This morning I was reading in Bede Griffiths’ book River of Compassion a teaching from the Gita about work. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work.”
Griffiths explains that “We must do our work…doing whatever work we are required to do, but without seeing a reward; that is, we must get rid of egoism.” The ego, he explains is “always seeks a reward; whatever it does, it does for a selfish purpose. If we can remove the selfish purpose, not see the reward, then our work no longer binds us”.
I think that this teaching flies in the face of all that we know to be true in today’s culture. It deals with the need to have one’s labors compensated, for the need for recognition and praise, and for the need to know that one’s efforts lead to success that can be measured.
A while back I listened to a speech by a renowned leader in the peace movement. She acknowledged that there was little to show that the efforts of those who had worked so hard to bring peace to the world. But she said, “Hope is when you keep doing the work because it is the right work to do. It is letting go the outcome of one’s actions because one’s actions are in harmony with God’s plan for the world.” I have had to recall her message many times since when I chose to continue doing a thing even though I could not see the positive results I desired. It has been difficult to love when love is not returned, to do labor when it is not recognized, to give a gift without thanks. But I am getting better. In fact, not getting the reward has turned into the reward itself, for it enables me to go forward with my day to day life doing what I believe is right and good without inhibition. As such, I think I am a more useful servant of God to do his work in the world.