Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Work


Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the excellent ones. The wise ones describe that path to be impassible as a razor’s edge, which when sharpened, is difficult to tread on.
Katha Upanisad: I.iii.14

Yeats said:
“Man can embody truth but he cannot know it. The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it take the second must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.”

Yeats was wrong about this. Work (karma) done without desire for its fruits can purify and is the path to excellence. Contrast the Bhagavad Gita to the Nichomachean Ethics with its alertness to benefits. The problem for us, in a world where caste and class are more flexible than in the past, is to find work that is aligned with our spirit and our competence. What is it that we find easy to do even if from the outside it looks extremely laborious and painstaking? We don''t think about it involved as we are in the process that grows under our hands into a product. James Krenov the cabinetmaker remarked that he sometimes pleasantly forgets to sign his work.

Yet:
Son of Kunti (Arjuna), a man should not abandon the work he was born into, even if it is faulty, for just as fire is wreathed in smoke all undertakings are attended by faults.
(B.G. 18:48)

What is essential for the safe passage between the poles of action and consequence is the clarifying presence of ‘the excellent ones’. In that atmosphere our inner contradictions are made clear to us.

A man whose intelligence is free of any attachment, who has conquered himself, whose desire has evaporated, attains the supreme perfection of freedom from action and its results through renunciation.
(B.G. 18:49)

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