As everyone around us is busy exhibiting his or her professional success pretentiously, we are becoming more and more susceptible to replicating the professional decisions of others. Infatuation with travelling, global competition, parental pressures (especially in the developing world), and availability of numerous novel choices to the untrained mind may be some of the other distractions in selecting work according to our own aptitude. Besides, even if one has a well-defined area of interest, some skills may have turned obsolete in this age due to unavoidable influences such as automation and outsourcing. Formal training and diligence in work may not always appear to be paying off. In an environment more suited to the adaptable, the loyal may face disappointments. And when contribution is measured only by numbers, one may easily get persuaded to earn more at the cost of happiness. But what if you have a dream that does not align with mammoth bank accounts? What if your aspirations for being an artist or a teacher pull you towards a slower pace of life and a lower success rate? Should you still follow your dreams? Let us revisit this ageless dilemma, which has been answered repeatedly by many professionals, counsellors, spiritual gurus, and even saints, in the background of Hindu spirituality.
Dharma Supports a True Dream
Most of us may never experience a non-materialistic dream unless we couple lower levels of greed with an ability to explore what we want in life (besides money). In the way we define it, a 'dream in life' is a strong inner aspiration not bound by personal profit, and merely having one is itself a spiritual achievement. Because it is more selfless, it has to be relatively righteous. And because it is righteous, it will see support from the Divine, who loves supporting righteousness so much that he often incarnates on earth for it. And with the Lord supporting us, we can also expect the care of material nature and the universal energy that physically manifests as the energy due to gravity, the nuclear energy of stars, and the chemical energy in living cells. With such a backing, what can ever go wrong in following a dream?
Inner Wishes are Generated by Nature
As Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-Gita, he has installed mechanisms within us through which we are compelled to act in accordance with our instincts. Simply, we do not have a choice but to follow our nature. If we have identified a void in our life arising from a mismatch of our job with our evolving instincts, only exertion in the activity of our interest can fill this void. Just like it is difficult to own a dream, it is difficult to let go of it if we possess one. However, while our deeper interests, once they are unveiled by Mother Nature, eventually succeed in attracting us, we can temporarily turn obstinate and try to oppose the divine plan that has instructions for our own evolution.
The Happiness Factor
Even if our deeper interests are discovered late in life, our responsibilities do not allow us to follow our dreams in early life, or our affinity to profits is very strong, we can begin by spending a few moments from our lucrative job towards our dream. If these moments give us more happiness, we will voluntarily start offering more time to these new activities. And as we taste even higher levels of happiness, we may be encouraged to reassess our professional preferences and everyday schedule for something eternal.
Because dreams in life are guided by our true nature, following them triggers a simultaneous search for happiness, which is a permanent attribute of our inner nature. On the other hand, if we do not feel delighted in following our dreams, we probably have not connected to a dream.
We Carry Our Lessons Forward
From one birth to the next, reincarnation is a blessing that carries forward our lessons, karmic impressions, and instincts but leaves out the conscious memories of our karma. God probably hides details of karma from our past lives so that we do not transfer all the guilt of our wrong decisions from the past to the present to block our self-growth. With reincarnation in place, even with a limited lifespan, we have a long time ahead of us for learning and improving. Whether we succeed or fail in our endeavours, working in accordance to our nature is a lesson we would like to learn as soon as possible. Once we learn this, we will not have to learn it again, for Nature is perfect in keeping records. And no matter how many births we take, we will always find ourselves working in harmony with our inner nature. Besides, as an added surprise, once we learn to align ourselves with our inside, we may find that not many future rebirths remain in our 'work to be done' list.
All Material Achievements are Perishable
'Contribution to the world' is a vague concept in the context of spirituality. While exertion in certain areas of expertise, say technology and economics, may be labelled 'more significant' by the onlooker depending upon one's bias, their results, including all products and most discoveries, are equally perishable in time. Alternatively, after nurturing some happiness within by following our dreams, we can opt to transfer the energy of optimism from our heart to others. This propagation of positive vibrations through the universe may be a more real accomplishment. So if painting or music is what you like, go for it.
God is the 'Real Doer'
While God does everything, we take too long to understand this ' usually more than a few lifetimes. In fact, this is the final lesson in spirituality. Because following our interests sets the platform for Karma Yoga by teaching us to place aptitude above profits, we can speed up our journey to reach the spiritual plane where we recognize God as the real doer.** The levels of selflessness and joy generated by Karma Yoga can transfer us beyond all dreams. By being true to our self, we can allow our inner inspirations to guide us to the stage where all karma, including profession, are no longer significant. And truths never change as centuries pass.
**For more on how we can recognize God as the real doer, please see Devotional Hinduism: Creating Impressions for God by Mukul Shri Goel; published through iUniverse (Apr-2008).