Following is a meassage from our honoured teacher and good friend Sayadaw U Jotika for those lay people (and monks!) who are working, and trying to integrate dhamma into their work-life.
Sayadaw U Jotika is a Myanmar monk, whose words have been compiled into several books that have been extremely well received, including ‘Snow in the Summer’ and ‘Map of the Journey’. For other posts here on/by Sayadw including links to online PDF files and Mp3 files, CLICK HERE.
Our work must be an expression of our best ability and our best attitude.
Our work shows what kind of a person we are. Your work shows who you are.
Why do I work? There are many reasons.
I do things because I am interested in doing them. Some of those things I called work and some others I called play or hobby. For me hobby and work overlaps. Reading is my hobby, and it is also work. Writing is my hobby and writing is also work. I write about the things that I really love. I express what I really feel, what I really believe and practice. Therefore it is self-expression.
Our work should be self-expression. If we don’t express ourselves in what we do, it becomes very boring. Work becomes boring if we do it just because of the money we get from it.
When I really express myself in my work I feel happy. I get energy. After working I feel relaxed.
When you work with the best of your ability and attitude you don’t lose anything. You give the best of you and therefore you get the best. And by giving the best you become a better person, that is really what you get. What you get is ‘what you are.’
Whatever you do, you do it to honor yourself. Your work must be a way of showing respect to your self.
By looking at the way you work I can tell how much self-respect you have. And how much you honor yourself.
If you cheat you loose self-respect. If you loose self-respect you loose everything.
There are many misfortunes in our lives, but the worst of them is loss of self-respect.
If you don’t do your work with the best of your ability you are dishonoring yourself.
Your work gives you joy when it becomes part of your spiritual practise.
Work as spiritual practise? Yes, it can be. Every thing we do can become our spiritual practise.
Work is an opportunity to express our noble nature. It is a testing ground.
Tennessee Williams said, “I’m really alive when I’m working.”
If you can say the same, you are living a wonderful life.
We work many hours a day. On average, people these days work for at least 10 hours a day which include talking about work on the telephone and reading materials related to your work.
If we don’t find meaning in what we do what a waste of life that would be.
If we don’t become alive when we work we are half dead.
By work I mean doing anything worthwhile. Doing anything productive. Therefore even volunteering is a kind of work. It is not a job. But it is work. Job and work are not always the same. If we express ourselves in what we do it is our work. If we don’t express ourselves in what we do it is only a job.
That’s the way I understand it.
There are things you do because it is your duty to do it. For example, the security officers in the airport are fulfilling there duty when they check every baggage and every passenger. If they do it with respect toward the passengers and concern for the safety of the passengers it is their work. If they do it to show their power it is only their job.
Three Stone Cutters
I will tell you a story about three stone cutters.
A man went to a stone quarry. He saw three men cutting stones. He asked the first man, “What are you doing?”
The man answered, “I am cutting stones. It is tiring, boring and drudgery.” I do it because I have to. I need the money.
He then went to ask the second man he saw, “What are you doing?”
The man answered, ” I am earning a living. I make enough money to support my family.”
He then went to ask the third man, “What are you doing?”
The man answered, “I am building a Magnificent Temple. I am making history. I am part of the team building the most beautiful temple in this continent and I am very proud of it. The stone I cut will be used to build it.”
See how different the three stone cutters see and feel what they are doing?
“Not to be occupied and not to exist amount to the same thing.”
To be occupied doesn’t mean doing something to make money. It means doing something you love to do.
If you are not doing something you love to do you don’t exist.
That’s the way I understand it.
If you want to feel alive, do something you love to do.
The moment you do something you love to do you become alive.
And the more attention you pay in doing what you are doing the more alive you become.
So, to love and to pay attention are the two most important factors to make you feel alive.
This applies to your meditation practice too. It applies to everything you do.
What do people really want?
Different people will answer that question differently. Answer for yourself first!
Now, here is my answer.
People want to feel alive.
Dullness, lack of interest, boredom, ennui, are feelings which make us feel dead.
We don’t like those feelings. Especially young people don’t like that because they have so much energy to expand.
We try to avoid those feelings by trying to get ourselves engaged in doing something exiting, something interesting. Sports is one. Watching TV. Watching horror movies, kiss kiss and bang bang movies.
But there are better things we can do. Discussing about something with somebody who knows
about the subject. Learning by doing something. Watching birds, studying nature, painting, playing music, singing, (instead of listening to a song, sing that song, or sing along to it.)
Doing research on something you want to know. I find that very interesting.
Meditating means watching your mind and body processes.
Are you interested in yourself? You want others to be interested in you. Don’t you?
But are you interested in yourself? If you are interested in yourself, pay attention to what is going on in your mind and body.
The more mindful you become the more alive you will become. And the more interesting your mind will become. And therefore the more interesting you will become.
What am I thinking now? What am I feeling now? How do I feel? Feel good? Feel tired?
Am I worrying about something?
Breath in, breath out and pay attention. How do you feel? Feels good.
You can be occupied at all times. Pay attention! That is something you can do anywhere, anytime.
When you are paying attention you are alive. You feel it. Try it and find out by yourself.
Knowing ones own mind is a very unique human quality. No animal can do that. And knowing ones own mind is the way to maturity, the way to freedom and happiness. It is our own mind that makes us happy or unhappy. And mostly our thoughts are our prisons.
Somebody said, “If you know your mind you are not at its mercy.”
Which means if you don’t know you mind you are in big trouble.
Knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it is very satisfying.
Doing something you love and doing it in the best way you can, doing it skillfully makes you feel alive.
Doing what you love to do whole heartedly, using all you body and mind is the only way to make you feel, “Oh! I am alive!”
Somebody said, “Life without absorbing occupation is hell.”
Not wanting to do anything, not wanting to know anything, not interested in anything and not growing (spiritually) is hell on earth.
Being mindful is the best way to develop all you abilities, all your potentials. If you want to find out how creative you are first learn to be mindful. Pay attention to what you are thinking. Do what you are doing with complete attention. That will help you develop all other potentials. It is quite simple.