In the years I managed our Ananda Pune ashram, the workday began after meditation and breakfast with a morning circle. Tushti and I, with our staff and guests, would discuss the day’s projects and assignments, and then we would all affirm together, loudly at first and then more inwardly, “I will do my work thinking of Thee, Lord. I offer to Thee the very best that is in me.”
It’s too bad that governments and corporations don’t do something similar. If they did, and if they took it to heart, we wouldn’t need millions of laws and thousands of agencies to enforce them. The Golden Rule would preside, because in offering to God the best that is in us, it becomes our nature to serve our neighbors in that same spirit.
As we strive to do better, the real work is not about building or fixing things, it’s about building and fixing ourselves. Attitudes, relationships, and commitments are the greater construction projects involved in creating a successful community, which creates a more successful you and me. A house is not a home if it is just a structure, even if it is a palace. You have to fill it with love and joy, otherwise it is merely a place of temporary shelter. Likewise, a body is not a home if the person living inside is unhappy, lazy, angry, greedy, or selfish. When that is the case, there is work to be done, and who of us can be called a finished product?
We sometimes refer to ourselves as “works in progress.” What we need to keep in mind is that a work in progress implies that someone is investing actual work in making the changes necessary for progress to occur!
Building a spiritual community, as we were endeavoring to do, is a gradual, ongoing process too. It takes time. But in fact the idea of community does not require an actual community to exist. You can have it in spirit wherever you are. Community is serving and supporting each other for the welfare of all. It is doing the work of clearing away our egoic motivations. It is offering the best that is in us.
Work done in the right spirit, from the messiest chore to steering the course of a nation, is to me a supremely noble occupation. It nourishes the soul whether or not the outcome is what was hoped for. Work is about the journey more than the destination. Performed with right attitude, it becomes a blessing to the individual and the universe alike.
Oh, but don’t we love to complain when work becomes a drag. Have you ever tried to get out of doing work of that sort? Or maybe you cut a corner or two in order to be done with it sooner. Sometimes work gets in the way of how we would rather be spending our time, and we don’t exactly give it the “best that is in us.”
Today it is common for people to work long hours, often under stressful conditions and constant deadlines. Many see work merely as means to an end with little joy in the means, and for them the end is a fleeting experience that turns to disappointment. They think we are seeking freedom, but the truth is, we are giving it away.
This is not an easy time to be alive, but we cannot wish away the trials it brings. The great American president Thomas Jefferson was once asked if he believed in luck. He replied that yes, he did. When the interviewer asked him why, Jefferson said that he simply studied the law that luck obeys. “The more good work I do,” he said, “the more good luck I have.”
If I ask myself why I was born, the answer in one form or another is essentially the same. It is to “offer to Thee the very best that is in me.” This life is a playing field on which I am opposed by my lesser nature. Working to overcome its negativities is not only the way to reach my highest potential, it is also the way to a happier me.