07.15: Is the donkey the role model of the Gita?

by July 5, 2012

“Work is worship” is the central teaching of the Bhagavad-gita. So claim many people.

If they are right, then shouldn’t the donkey be the Gita’s role model?

But the Gita doesn’t refer to the donkey in laudatory terms even once. Quite to the contrary, it repeatedly refers to the donkey (mudha) in derogatory terms: as a metaphor to underscore the shortsightedness of people with no spiritual insight or interest.

The donkey is habituated to behave in a thoughtlessly self-torturous way. It carries gigantic loads for tiny rewards, lumps of grass that it could get even without carrying loads.

Similar, the Gita (7.15) says, are those people who strain their human intelligence and energy for bodily pleasures. They could have got the bodily pleasures of eating, sleeping mating and defending even without the advanced human intelligence, as do the animals. Thus, their labor is unnecessary and unbeneficial, as is that of the donkeys.

Make no mistake; this verse indicates and indicts the “work is worship” brigade. For the Gita, they are models, no doubt. But models to be avoided, not emulated.

Of course, the Gita does teach how we can make our work into worship. But that way is far different from the self-serving notion that our work itself is intrinsically, automatically worship.

That way begins by recognizing the enormous potential of human life as a launching pad from mortality to immortality.

To attain immortal life in Krishna’s imperishable abode, we need to devote quality time for exclusively worshiping Krishna. This singular devotion transforms our heart into an altar for the continuous worship of Krishna. With this inner sanctification when we engage in our worldly work, it too becomes sanctified. That and that alone transforms work into worship.



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