We all know the saying, ‘Work is worship’. Can we translate that into our occupations?
Krishna, a small merchant operating from his compact little bunk shop, did business with sincerity and dignity. Once a swamiji came to his shop to purchase provisions for his ashram and they both hit upon a conversation. What followed was an intense satsang between the worldly and the metaphysical. The sage found in Krishna a modesty that wasn’t in currency with today’s entrepreneurs. Impressed with Krishna’s honesty, simplicity and temperament, the ascetic abruptly and unexpectedly asked him if he had a mentor or guru. Krishna, without hesitating even a second, told the hermit that his guru was his BUSINESS.
Challenged, mystified and puzzled, the monk requested him to elaborate this sentiment in detail. Krishna lifted his weighing scale and held it before the swamiji. It was an old-fashioned scale with two suspended pans on either side held in one’s grip from the middle; Krishna’s posture reminded one of the iconic Statue of Justice atop the Old Bailey! Pointing to the vertical pointer in the centre below his grip, he said, “Sir, like this pointer I keep my mind, heart and attitude straight and upright. I don’t cheat my customers by giving them less nor do I make more than the necessary profit from them. I believe that man is a divine being in human form. So, I only see the Divine in every customer and sincerely believe that I am dispensing my products to the Divine and He is all knowing. How can I deceive the Divine? After having arranged the paltry merchandise around the available space in the shop, I hung the picture of Lord on the wall. And before commencing business, I stood before Him and prayed that the store belonged to Him and I was only a servant looking after the outlet on His behalf. Entrusting the future of the shop at His feet, I took position as his humble servant. It was up to Him to decide what He wanted to do with the shop. Perceiving Him in every customer, I went ahead with my duties as His worker. While doing business I think more of the Divine Owner of the business than myself. The Almighty has indeed been kind to me, sir. With this occupational attitude I have carved a fairly unique life course for myself and I have been true to myself.”
The young trader further elaborated with a smile that his guru, ‘BUSINESS’ does not even ask for guru dakshina. Like his bona fide books of accounts, he kept his life simple, neat and righteous. Because he perceived
God in everyone, he had no enemies and therefore his being was devoid of fear. Even the house he lived in belonged to the Divine Land-Lord and he considered himself His valet and servant. Ownership, he felt, brought grief while servitude brought joy. He worked till he was dog tired and only then went to bed, and till he fell asleep he would chant the name of the Lord. He did not abandon money but used it for good deeds to be deposited in his bank of karma. But he ensured that the good deeds did not invite conceit and vanity. He claimed that he learnt all this from his business and particularly, the pointer of his weighing scale which taught him how to keep his mental and emotional balance.
The holy saint realized that a devotee could enlighten a person more than a mentor. With tears of ecstasy in his eyes, the sadhu blessed the vendor, mentally placing him on the highest spiritual pedestal. Thereafter, lifting his bag of provisions he melted into the ocean of humanity, thoughtful and happy that he had patronized the small vendor instead of a large trading house devoid of heart and soul. Was the swamiji actually the Divine in human form? God knows.
There is historical evidence that most of the prominent saints and devotees of the Almighty were engaged in some business, trade, profession or vocation for their livelihood. And more importantly, while carrying on their occupation they were able to experience the Divine. The fact was that in the course of their occupational pursuits, these enlightened souls saw the Divine in their customers instead of a business opportunity. And because of this profound perception their business became their penance and worship. With this concept a spiritual and cultural renaissance is possible!
Krishna was a cow herd; Jesus Christ was a carpenter; Nam Dev was a tailor; Gora Kumbhar was a potter; Kabir was a weaver; Sage Sushrut was a cosmetic surgeon; Charak Rishi was a vaidyar (physician); Tyagaraja was a singer and Tuladhar was a merchant. All of them were involved in some trade or vocation for their subsistence and sustenance. But unlike today’s business ethos, they saw God in everything and everyone including their customers and experienced the Divine Presence all the time. Having mooted this notion of business spirituality, they were always in a state of spiritual ecstasy.
Seen through the prism of spirituality, the ancient social and business dynamic seems to be a sure shot way to the Lord, and one’s occupation or business can become a vehicle that can transport a person to the Divine. One only needs to have faith in this spiritual process where capitalist greed should be replaced by greed for God. And the age-old adage of WORK IS WORSHIP stands proved.