America is one of the only countries on planet Earth that is, in its ideal sense, not defined by ethnic identity. Ethnicity has, of course, played a huge role in our formation as a nation, and still unfortunately heavily influences us today. Yet I am talking about America in an ideal sense. Germany is primarily composed of the German ethnicity, France is the home of the French, Mexico has a majority of Mexicans, etc. What is a America, however? In its ideal sense, it is a nation of people who share a set of governmental values, and also a group of people who are seeking to create their own identity. To be an American means to lack an ethnic root that other nations take for granted. This fact has had interesting psychological effects on us and, in my opinion, has generally produced a restlessness that, for better or worse, has helped produce one of the most domineering and massive economies to ever exist.
Our diminishment of ethnic identity has caused us to seek identity elsewhere, and nowhere is this misplaced identity more apparent than in the way we relate to work. From birth, we hear the word “do” repeated like a mantra that endlessly jabs our souls like a searing brand. From almost the moment we leave the womb, we are asked, “What do you want DO with your life?” instead of “How do you want to BE?” As adults, when we meet people, the first thing we usually ask after asking someone’s name is, “What do you do?” I do, I do, I do… When we describe ourselves, our professional identity usually is preeminent: I am a doctor. I am a construction worker. I am a teacher. I am, I am, I am…
In recent years, God has been working to reprogram my brain from this repressive and capitalistic way of thinking about identity. What I do is indeed important because, in a society, we must all contribute, and I have a natural desire to help people with my work. Yet I refuse to think about myself in terms of my contribution to the economy. Factoring out my career, what do I do? Ultimately, I BE. I live inside of God’s Mind in a state of indescribable Union with the ever-blissful Lord of the Universe. And who am I, in a more personal, dualistic sense? I am a child of the Most High God, unconditionally loved with an depth that couldn’t be described, even if all the trees of this world were converted into a single scroll filled with love sonnets from the timeless Muse. Even if I achieve more than any human being has ever achieved, God will not love me one iota more or less. What I do affects my own karma and life circumstances, but my identity is not based upon my work, but upon God’s Love that is entirely unaffected by it. Blessed and forever praised is the One who has revealed this to me!
In an ultimate sense, I am one with Spirit. I am already eternal, and cannot gain or lose my True Nature that is present this moment. To realize that you yourself are this Great This is the goal of life, and frees us from the limited idea that we are synonymous with what we do. Two realities – that we are Spirit, not a body; and that we are unconditionally loved based upon our being, not our doing – should define our identity as spiritual people. Work should flow out of this blessed state of spiritual rest that is not earned, but is our birthright as Sons and Daughters of God.
Working from the State of Rest – The Timeless Advice of Jesus Krishna
Spiritual rest does not mean doing nothing, but refers to working for the welfare of others in a state of non-identification with one’s works, body, and mind. The prophet Krishna demonstrated to humankind that God-Union can be fully attained in the context of an active life of service. In the Bhagavad Gita, a peerless scripture that I recommend to everyone, Krishna gives his cousin Arjuna advice on how to achieve enlightenment in the context of fulfilling one’s earthly duty. In one powerful section, Krishna describes how God relates to work by saying, “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. It was by such work that Janaka (an ancient enlightened king) attained perfection; others too have followed this path. There is nothing in the three worlds for me to gain, Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have; I continue to act, but I am not driven by any need of my own.”
Krishna is describing his own Self-Realization that anyone can attain through effort in meditation and the grace of God. Krishna perceived that his own True Nature is changeless and ever-blissful, and is not gained through effort. He related to the world as if it were a movie, a TV show, or a dream in which he had a part to play. Things may change in the dream, but the Dreamer changes not. Krishna’s life was thus Divine enjoyment and selfless giving that expressed his realization, but did not produce it. In the Gita, He makes it clear that inner peace does not come from the literal renunciation of action, but from the inner “renunciation of the fruits of action.” This simply means that we should do wholesome work without desiring any material reward, focus on God as our sole goal, and then forget about the work when its done. This sounds easy, but it is in fact one of the most difficult spiritual states to attain. Anything is possible, however, through God’s grace.
Krishna implied that He served from His own inner freedom, not for it. And this inner freedom, when realized by God’s grace, ironically empowers us to do more for humanity because we serve from the inexhaustible Love of God instead of from our own karmically conditioned ego. Once again, this does not mean we cease from working, for those who do not serve humanity on Earth will never realize God; rather, we should work inwardly free from the idea that we need to gain anything apart from our True Nature or Krishna-Consciousness.
Jesus displayed a similar attitude toward work by redefining the meaning of the Jewish Sabbath. For the majority of Jewish history up to the time of the Messiah, the Sabbath was a literal commandment that was taken by most people at face value. It was simple: do no literal work on the 7th day. Jesus usually outwardly kept the Sabbath, but sometimes he took the idea further, or one could argue that he clarified its original intention. He healed people on the Sabbath, and also allowed his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath, something forbidden in the Torah. Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of breaking the Sabbath, but once responded by saying that “The son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.”
