The great sage Valmiki who authored Ramayana heard that Hanuman (the Monkey God) had also written a Ramayana. Curious, he searched for Hanuman and found him in a distant forest, cradled in the Himlayas. He found the banana leaf on which Hanuman had written the Ramayana.
Hanuman Ramayana was so good that it left Valmiki in tears. “After reading this, no one will read Valmiki’s Ramayana,” he said. Hearing this, Hanuman tore the banana leaf and swallowed it. This surprised Valmiki. “Why did you do that?” he asked.
“You need your Ramayana more than I do,” Hanuman replied. “You wrote it for the world to remember you. I wrote it because I want to remember Rama.“
We celebrate Valmiki as the author of the Ramayana. But we have temples of Hanuman, where we worship Him.
Someone I know is enthusiastic during preparations for puja (an act of worship among Hindus). At such times, she’s omnipresent. When people praise her contribution, she shyly plays it down. Yet, she secretly revels in this praise. Outside the puja, she rarely is the same kind and enthusiastic person.
Actions don’t matter as much as intent. Taking action for accolades, or to bask in the limelight, feels good in the short term. But if your work goes unnoticed, you feel unappreciated and hurt. Plus, you always depend on external validation to measure your own worth.
What, then, is the right intent? The answer is emotional and intellectual growth.
Work to learn. To find purpose in everything you do. Work to find meaning, to become dependable, responsible, yet autonomous — a swayambhu . This imbibes you with skills which nobody can take away. Spotlights and limelights will come and go. People might steal your thunder. But nobody can steal your skills and intellect.
Spare a few minutes at the end of each day. Ask yourself, “What am I working for?” Do you work for material gains and external validation? Or do you work for self gratification and improvement? Money and customer satisfaction are important aspects. But are they outcomes of your work, or are they all you work for?
If you listen to your inner voice, you’ll find your answers. Your inner voice knows what you truly want. It knows you don’t want to work just for money. It knows you don’t want to put up with crappy bosses and conniving colleagues just to keep a job. It knows you harbor the burning desire to learn something new and grow yourself.
Don’t drown it out. Listen to it. Don’t work with an end goal in mind. Do it out of love for learning. I’ve seen people who lost their way once they achieved a goal they worked hard for. On the other hand, people who worked on something because they loved it, found it easier to jump out of bed every morning, for years.
Emotional and intellectual growth will eventually get you noticed. It’s inevitable. Material growth will also follow. But the reverse is never true. In fact, pursuing money and validation without intrinsic growth is often a recipe for disaster. None of what is external, stays. And when it goes, you’re left without tools to win it back.
Valmiki saw his work as a means to become popular. Hanuman was a staunch follower of Lord Rama. His devotion taught him to transcend the desire for validation and fame, and discover his true capabilities.
What do you want to work for?