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Once there was a saint who lived in the Himalayan forests. He lived in an ashram deep in a beautiful jungle where he spent his time in meditation and looking after the ashram.

Once a traveler came upon the saint and the ashram while trekking through the Himalayas. The young man started talking to the saint about the spiritual life. The young tourist asked him, “What did you do before you became enlightened?”

The saint replied, “I used to chop wood and carry water from the well.”

The man then asked, “What do you do now that you have become enlightened?” The answer was simple. The saint replied, “I chop wood and carry water from the well.”

The young man was puzzled. He said, “There seems to be no difference then. What was the point in going through all those years of sadhana in order to attain enlightenment if you still spend your days doing chores and menial tasks?”

The Master replied, “The difference is in me. The difference is not in my acts, it is in me: because I have changed, all my acts have changed. Their significance has changed The prose has become poetry, the stones have become sermons and matter has completely disappeared. Now there is only God and nothing else. Life now is liberation to me, it is nirvana.”

So many people complain, “My job is not spiritual.” Or “How can I live a spiritual life while I have to care for children and a family?”  The answer to a spiritual life is not in WHAT you’re doing, but in HOW you’re doing it. How attached are you to the details of what you’re doing or how focused is your mind on God? Have stones become sermons? A spiritual life is not about renouncing work or renouncing chores or renouncing tasks that we may see  as “beneath us.”  Rather, a spiritual life is about turning these tasks into tapasya, turning jobs into joy, turning stress into sadhana. This is a spiritual life.

People tend to think: first I’ll complete my householder years and then I’ll turn myself to God. Yes, in our culture, one dedicates one’s life after retirement to God, to simplicity, to seva, to spirituality. But, you don’t have to wait until you’ve retired in order to attain that glorious state. You can attain it while living IN the world. It’s all a matter of the mind. Are you counting cars in front of you before you reach the tollbooth on the highway or are you counting the names of the Lord in your mind? Are you reciting lists of things to be done when you get home from the office, or are you reciting God’s holy name? Is your tongue speaking angry remarks at your family, your co-workers and your neighbors or are you speaking only pure, calm, peaceful words?

Attaining enlightenment does not mean being out of the world or away from tasks. It means being IN the world, but not OF the world. It means DOING tasks, but not BEING the tasks.

Let us try – today – as we complete our daily routine to ask ourselves, “How would this routine be different if I were enlightened? How would my attitude change? How would my actions change?” Let us then pray to God for the strength to act accordingly. Then we’ll know that we’re really living a spiritual life, not merely relegating it to a few moments alone in the mandir at the end of the day.


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