Monday, January 31, 2011

Ask Asha: Leaving Work to Find God

[You can ask your own question here.]


Dear Asha,

I am happy to tell you that I have now completely overcome this unhealthy relationship. I realize intuitively that this experience was something needed for my growth. Since I was going through this experience completely conscious of the whole thing, I was able to get a tremendous insight into how the ego gets attached in the belief that the " Other" is going to offer fulfillment. My energies are once again centered within my being and now I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships. Thank you so much.

I wanted to get your opinion on something else. There has been this slow but steadily growing desire within me to find and experience the truth. Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation. As a result, my performance at work has taken a huge beating. This has become worrisome! You can imagine the demands from employers in our western world. I am not a lazy person, but suddenly my job seems so lifeless and futile. All this effort, twelve hours a day, for what? I’m no longer excited about my job and the rewards it offers. My mind is constantly engaged in thoughts of a simple life dedicated to yoga and meditation. What do you advise?



Dear V:

From the little I know about you -- these exchange of letters -- I think you may be inclined to extremes. Am I wrong? For example, you write here, "I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships."

Of course, this is just e-mail, and we all know how easy it is to hit “send” without considering the implications of every word. Still, you also say, "I was going through this experience completely conscious of the whole thing."

What I am saying is, perhaps you should consider a more measured approach to your own understanding. Even though it is tempting to claim total victory, such profound truths are difficult to acquire. And it is more likely that you are beginning to gain insight, or perhaps you have had a glimpse of a profound truth, rather than the truth being entirely yours.

Leave yourself a little room to learn more than you now know. If you feel you have already learned everything, you may miss important lessons that come later.

This is relevant to your present question as well, where you say “Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation.” If, indeed, you had attained that state, your work situation would be effortlessly resolved for you. But apparently, it has not.

So, if you don't mind, I shall assume instead that you are beginning to awaken spiritually and are asking what to do about it.

Often I find that when people begin to be drawn to the spiritual path the first thing they think of is leaving husband, wife, and job. "Now that I am spiritual," seems to be the thought, "I have to leave everything behind." Rarely -- I would venture to say never in my experience -- have I seen this to be a good idea. It is too dramatic, too romantic, too distant from one's actual state of realization.

God has so arranged this world that we have to live with others and work for a living. This is not a mistake. Spiritual realization has to be proved in the cold light of day. And home life and job life are definitely the cold light of day.

The skills required to create harmony with others and success in the workplace are exactly the same skills required to find God: concentration, determination, perseverance, relating to realities other than one's own, creativity, energy, calmness, courage -- the list goes on and on.

When you renounce these everyday demands prematurely, rather than soaring in spirit, one tends to go in the opposite direction, usually spending less time on spiritual pursuits, rather than more, as laziness and lack of discipline invade body, mind, and spirit.

Instead of thinking you have to leave your job to concentrate on God, bring God into your workplace. If personal ambition has left you, become ambitious for God. See your work as divine service, your purpose in being there to help others, to bring a calm and joyful attitude, to help others achieve their goals, to earn lots of money so that you can donate it to a spiritual cause.

Even Lahiri Mahasaya, after meeting Babaji and being awakened to his divine destiny as the founder of the Kriya Yoga line, continued for many years to do his job as a government accountant, and continued to do service to his community in a variety of seemingly mundane ways. Nothing in itself is unspiritual. It is only made so by our own lack of spiritual understanding and attunement.

What I suggest, rather than putting less energy into your work, is that you apply yourself whole-heartedly to it, but with a different perspective. Become an instrument of God Whom you are always thinking about. Ask His guidance in every interaction with people. "How can I serve You, Lord, in this soul?" Even if the context seems entirely unspiritual, inwardly, God is always present. Ask to be His instrument.

When you have creative work to do, ask God for inspiration. When you have mundane tasks to perform, ask God to entertain you inwardly with his bliss. Practice japa -- the constant repetition of a mantra, chant, or name of God. In all these ways, use your 12-plus hours at the workplace in exactly the way you would imagine using your time if you weren't working: to think of God.

I believe that the discipline required for success and diligence in your job is the right training for you right now -- to learn to apply yourself dynamically to whatever task God has placed in front of you. Living by likes and dislikes -- even spiritual likes and dislikes -- is not wholesome for the devotee. Instead, use your willpower to demolish all sense of difference in the world, as the Bhagavad Gita constantly urges us. To the man of wisdom, all is God.

Here is another thought to consider. Master tells us that we must be "practical in our idealism." Ideally, the devotee renounces all to seek God. But is that, for you, a practical idea? Do you have the self-discipline to remove all compelling conditions from your life and continue to live with high energy and God as your only focus? Or will you, as I say above, find that you fall into low energy habits?

And can you afford to fail at your job? Did your parents sacrifice greatly to give you the education needed to get you to this job? Are they depending on you for their support? How would they feel if you throw it away now? Just recently you were strongly attracted to a woman. How will you support a wife and children?

Are you resident in your own country or do you have a visa to America or elsewhere that is dependent on your employment? What would happen if you get fired from your job because of lack of competence? Will you have to leave whatever country you are in now? How will that work out?

You say that you are not a lazy person. That is good! Are you, however, easily affected by your likes and dislikes? Some of your earlier correspondence would lead me to believe that you have a distance yet to go in terms of doing with full enthusiasm whatever is asked of you. Your job is a great place to learn that much-needed lesson. Once acquired, it will be your ticket to success spiritually as well.

If I have not understood you, please correct me. If you have further questions or discussion, please feel free to write.

Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of]

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