Everyone must work. Most of us struggle hard, even at jobs we enjoy, but reap little lasting satisfaction. Others of us spend our days in activities that seem to have little direction or deeper meaning.
• How can we discover the joy work in all activities, no matter how lowly or lofty?
• Is there an ideal that integrates all management theory?
• How can we express our ideals in action?
• How can we sustain our enthusiasm in every activity we undertake?
• With what attitude should we approach our responsibilities and duties?
Vedanta in Action brings insightful and practical answers to these questions. In these pages, you will learn how to find an ideal that integrates your goals and activities with those of the rest of society, as well as satisfies your own inner longing for fulfillment.
Who does not envisage a tranquil, orderly life, with time each day free for personal pursuits? Yet, the inescapable fact is that the world unendingly clamors for our attention, calling for us to engage in innumerable daily transactions. When we feel the inclination to live a pure, honest life, the world presents new temptations; when we become interested in study and contemplation, our profession demands extra hours of work. When we are ready to give up our professional life for a life of service, our external obligations increase manifold. It often appears that all our best intentions get thwarted by the ever- increasing demands of the working world.
Yet, the working world can be the most exciting arena in which to practice one’s highest ideals. Selflessness is the highest ideal of all religions, and where better can selflessness be practiced than in the midst of a demanding world? Indeed, working situations offer innumerable occasions to test and strengthen one’s spiritual convictions and aspirations.
Even the most contemplative of spiritual philosophies, Vedanta, recognizes the importance of work. The question addressed in the Bhagavad-Gita is not should we work? But how should we work? Ordinary selfish activity can be transformed into glowing, inspired karma yoga when our attitude coward the work changes.
Vedanta in Action discusses this change in attitude and the benefit it will derive for the individual and the society.
Part One "Vedanta in Management," discusses the role Vedanta can play in the field of management. Sri Thampuran of the Chinmaya Institute of Management strikes at the root of the problem of lack of enthusiasm in workers. The materialistic philosophy of life sets such low goals of work- money and position—that inspiration, sense of purpose, and selfless involvement are absent. If these could be felt in one’s work, what a mighty civilization would arise! Swami Chin- mayananda explains how this current lack of motivation can be ameliorated by the teachings of Vedanta, which open a person’s mind to a larger, more dynamic vision of life. Sri Thandaveswara then discusses the prevalent theories of man- agement and the efficacy of Vedantic ideals in the field of management.
In Part Two, "Fulfillment through Work," the attitudes with which people work are closely examined. Swami Chin- mayananda analyzes the various mental responses to working situations and presents insights that will radically change one’s approach to work. Swami Vivekananda describes the karma yoga attitude of working without attachment.
In Part Three, "Actionless Action," Swami Ajaya, an American-born Swami of the Himalayan Institute, advises meditation practitioners about how they can maintain meditativeness even while on the job. Lastly, Anandamayi Ma, one of the greatest woman of our times, answers questions pertaining to the highest state of meditation, which is unaffected by outer activities.
What is Vedanta’s relevance to the working person? Is it only useful in attaining an abstract state of self—realization, with no practical use in day—to-day living? The moment the word ‘Vedanta’ is mentioned to the average person, his mind conjures up the picture of a saint sitting and meditating somewhere in the wilderness, or wandering about without any worldly responsibilities. Naturally, the person comes to the conclusion that if this is the type of life that is recommended by the scriptures for self—realization, then it has no relevance to the life that he has to lead as a householder. But is it really so? No doubt, the ultimate goal to he attained through Vedanta is the state of liberation, but this does not mean that there are no benefits that the seeker tan obtain en route to that goal or that those benefits are of no use in the seeker’s day to-day life in the marketplace.
Self-realization is not just an accidental experience that can happen in anybody’s life; it is the culmination of a life lived intelligently and made progressively freer from the chains of bondage that are self-imposed on man due to his inherent imperfections and the consequent discontentment and unhappiness. Is not this same greater freedom and happiness the aim of each human being, whether he is a man in the marketplace or a saint in the Himalayan caves? In fact, the entire scheme of Vedanta is to make man progressively happier and contented in his day-to—day life, so that spiritual unfoldment will take place within the individual automatically.
As long as man is alive, he comes in contact with things and beings in the world outside. Not by choice, but by the compelling law of life, everyone must meet his world of happenings at every moment of his life. If there is dexterity in meeting one’s own world with quick decisions, with a firm will, and with equanimity and right understanding, no situation in life can break a man and enslave him.
The technique of self-mastery expounded in all the great books of true living advises us not to escape from life, but to maintain an intelligent way of living. This requires a diligent and alert attitude in meeting all the inner and outer situations in our lives. In every walk of life, at all moments, we must make use of the ever—changing patterns of challenges, and while consciously meeting them, we must learn to tame ourselves and the outer world. This diligent method of living consciously and vitally each moment of our lives is true religion, and it can elevate even a base man to the joys and perfection of a saint.
Vedanta advises: Let each of us try to fulfill all our obligatory duties as best as we can, in a spirit of detachment, joy, and dedication. The more we work in this attitude, the more we are released from our inhibitions, repressions, and other emotional entanglements. Mental hang—ups are swept away, and we get reborn into a new life of alert vigilance, productive exertion, and blissful satisfaction. A new force, a fresh stream of strength, shall reach us as though from above, and we shall find at the end of the play, won or lost, that we have grown SlfOI1g€f, healthier, and mightier. Never fear, never hesitate. Act nobly with a will to maintain your ideal.
Thus, whatever be the field in which we are working today, we IIIUSI use it as an opportunity to polish our inner character. All work is noble when undertaken in the right spirit of selflessness and detachment. And all such noble work slowly but surely leads the worker into new realms of joy, fulfillment, and perfection – a living monument to the efficacy of dedicated, selfless service.
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