Work is Worship
In modern society it is generally believed that work and worship are two distinct activities - one involves activities done in workplace - the office, the factory or the fields; the second is done in a ritualistic manner in any religious place - the temple, mosque, synagogue or church. The feeling is that work is something we do to earn money; and we worship to get the blessings of our personal God. However, the proverb ‘Work is Worship’ combines the idea of work and worship. Let us see how and when these two are related with the example of the honey bee.
There is research that shows examples of super-organisms which exhibit behavior such that they put the best interest of the group ahead of their own. Honey bees are one of those super-organisms that display this behavior - a worker bee works tirelessly collecting nectar that is required for the survival of its compatriots. Many a times I have stood watching a bee tirelessly go about its job - hopping from one flower to another collecting nectar, and also in the process ensuring the survival of many plant species, besides its own species. The phrase 'Work is Worship' that I had memorized as a proverb in my younger days seems to come true every time I watch this spectacle of the bee.
What is Work
Is work really akin to worship for us humans too, or is praying to the Almighty in the ritualistic manner the true worship? To understand this, let us examine the definitions of work and worship. Work is defined as any activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. By this definition, we are constantly engaged in work, whether we are conscious of this fact or not. Many of us have no problem understanding the conscious part but are not comfortable with that part of work that we undertake without being conscious of it.
Acts of breathing, digesting, blinking of our eyes, the process of decay of old cells in our body and the growth of new cells to replace them, etc. are all examples of work that is undertaken by us, without our conscious effort. The second part of the definition of work talks about achieving 'a purpose or result'. All of the activities listed above, even though they are done unconsciously by us, are thus work. Any activity that is undertaken with no purpose or result in mind would thus not be classified as work, as per the definition.
The following has been attributed to Lord Krishna in the Hindu religious book, the 'Gita' - "To work alone you have the right, but never to the fruits thereof. Be thou not attracted by fruits of actions , and yet, not become passive or inactive". This is one of the ways to reach one's ultimate destination, as per Hinduism and this path is known by the name of Karma Yoga. What Karma Yoga implies is that we only have the right to work, and we should always be engaged in it actively, and should not be doing this work for the results. In other words, we should be doing work all the time, but without consideration of rewards or benefits.
This can also be interpreted to mean that the mental and/ or physical energy are being expended without consideration of its purpose or result. In such work the expending of the mental and physical energy would no longer be aimed towards achieving something and can thus not be classified as work, but more as an act or offering, like in worship. Let us try to understand as to what is worship before we proceed any further.
What is Worship
Worship is defined as, "The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity". So worship is something that we do out of a feeling of profound awe and respect and often love; veneration, towards a deity, or our personal God. This worship does not demand any thing in return and is not done with an aim of results or expectation, but is undertaken more as an act of gratitude; love; offering or veneration towards the Creator.
Can work thus ever become worship?
How Work can become Worship
Keeping all of the above in mind, I do believe that any activity that is undertaken out of deep love, respect, veneration towards our personal God, without consideration of results would qualify for being termed as worship. The type of work does not matter in this. One could be the CEO of a company or the cleaning person in the company - it is the attitude with which the work is performed that is important. When activities are undertaken with love, veneration and respect, and as an offering to the Almighty, they qualify for being called worship. The example of the bee is very illustrative - it keeps doing its job of collecting nectar from flowers and taking it back to the hive, irrespective. It is in its nature to do this work; it does not worry about the result of its work, or the work of other bees - as it instinctively knows that the results are in the hands of someone far superior or in the hands of the One who is Omnipresent and Omniscient.
A Poet's thought.
"Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy".
---------- Kahlil Gibran
Quotes from the Past.
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
------------------ Henry David Thoreau
There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.
------------------ Mother Teresa
Let the bees become our role models to transform our work in to a form of worship where-in the results of our work are no longer important to us. The only thing important to us is the desire to do our best while doing the work, out of reverence, adoration and love for the work itself. Then we would surely be able to live up to the proverb that "Work is Worship". Indeed.