Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Succeeding in Work

Vishvamitra's visit to Ayodhya“With folded hands the king said the following words which were auspicious and good to hear: ‘Seeing your pure lotus feet today I am very much obliged to you.’” (Janaki Mangala, 21)

rāu kaheu kara jora subacana suhāvana |
bhayau kṛtāratha āju dekhi pada pāvana ||

The pious king tirelessly works to maintain the standard of law and order, to ensure that his subjects are properly taken care of and that the rules and regulations of the administrative class are not violated. Yet it is a little difficult to know when that work is successful, whether or not the effort expended has been appreciated or made a significant impact. With the blessing of the sight of the pure lotus feet of the servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, the past work proves fruitful, and the king becomes obliged to the kind person who provides the affirmation.

Who doesn’t want to make a difference? Who doesn’t want to matter? A word of caution in this regard, though, for the worst tyrants in the world made an impact on history. Going on a killing spree, causing mass starvation, and bringing otherwise capable people to utter destitution make a tremendous impact on society, but not for the better. The common unstated purpose to the desire to make a difference is to positively affect someone else’s life, to show that your work has meaning.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are so intricate that they reveal the root cause of this desire. At the heart of the living being’s vitality is the spirit soul, which has inherent properties, the foremost among them being the desire to serve. If you look around, you’ll see that there is a common trait shared in all behavior. One person is the CEO of the company while another is a worker, but both of them are offering service. The boss is seemingly independent, not having to answer to anyone, but unless there are customers to buy the product or service, the title becomes meaningless. Hence the company head, who is the face of the organization and thus equivalent to the business, serves the customers. The worker serves the company and the customers serve their own interests by purchasing relevant products.

Krishna with cowIn the animal species the tendency towards service is also present. Motherly affection is seen just as much in the cow as it is in the human being. The cow brings forth heaps of milk when its child starts to cry, just as the Supreme Lord, who is also the Supersoul, rushes to the scene when His devotees cry out His names in a mood of love and affection. Hearing the chant of, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the Supreme Person takes it as a signal for help, that one of His innumerable children is requesting His loving association.

The work the spirit soul takes up when in a particular form of body can end up either successful or unsuccessful. This binary view isn’t as limiting as it seems, for work can be repeated or directed to other areas. The larger the scope of the work, the more people it affects, the more important it is to see a successful outcome. Next to the authorities governing the material elements at large, the ruler of the state has the most responsibilities. His actions affect a large number of people. Therefore, for his work to be successful, kritartha, he needs someone who can see the bigger goal and assess whether or not that is being satisfied with the actions undertaken.

How do we find someone who has this proper vision? The fact that spirit exists within all species is not known to many. In fact, the external features of the species make just the opposite realization commonplace. I see that a dog and a cat have different behaviors and outward features, so I think that they are inherently different. At the same time, I know that there is variety within the human species, but in the end everyone has the desire to serve, to make a difference.

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

cow with KrishnaThe wise seer studies Vedic philosophy under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master and quickly realizes that spirit is present within all forms of life, from the tiny ant all the way up to the large elephant. As spirit is the catalyst to action, it can be thought of as a singular, large energy pervading all of space. Perceiving the presence of spirit and its equal influence within the species is one thing, but actually knowing what is good for spirit is another.

With spirit comes the penchant for service. Those who can take their desire to make a difference and direct it towards pleasing the one person who can accept the most service thereby attain the greatest profit for themselves. The ruler’s duty is thus quite clear: allow for everyone in society to reach that stage of spiritual evolution, where their service is offered to God. How to fulfill this obligation is a little tricky, as not everyone will immediately be open to accepting the ultimate mission in life as genuine. Some will be too distracted to contemplate the truths of spirituality.

Just because a perfect success rate is not practical doesn’t mean that the king should abandon the pursuit. Rather, the work assigned to the king is very important and should be carried out as a matter of obligation, with not too much concern placed on success or failure. Think of a school system with the different grades. The first grader can’t understand algebra and the laws of physics, but this doesn’t mean that their time in school is wasted. Through performing the work prescribed to their grade-level, they can gradually advance to the higher stages of knowledge.

