When in your work you find something giving trouble outside, look within and you will find in yourself the corresponding difficulty. Change yourself and the circumstances will change.
– The Mother
It is easy to be noble during meditation, but much more difficult to keep our higher aspiration when we are confronted with the challenges and temptations of the work-life. So life and work provide the anvil and opportunity for testing the true extent of our inner progress.
Life is a field of experience and work – of whatever kind – a concentrated field for immediate experience. This is particularly so in the case of those who are building up an inner life. For them work is at once a field to test their inner progress and a means to fashion their development.
It is easy enough in yoga, for instance, to induce a poise of quiet and calm, an attitude of detachment in the mind, by meditation, contemplation and other psychological practices. One can also absorb a good deal of knowledge from book and accustom the mind to think in terms of their high conceptions. All this gives a feeling of progress and well-being which can easily grow into an illusion of progress. Illusion, because, it is very likely that – at the first touch of life in the raw, these edifices may crumble to pieces. Hence it is necessary, at every step, to test this progress, whether it is real or only skin-deep. Work is an ideal field to test and see for oneself to what extent one has progressed internally. In work one comes across men, things, situations, movements of forces of all kinds that call out one’s physical, vital, mental and spiritual capacities. It is there that opportunities present themselves to see how far my reactions have changed.
For after all, the true test of inner progress lies in the extent to which the nature of my actions and reactions have changed for the better. Do I react from the same egoistic standpoint as before? Do I see a little farther, wider and consider the other man’s point of view? Has my progress enabled me to receive the ignorant actions and reactions of others with a modicum of detachment, if not equality? Is my working self-centred as before or have I learnt to relegate myself into the background and function only as an instrument? Is there any change in my motives? How do I receive failures? Has my spiritual development made me more understanding and charitable in my dealings with others? A hundred tests of this kind can be and are imposed upon every seeker the moment he steps into the field of work. It is a priceless opportunity to see the real extent and nature of one’s progress, the lacunae still to be filled up, the gains that are to be consolidated.
Work not only provides a testing ground for inner progress but equally the most effective means to confirm and enlarge that progress. Work done in a yogic spirit is a dynamic power that can change the consciousness of the doer much more rapidly than meditation or study. The whole of the being participates in the movement, which calls for dedication, consecration and execution in every part, at every level of the consciousness with the result that there is a continuous pressure for re-orientation on one’s nature, inner and outer. Selfless work done in dedication to the Divine provides incessant training in the elimination of desire and motive which vitiate so much of human effort, in the conversion of the vital from the imperious despot that it is into a joyous servant of the Divine, in the levelling of the ego which dwindles before the increasing stature of the divine will that takes shape as the yoga of works proceeds. That is why the Mother has elevated work to the status of a sadhana.
In a yoga which aims to liberate and transform the whole being of man, each part has to participate in the way that is most natural to it and grow. The mind seeks through knowledge; the heart through emotions; the body through work.
The author is a well-known exponent and practitioner of Integral Yoga. He is also a prolific writer who has authored more than two hundred books, mainly on Yoga and Indian Culture.