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The Secret of Work

--by Swami Vivekananda (Feb 27, 2012)


Whatever we do, we want a return. We are all traders. We are traders in life, we are traders in virtue, we are traders in religion. And alas! we are also traders in love.

If you come to trade, if it is a question of give-and-take, if it is a question of buy-and-sell, abide by the laws of buying and selling. There is a bad time and there is a good time; there is a rise and a fall in prices: always expect the blow to come. It is like looking at the mirror. Your face is reflected: you make a grimace — there is one in the mirror; if you laugh, the mirror laughs. This is buying and selling, giving and taking.

We get caught. How? Not by what we give, but by what we expect. We get misery in return for our love; not from the fact that we love, but from the fact that we want love in return. There is no misery where there is no want. Desire, want, is the father of all misery. Desires are bound by the laws of success and failure. Desires must bring misery.

The great secret of true success, of true happiness, then, is this: the man who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish man, is the most successful. It seems to be a paradox. Do we not know that every man who is unselfish in life gets cheated, gets hurt? Apparently, yes. "Christ was unselfish, and yet he was crucified." True, but we know that his unselfishness is the reason, the cause of a great victory — the crowning of millions upon millions of lives with the blessings of true success.

Swami Vivekananda in "Work and Its Secret"

 


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18 Previous Reflections:

 
On Sep 1, 2015 harika wrote:

 



On Jun 18, 2014 swetha wrote:

 what are two ways in which we can work without excepting anything in return



On Mar 1, 2012 Dinesh wrote:

Yuka Saionji joined us this week to share her personal journey, learnings from her remarkable work around the power of prayer, and offer some uplifting stories in response to 3/11's tsunami in Japan.  Below are the audio clips from the gathering ...



On Feb 29, 2012 renu wrote:
 Is it really about not having any expectations?  Expectations are intrinsic to human beings, it is the fabric of us.  For generations we have been hearing about unselfishness or no expectations... I have not come across anyone personally... REad about a few but I haven't lived with them to really authenticate what I have read.  I am realising and understanding now that the place of contentment is to able to identify what the other (matter of life) is capable of giving/delivering and then aligning one's expectation... easier said than done, but not impossible.....

On Feb 29, 2012 Paawan wrote:
My kids .... everything that I do for them ! 

On Feb 28, 2012 Ganoba wrote:
 when I do something expecting a certain outcome,more often than not i end up feeling disappointed. even when the outcome is achieved the joy is short lived and doubt sets in, "could it have been better, if I had done this that or the other?" There is no answer to this hypothetical question although an endless debate may ensue.
On the other hand when I do something because " that is the way I am"I am always happy and stress free. The results take care of themselves. They are dependent anyway on many factors other than my effort.
I don't know whether this is selfish or unselfish. That would depend on how one defines self.

On Feb 28, 2012 Yolanda de Zuloaga wrote:
Give and take are done simultaneously and yet are a paradox inside a dual epistemology but if we try to see and live from a non-dual point of view? Then any act of giving become a nutritive act, and desire will not be any more considered a lack of something but a vital force emerging from "caosmos" to be experienced in a pre-self body/spirit sensation.

On Feb 28, 2012 Subrata wrote:
 Real love should not expect anything in return. Real love is painful, although you enjoy the pain of love. What return you get is decided by someone up there.

On Feb 27, 2012 Matthew wrote:
 "To love is not to ask anything in return, not even to feel you are giving something -- and it is only such love that can know freedom."
- J. Krishnamurti

On Feb 27, 2012 Anamicah wrote:
 I have been thinking about this exactly this subject the past few days. Coincidentally I spent the weekend at a tribal interaction center which is setup by a follower of Swami Vivekananda,  and just this morning, I saw a link on a friends FB page that was part of a speech Swami Vivekananda made in Chicago at the turn of last century. 
Today I received this in my inbox as an answer to the questions I've been asking myself. Fortunately, it came when I was about to do something that would be very hurtful to someone I love. am going to attempt to put aside expectation this time and next time and the next... constant consciousness is the only way it will work. I thank you for bringing this to me today!

On Feb 24, 2012 David Doane wrote:
A favorite quote of mine is Sheldon Kopp's "I only get to keep that which I am prepared to give up.  In Western terms, Virtue is its own reward.  There is no hope of redemption in doing Good in order to be saved.  Only by doing Good for its own sake, without seeking reward, can we attain Salvation."   Vivekananda is right that we get caught by expectation.  The challenge is to give or do because that is what I want to give or do, not to get something in return, which, of course, is manipulation.  Vivekananda is incorrect in suggesting that every person who is unselfish gets cheated, gets hurt.  It could happen, of course -- there's never a guarantee of outcome.  But the outcome is not the thing to focus on -- if the giving is pure, is without expectation, the satisfaction/joy is in the giving -- anything more is bonus. 

