मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा। निराशीर्निर्ममो भूत्वा युध्यस्व विगतज्वरः ॥
“Offering all actions to Me, with mind focussed on the Self, do your duty without ownership and desire for results.” [Bhagavad Gita 3.30]
I work in a Bank. I attend to the customers, collecting their cheques, issuing tokens, checking their accounts in the system, doing the necessary clearances to release their payments, transferring money online, and other services. I reach the office almost five minutes before the scheduled start of working time and go home after completing the day’s work, normally about half an hour after the scheduled closing time. When there is a lot of work, I stay back to complete the tasks.
It is a small office. All of us, colleagues know each other well. When one of us has some urgent work outside, we stand in to cover them; more or less it is a comfortable place to be. Once in a while, workload increases and long lines of customers in front cause discomfort. On such days, one gets tired by the afternoon, and looks forward to the closing time eagerly. Also, there are some customers who are very demanding, need everything their way, fast and easy. They do upset the ease, the comfort, they disrupt the rhythm of a routine.
On the way back, I stop for a few seconds, at the gate of the place of worship, do a mental prayer and go home. I am religious to that extent, and once a week, normally on Saturday mornings, I go to my preferred place of worship, pray and return home before having breakfast. I lead a comfortable life, but with the normal turmoil once in a while.
This is work and worship. We do our duty and we also worship God (इष्टदेवत) daily, weekly, on special occasions etc. Some do it before going for work, some do it in the evening, at home. Some go to the place of worship, if nearby or if it is on the way. We pray for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our family. Perhaps we may even pray for material gains, success in examinations, and promotion at the office. We make offerings of flowers, sweets, whatever is considered to be the favourite of the deity whom we pray to. What we offer is नैवेद्यं what we get in return is प्रसादं. The प्रसादं we get from the place of worship always tastes divine. Faith and belief in God help us overcome difficulties most often and help us maintain some balance in life. Unfailingly, in times of crisis, when desperately in need of help and support, we turn to our इष्टदेवत. When somebody close to us is seriously ill, we pray to God for their recovery. At some critical point in life, when we do not know for sure which way to turn, what to do, then we pray, please help me God!
I have made some progress in my overall approach to life. I am older, and also, I like to believe, more mature. I still work at the same bank, at the same branch; but I have changed my attitude to work. Just like I prepare my body and mind before going to the place of worship on Saturdays, I prepare myself before going to work every day. Now I have started considering each activity I perform at the office as an opportunity to worship my इष्टदेवत. Every cheque I pass is a flower I place at the feet of my इष्टदेवत, every transaction I carry out is an act of worship of my इष्टदेवत. Now, I do not feel bad when there is a lot of work at times, I do not detest the sight of the long queue in front of my counter. I smile, my opportunity to worship my इष्टदेवत is more, I think. This has brought about a very perceptible change in me, I feel a lot more relaxed and free, I feel happy within, much more than what I used to be. The ups and downs in life have reduced considerably; going to the office is no more just to earn my living but it is an opportunity to feel happy, pleasant and cheerful.
This is ‘work as worship’. When we approach our इष्टदेवत, we do certain fundamentals. Before lighting the lamp or the candle and pray, we bathe, make our body clean, (we at least wash our feet, hands, and face), we also do not think anything nasty or naughty, keeping the mind clean. If we are going to a place of worship, we also make sure that we are dressed appropriately. And we make offerings to please the इष्टदेवत as a way of thanking God for all the blessings received by us, for continuing to be blessed. नैवेद्यं is prepared by devotees and taken to the place of worship for offering to the इष्टदेवत. Preparation of नैवेद्यं is done with utmost cleanliness and purity; body, mind and the surroundings, well cared for. All ingredients and the process are ensured to be perfect, with full concentration, focus and attention. This attitude is ईश्वरार्पण बुद्धि. Once it is offered to the इष्टदेवत and returned to us as प्रसादं, the feeling that our offering has been accepted by our इष्टदेवत and now we get the remaining portion, that is happiness. That is प्रसाद बुद्धि.
Whatever work we do in our daily life, (householder, teacher, actor, banker, lawyer, or doctor) if we can perform that with the attitude of making an offering to our इष्टदेवत, then we are initiating the process of converting कर्म to कर्म योग. With ईश्वरार्पण बुद्धि let us perform our duty too. With that attitude we elevate ourselves from ‘work and worship’ to ‘work as worship’.
I am really glad that over time, I have made considerable progress in my attitude to work and life in general. I do not get tired doing the office work, but I return home every day with immense satisfaction and joy. Now, I feel thrilled when I see a long queue in front. I honestly, sincerely believe that every one of the customers is my इष्टदेवत and each of them is giving me an invaluable opportunity to serve Him. I consider each element of the transactions I do to meet their requirements, as an act of worship I perform at the feet of my इष्टदेवत. Every smile I receive from them is my blessing. I get so many opportunities to serve Him, He comes to me, being so kind and generous, allowing me to touch His feet so many times in a day at the office. What else should I desire, what else should I seek, what more should I expect in life? This office has become my place of worship, the customers are my इष्टदेवत, appearing before me with various names.
This is ‘work is worship’. Mentally we convert our place of work to our place of worship. The work we do is the offering, the person whom we serve is our इष्टदेवत. With this attitude, whatever work we do will get done to perfection, because we are worshipping God. This opportunity is our reward, the raison d’etre of our existence. That exactly is कर्म योग. Every person whom we serve, at home, at the school, at the hospital, is our इष्टदेवत. We worship Him through our work; our work is the offering unto Him, our place of work is the temple, the church, the mosque. The doctor who sees his personal God in the patient whom he treats, is a Karma-yogi.
In our daily life, irrespective of our chosen field of work, we progress from ‘work and worship’ to ‘work as worship’, culminating in ‘work is worship’. That is spirituality. That is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga purifies the mind, making it capable of absorbing knowledge. Knowledge removes ignorance and that is Liberation, मोक्ष.