To me, Jesus was implying by saying this that the Sabbath is a state of mind. Not only did he not break the Sabbath – he fulfilled it! Jesus perceived his changeless Christ-Nature both in work and in rest. He understood that the physical Sabbath was only a shadow and a sign pointing to the mind-state of an awakened Christ. Whether working or resting, Christ-Consciousness is one with God. Thus Jesus could say in truth that he was the lord, or master, of the Sabbath; for the Sabbath was merely pointing to his Christ-Consciousness, but his Christ-Consciousness was not limited by the physical Sabbath.
Like Jesus, we all have the capacity to realize our own True Nature and become awakened Christs. We are all invited by God and the illumined sages of every tradition to enter the state of Sabbath rest, and to be free from the idea that we have to do anything to gain it. We should work from God, not for God. What was true for Jesus and Krishna is also true for every human being, and every human being has the potential to realize the spiritual freedom that they attained.
How is this ideal actually implemented in daily life? Everyone has a subjective answer to this, obviously. For me, I believe we should first clarify that realizing God, and not achieving some material end, is the highest goal of life. The Bhagavad Gita, and many other scriptures, claim that the goal of all work is spiritual realization, not anything material. We all have a destiny to fulfill and work to do on Earth, but we should inwardly set our heart on God-Realization, and understand that anything short of this will never satisfy us. Secondly, we can practically integrate things like prayer and meditation into the fabric of our day. The two most important things I do everyday are practicing meditation and asking God directly to reveal Himself to me. Everyone has a unique path, but without some sort of actual spiritual practice, God-Realization remains only a lifeless intellectual idea.
Through correct intention and effort in meditation, anyone can realize that this very world is what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven, and what the Buddha called Enlightenment. Enlightenment is never separate from this very moment, though to see this truth is very difficult and often requires serious efforts in meditation, ethical living, and service. Yet every strange and winding path, the trajectory of every outrageous destiny, and even the universe itself, returns to God in the end. To Him be the glory forever!
Returning to Infancy – Receiving Unconditional Love as a Gift
The path of meditation, when followed with faith, eventually reveals the Sabbath-Mind, which does not gain anything through work, and does not lose anything through worldly loss. Even though It perpetually abides in Blessed Rest, It simultaneously expresses Itself by perpetuating creation through Its infinite store of Divine Generosity. Every person should emulate this pattern.
In a more personal sense, the Personal God (whom I define more in detail in my book, in the link above) is love. He loves you because you are His child. Like an infant at its mother’s breast, you don’t please God because you do anything for Him/Her. You are unconditionally loved simply because God’s love is unconditional. In fact, I believe the Personal God is actually grieved when we relate to him based on a works/reward relationship. As He spoke through Isaiah the prophet, our works are like “filthy rags” to God when they are exalted above our love-based relationship. When you realize this deep within your bones, you will become free from the idea that you need to gain approval from other people or from society; all the love and approval you need is already yours in your Cosmic Beloved!
From this place of already having all the Divine Love you could possibly posses, you can work without the subconscious fear that you need to earn love. You can work like a disciplined and wise adult, but inwardly you can return to infancy, and your heart will rejoice like a little child when you realize how much the Father rejoices over you. This return may sound foolish to the world, but as Jesus said, “To enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must become like a little child.” God’s wisdom is foolishness in the eyes of society, but only because they do not know the Bliss of the Lord. All the riches in this fleeting world couldn’t bring me a fraction of the joy I find in God’s priceless love, and all the knowledge of all the libraries combined couldn’t even compare to one glimpse of His everlasting face!
We all have karma to face, and we all have work to do on this planet. Work is important, and we should never neglect to do our duty to family, society, etc. We should also help others with whatever gifts we have been endowed with. Yet we were not created for work, but for God. And one of the deep subconscious roots blocking us from actualizing this – a root inherited from an American culture that has turned work into an idol – is the idea that our identity is synonymous with what we do.
I hope, for both myself and for you, that through deep meditation we will be able to perceive that our True Nature expresses Itself through activity, but cannot be gained or lost through effort. I also hope we will have an inward revelation of the Personal God’s unconditional love that is not based upon works but upon His Grace. Then we can work from freedom, not for freedom, and see that our very life is a Sacred Temple that is the dwelling place of Spirit Itself.
To God be praise forever! May all hearts gain wisdom and turn to the Source of happiness for happiness! May God be praised forever!
Thank you for reading,
- Brief Thoughts on God’s Love
- Becoming a Master of Technology: Developing a Skillful Relationship with Technology from the Perspective of Spiritual Practice
- Lessons from the Gita 2 – Three Dimensions of Renunciation
- Freedom from Worry Part 1: Understanding Grace
- The Rest is Gravy: A Rambling
- Power Rangers, Pizza, Portland Culture, The Illusion of Nationalism, and the Oneness of Reality
- Freedom from Worry Part II: Zen Meditation
- Thoughts on Matthew 6: 33