A great role model to look up to as we find ourselves overwhelmed with life’s challenges is Ram, the protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Even though is an incarnation (avatar) of Lord Vishnu, he still lives a normal human existence — a life journey where he encounters crises and challenges incessantly.
Regardless of all the adversities he faces, Ram still retains a tranquil state and remains unperturbed. He maintains a perpetual state of bliss and through his example, teaches us how to practice spiritual awareness in the ever-changing material world.
Ram is not only a monarch, but also an ascetic. And so, he walks on a life path where he needs to maintain a great balance between the material and the mystical. Even though he’s not an accomplished sage, he still communicates — through his deeds and his commitments — what it means to be remarkably aware of the laws of the Divine and the higher spiritual principles while being completely immersed in the material realm of earthly life.
With respect to understanding the highest ideals for work, here’s one of his key teachings: “Conducting all your work and actions as if you are being carried by the flow of the river, you will not get attached to these! Whatsoever actions you do outwardly, ensure that your mind remain pure. Conduct of swadharma or duty is just sadhana—a mystical means towards the true aim, which atmagyaan or self-realization. It is not the final goal.”
Through these words, Ram introduces the beautiful idea of performing our work activities with a spiritual attitude. He advises us to work as if we’re being drifted away by the current of the river — unattached and floating like a leaf with the flow of the water. This is what the notion of surrender is all about. We must detach from the material world, and just flow on naturally wherever life takes us. There’s no point in fighting and going against the current. Rather, when we choose to let go, we feel an inward state of freedom and bliss.
In a nutshell, here’s the lesson Ram conveys to us through his words and his deeds: “Don’t the various crises and challenges you encounter in your life journey touch you within! Don’t let them make you fearful or anxious. Stay calm and stay detached.”
Keep the material realm at the material level and tackle it there. Cast a protective shield around you with the help of Divine energy. Don’t let your external circumstances initiate a tsunami of emotions and wreak havoc in the inner sphere.
This very notion of being dynamic in the outer world regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in, while enjoying a calm, relaxed, and peaceful state in the inner world is the ideal of work. Following it makes you both a superior professional as well as a superior person.
This idea also lies at the core of Karma Yoga (the Yoga of Action), a mystic philosophy that Krishna teaches Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna instructs Arjun, “Desire for the fruits of your work must never be your motive in working… Renounce attachment to the fruits.” He further adds, “Work done with anxiety about the results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety in the calm of self-surrender… They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”
In essence, both Ram and Krishna teach us to fulfill our dharma or self-nature and to focus on doing what needs to be done, while remembering all our activity is ultimately just outward and the circumstances that we come across, good or bad, are never in our control. Work is just an instrument to unlock the mystical realm, a means toward higher spiritual awareness, a vessel that helps us experience higher consciousness. A bridge that helps us traverse from the fickle to the real.
At the end of the day, it’s all about self-realization, elevating ourselves and uniting with the Divine within us, thus moving toward greater enlightenment and experiencing lasting spiritual bliss.