38. Work As Worship
'Brahma created His people with the duty of sacrifice laid upon them, and said: "By this do you flourish. Let it be the fulfiller of all your desires." 'Be who eats without performing this sacrifice, eats stolen bread.'—thus says the Gita. 'Earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow,' says the Bible. Sacrifices may be of many kinds. One of them may well be bread labour. If all laboured for their bread and no more, then there would be enough food and enough leisure for all. Then there would be no cry of overpopulation, no disease, and no such misery as we see around. Such labour will be the highest form of sacrifice. Men will no doubt do many other things, either through their bodies or through their minds, but all this will be labour of love, for the common good. There will then be no rich and no poor, none high and none low, no touchable and no untouchable.
This may be an unattainable ideal. But we need not, therefore, cease to strive for it. Even if, without fulfilling the whole law of sacrifice, that is, the law of our being, we performed physical labour enough for our daily bread, we should go a long way towards the ideal.
If we did so, our wants would be minimized, our food would be simple. We should then eat to live, not live to eat. Let anyone who doubts the accuracy of this proposition try to sweat for his bread, he will derive the greatest relish from the productions of his labour, improve his health, and discover that many things he took were superfluities.
May not men earn their bread by intellectual labour? No. The needs of the body must be supplied by the body. 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's' perhaps applies here as well. Mere mental, that is, intellectual labour is for the soul and is its own satisfaction. It should never demand payment. In the ideal State, doctors, lawyers and the like will work solely for the benefit of society, not for self.
Obedience to the law of bread labour will bring about a silent revolution in the structure of society. Men's triumph will consist in substituting the struggle for existence by the struggle for mutual service. The law of the brute will be replaced by the law of man.
Return to the villages means a definite voluntary recognition of the duty of bread labour and all it connotes.
God of Himself seeks for His seat the heart of him who serves his fellowmen. Such was Abu Ben Adhem. He served his fellowmen and therefore his name topped the list of those who served God.
Young India, 24-9-'25
But who are the suffering and the woe-begone? The suppressed and the poverty-stricken. He who would be a bhakta, therefore, must serve these by body, soul and mind. He who does not even condescend to exert his body to the extent of spinning for the sake of the poor and trots out lame excuses does not know the meaning of service. He who spins before the poor inviting them to do likewise serves God as no one else does. "He who gives me even a trifle as a fruit or a flower or even a leaf in the spirit of bhakti is my servant", says the Lord in the Bhagavadgita. And He hath His footstool where live "the humble, the lowliest and lost". Spinning, therefore, for such is the greatest prayer, the greatest worship, the greatest sacrifice.
Young India, 24-9-'25
Q: Would it not be better for a man to give the time he spends on the worship of God to the service of the poor? And should not true service make devotional worship unnecessary for such a man ?
A: I sense mental laziness as also agnosticisrf1 question. The biggest of Karmayogis never give up devotional songs or worship. Idealistically it may be that true service of others is itself worship and that such devotees do not need to spend any time in songs, etc. As matter of fact, Bhajans, etc. are a help to true service and keep the remembrance of God fresh in the heart of the devotee.
No work that is done in His name and dedicated to Him is small. All work when so done assumes equal merit. A scavenger who works in His service shares equal distinction with a king who uses his gifts in His name and as a mere trustee.
Young India, 25-11-'26
I cannot imagine anything nobler or more national than that for, say, one hour in the day, we should do the labour that the poor must do, and thus identify ourselves with them and through them with all mankind. I cannot imagine better worship of God than that m His name I should labour for the poor even as they do.
Young India, 20-10-'21
There can never be too much emphasis placed on work. I am simply repeating the gospel taught by the Gita where the Lord says, 'If I did not remain ever at work sleeplessly, I should set a wrong example to mankind.'
We should be ashamed of resting or having a square meal so long as there is one able-bodied man or woman without work or food.
Young India, 6-10-'21
Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love or Ahimsa. True love is boundless like the ocean and rising and swelling within one spreads itself out and crossing all boundaries and frontiers envelops the whole world. This service is again impossible without bread labour, otherwise described in the Gita as Yajna. It is only when a man or woman has done bodily labour for the sake of service that he or she has the right to live.
Young India, 20-9-'28