WORK LIKE A MASTER
We read in the Bhagavad-Gita again and again that we must all work incessantly. All work is by nature composed of good and evil.We cannot do any work which will
not do some good somewhere; there cannot be any work which will not do some harm somewhere. Every work must necessarily be a mixture of good and evil; yet we are commanded to work incessantly. Good and evil will both have their results, will produce their Karma. Good action will entail upon us good effect; bad action, bad. But good and bad are both bondages of the soul. The solution reached in the Gita in regard to this bondage-producing nature of work is, that if we do not attach ourselves to the work we do, it will not have any binding effect on our soul. We shall try to understand what is meant by this ” non-attachment” to work.
As the tortoise tucks its feet and head inside the shell, and you may kill it and break it in pieces, and yet it will not come out, even so the character of that man who has control over his motives and organs is unchangeably established. He controls his own inner forces, and nothing can draw them out against his will. By this continuous reflex of good thoughts, good impressions moving over the surface of the mind, the tendency for doing good becomes strong, and as the result we feel able to control the Indriyas (the sense-organs, the nerve-centres). Thus alone will character be established, then alone a man gets to truth. Such a man is safe for ever; he cannot do any evil. You may place him in any company, there will be no danger for him. There is a still higher state than having this good tendency, and that is the desire for liberation. You must remember that freedom of the soul is the goal of all Yogas, and each one equally leads to the same result. By work alone men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer. Buddha was a working Jnani, Christ was a Bhakta, but the same goal was reached by both of them. The bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, and the bad impressions on the mind should be removed by the fresh waves of good ones, until all that is evil almost disappears, or is subdued and held in control in a corner of the mind ; but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered. Thus the ” attached ” becomes the ” unattached “. Work, but let not the action or the thought produce a deep impression on the mind. Let the ripples come and go, let huge actions proceed from the muscles and the brain, but let them not make any deep impression on the soul.
How to do it.
How can this be done ? We see that the impression of any action to which we attach our-selves, remains. I may meet
hundreds of persons during the day, and among them meet also one whom I love ; and when I retire at night I may try to think of all the faces I saw, but only that face comes before the mind – the face which I met perhaps only for one minute, and which I loved; all the others have vanished. My attachment to this particular person caused a deeper impression on my mind than all the other faces. Physiologically, the impressions have all been the same; every one of the faces that I saw pictured itself on the retina, and the brain took the pictures in, and yet there was no similarity of effect upon the mind. Most of the faces, perhaps, were entirely new faces, about which I had never thought before, but that one face of which I got only a glimpse found associations inside. Perhaps I had pictured him in my mind for years, knew hundreds of things about him, and this one new vision of him awakened hundreds of sleeping memories in my mind and this one impression having been repeated perhaps a hundred times more than those of the different faces together, will produce a great effect on the mind.
Work like a master.
The whole gist of this teaching is that you should work like a master and not as a slave ; work incessantly, but do not do slave’s work. Do you not see how everybody works ? Nobody can be altogether at rest; ninety-nine per cent of mankind work like slaves, and the result is misery; it is all selfish work. Work through freedom ! Work through love ! The word ” love ” is very difficult to understand ; love never comes until there is freedom. There is no true love possible in the slave. If you buy a slave and tie him down in chains and make him work for you, he will work like a drudge, but there will be no love in him. So when we ourselves work for the things of the world as slaves, there can be no love in us, and our work is not true work. This is true of work done for relatives and friends, and is true of work done for our own selves. Selfish work is slave’s work; and there is a test. Every act of love brings happiness; there is no act of love which does not bring peace and blessedness as its reaction. Real existence, real knowledge, and real love are eternally connected with one another, the
three in one ; where one of them is, the others also must be; they are the three aspects of the One without a second – the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. When that existence becomes relative, we see it as the world; that knowledge becomes in its turn modified into the knowledge of the things of the world; and that bliss forms the foundation of all true love known to the heart of man. Therefore true love can never react so as to cause pain either to the lover or to the beloved. Suppose a man loves a woman; he wishes to have her all to himself and feels extremely jealous about her every movement; he wants her to sit near him, to stand near him, and to eat and move at his bidding. He is a slave to her and wishes to have her as his slave. That is not love; it is a kind of morbid affection of the slave, insinuating itself as love. It cannot be love, because it is painful; if she does not do what he wants, it brings him pain. With love there is no painful reaction; love only brings a reaction of bliss; if it does not, it is not love; it is mistaking something else for love. When you have succeeded in loving your husband, your wife, your children, the whole world, the universe, in such a manner that there is no reaction of pain or jealousy, no selfish feeling, then you are in a fit state to be unattached.
