Work and Immersion || Acharya Prashant (2016)


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Listener 1: Last time we had talked about freedom. I had said that I find it easy to say, “No”, but I don’t know what to say, “Yes” to. It is difficult. You had advised me to do Neti-Neti and proceed. This need to immerse fully was coming from my present job, where the feedback I get is that I am not immersing myself fully. And I relate it to my conditioning, in the past, the bitterness that I hold, due to which I am saying no to a lot of things now. But you had said something later on, “The need to immerse fully is just a commandment of this industrial age, please remain doubtful.” Now when you say this, what emerges is that this in itself comes in the way of immersion, perhaps. That means I have not understood it fully.

Acharya Prashant: You see, immersion is not a cultivated thing. Of course, we all know immersion. It is something so simple, so ordinary; like holding a baby in your arms without any tension, there need not be any separation between you and the kid. That is immersion. The child may even be naked, even physically there is no separation, you too might be a mother, not wearing anything, and you are holding the baby to your chest; it is so simple, extremely obvious.

The mother is not even thinking of the baby. Mothers, and even fathers know that. The mother might actually be thinking of something else, but the baby is so close to the heart that even if the child skips one heartbeat, the mother comes to know. The mother might be thinking of miscellaneous matters. Like Kabir might be thinking of weaving, or the cloth, or the market, but not of Ram. When something is so near, why do you need to think of it? The mother might be thinking of the kitchen, the whistle of the pressure cooker. That is what she is thinking of and the baby is in her arms. It doesn’t make a difference. That is what immersion is.

Immersion does not come because you have been told to be immersed in your job. People who have been told to be immersed in their job, please see that they appear immersed because they have been told to. Now there is a motive for immersion. What is the motive? “I have been told to be immersed so I am immersed.” The one who is telling you is important, is probably an authority. Had he not told, would you still be immersed? Had you not been educated that ‘Work is life’ would you still say, “My claim to fame is that I am a committed worker”? And don’t you see how conditional all of this is? Working conditions change, your immersion changes. The commandment to ‘be immersed’ changes, then your immersion changes.

Further, what you call as ‘immersion’, even that is an image supplied by those who want you to be immersed. How do you know that a man is immersed?

L2: He enjoys it?

AP: How do you know that he is enjoying it? Enjoyment is a thing of the Heart.

There is a workplace, people are sitting on their workstations. How do you tell who is immersed?

L3: Probably they are more engaged and enjoying their work.

AP: I said, the baby could be closed to the mother’s heart and the mother might be thinking of the pressure cooker

L3: Management has devised indices for that.

AP: So those are productivity indices right? All the indices that the management has to measure your immersion, are actually just measurements of your productivity. Now, immersion will surely lead to an enhancement of productivity, at least most of the times, but can productivity itself be an indicator of engagement?

L: Absolutely not.

AP: It is. But what is the quality of that engagement? For example: You can measure speed. Speed can be taken as a matrix of your energy. And you are running very very hard. A camera has been zoomed in, the camera is just looking at you, and seeing in it, one would say, “That guy is really a hard runner, a very honest worker, see how hard he is running!” The camera is zoomed out a little and what we find is that you are being chased by a dog.

Now being chased by a dog, you are indeed very productive, running very fast. But what is the quality of your engagement? Would you say that this guy is a very engaged worker? Actually, technically he is quite engaged – engaged with the dog. But what is the quality of that engagement?

I want to ask you – Is immersion something partial? Is immersion something that comes to you only in a particular place? Is it something that is subject to the vagaries of seasons, moods, and times? A fellow who is not immersed otherwise in life, how can he be immersed in his work?

But you find great examples where the fellow has no relationship with his environment, with animals, with the roads, with the woman, with the kids, or with what is going on in the world, but he has great engagement with his job. A job to which he is linked only through an acceptance letter, and a job with which his relationship can be severed through a resignation letter.

With this job, he claims great engagement. With his own body, from which he can never resign, he has no engagement. With his heart, he has no engagement. I want to ask, what is the quality of engagement this fellow has with his work?

You are not engaged even to your kid. I am not even talking about some kid in Canada or Africa, I am talking of your own personal kid. You are not engaged even to him, and you are saying that you are a committed worker? What kind of lie is this? Of course, you appear engaged. Of course, you are productive, but all of that is just fear and greed. That’s all. Cultivated behavior, not something of the Heart.

Now, of course, your corporate masters want nothing of your heart. They want your behavior. They want your energy. They want your work. They will say, “Keep your heart where you want it to.” Or, “Don’t bring your heart here at all. We are not paying you for your heart. We want your mind, your intellect, your arms, your legs. That’s what we want. So show us your productivity. The deeper you display your productivity, the more we will call you as engaged and immersed.”

This is nonsense.

This is just like being engaged with the dog who is chasing you. There is a relationship surely; at that moment you are thinking of nothing but the dog. Just like the man sitting on his workstation may say, “Oh, you know, I think of nothing but my work.” Yes, he is right. That man chased by the dog thinks of nothing but the dog. That only shows how afraid you are, how greedy you are. And your corporate masters know how to fill your mind with fear, so as to derive productivity from you.

Engagement, immersion, is a totally different thing. Talking about ‘The observer and the observed’ we had said, “You are really close when you are free of fear.”

Without a deep internal motive, if you still continue to work as you are working, then you must know that there is immersion. Even when you know that you will not be paid a single paisa, still you continue to work with immersion, then you know that you are not tempted.

Not being instructed about ‘how to work’ and ‘how to display immersion’, if you are still immersed, then it is immersion.

Work comes later, the worker comes first.

The worker comes later, the Heart comes first.

So let work come from your Heart.

That is engagement.

And then don’t bother about how it is looking. Remember that mother. The mother might appear to be looking at the pressure cooker, but her heart is with the child.

You don’t need to pretend that you are very busy with your work. If your Heart is at the right place, right work will naturally flow from it. You won’t then do to display it to somebody. It would not then be a means of earning something. Now work is an expression of your Heart. And you do not bother about how it appears to others. You know what you are doing. You are not doing it for anybody else. You are doing it for yourself. It is your own personal thing. And personal in the right sense of the word. Not in the divided sense.

Now you are not doing it to please your boss. Now it is your own work, you have ownership. You don’t even have to really report. Because you are your own authority now. You cannot sleep properly if you know that you haven’t done the due. Why do you even need to go and tell somebody else? Somebody else might be easily deceived. And that’s what you do when you report to somebody else. It is very easy to deceive him, because you are the one who is reporting, you can misrepresent.

But when you are doing it from your Heart, then your Heart is the authority.

And it cannot be deceived.

That is real work.

That is real immersion.

Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Work and Immersion

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