21 Oct Swabhava
What am I made for?
Devotedly engaged in one’s own work, man attains perfection.The Gita (18:45)
Provided we do want to work, one of the greatest sources of misery in life is to find the work that we can do happily. The work that we want to do may not be available to us. The work that is available to us may appear to us too easy, too difficult, uninteresting, or below dignity. In yoga, it is said that we should have no preferences for a particular work because what we do is not important; what matters is the attitude with which we do it. Work is only a simple and safe vehicle for spiritual growth. The attitude with which we work determines how far we are able to use work for the right purpose. Having said that, yoga does recognize that individuals are different, and therefore each individual seems to be made for certain types of work. Individual variation is partly due to the varying degrees to which the three modes of nature – tamas, rajas and sattwa – are expressed. However, from the point of view of the work, what matters are the unique strengths and weaknesses of the individual. The strengths and weaknesses depend partly on the predominant mode of nature expressed in the individual. The strengths and weaknesses are, in turn, the major determinants of the abilities, inclinations and temperament of the person, which are all summed up in the expression, swabhava (the essential nature or character of the individual). Each one of us has received some unique blessings, and nobody has all the blessings. The blessings include intelligence; physical strength; emotional sensitivity; compassion; creativity; a talent for art, music, speaking or writing; a strong intuitive sense, etc. Choosing work according to swabhava, or aptitude, means doing the work in which the person’s strengths are best used and his weaknesses do not matter. Matching the work to the swabhava still leaves a person fit for a wide variety of jobs. For example, a person with an aptitude for the healing professions can use his special gifts as a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, or counsellor. Therefore, when a person says that he is just not made for this or that, or is made for one specific work and nothing else, there are two possibilities. First, he may not know his own swabhava well. Secondly, swabhava may be used as an excuse to avoid the work that the person considers inappropriate because it is not as paying or prestigious as he wants his work to be. In both these situations, it becomes important to answer honestly to oneself the question whether the problem is really with swabhava. It is good to remember that work is only a vehicle, not the goal of life. If we know which way to go, any vehicle will take us there.