Sloth, or laziness, considered as one of the deadly sins in Christianity, was a prominent feature of my personality. Since my early days I loved to escape everything that needed any effort. I would be dependent on everyone, other than myself, to take care of the work needed to be done to make things easy and comfortable in the house and for myself, totally unexpected from a daughter in an Indian family. My mother was doing all the needful work for me such as washing and arranging my clothes, taking care of my school accessories etc. Seeing my way of living anyone would say that I was a pampered child and a spoiled brat.
Not knowing anything about household work I got married and started living with my in-laws. The kind of habits I was living with, was one of the toughest period of not only my life but also for my new family i.e. my husband and in-laws. My- mother in law and my husband fitted in the entirely other category of working habits, as compared to my art of work. They were almost perfectionist. I knew that to come even close to their expectations would be like climbing Mount Everest for me.
Learning each moment the science of work was the beginning of my new sadhana. My mother-in-law, whom I used to call Ma, now became my new guide. I started learning to do household work by working with her and helping her with the cleaning, cooking and organizing everything in the house. In the beginning, it was hard to surrender and it was easy to acquiesce to everything asked for. But gradually I picked up Ma's way of working and got attuned to the new demands of life. Working for my family had slowly become more or less worship for me. Gradually, I picked up her way of working. Now she just liked my work, the way it was meant to be done in the house.
In Pune we had a separate family kitchen. I was assigned to prepare food for Ma, Daddaji (my father-in-law) and Shailendra ji. Not even a single day passed by when Ma would not point out my mistake, which was too often. I used to feel really hurt, being pointed out and not being as efficient as Ma. There were two options before me, either I change everyone or I change myself, which I knew would make all my loved ones happy, and make me feel more contended. Well, I declined in favor of the latter as it is just a little easier than the former and more gratifying too. One more reason to cajole myself and push myself to work was that at least I was learning something that would groom me and make my husband pleased and proud. More importantly, I always had immense love and respect for Ma as she was not only the mother of my husband but also the mother of my Master, Osho. It was hurting me more to see her in pain, whenever I became laid-back.
I recollect a few incidents that were like everyday affairs i.e. me being not up to the mark like, for example, if I would cook something and leave the food open, Ma would immediately point out and say, "You have not covered the dish." I had the same answer, I was about to cover it in a minute. Ma would reply, "Mosquito's and flies don't know that you will cover it in a minute, and they should not get close to the dish."
Another common incident was generally when I would spread the sheet on the bed. If the bed cover were put in a slightly uneven and unruly manner, she would ask me to put it on properly. For me, it was more important that at least the bed is covered, properly or improperly was irrelevant.
One of the most significant moments of my life was the day Ma left her body. It's hard for me to forget the morning of 17th May 1995. Ma was a tough Master. That morning she had asked me to come to her room at 5 a.m., the hardest thing for me to do in those days, as I was not an early riser.
I had set my alarm for 5a.m. but got up much before and got ready to go and see Ma, as asked. She was standing outside the room, waiting for me. She was surprised to see me and gave me a warm welcome. Now the usual exercise started i.e. her asking me to do job after job and me acceding to everything she wished from me. Well, now began my examination, yes, I would call it an examination as working with her was like assessment of my awareness.
Ma asked me to clean the bench that was kept in the courtyard. I found it quite strange to have been asked to brush the bench that was covered only a few flowers, but I did sweep it nevertheless, despite my little reluctance. She sat on the bench. Not even a minute after, she immediately was ready with the list of things to do. Ma then asked me to make some tea for her. Then she was ready with a new order, i.e. to prepare rabadi (Indian sweet dish made of condensed milk). I wondered why she wanted rabadi in the morning, although I did prepare rabadi to her taste. After that she asked me to clean her closet, which was already well organised. She said, "I know it's hard for you to organize it properly, but I want you only to arrange the things in my closet." When she saw the closet she was really pleased with my work and she said, "At last you did it so perfectly". I was overjoyed to see Ma delighted and contended with my work, one of my dreams coming true to get appreciation from her for my work. Although, by now she just liked the way I would do things for her, but still to get applause from her was always the best reward I could ever think of in life.
