Work in your livelihood as Karma Yoga—selfless service. Do all work for the joy of doing it. Charge nothing for your labors; accept whatever you are paid. Choose work for someone or something that is worthwhile. Offer your work, your energy to God, the All, everyone. Tell the one who pays you to pay whatever in conscience can be paid. If you need more than that to support yourself and your family, say so, and if necessary move on. Do your work step by step, with all patience. If you are fired, accept it. But do your best peacefully.
Maybe where you are working now does not have the best atmosphere. In time you can find more suitable work to fit your taste and temperament. But until then you can still work where you are and be a Yogi. Even if you sell steak or liquor, it doesn’t mean you have to take it yourself. As a Karma Yogi, you serve there. Many people still love such things. Until you find better work, don’t leave your present post, so if you don’t find something right away, you won’t be stranded. That’s not Yogic either.
In a way working in such a place could give you more mental strength. Following your principles while living in such an atmosphere isn’t easy. But if you can do it, you are a better Yogi. In one sense, if you don’t believe in something, you should not contribute to it. But you cannot simply go without financial support. Because you refuse to do something, that doesn’t mean the whole world will stop doing it. It’s the attitude in your mind that is most important.
In some cases your conscience will make it very clear that you cannot stay, no matter what the economic situation. You should not sell your conscience for money. You may have to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t want this job. Money is not really important to me. I can’t do this.” Yes, you may even lose your job. It doesn’t matter; don’t lose your principles. Many people have even given their lives to maintain their principles. Can’t you lose a few dollars? Which is more important the money you get from the business or your own personal mental and physical well-being? Don’t think that money alone is going to bring everything. Many wealthy people are living in misery. However poor you are, your personal welfare is most important. Everything has its own vibration. Shun as poison anything that will interfere with your peace of mind.
If you resent your work or your employer, it is best not to stay. The work will not have charm or beauty. You can’t love the work if you can’t love the person who gives you the work. If you feel resentment, analyze the cause. If you have a proper reason and can’t get over it, don’t continue there. Your attitude will just waste both your time and your employer’s, because no matter how beautiful such work is your vibration is carried with your work. If you type a letter with resentment, the letter itself will carry that resentment. Try to change your attitude, but if you really have good cause for resentment, then change your job. Try to have a good and respectful relationship with your employer. Don’t always think the capitalists are out to exploit you. Without capitalists you would not even be working. The employer is there to give employment. It is his or her money and energy that started the place of work which now provides jobs. You give energy, but for that energy you receive food. Try to have some compassion and understanding. If your boss makes a mistake, help him or her realize this by passive means, if you can, but never through hatred. That’s Yoga in business.
You are the master of your destiny. You are the cause of your own poverty, wealth, or fame. Open a new chapter in your life. Choose your environment. Choose your occupation. Your temperament will guide you. As your life changes and as you grow you may find your tastes and temperament changing. You may have been doing something different two or three years before, but now your inclinations are different. Let yourself do whatever comes naturally from within.
You don’t need to copy someone else. If it’s your temperament, it will come automatically. Everyone has something special. Each person is unique. Nobody can occupy your position. Don’t put yourself down. If you believe in the Cosmic Will, you will discover that unseen hand operating through you. See what it is, and let it happen through you.
Sometimes when we first offer ourselves to God we seem to run into problems. We may encounter suffering and losses. It’s easy to be devoted when we are always gaining from God. If our businesses thrive, it’s very easy to love God. But if we go to church and offer ourselves totally to God, and the next day lose $10,000 in business, we ask, “What kind of God is this?” The proof of our devotion is that we still love God regardless of what happens. God may test us in the beginning.
If you are really trying to apply these principles to your life, people will respect you. Employers say they want to hire more Yogis. If you show that you are a Yogi on your resume, they will value you. Take a useful job just to serve.
Why do you need food, clothing, and shelter? You want to live to serve others. You have to eat to live. You need clothes, a car, a garage for the car. How can you do that without the money? You prepare yourself and equip yourself with enough energy to give energy back. Your eating, sleeping, drinking, and breathing are not selfish actions if you do them with the intention: “I am only keeping myself fit to serve others. If I am not going to serve others, I don’t need to eat. I don’t need to sleep. I don’t need to have a house. I don’t even need to live.”
If you are serving totally with dedication and still not earning enough to survive, certainly you can say to your employer, “I am becoming weak. I won’t be able to serve you any longer, sir. Who is the loser, me or you?” If your boss still won’t change, what can you do? Stop serving. Don’t force your service anywhere. But usually such selfless service melts even the hardest heart. Everyone has a soft corner somewhere. You find that soft place through your sincerity and love. Even the most deadly, dangerous, and hateful person can be absorbed by love. Ultimately, Truth will win; it’s nature’s way.
So do your work with all patience. Do it in a meditative way. If you have a mantra, repeat it mentally while you are doing your work. Love and salute your tools. Nothing is inert; everything has a kind of feeling. When you deal with things, feel as if you are touching God. Feel that the work you are doing is worship of God, that you are doing the work for God’s sake, and that God is receiving the benefit of your work. Your work will become Karma Yoga.
Whatever your function in a business, help that business grow. Whether you are a secretary or the manager, think of the welfare of the business. Consider how it can grow better and best perform its duty. Be scrupulously honest. Instead of using the office facilities for your own personal reasons, put the business first. If all day Friday you use the office telephone for your weekend appointments, you are not a good businessman. You are bringing loss and in a way even stealing from the business. Always think of the benefit the others should get.
When you are a Karma Yogi, you may find yourself chosen for more responsible posts. You might take in a profit, which is all right in Yoga. But profit should not be your motive. Your motive should be for the benefit of the community. The seller should put him- or herself in the position of the buyer. The buyer should put himself in the position of the seller. Always recognize the needs of the other person. Even if you are able to do so, don’t exploit. That’s Yogic business. Certainly you should have some profit, but not 100, 200 or 300 percent. The confidence and good will of the customer is worth more than the money—it is a great profit.
Excerpted from To Know Your Self