A student once asked Swami Mukundananda, “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 than our parent’s 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, as were the demands; people suffered more from infectious diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, malaria, etc., than 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 lives easier, we are less healthy and more stressed. Even if we look at the diseases, lifestyle disorder has become more common than 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?
The Formula of NATO to Overcome Stress
Let’s return to the student who asked Swamiji about 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 we ruin the task by taking stress over something instead of accomplishing it.
The one indefectible formula Swamiji gave the student to overcome stress was a ‘formula of NATO’ which sounds akin to the “North Atlantic Treaty Organisation”, but the abbreviation here stands for “Not Attached To Outcome”. Shree Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (2.47)
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||
karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duties but 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.”
The Importance of Detachment from Results
We are so focused on the results that we ignore 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. Such belief helps us to get rid of stress. Nevertheless, we should not feel disheartened if the desired result does not manifest. 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 precisely depicts how dedicating our results to God enhances our skills. It betters our efforts. We strive for perfection when we believe we are doing the work for God.
Cultivating Divine Sentiments in Every Action
Here are a few examples of cultivating divine sentiments as per your profession:
- As a student, imagine you are doing group studies with Shree Krishna.
- As an architect, consider all the homes designed by you 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, consider every child Shree Krishna or Radha Rani.
- As a doctor, think of yourself to be treating the Almighty Lord.
- If you are into business, remember that this business is God’s. Hence, whatever money you earn, apart from your 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 ॥
Jahān jahān jāūn soī parikramā, jo kachu karūn so sevā
Jab so'u tab karūn daṇḍavat, pūjūṁ aura na devā
‘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.’
Living a Stress-Free Life
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. These habits will free us from stress and help us achieve a happy and healthy life.