The Balance of Life. Work or inner knowledge? Part 1

If we have a pair of hands, a pair of legs and good health, how is it possible not to work? If we have the tools then they should be used. Yet many people are misguided into thinking that if one wants illumination, or to tread the spiritual path, then one should stop work, or perhaps reduce one’s work and be solely concerned with the inner workings of the mind. Many people have said that work (karma) and knowledge are mutually exclusive; that if you want illumination then you will have to leave all work and practise meditation day and night. All these ideas are totally wrong and have arisen through misinterpretation of the scriptures and the sages. Not only is this idea wrong, but if followed then it will iead to frustration, lack of progress and blockages on the spiritual path. Many people have made this mistake and are still making this mistake. So make sure you supplement your meditational techniques with some form of action. It is very easy to see how this misconception about work has arisen. Like many misunderstandings, it has arisen through the inadequacy of words to define more subtle implications and the fact that words can be interpreted in different ways according to the feelings and dogmas of the individual. The Sanskrit word for work is karma. Many of the ancient texts clearly state that karma does not lead to illumination, but here karma does not mean work as such; it means rituals and worship performed without feeling or awareness. And this is absolutely true. This type of karma will not lead to illumination, only dullness and ignorance. The word karma also means any kind of work that is done blindly and instinctively, without awareness. This too will lead nowhere on the spiritual path. One should not stop working: continue to work, to do karma, but while trying to maintain awareness. This is achieved by the aspiration and wakefulness of the individual. This awareness during work is also slowly intensified by doing prescribed yogic techniques such as asanas, pranayama, meditational practices, bhakti yoga and so forth. To maintain a balance of the ida and pingala aspect it is necessary to combine karma yoga with dhyana yoga. To continue to act in the world is essential for spiritual awakening, but one’s work and actions should be done with as much awareness as possible. Work is the means to recognize one’s problems; it also helps to express and remove them. So don’t think of rejecting work or action, but remain detached and transform mere work into karma yoga. Try not to be affected by the ups and downs of work, and don’t stop working.

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