Undeveloped men are highly motivated to act by their matter-inclined impulses and longing for name, fame, prosperity, and sensory happiness. The wise, on the other hand, have detached themselves from worldly pleasures; their incentive is the joy they find in working for God. Incidentally and yet purposefully, the inspiring examples of such men bring others to the path of lasting happiness. They set a right standard for all who are lower on the ladder of Self-realization.
An illumined being, above all law has the preference of acting or of remaining inactive. Since God acts in creation even though it is unnecessary for Him to do so, He exhorts His devotees also to act, and to increase the desire for earnest action even in those whose work is still guided by innate material instincts. By activity, all beings are helping (mostly indirectly and unknowingly) to work out the divine cosmic plan.
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
If all the people of the world chose to renounce worldly life and to enter jungles to find God, cities would have to be built there too, and industries founded, or people would die of starvation, exposure, and epidemics. Final freedom must be found not in the avoidance of life’s problems but by activity in the world with the sole purpose of working for God.
The Lord creates on a vast scale by forming universes; and in a detailed way in knitting atoms together and in creating a little ant’s body, as delicately and carefully planned as a human form. But even though God is so mightily and tinily active in creation, He never loses an iota of His divine bliss. This constancy is possible solely because of non-attachment (lack of hopes and fears). The wise man, remembering that he is made in the image of God, does not act miserably- like the ignorant materialist- but acts in happy detachment.
Acts of creation are not necessary for the perfection of an already perfect God. Creation, therefore, is a “hobby” of God. He is blissful with it or without it. AII His children must learn to work in the world with that same divine attitude of Man must learn to work nonchalant interest. As a boy builds a playhouse then tears it down, just to be busy playing, so man should keep busy in the world but be indifferent to all material changes-even to the destruction of his work by divine ordinance.
This does not mean that a poor man should not try to be prosperous nor that a restless man should not try to be calm, nor that a sick man should not try to be healthy. But man should look after his body and seek prosperity and mental health without any consequent violent agitation within. Jesus advised his followers to take no heed for their bodies, not to trouble about what they should eat or wear. He knew that they must feed and clothe themselves, even as he himself did, but he wanted them to understand that the way to supreme happiness lies in doing necessary material duties without attachment.
Only fools take life so seriously that they are constantly hurt. The wise look upon childhood, youth, old age, life, and death as passing dramas; hence everything entertains them. When one becomes momentarily identified with a tragic picture, he feels miserable; but when he realizes that it is only a part of an entertaining variety show, he feels happy. God wants man to behold the changing pictures of personal and worldly life as a sort of variety entertainment. Often at the end of a plotful melodrama the audience feels: “That was a good picture!”
The devotee should realize that God and His human children are the audience for ever-changing presentations in this Cosmic Cinema House, maintained for instruction and entertainment’ As a man enjoys himself while he is beholding an engrossing picture and is especially interested if he learns something new, returning home happily when the show is over, so man should cheerfully perform both his simple and his difficult duties while on earth, leaving it with a smile when the drama of life is over. God happily creates and watches His ever-changing shows in different cosmic cycles, and, when complete dissolution comes, rests happily within Himself. He expects His sons to behave as He does.
The Gita repeatedly warns man against egoistic attachment to the changing scenes of life, since attachment is the root cause of all human suffering. Working because of an attachment becomes a necessity; and when that necessity is not fulfilled, man experiences misery.
Yet, the question in the ordinary man’s mind is: “What is the sense of working without desire or attachment? It must be insipid to work without an incentive!”
The answer lies in a consideration of the things we do for pleasure, without thought of gain or fame. It is so much more enjoyable when one makes a garden of flowers and takes infinite pains just to satisfy a hobby than when he is compelled to tend that garden in order to eke out a living. Anyone can name many activities that are pursued for their own sakes rather than for gainful results. Alt duties performed under the compelling whip of material desire and attachment produce misery, but when they are worked out as a sort of hobby, without fear of, or craving for, specific results, the incentive endures, yielding pure pleasure.
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
~Henry David Thoreau
The material man takes life seriously and makes it full of worries, sorrow and tragedy. The divine man makes life an enjoyable game. The desire-infested man is full of mental ups and downs and mind-corroding moods, while the desireless yogi is evenly happy although he is variously active. There is no excuse for any man to live miserably oblivious of his divine nature. If man could only work as happily as God does in the ever-changing creation, he would understand all of its anomalies as comparable to the complex variety of a motion picture designed only for entertainment free from monotony. Performing all actions with God-consciousness neutralizes all inner and outer calamities.
Therefore, as the materialist works untiringly for sense pleasures which produce constant affliction, so the yogi works hard and unceasingly at meditation, which brings ultimate happiness. When the yogi, by working with subtler laws instead of sense attachments, to set an exemplary pattern for the inspiration and encouragement of others.
~Sri Paramhansa Yogananda
God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
Note: This post is an excerpt from the book God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita written by Sri Pramahansa Yogananda published by the Yogoda Satsang Society of India.