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What Is The Right Attitude Towards Work As Per Hindu Religion?

None can remain for a moment without work; for the gunas born of Prakriti make everyone act, even in spite of themselves, says Sri Krishna in the Gita. (Bhagavad Gita 3.5) Even the bare maintenance of the body will be impossible without work. (Bhagavad Gita 3.8). So everyone has to work, with the body or the mind or both, as determined by one’s karma. Work being something inescapable, Bhagavan advises us to work without attachment, offering the fruits to God.

Sri Krishna describes a devotee dear to Him as a daksha (Bhagavad Gita 12.16). The word means one who is prompt, resourceful, efficient and dextrous. Sri Shankaracharya interprets daksha as one who is able to promptly and rightly understand duties as they present themselves before him.

Two things become clear from this:

  1. Efficiency in work and devotion to God are perfectly compatible;
  2. Procrastination, indifference to work in the name of devotion or a sloppy work habit under the cloak of spirituality — these have nothing to do with devotion. If anything, they only steep one more and more in tamas, inertia.

A person not attentive to work fails in his attempts at meditation too, for it is the same mind that is behind both. A devotee may not initiate any selfish project but he does his share of work looking upon it as the highest worship of his Beloved. He considers himself an instrument in the hands of God.

The true devotee never thinks of himself. He is so full of the thought of God that his own self is forgotten. This body is only an instrument and an instrument really has no existence of its own, for it is wholly dependent on the one who uses it. Suppose a pen were conscious, it could say, ‘I have written hundreds of letters’, but actually it has done nothing, for the one who holds it has written the letters. So because we are conscious we think we are doing all these things, whereas, in reality we are as much an instrument in the hands of a Higher Power as the pen is in our hands and He makes all things possible. (Swami Ramakrishnanandaji of Sri Ramakrishna Mission)

Till one reaches such a stage of surrender and becomes free of attachment to one’s body-mind-based little self, the saner course will be to do one’s duty as one best can, without yielding to despondency and philosophizing as Arjuna did before the Kurukshetra war. And, incidentally, it is good to remember Sri Krishna’s teaching that selfless work is a stand-alone path to God-realization ((Bhagavad Gita 3.20). It is needless to say what a powerful tool it can become when coupled with devotion to God.

Source - Prabuddha Bharata editorial December 2003 issue.