A student once asked, “Swamiji, my board exams are nearing. I feel stressed out. Please help me out.” We all have similar questions in our minds. If we look around and check, it is not hard to see that our generation is more prone to stress in comparison to our parents’ generation. What could be the reason? Are we working harder than our elders?
Though our elders had to toil more, they were healthier. Money was less and so were the demands. People used to suffer more from infectious diseases like diarrhea, cholera, malaria, etc compared to lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, BP, gastritis, acidity, obesity, stress, depression, etc.
The situation has now reversed and even though modern science and technology have made our life easier, we are less healthy and more stressed. Even if we look at the diseases, lifestyle disorder has become more common than the infectious diseases. This entire scenario thus proves that hard work and lack of technology or money are not the cause of stress and other ailments. What is it, then?
Let’s go back to the student who had asked a question to Swamiji on exam stress. While answering the student, Swamiji counter questioned him, “does getting stressed out help you study better?” The answer of course was “no”. We all understand and often have experienced that by taking stress over something we ruin the task instead of accomplishing it.
The one indefectible formula Swamiji gave to the student to overcome stress was a ‘formula of NATO’. This very much sounds akin to the “North Atlantic Treaty Organisation”, but the abbreviation here stands for “Not Attached To Outcome”. Shree Krishna says in the Gita:
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||
karmany-evadhikaras te mā phaleshu kadachana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur ma te sango stvakarmani
Bhagavad Gita 2.47
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.”
We are so focused on the results that we forget to put in our best efforts. Instead, if we focus on our efforts, the outcome would naturally be good. We need to detach ourselves from the results of our actions. We can create the sentiment that whatever we do, we are doing it for the pleasure of God. This helps us to get rid of stress. If the desired result does not manifest, nevertheless we should not feel disheartened. We should improve our efforts.
Often people feel that detachment from results will restrain them from giving their best. Here is a story to resolve this concern. Tansen was a great singer. He performed in the court of Badshah Akbar. One day, the emperor asked, “Tansen, you sing so well. Who is your Guru?” The great singer responded that his Guru was Haridas Thakur. Akbar expressed his desire to meet Tansen’s Guru. In disguise, they set off to Vrindavan. They met Haridas Thakur there. Tansen started playing the Tanpura. He deliberately made mistakes. Upon seeing this, Haridas said, “My child, this is not the way. Let me teach you.” He then took the Tanpura and started playing it. On hearing this Akbar was mesmerized. He asked Tansen, “Why don’t you sing like your Guru?” Tansen replied politely, “It should have been evident, Your Majesty. I sing for the king of the nation. But my Guru sings for the King of the universe. His inspiration is Divine and much higher than mine, thus the result is also Divine and of superior quality.”
This story very precisely depicts how dedicating our results to God enhances our skills. It betters our efforts. When we think that the work is being done for God, we strive for perfection.
Here are a few examples of cultivating divine sentiments as per your profession:
- As a student, think that you are doing group studies with Shree Krishna.
- As an architect, think every design of yours to be the home of God.
- As a parent, view your children as children of God. Think that He has entrusted you with the responsibility of nurturing His children.
- As a parent of a special child, think that you are serving God in this form.
- As a teacher, think of every child to be Shree Krishna or Radha Rani.
- As a doctor, think of yourself to be treating the Almighty Lord.
- If you are into business, always remember that this business is God’s. Hence, whatever money you earn, apart from your basic necessities, donate them to God.
These are just a few examples. We can inculcate divine sentiments in every action of ours. Like Saint Kabir said:
जहाँ जहाँ जाऊँ सोई परिक्रमा, जो कछु करूं सो सेवा।
जब सोउँ तब करूं दंडवत, पूजूँ और न देवा ॥
Jaha jaha chalun karu parikrama, jo kachhu karoon so seva
Jab soun karoon dandavat, janun dev na dooja.
‘As I walk, I think I am circumambulating God. Every action of mine is a service to Him. When I sleep I think I am offering my prostrate obeisance to the Lord. I know nothing but my God.’
The tonic for living a stress-free life is the sentiment of “Not Attached To Outcome” plus the habit of dedicating the outcome to God. This will definitely free us from stress and also help us in achieving a happy and healthy life.