Listener 1: Work is to be completed and there is the habit of seeking pleasure too, because of which work gets neglected, so a dilemma is there. How to come out of this?
Acharya Prashant: Why are these two different? There is work and then there is something else, why is there a separation?
L1: Because that has been conditioned that work is negative and is not pleasurable.
AP: And that what makes the other thing pleasurable.
AP: But is that a fact?
AP: Then why must you repeat that conditioning? Why must you maintain that separation? Till the time you keep saying that this is work and that is the pleasure, work by definition becomes a burden.
L1: So that is basically the ward of the conditioning because the conditioning is deep.
AP: No you are not warding it off, you are deepening it. When you tell a child that if you finish your homework you can go off and play, you know what are you telling him?
L1: That your homework is a barrier between you and playing.
L2: That work is not play.
AP: Or condemning him to a work life in which you just be desiring for the end of office hours because when office hours end and then the pleasure starts. This distinction must be obliterated.
Not only must work be play but play must also be work. When you are working you should be playful and when you are gone out to play and even in that moment you must be working.
This, I know, is very much against conventional wisdom which wants to maintain a watertight separation between personal and professional life. And which always gives you the instinct that when you return home you must keep all the work behind you. It doesn’t happen that way and if it happens that way it will lead to suffering, stress and a fragmented mind.
When you are relaxing, work must be on.
And when you are working, you must be relaxed.
How can work stop if work is really an expression of what you are? How can you stop working even for the few definite hours in the day? Work has to be like breathing then. You are breathing continuously, you are working 24 hours, and work is then synonymous with playing because you cannot be toiling 24 hours, you are playing 24 hours.
L1: How to come close to the facts?
AP: The facts are already there. Why do you have imaginations about anything? You are talking about your work, do you even know what your work is? Do you know what are the facts of your work is? You have imagined it to be work and that is why you deal with it as if it is work. You have a conceptual baggage about what you are doing and that’s what you think you are doing. But do you really know your work? You have built a portrait of your work but what is your work? You just have an idea of your work. But do you really know your work?
When you know what you are doing, an indicator is, then you are able to play with it.
Playing will start happening. The separation between you and what you are doing reduces so much that you will start feeling empowered and free, authorised to play with it. But when you have an image of something then you are obliged to abide by the rules – This is what I am doing, this is how it is done, it is a four step process- 1, 2, 3, 4, stop and then it is just boring, totally boring because you do not know it so you must have to abide by the rules. You do not know it. You only have an idea of what you are doing.
You know, when one is not an engineer, when one knows nothing about how cars are designed then you can only do as much the instruction manual permits you. The manual says, do this, do that, when the speed reaches x, change the gear, fill the tank, get the car serviced at such intervals and you will have to simply abide by those rules. You do not know what you are doing. So there is no energy in what you are doing. There is no playfulness.
It’s a list of instructions and all you are doing is following them. Who wants to live that way? And on top of that, you are imagining that your pleasure lies elsewhere. First of all, this is so boring and secondly, there is pleasure waiting somewhere else. Now you will know what will be the quality of your work.
All this wait for weekends, all this hankering after holidays – what is this? The festival season is upon us now and you go to any hill station on these days, there is no space to land a foot. Hotels are charging exuberantly—what is all this?
When you have no real relationship with your work, which is you, and hence you do not have any relationship with yourself then all your life you are just seeking holidays. Even this concept of moksha or liberation is just a concept of one grand final holiday, one ultimate holiday—That is what moksha is; one never ending weekend, with all the nubile apsaras. This weekend never ends.
L2 : And everybody is seeking moksha, calling it Monday blues.
AP: Yes, everybody is seeking moksha. There is a Moksha bar, Nirvana discotheque There is new kind of weed that has come up – samadhi .
L2: Is the problem of not being able to relate work with the external has its roots internally with the person? and why do we find that small kids, it’s quite possible that a large section of them would resist homework but it wouldn’t be found that most of them would resist going out in the garden and play? So there is certainly a distinction between playing per se, in the garden using your body and the homework.
AP: They want to go out in the garden because there is no playing possible in the house otherwise they would love to play even within the house. Kids are desperate to go out because they can’t play in. Playing is nature, it exhibits itself everywhere. Just as when they play in the house they are thrashed otherwise they would play inside the house also. There is no distinction, no distinction at all. You create that wall—outside playground, inside is a living room, no playing possible. You see this distinction. This distinction is a distinction between a Friday and a Saturday or a Sunday and a Monday. Inside is Friday and outside is Saturday.
L2: Sir is it really not about the book, what I am trying to arrive at is there seems to be a distinction between a book and a ball where one can be playful naturally with a ball but a book hardly allows you any scope to be playful.
AP: One who is not playful with the book, cannot be playful with the ball. Please understand this. It is not that the book is not really appealing to you, the fact is your own life is not appealing to you. When you are with the book, you are pretending boredom and when you are outside, you are pretending entertainment. The facts are nowhere, there is just pretension.
When you really know the small facts of your life:
- How you are brushing your teeth.
- How you move down the stairs.
- How you ride your bike.
- How you deal with the policemen.
- How you deal with the syllabus.
- How you deal with the food in front of you.
When you know all this, then you also know work and you know the play and you will know that there is no distinction.
What do you think, the man who is bored during the weekends suddenly becomes lively over the weekends. Seriously? What do you think the man who is dead and flaccid till 7 p.m becomes a pulsating, lively, creative mass of energy at 10 p.m. If he is flaccid in the office then he will be flaccid in the bed also. If he requires a stimulant in the office then he will require a stimulant in the bed also.
The one who plays, plays with everything.
The one who works, works with everything.
And these two are one.
Even while playing he is working, working in the sense that normal, natural, spontaneous activity is going on. And even while working, he is playing. There is hardly a difference. You ask him his working hours you will be puzzled, as am I, often, when somebody asks me how long do you work because I never know when it starts and when it ends.
If somebody can tell you that he works from ‘x’ to ‘y’ hours then that fellow is a cheat. And if somebody can tell you that he parties from ‘x’ to ‘y’ hours then that fellow is a bore. His party ends. He is such a bore. At ‘y’ hours his party ends. And his work ends too. He is such a cheat. He is not doing justice to his work. How can work end?
All of this will not fit into the theories that your universities are teaching you, don’t try. There is going to be no synthesis.
~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Why am I unable to be involved in my work?
Read more articles on this topic:
Article 1: Work-Life Integration -1
Article 2: What matters more in work – skill or love
Article 3: Play hard, not work hard
Books by Acharya Prashant: