealth and Aksha = vision) because his vision was fixed only on accumulating wealth or economic development. He is called Adi-Daitya (the original demon) because amassing wealth for luxury has been considered one of the most sinful acts.

Animals do not hoard. Many Indians today are found hoarding trillions and trillions of dollars in their Swiss bank accounts. They are in fact descendents of Hiranyaksha. According to this philosophy, if a man works only for his economic development without caring for spiritual upliftment, he is following the Hiranyaksha mentality, which results in the destruction of the planet. The present scenario of global warming and environmental pollution is caused by the Hiranyaksha mentality of the consumerist society.

Life has, therefore, become imbalanced. I know someone who is counted as a successful person in the society because he occupies high positions in the societal ladder—lives in a spacious bungalow, drives a fancy car and travels to foreign lands for holidaying. This part of his life seems to be great and admirable. But scrutinised closely, the story is very pitiable.

This successful man, in his late forties now, suffers from high blood pressure, has diabetes and is insomniac. His woes do not end here. His marriage is on the verge of breakdown and his son is an alcoholic. While he was busy rising the ladder of success in the corporate world, he had no time for himself and, obviously, for his wife and children.

This, unfortunately, is the story of many successful people in the present society. It is also the case with a vast number of common men and women. Life seems to be lop-sided to work.

Humans Meaner Than Animals

Everybody has to work. There is no denying that. Lord Krishna also said that (Bhagavad Gita 3.8):

“Even for the maintenance your body you cannot exist without acting.”

One has to work at least for survival. And in the present society, survival has become very expensive. More developed a country is more expensive it is to have the basic minimum amenities of life. Animals and birds do not have to work so hard for their survival as human beings have to. This is a paradox of human advancement.

When Lord Krishna says that one has to work, he also warns that work should not be just for the sake of one’s survival or sense-gratification. Even animals and birds remain busy acquiring food, making arrangements for sound sleep, protecting themselves from the ravages of climate and producing progeny.

Human beings are no different in that sense. Their activities too are related to food, shelter, defence, procreation and sense-pleasure. But human beings have the ability to do more than that. They can realise themselves as spiritual beings. Animals do not have that facility. If human beings do not make use of this facility accorded to them, they descend to the lowly animal platform, with the added disadvantage that they are required to work harder and suffer more. This makes them less than animals and objects of even animals’ ridicule!

The Remedy

What is the remedy for this deplorable condition? The answer is given in Bhagavad Gita (3.9):

“O son of Kunti, except for action performed as an offering to the supreme, these people are bound by their action. Therefore, without attachment, perform your duty as an act of sacrifice to the supreme.”

Action or work is not to be shunned but to be performed with the proper consciousness. Then, we will not be bound by action. ‘Bondage by action’ means ‘suffering from the outcome and then trying to find a solution to the suffering,’ which unfailingly leads to more suffering. This is called Samsara (the inescapable cycle of Catch-22).