Next thing on the agenda was to cook food for MA. I brought the vegetables of her choice and prepared lunch for her. I was on seventh heaven to hear her say to someone, "You know my Priya makes the most delicious food." This was her last lunch in this body.
Analyzing her life I was always filled with awe. Being a mother of eleven children is no joke. Taking care of everyone and everything needs lot of hard work and awareness. Ma's everyday work started from 4 o'clock in the morning. Her day use to begin with grinding flour with her own hands, then she use to paint the house with cow dung, as customary in the villages of India even today, then she would prepare food for everyone, send all her children to school. As the family was really big, one or the other sibling was always sick, so she was taking care of the sick person in the family also. Her day would end around mid night.
Despite of being overburdened with work, she never looked exhausted. Regardless of the multiple aspects of things to do for the family she was fully responsive of everyone in the family, she was attentive towards her work and was equally aware of her presence.
She was my role model in the science of work. Ma would tell me, "My entire life has gone in working and work became my worship. My actions and work became my way to know the Divine."
Rajneeshpuram was another place where I had learnt the skills of work. There the roster of each person would change after a while; the reason was that it's easy to do the regular job as it becomes mechanical and does not requires much awareness. For example, in the beginning it's hard to drive the car and to make the balance between the accelerator, breaks and the clutch along with the steering and gears, with just a pair of hands, legs, and eyes. It's quite a berserk thing to imagine and make the balance between all the parts of the body involved, especially for those who don’t know how to drive or are still not accustomed to it. Over a period of time, one gets so habitual to driving that now many things can be done along with driving, like singing, listening to music, talking on the mobile phone etc.
In Rajneeshpuram, I was working in the kitchen, named Magdalena, cutting vegetables for around 10,000 sannyasins. The coordinator of the kitchen was an adherent perfectionist German lady. She wanted each and every piece of vegetable to be cut beautifully and evenly. Sometimes I was given to cut around 10 kilograms of onions. This was the most killing thing for me to do as by the end of the worship, i.e. cutting the onions, the prize was a bucketful of tears. Please note that these tears were definitely not in gratitude. Occasionally I was asked to clean big utensils. It was hard to judge who is cleaning whom as the utensils were gigantic. The best part was making bread in the bakery, but this also came along with the small package of trouble as to make bread for the breakfast I had to wake up at 4 a.m.
In the end, I can say that for me work remained work for as long as self-remembrance was not there, but the moment I was filled with self-remembrance along with my actions, work became worship for me. Now I can understand what Ma meant when she said, "My actions and work became my way to know Divine."
My association with Ma in the house and working with the German lady in Rajneeshpuram paved my way to understand Karm Yoga.
Karmayoga is related to Mooladhar or basal Chakra. It is the path of action awareness. It is being in action without being a doer. It is doing the things while being in total awareness, being in action plus meditation. Karma Yoga is the effort to go directly from doing to self awareness. Meditation is the process and awareness is the goal. A Karma Yogi is one who adds meditation to doing.
The path of action is hard, difficult, arduous, challenging and uphill. Something has to be done to climb the highest peak of consciousness. But there are people who love it. Moses, Mohammed, Rama, Patanjali, Gurdjieff, Tilak, Gandhi, Vinoba, Mother Teresa – these people belong to the path of action.
Action is generally objective oriented. This creates a desire to get the result as per the objective. As such actions take us away from us.
Karma Yoga recommends that we can do the things while remembering the doer, remembering the self, being in total awareness of the doings as well as the doer. This will take us inward. This will finally establish us in our core, in our center, in our being. The actions generally take us away from our being, but Karma Yoga, the path of action, takes us towards our self. The direction is opposite. The poison becomes the medicine. The action, which is normally desire oriented, if done with self- remembering, total awareness, will take us to desirelessness, to nothingness, to emptiness, to peace.
A stage comes when we no longer remain a doer. While watching the action and the doer, we start feeling that things are just happening. Nobody is the doer. That is the climax of Karmayoga. We reach the center of our being, center of inaction.