On Feb 24, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 Perhaps the most meaningful statement I have ever heard is reduce, and /or eliminate desire.  When I first heard it I wondered why the one who said it desired to tell others.  I later found that when we are all one, that particular part of the one was expressing his experience.  His experience has been very useful for me although I still desire not to desire which, of course, is a desire.  As has been said, the way that can be said is not the way.  What can be said about the one other than "one is."  When one extinguishes desire one has a way to peace.  As Gandhi said: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way."  That leads me to believe there is no way to reducing desire.  Reducing desire is the way.  There is no give and take because giving and taking are one and are done simultaneously. That seems to be paradoxical.. Warm and kind regards to everyone.

On Feb 24, 2012 Thierry wrote:

There may be more to trade than mere gamble on the rise and fall of market prices, more to it than sheer gain or loss.  Trade is often the only means of survival  for a multitude of  people all over the world. On the market places, bazaars and souks of the world one finds as many people capable of unexpected decency, fairness, honesty in their dealings as the contrary. And even in our affluent society a commercial contract, termed ' loyal and merchant', is expected to be 'honoured'. If those words have any meaning, they refer, first and foremost, to moral if not spiritual values. So one has to be clear, if one engages in trade, that the contract involved is a moral contract, that a loan is not a gift, that a debt is a debt, that one has obligation.&  See full.

There may be more to trade than mere gamble on the rise and fall of market prices, more to it than sheer gain or loss.  Trade is often the only means of survival  for a multitude of  people all over the world. On the market places, bazaars and souks of the world one finds as many people capable of unexpected decency, fairness, honesty in their dealings as the contrary. And even in our affluent society a commercial contract, termed ' loyal and merchant', is expected to be 'honoured'. If those words have any meaning, they refer, first and foremost, to moral if not spiritual values.
So one has to be clear, if one engages in trade, that the contract involved is a moral contract, that a loan is not a gift, that a debt is a debt, that one has obligation. 
In the same way, one must be clear that giving is never a contract, can never give rise to any claim, that the one who receives is not indebted to the one who gives. Giving is something one does freely, not pressed by circumstances, not tied by a word given. One may stop giving as naturally as one has given. Because the original impetus is gone. Because a certain giving, appropriate in a certain life context  becomes inappropriate when that context changes. As one cannot account for what one has received one cannot account for what one has given. 
Giving owes nothing to morality, good social behavior. If one does'nt like the word spiritual  one may say the act itself is natural, spontaneous. If one takes spiritual pride in giving, off goes spontaneity. Muslims distinguish between the legal giving, 'Zakat', which is a religious obligation and the giving from the heart which is spontaneous. They also say that the proper way for the giver to give alms is to give with his hand turned upwards so that the receiver is not humiliated and understands that circumstances being different the giver might well be the beggar.

 

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On Feb 24, 2012 Ricky wrote:

When I conditionally love on the plane of ego existence, there is sorrow, disbelief, loneliness, grief.  When I get a glimpse of Love on the expansive universal plane of Indra's net, there is calming bliss.  When steeped in expectations from the fruits of my actions, I am miserable with anticipation and stuck outside santosha, contentment.  When actively practicing setting the fruits of my actions free without grasping onto results, aparigraha, through the expression of my chosen work, I am open, approachable, softened, peaceful, love-filled.  A paraphrased passage in the Bible speaks about not being of the world with all it's trappings.  Right now is exactly when I want to be, steeped in the world, to share experiences with other blessed beings within this finite snapshot of existence.   See full.

When I conditionally love on the plane of ego existence, there is sorrow, disbelief, loneliness, grief.  When I get a glimpse of Love on the expansive universal plane of Indra's net, there is calming bliss.  When steeped in expectations from the fruits of my actions, I am miserable with anticipation and stuck outside santosha, contentment.  When actively practicing setting the fruits of my actions free without grasping onto results, aparigraha, through the expression of my chosen work, I am open, approachable, softened, peaceful, love-filled.  A paraphrased passage in the Bible speaks about not being of the world with all it's trappings.  Right now is exactly when I want to be, steeped in the world, to share experiences with other blessed beings within this finite snapshot of existence.  Love without expectation brings pure joy, and that joy set free to share with another...the continuous ride upon the mobius strip.    

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On Feb 23, 2012 manyam wrote:
Can you give love without receiving it? The conventional wisdom in India from the ages of Bhagavadgita has been that suffering and disappointment comes from expectations. Expect nothing in return and you are truly freed and you are peaceful as a monk. There is deep truth in that but when it comes to love can be it stil true? Would we be able to give love without ever receiving in return. Wouldn't expecting something in return be the catalyst for giving more of it? Would you even know what giving love is when you don't expect to receive it or how to receive it?