Two Ways Fruitive Work Is Painful

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Fruitive work, in which almost all people in general are engaged, is always painful either in the beginning or at the end. It can be fruitful only when made subservient to the devotional service of the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita also it is confirmed that the result of such fruitive work may be offered for the service of the Lord, otherwise it leads to material bondage.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.12 Purport)

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1. In the beginning

“This was probably the most nervous I was in my entire life. Words cannot describe it. Looking back on it now, the concern was silly. I had accomplished many similar tasks previously. I had made it through the various assignments in that particular class. I was placed in an advanced group, because I had done so well.

“The fear was there, nonetheless. I had procrastinated long enough. The key was to finally get started, but that had been put off until near the end. Approaching the deadline, if everything didn’t go properly at the outset, I was risking total failure.

“Sure, everything ended up well. I completed the assignment. The daunting task was made easier through steady progression, but I will never forget that nervous feeling. I want to avoid that happening again, in the future, if at all possible.”

2. At the end

“Seriously, I worked so hard to put everything together. I am not good with my hands. There is a reason I sit in front of a computer for a living. I can type. I can input keystrokes. I can handle mental challenges. If there was ever a competition for who could contemplate the most, I would be the champion of legendary accomplishment.

“But building anything by hand is nearly impossible for me. Sadly, no one else was around. I had to do it myself. This was to keep the members of the family happy. The children needed an outlet for their energy. The backyard had plenty of space, and this new play facility would occupy their time.

[backyard playground]“I don’t know how, but I got everything done. Sweat, tears, and even a little blood. I was so proud of my accomplishment that I took a picture of the finished product, to savor the memory.

“That happiness was short-lived. Today, everyone complains. One person gets hurt by jumping off when they shouldn’t. Another argues about not getting their fair turn at play. The rain damages the wood. The birds cause a mess that requires constant cleaning.

“I think I was happier before I put in the effort. The success ended up being a colossal failure. I wish I could use a time machine and go back. Let them complain. At least that was only sound. Today, I have to keep working just to prevent others from driving me crazy.”

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that fruitive work is always painful. This is the nature of karma. Karma is the natural way following birth in the material world. It is as simple as action and reaction. The consequences may not manifest immediately, and there is no guarantee as to the duration once they do arrive.

अदृष्टगुणदोषाणामध्रुवाणां तु कर्मणाम्
नान्तरेण क्रियां तेषां फलमिष्टं प्रवर्तते

adṛṣṭaguṇadoṣāṇāmadhruvāṇāṃ tu karmaṇām
nāntareṇa kriyāṃ teṣāṃ phalamiṣṭaṃ pravartate

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

The reality is that work takes place, all the same. A person can try to stop everything. They can retire to a distant cave. They can sit in meditation, not doing anything. If they still have a taste for objects of the senses, however, it is like they are pretending.

कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य
य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन्
इन्द्रियार्थान् विमूढात्मा
मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya
ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

Similar to how years of poor habits in eating and exercise lead to long-term health problems, consistent engagement in fruitive work has the inauspicious result of rebirth. To be stuck in the cycle of birth and death is bondage.

Liberation is the opposite, and fortunately there is a way to use fruitive work to achieve liberation. We simply offer the results of such work to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the beginning, this is karma-yoga, but with a gradual purification of consciousness the same work turns into bhakti-yoga.

The same work might still be painful, especially in the beginning. It is like poison at the start, then nectar at the end. The sacrifice is worth the effort. The reward is of a different nature.

यत् तद् अग्रे विषम् इव
परिणामे ’मृतोपमम्
तत् सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तम्

yat tad agre viṣam iva
pariṇāme ’mṛtopamam
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam

“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)

As far as practical implementation, I may currently work at a computer, running computations, fixing code, engaging with others. I can take the same work but change the beneficiary. I could also follow the exact same work but offer up the positive consequences for a transcendental purpose, such as building a house of worship, assisting others in their worship, purchasing transcendental literature, or contemplating the link everything has to the original source.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Otherwise, my work will continue to be painful. I will have short-term victories accompanied by the looming renewal of responsibilities. I will face the dread of total destruction at the time of death. On the yoga side, Shri Krishna is there to help. He rewards sacrifice with eventual release from the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

Gaining eventual release,
From the struggles a relief.

Work linked to Him when,
Taking a different nature then.

Perhaps like poison to feel,
But process eventually to heal.

Such that nectar in abundance to flow,
Since everything for Krishna to go.

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1 reply

  1. Radhe Radhe ❤️ oshriRadhekrishnaBole ❤️🔥 Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
    Jay Jay Shree Siya Ram

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