The head of state ensures that the conditions in society are conducive towards the realization of the self, which then leads to service to the Superself, or the Supreme Lord. Though the king is supposed to be detached while carrying out his obligations, it is still nice to know whether or not progress is being made. If there are some errors, the advisors to the king, the brahmanas, can come on the scene to rectify the situation. A brahmana is a priest who understands the all-pervasiveness of spirit. If he gives a blessing to a king, saying that their work is being done properly, the king feels most obliged, for he knows that his effort is not going to waste.

King DasharathaOne king a long time ago got that very blessing, which indicated the success of his work, when he was visited by one of the most famous sages in history. King Dasharatha of Ayodhya one day had the honor to greet Vishvamitra, who was living in the forest as a hermit. The brahmanas of the time chose the pristine wilderness as their home because it had conditions better suited for sacrifice and penance, two key aspects to any genuine discipline of spirituality. The brahmanas would teach others about their relevant occupational duties, and since the kings had the most influence through their work, they required the counsel from the brahmanas the most.

Vishvamitra visited Dasharatha and was duly honored by both the king and his family. The muni in turn gave his blessings back to them, which made Dasharatha supremely happy. Vishvamitra was a servant of the Supreme Lord, so to see his feet, to take the dust coming from those feet and place it on the head, is the greatest blessing one can ask for. That association results in purity in thought, humility in demeanor, and the chance to receive knowledge on how to make future work profitable.

The supreme profit for the living entity is to be immersed in God consciousness. Through a properly situated consciousness, even routine work becomes a kind of yoga, or divine trance. King Dasharatha was a fighter who administered the kingdom of Ayodhya, yet he was a yogi as well, as the Supreme Lord had appeared in his family as his eldest son. It was this son, named Rama, that Vishvamitra came to borrow, for he needed protection in the forest from the attacking night-rangers, who had suddenly increased in influence.

0149Dasharatha knew that Vishvamitra’s association made all his work successful, so he couldn’t go against the request, though he was reluctant to. Because of that faith in the spiritual guide, the entire world would be benefitted. Lord Rama, Bhagavan who carefully arranged this beautiful sequence of events, would travel through the forests with Vishvamitra and Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother. The trio would inadvertently make their way to the kingdom of Videha, where a grand contest with a bow was being held. If not for Dasharatha’s acquiescence, Rama may never have made it to that contest, where King Janaka’s beloved daughter Sita was awaiting. Through the help of the combination of Vishvamitra and Dasharatha, the marriage of a lifetime took place.

Question: Does the opposite condition of not meeting a devotee mean that your work is unsuccessful?

If through the prosecution of his work Dasharatha hadn’t met Vishvamitra, it would have indicated that the king was not worth visiting at the time. The bona fide brahmana is the spiritual master of society, but he doesn’t disseminate the confidential information of the Vedas to just anyone. If something is very important to you, why would you discuss it with people who won’t understand that importance? Will you trust a young child with an expensive vase that could break easily? Will you hand over your family fortune to a money manager who doesn’t understand the value of hard work and money?

The distribution of transcendental knowledge occurs through the proper qualification of both parties, the sender and the receiver. Vishvamitra felt that Dasharatha was worthy of his association, and the king made sure to abide by dharma, or virtue, so that the priestly class would be pleased with him. The servant of the Lord and the sincere recipient of transcendental knowledge make the perfect combination. Through their interactions others can learn so much as well. In the case of Vishvamitra’s visit, the love shared between the involved parties and their affection for Shri Rama set the best example for countless future generations to follow. The rules and regulations may shift based on time and circumstance, but the primary dharma of the soul to love God never goes away. Bring it to the forefront of your consciousness by hearing always about the Lord and humbly accepting the sincere words of instruction kindly offered by the devotees, whose lotus feet act as boats offering safe passage across the ocean of material suffering.

In Closing:

Person works hard for a reason, not easily to quit,

So that in the end some success, tangible profit.

For the ruling king, the duties are increased,

With influence many people are reached.

Success or failure in tasks nice to know,

For from it dedication to virtue can grow.

King Dasharatha fortunate for Vishvamitra to meet,

Validated work through seeing sage’s pure lotus feet.

The two’s love for eldest son Rama mind should note,

Devotee’s mental company acts as rescue boat.