Hold On!

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A message from within and a timely lecture help remove a devotee's doubts about the spiritual value of his job.

Every morning I was dragging my body to the office, and every evening I was crawling back home like an ashamed, beaten serpent. My heart was constantly hammering my mind with the thought that I should quit my job.

I analyzed my work through the lens of Krishna consciousness and found it degrading and contrary to Krishna consciousness. I work for a retail company where I create propositions that entice people to buy more and more. I started feeling that any kind of work is equivalent to contributing to maya's trap of increasing material desires.

"I'm on the path of Krishna consciousness to escape the influence of maya, but I'm busy creating material allurements for others." That thought disturbed me constantly.

Then I asked myself, "Is my judgment right? Once I start evaluating different occupations, I can find faults with every kind of work. And if I really want to quit my work, I should go to a village, till some land, rear a cow, and live life practicing Krishna consciousness. But I don't kill animals or sell liquor. I don't gamble or do any illegal work. I have a simple job, so what is my problem with this work?" These mixed feelings put my mind in turmoil.

My poor, crooked mind didn't understand that my consciousness, and not my profession, needs to change. The sun of my confidence had set into the darkness of weak-heartedness, unaware of the ray of hope approaching.

But a voice in my heart said, "Hold on!" and I decided to go to the Sunday feast at the Hare Krishna temple in Chowpatty, a section of Mumbai.

Sitting next to Radhanatha Swami, the temple leader, was a tall man with a strong build and a dark complexion. His name is Devamrita Swami, and he was speaking to the audience. He had a calm smile on his face, and he seemed always ready to break out into loud laughter. He did so several times a few minutes later.

He started his lecture with the very question burning in my mind: Can we be Krishna conscious in the workplace?

Here are some of his points: We have to ask ourselves why we are working. If we work for ourselves, we will never be happy and satisfied. Krishna consciousness is about pleasing Krishna's senses. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.1) Arjuna asks Krishna,

jyayasi cet karmanas te
mata buddhir janardana
tat kim karmani ghore mam
niyojayasi keshava

"O Janardana, O Keshava, why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You think intelligence is better than fruitive work?" Prabhupada explains: "Arjuna also thought of Krishna consciousness or buddhi-yoga, or intelligence in spiritual advancement of knowledge, as something like retirement from active life and the practice of penance and austerity at a secluded place." But when Krishna explained to Arjuna the importance of karma-yoga, Arjuna understood his real dharma, or duty. Krishna explained that Arjuna was not fighting for himself but for Krishna.

"If Arjuna can give up all his prejudices and fight a big war—which involved killing his loved ones—then each one of us can do our work very peacefully," Devamrita Swami said.

He then said that people might believe that devotees don't work hard and smart. But if as devotees we discharge our duties well and intelligently, that impresses people, and we become brand ambassadors of Krishna consciousness.

"If we develop an attitude of offering everything to Krishna," he said, "then Krishna gives us intelligence and we perform our duties perfectly."

Questions Answered

I hadn't asked him the questions that were tormenting me, but he answered them all. A new sun dawned in my consciousness, and his words were like a ray of hope. I now knew why I was never happy and content in my work: I was working only for the satisfaction of my own senses and ego.

I had become so attached to my work that it had become my identity and I had left behind the real quest for my true identity. I had forgotten that I should try to serve the Lord with the work He has provided instead of offering it to the hunger of my own ego. Now I understand that since I am not doing any work that violates the basic religious principles—no intoxication, no meat-eating, no illicit sex, and no gambling—I should focus on my work and be honest in my duties.

From Devamrita Swami's lecture I understood that every act of a devotee should be an offering to Krishna. A devotee should try to work for Krishna's sense gratification, and thus should feel obliged to work. We should understand that just to be identified as a servant of Krishna is a wholesome individuality. This point helped me understand that each of my acts is a means to serve Krishna.

A Milestone

The lecture was an important milestone in my journey in Krishna consciousness. Since then, my moroseness has gone away and I am excited to go to work. In fact, I try to perfect my work because now I believe it's one of the ways to please Krishna.

At times I still forget and get carried away with the flight of my ego. So I've placed a reminder on my office desk: "Remember, everything is an offering to Krishna."

I don't want this truth to go away from mind. I want it to stay with me forever to keep reminding me of my true identity: servant of Krishna. Like a true devotee, I want to be always in the trance of the service attitude. I want to please the object of my service, Lord Krishna. Then, as He did through Devamrita Swami's lecture, Krishna will answer all my doubts. To keep my faith intact, I need to be patient and listen to the calling of my heart when it says, "Hold on!"