A physician gave some rather whimsical advice to a patient who was an aggressive, go-getter type of businessman. Excusing himself, the businessman told the doctor what an enormous amount of work he had to do and that he had to get it done right away or else things would fall apart. He said, “I take my brief case home every night and it’s packed with work,” he said with nervous inflection.
“Why do you take work home with you at night?” the doctor asked quietly.
“I have to get it done,” he fumed.
“Can’t someone else do it, or help you with it?” asked the doctor.
“No,” the man snapped, “I am the only one who can do it. It must be done just right, and I alone can do it as it must be done, and it has to be done quickly. Everything depends upon me.”
“If I write a prescription, will you follow it?” asked the doctor.
This, believe it or not, was the prescription–His patient was recommended to take off half-day and spend that half-day in a cemetery.
In astonishment, the patient demanded, “Why should I spend a half-day in a cemetery?”
“Because,” answered the doctor, “I want you to wander around and look at the gravestones of people who are there. I want you to meditate on the fact that many of them are there because they thought even as you do, that the whole world rested on their shoulders. Meditate on the fact that when you get there, the world will still go on just the same &, as important as you are, others will be able to do the work you are now doing.”
The patient took the doctor’s prescription seriously and spent half a day in the graveyard. The graveyard experience was a deep reality check for him. He understood the quality of impermanence of his existence in this world and he contemplated deeply on his purpose of existence. For the first time, he became peaceful that there was more to life than just being caught in the spiral of work. It helped him stop fume and fret. He became more peaceful with himself and it gave him more mind space to think creatively to build a more competent & healthy organization & brought his business to a much better condition than before.
Many times we get caught in the trap of ‘only I can do this job well!’ Barring very few genuine reasons, most others stem from our endeavor to satisfy our ego condition- eg: fear of competition, fear that I might be sidelined if I don’t ‘do-it-all,’ or to be the best-in-class, to be recognized as the top performer, every-time; to show my own superiority over others, not to give the opportunity to others due to envy, to pretend busyness, to climb the ladder of success fastest, to beat all competing forces etc.
If we step apart from this maddening rigmarole and put our thinking hats on, we realize that there seems to be no end to this spiral. It seems to lure you with increasingly more success opportunities. Nothing boosts our ego condition more than achievement and honor. Inadvertently, we only crave for more & more and in this way, we get led on.
When I was doing my management studies, I was put through a ‘deathbed experience.’ I was to visualize that I was on my deathbed and had to recount my whole life experiences, whether it was a worthy life I led, what were my regrets, what did I want to be know for, what would I like my family and friends to remember me for. It was an eye opening exercise for me and I resolved that I will not be fascinated by ‘ego boosters.’ I wanted peace and contentment than more material accumulation or success.
Studies reveal that most people on their deathbed regret not spending more time with their family and loved ones. What is most amazing is the fact that no one regrets that he/she did not spend more time in the office!
As we are caught in our self-created work trap, let’s take some time off to contemplate whether what I am doing is lending meaning to my existence or I am going round in circles. What are worthy pursuits for me? How do I achieve perfection?
Radhanath Swami reveals that the answer lies in Vedic wisdom which concludes that the perfection of human existence is to die to all material connections and designations and to perform our duties in the spirit of service to fellow human beings and most importantly to the Lord.
He further iterates the fact that the false ego makes a person think, “I am the best, therefore how I perform my job must be the best, my family must be the best, my caste must be the best, my religion must be best and everything about me must be best.” This misconception of ‘I and mine,’ is the cause of great wars all over the world today.