Joy in Work and Beyond – M S Srinivasan

To feel joy in whatever we do is an open and well-known secret of happiness.  How to discover this joy? Is there something beyond joy ? Let us examine these questions in the light of  Yoga psychology.

Factors of joy

What are the factors which lead to joy in work?  Let us begin with the most obvious or external factors and move on to deeper and inward causes.  The first factor is interest.  When we are interested in the work and like the work we are doing then it brings a certain pleasure in doing our work.  The second factor is effort.  Even if we are not interested  in the work, if we make a conscious effort to do our work with concentration and the aspiration for progress and perfection in work, it helps us to come into contact with universal forces which bring joy.

We have here two more factors-concentration and the aspiration for progress and perfection.  All these factors can come together spontaneously when the work we are doing is in harmony with our natural and inborn temperament, called swadharma in Indian philosophy. In our modern work-place where we have to work as part of a team, there is one more factor which can enhance our joy in work; it is goodwill and good feelings for those who work with us and as a result harmony in relationship. 

Beyond Joy

However, in work or life, it is not possible to always live in a state of joy, even when all or some of the factors we have discussed are present.  Our human nature or life is not built to feel an unbroken joy.  Life is made of ups and downs, problems and difficulties and the swing of dualities like pleasure and pain, grief and joy, success and failure, depression and exaltation, dryness and warmth, likes and dislikes, energy and inertia,harmony and conflict. We should not stress too much on the joy of work.  For a deeper fulfillment in work or life we have to rise beyond vital joy to something deeper, higher and more lasting.

The Indian Yogic tradition points out four factors which can lead to this greater fulfillment beyond vital joy.  They are Peace, Equanimity, Detachment, and doing all our work as an offering to the Divine without seeking for fruits or result or rewards for our action.

The first factor is Peace.  There are many methods in Yoga for achieving peace.  One way is to inwardly step back from all the thoughts, feelings, reactions, of our mind and heart and observe it as a witness.  When we pursue this discipline persistently after some time, the inner tumult and disturbances run down and settles into inner calm. The second method is to invoke peace.  The inner experiences of Yogis paint out to a universal Peace and Silence pervading all creation at every level-physical, vital, mental – and we can try to feel and invoke it and call it into our mind and heart.

The second factor is Equanimity which means to remain calm and undisturbed under all circumstances good and bad, pleasant or unpleasant and all the unequal dualities of life like pleasure and pain, happiness and grief, success and failure. Equality also means to be free from unequal reactions to people like likes and dislikes, attraction and repulsion and have an equal goodwill for all.  The discipline of equality consists of three stages.  The first stage is not to be swayed, influenced, overwhelmed or get swamped by the inequalities and dualities of life and their inner reactions in us and to bear them with a calm, unyielding and equal endurance.  As we progress further in this discipline of endurance, it creates an inner division in the being where a deeper part remains untouched by the dualities while in the surface layers the old unequal reactions goes on. When we are able to achieve this inner cleavage, whenever we are assailed by the unequal strokes or reactions, we can step back into this deeper calm and equality.  The third stage is to bring down this calm and equanimity into the surface layers.

The third factor is inner detachment which means not to be attached, physically, emotionally or mentally to anything outside ourselves, like things, people or work or a particular place, environment or circumstances. Along with this outer detachment, there can also be an inner detachment from internal factors like ideas,and feelings and thoughts and emotions, which requires cultivation of the witness-consciousness which can observe our inner movements without identifying with it, as something not belonging to oneself. 

This attachment is a bondage which cramps our mind and heart into a narrow groove.  When we are able to overcome this attachment it brings greater freedom and wideness to our mind and heart and opens our consciousness to higher forces and energies.

The fourth factor is doing all our work as an offering and surrender to the divine which is the great discipline  of Karma Yoga of the Gita.  We will not enter into any further discussion on this subject. There are illuminating literature on this subject by many modern Yogis like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda, based on their own experiences and practice of Karma Yoga.

When all these four factors are put into practice in our work and life it can lead to a deep and more lasting inner calm and fulfillment which is beyond vital joy and happiness.

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