Creativity in Action

From Head, Heart & Hands, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Your actions should be guided by the creative principles; they must become creative. Creativity is the beginning of attaining the positive qualities of hands. This is where the concept of karma yoga comes in. Perform actions, whether physical or mental, psychological or spiritual, do whatever you need to, but do not expect anything from your actions. Don't look at the outcome. Try to do your best and develop immunity to the responses of the behaviour or action.

Elation of non-expectation

When I first came to the ashram as a six-year-old boy, whenever Sri Swamiji would ask me to do something, I would run to finish the job and then go back to him. He would only ask, 'Completed the job?' I would say, 'Yes, Swamiji.' He would never say, 'Very good.' He would say, 'Okay, this is the next job.'

Much later, when I was older, I realized that after completing a job, my expectation was to receive a pat on the back. That was my expectation and I never received it. What I am indicating is that even with guru, there is expectation. When you work in society, there is of course expectation of money, recognition, name and fame, which is an even worse condition. But even with guru, when one is asked to do something, one may do it to the best of one's capability, but at the back of the mind the idea is, 'I hope Swamiji appreciates what I have done.' That was my expectation too. 'I hope he likes it. I hope he will pat me on the back and say, 'Niranjan you did very well.'' But it never happened. When I realized that this was my expectation, I became very alert. I said to myself, 'Hey, I'm expecting this. This is the result that I'm seeking from my karma. Not good.' The day I stopped thinking about it was the first time that Sri Swamiji patted me on the back.

Even in the life of a disciple, there is expectation. It applies to all of you, yet you give lectures saying, 'Don't expect anything.' You have expectations, yet you lecture everybody on non-expectation, because that is what is said in the Bhagavad Gita, this is what says Swami Sivananda, this is what says Swami Satyananda. Despite saying all that, deep inside, the need, the desire for results exists. Even swamis don't perfect karma yoga. I did not perfect karma yoga until I realized that I have certain expectations from my guru.

Transcending boredom

The law of improving your karma is that you do not identify with what you do, yet you give it your best shot, your full creativity. In my life as a sannyasin I have often lived a routine life, but I was never bored in any routine, but I see other people getting bored and fed up. 'I have to go to the same office every morning, see the same people, face the same problems . . .' all these thoughts come. 'The same job, the same table, the same boring work, writing vouchers and receipts day in and day out.' You get bored. When boredom sets in, creativity stops. When boredom sets in, mind management stops.

I have never been bored because right from the beginning I was very aware of a sutra that my guru gave to me to perfect yoga and I followed it. He said, 'Think of everything that you do as if you are doing it for the first and last time in your life. Think of every day as the first and last day of your life.' Even as a child I used to think every day, 'This is my first day in this life and whatever I do, I'm going to do with utmost perfection.' Many times I had to draft letters or do other such routine work necessary in the ashram, but I developed a pattern of thinking which I carry even today, 'Today is the first day of your life. Therefore, live it well, live it happily and with total creativity.' That is why even if I had to draft the same letter twenty times, I never got bored. Each draft for me was the first and the last one. I never got bored with any work, whether it was cleaning, classes, administration, working for Sri Swamiji or independently. This attitude also allowed me to put all my efforts towards doing the right thing in the proper and perfect way.

Developing a new perspective on performance

Karma yoga is actually an attitudinal change of how you look at situations, events and performance. When you are able to truly practise karma yoga, there is no dissatisfaction in life. What will dissatisfy you if everything is being done for the first time and you have given your full input to it? There is no question of dissatisfaction in this case.

Dissatisfaction is experienced when you feel that you have not done enough. Why did you not do enough in the first place? Either because you did not understand the work or you were lazy. Therefore, creativity is the trademark of the faculty of hands. To become creative, initially you have to make a conscious effort. Creativity cannot be achieved without conscious effort. However, such effort is required only for a certain period of time until you become conditioned in the new mentality. Once an attitudinal change comes about, you develop a new perspective on your performances in life.

—12 October 2010, Ganga Darshan, Munger