Do you ask anything from your children in return for what you have given them ? It is your duty to work for them, and there the
matter ends. In whatever you do for a particular person, a city, or a state, assume the same attitude towards it as you have towards your children – expect nothing in return. If you can invariably take the position of a giver, in which everything given by you is a free offering to the world, without any thought of return, then will your work bring you no attachment. Attachment comes only where we expect a return.
Results in bliss.
If working like slaves results in selfishness and attachment, working as masters of our own mind gives rise to the bliss of non-attachment. We often talk of right and
justice, but we find that in the world right and justice are mere baby’s talk. There are two things which guide the conduct of men : might and mercy. The exercise of might is invariably the exercise of selfishness. All men and women try to make the most of whatever power or advantage they have. Mercy is heaven itself; to be good, we have all to be merciful. Even justice and right should stand on mercy. All thought of obtaining return for the work we do hinders our spiritual progress; nay, in the end it brings misery. There is another way in which this idea of mercy and sefless charity can be put into practice; that is, by looking upon work as ” worship ” in case we believe in a Personal God. Here we give up all the fruits of our work unto the Lord, and, worshipping Him thus, we have no right to expect anything from mankind for the work we do. The Lord Himself works incessantly and is ever without attachment. Just as water cannot wet the lotus leaf, so work cannot bind the unselfish man by giving rise to attachment to results. The selfless and unattached man may live in the very heart of a crowded and sinful city; he will not be touched by sin.
The story of mongoose
This idea of complete self-sacrifice is illustrated in the following story : – After the battle of Kuru-kshetra the five Pandava brothers performed a great sacrifice and made very large gifts to the poor. All people expressed amazement at the greatness and richness of the sacrifice, and said that such a sacrifice the world had never seen before. But, after the ceremony, there came a little mongoose, half of whose body was golden, and the other half brown, and he began to roll on the floor of the sacrificial hall. He said to those around, ” You are all liars ;
this is no sacrifice.” ” What! ” they exclaimed, ” You say this is no sacrifice ; do you not know how money and jewels were poured out to the poor and every one became rich and happy ? This was the most wonderful sacrifice any man ever performed.” But the mongoose said: ” There was once a little village, and in it there dwelt a poor Brahmin, with his wife, his son and his son’s wife. They were very poor and lived on small gifts made to them for preaching and teaching. There came in that land a three years’ famine, and the poor Brahmin suffered more than ever. At last when the family had starved for days, the father brought home one morning a little barley flour, which he had been fortunate enough to obtain, and he divided it into four parts, one for each member of the family. They prepared it for their meal, and just as they were about to eat there was a knock at the door. The father opened it, and there stood a guest. Now in India a guest is a sacred person; he is as a god for the time being, and must be treated as such. So the poor Brahmin said, ‘.Come in, sir ; you are welcome.’ He set before the guest his own portion of the food, which the guest quickly ate and said, ‘ Oh, sir, you have killed me; I have been starving for ten days, and this little bit has but increased my hunger.’ Then the wife said to her husband, ‘ Give him my share,’ but the husband said, ‘Not so.’ The wife however insisted, saying, ‘Here is a poor man, and it is our duty as householders to see that he is fed, and it is my duty as a wife to give him my portion, seeing that you have no more to offer him.’ Then she gave her share to the guest, which he ate, and said he was still burning with hunger. So the son said, ‘ Take my portion also ; it is the duty of a son to help his father to fulfil his obligations.’ The guest ate that, but remained still unsatisfied ; so the son’s wife gave him her portion also. That was sufficient, and the guest departed blessing them. That night those four people died of starvation. A few granules of that flour had fallen on the floor, and when I rolled my body on them half of it became golden, as you see. Since then I have been travelling all over the world, hoping to find another sacrifice like that, but nowhere have I found one; nowhere else has the other half of my body been turned into gold. That is why I say this is no sacrifice.”
This idea of charity is going out of India ; great men are becoming fewer and fewer.
Now you see what Karma-Yoga means ; even at the point of death to help any one, without asking questions. Be cheated millions of times and never ask a question, and never think of what you are doing. Never vaunt of your gifts to the poor or expect their gratitude, but rather be grateful to them for giving you the occasion of practising charity to them.1