An edited version of this article was published in the March 2013 issue of Vedanta Kesari, A cultural and spiritual monthly of the Ramakrishna Order.
Work is something which I am constantly engaged in. Work is the way by which I interact with the world. There are two components to work – action and result. Action is what flows from me to the world. Result is what flows from the world to me. This strictly follows the law of cause and effect. “As I sow, so shall I reap.” As my current action is one of the contributors towards the result, depending on the situation, sometimes I get the desired result and sometimes I don’t get the desired result. The other factor – situation – is the result of the accumulated, unfructified effect of all my previous actions. God is defined as the personification of this law of cause and effect – karma phala daata. God is also defined as the substratum of me, the world and all its animate and inanimate things. God is the material of which everything is made of – jagat kaaranam.
Having this background of Vedanta, there are several attitudes possible towards work.
1. I want some result. I work towards the result. If I get the desired result, I jump with joy, become greedy for more and become proud of my result. If I do not get the desired result, I become depressed, get angry and become jealous of others who have got the result that I was seeking.
This is a wrong attitude resulting from non-understanding.
2. I understand that my own past actions and my current actions are responsible for the result. I believe in the fairness of the system of cause and effect. If I get the desired result, I am happy. I will see how I can get more of the desired result. If I do not get the desired result, I will try harder to overcome the effects of my past actions, which were, knowingly or unknowingly in the opposite direction.
To enable a better and deeper acceptance of the fairness of the system of cause and effect, I personify it as God. I seek the blessings of God before I start the action, by physically offering something. When the action is complete, if I get the desired result, I physically offer something to God as a token of gratitude.
This is a better attitude considering God as the karma phala daata. It makes me less ego-entric and more God-centric.
3. I understand, there is a higher purpose to work. The result is only an incidental temporary phenomenon. What is more permanent is the lesson that I have learned, in both success and failure. Every work that I do makes a change in me as a person. Every work polishes me and make me a better person with a better understanding of myself and the world. Every work is a file to round of the rough edges in my personality and make me more wholesome.
I also understand that God is the system. The world is not different from God. So my very action is an offering to God. The result is His response to my offering. Work is not separate from worship. Work itself is worship. The person starts with the attitude, “Whatever I do, I do it FOR you.” and finally ends with the attitude, “Whatever I do, I do it TO you.”
This is the best attitude considering God as the jagat kaaranam. It leads to spiritualization of all works making my whole life a spiritual endeavour.