Krishna’s message on work-life balance

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Krishna’s message on work-life balance

Sunday, 23 June 2019 | Dr Asha Goswami

Krishna’s message on work-life balance

The Gita is the summary of factors which serve as essentials for maintaining good work-life balance, and the Mahabharata shows how those principles are applied in real life, writes Dr Asha Goswami

Krishna, through his teachings in the Gita as well as his addresses to the chief fighters in the Mahabharata war, such as Arjuna, Bhima, and Duryodhana, proved to be a great counsel on solving present age day-to-day’s problems. Krishna’s Karmayoga tending to be an optimistic way to life proves a concrete living methodology of life to the present day man. As it provides full instructions on his daily routine such as food, duties, thoughts, relationships, responsibilities whether personal or social. Accordingly, the title of Karma Shastra is also applied to the Gita as a practical guide for a man of action and a mandate for action. It is professed that through the practices of the Karma Yoga alone can one aspire all through perfection in one’s life. Besides, Krishna’s saga from the Mahabharata, Puranas, and Gita teachings provide several hints to present day mankind towards better management of work life and other things.

The five essential factors of work life management — efficiency, consistency, landing, controlling, and social bonding — which Krishna discusses in the Gita are also well-delineated in the narratives of the epic Mahabharata, describing its 18-day warfare in Kurukshetra, which illustrates the unitive programme of theory and action, since life is held similar to the battlefield Kurukshetra. The Gita is the summary of all those factors which serve as essentials for maintaining good work-life balance, and the Mahabharata shows how those principles are applied in practice.

However, a gist of these principles required for work-life balance is available in the opening chapter of the Gita titled ‘Arjuna-Vishada Yoga’, which presents to us the behavioural crisis of the chief fighter in the Mahabharata war, who has to manage the impending warfare. Under such circumstances, Krishna’s dialogue with Arjuna in the first chapter of Gita proves of great contingency for structuring managerial science in the form of the essentials (aspects) required for smooth (running of work-life balance) life. A person set on the path of life is just like Arjuna presented in such a position and the context with which the Gita begins the same day when the war was about to start, also sounds the same as a person starting his life.

Firstly, Krishna’s preaching of Yoga suggesting bonding of physical and psychological faculties sounds as effecting complete work life of present-day persons and making it harmonious and completely successful. As the Gita’s teachings provide scientific code of living, which guarantees success all through in one’s life affairs. It is stated that by developing a balanced mindset through the control of the forces of attraction and repression, and being in harmony with the world in the form of natural surrounding and fellow beings in all thoughts.

Krishna’s other teaching which is applicable in this regard is that a person should have full faith and confidence in oneself, which will add to personal strength and power and make him win over all obstacles in life with inner balance and calmness.

The Gita also suggests that a person’s life is divided on two fronts. One is limited to home where one has to perform one’s intrinsic individual activities, while one’s workplace is the second home where one has to spend most of the day time for performing vocational duties, which may also be close to his intrinsic nature. Accordingly, a person should bracket both these activities (relating to home and workplace) as a single unit and treat both the premises as one’s operational field or karma kshetra, which is named Kurukshetra in the Gita, and treat both these with great value and importance, and not neglect either of the two and manage house and office, ie life and work, in proper balance on equal levels. Further, the Gita’s suggestion that a person has to be well-versed in his professional sphere and should be well-disciplined also sounds helpful for present-day people to manage work life in a better manner.

Besides, the opening chapter of the Gita also provides many perspectives on the work-life balance separately in the speeches of both Arjun and Duryodhana. Firstly, on the management of things like administration, organising events, Duryodhana’s words provide helpful guidelines. These focus on the one major perspective of human life — affairs.  Duryodhana is stated to have first made the survey of the army on both sides and given his assessment about the same to his teacher Drona. He was apprehensive of the strength of the opposite party, yet he impressed upon his preceptor Drona that he is more skillful and better than the fighters in the opposition. Similarly, a person set on his life affairs should not be led away by his weaknesses, rather he should be confident about his abilities to face the situation. Here, Duryodhana’s speech illustrates a person’s faith in personal strength and also his belief that he is loved and respected everywhere by everyone in society. His state of mind is also positive as he looks upon his own army as unconquerable by enemy.  While according to him, the army of the enemies is conquerable.

The other prospective on life-work balancing technique can be traced in the words of Arjuna, which he addressed to Krishna after surveying from a distance the well-managed army of his opponent. Thus, it is evident that both Arjuna and Duryodhana treat the same situation of life affairs in a completely different way. One treats the job in hand or the current karma to be executed in association with his friends and relatives in opposition, while the other sees his action to be performed along with his friends and relatives only and not as the enemies in opposition.

Here, Arjuna’s review of his work-life or karma led him to believe that it was in confrontation with his friends and relatives with whom he was bound. Krishna’s advice to Arjuna at this juncture helps such type of man who is perplexed with regard to the right and wrong action under certain circumstances. According to the Gita lessons, he has to properly understand the complexities and the dynamics of karma or action. Just like Arjuna, in one’s life also, sometimes personal karma becomes easily involved with the action of friends, relatives, as well as enemies. As a result, one’s work is easily tarnished with the prejudices, both conventional and personal. 

According to Krishna, another guideline for managing work-life balance is that “while involved in life affairs of individual life, either vocational or social, one must be cautious that behind every action there is a will and behind every will there is a valued judgment”. It is also further stated that the desire which supports one’s action arises out of mind, which is a store-house of thoughts and ideas, memories, and pairs of opposite feelings like love-hate, pleasure and pain, and that everything one feels and desires is conceived in the mind only. Krishna, in the Gita, summed up his guidance to present-day man on work-life balance that one may manage it by combining personal and social life and work together and discharge all these activities with excellence, keeping in mind that such activities bring in a sense of togetherness and not that of exclusiveness.

The writer is a noted Indologist and authority on Krishnaite Studies

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