We grew in an environment which was surrounded by people who kept preaching us all through that ‘work is worship’ and somewhere in our inner self it got imbibed that we live to work and there is no escape from work. The meaning of work changed according to time, for a child it was to go to school, learn and study and perform best in the examinations. After studies it was to get a job and work as per the nature and requirements. So the school and the workplaces were believed to be temples. Temples where we worshiped our work, temples where we were allowed to meditate, temples where we were groomed and mentored by experienced and learned people, temples which helped us build ourselves, temples where we could find our call, temples where we learnt and discovered the purpose of our life. These were places where we met different types of people and we learnt to deal with them to their and our satisfaction. We debated, argued and quarreled on some petty issues as well as on some soul searching topics. We learnt to perform our dharma, as desired by society, as instructed by teachers and bosses, as allowed by our conscience and as designed by the destiny.
It has been a great learning experience. Learning that has enthused a sense of ownership as well as of responsibility to respond to the call through honest and transparent intention. The voluminous weight that we carried in our school bags, forth and back, with complete (or incomplete at times) homework, volumes of books from the rich library that we referred, quoted and cited have left us without their physical presence (sthool) and the experiences, knowledge and wisdom (sookshm) has occupied space in our minds to take wise decisions in the interest of all beings, in the interest of the well-being of all. The interests for the benefit of all in the long term, may be at times to compromise on the short term gains. Wisdom has to direct and lead the process of decision making without bias and/or malice.
An individual sets goal and starts or joins an organization to help him/her achieve that goal. Matching of organizational goal and individual goal does a magic and one forgets where work ends and life begins. Work becomes worship in the real sense of the term. It reminds me of LP Jacks who in 1932 wrote this wonderful piece:
‘A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.’
As organizations or our workplaces grow, we grow as well. We do not just age, we grow. We start seeking space in organizations to grow through our commitment, loyalty and performance. Slowly expectations start taking backseat and trust, belief and loyalty take lead. Slowly monetarily gains become secondary and work satisfaction become primary. Slowly it starts hurting when someone from beyond the organization talks ill of our organization. Slowly focus from maximizing profit through selling more gets shifted to serving better value to all stakeholders. Slowly concern for organizational goal becomes primary and for individual goal secondary and further organizational and individual goal converge at one point. Tangibility (sthool) gets replaced by intangibility (sookshm). Individuals become organization and organization transcends into an eternal entity.
For me workplace spirituality begins with this conception.
[The author is Professor of HR at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]