Ideals and Values/Hard Work, Vigor and Energy

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia


We should not be dull and lazy. We should show some energy and charisma and should always work hard and with enthusiasm. In English we say, "God helps those who help themselves." The Vedas and other Hindu scriptures also have similar teachings:

"The Devatās desire him who offers worship and works hard. They do not like him who loves to sleep and is lazy. The hard working person gets great praise from them."[1]

Draupadi said:

"The man who is always sleeping, overcome with laziness, eventually gets poverty. Whereas a person who always engages in skillfully indeed obtains the desired fruit and becomes affluent.[2]"

Sage Vyāsa said to Yudhishthira:

"Laziness appears pleasing but ends in sorrow, whereas promptness and dexterity in acting appears painful but actually leads to happiness. Also, prosperity, wealth, decency and shame, forbearance and glory reside only in him who is active, not in him who is lazy.[3]

Stories on Hard Work

Below are some stories that illustrate the importance of hard work

Story: How Panini became a great Scholar Once, Panini Muni went to a palmist for getting his hand read for determining his future. The Palmist said to him, "You are fated to be an illiterate fool because the line of education is missing from your palm." Panini asked him, "Tell me where that line is." When the palmist answered his question, Panini took a knife and carved the line at that place on his palm. Panini then decided to give up his laziness and worked hard to learn the grammar of the Sanskrit language. After sometime, he wrote the book 'Ashtādhyāya', that is considered one of the greatest works of Sanskrit grammar even today, 2500 years after Panini had lived.

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Story: Yavakrīta becomes a Scholar through Studying Sage Bharadvaja and his son Yavakrīta were neighbors of Sage Raibhya and his sons. The latter were all great scholars. Many people traveled long distances to study under Raibhya and his children. This made Yavakrīta jealous. But he did not like to study. So, he started praying to Lord Indra. Pleased with Yavakrīta's penance, Lord Indra appeared in front of him and offered him a boon. Yavakrīta asked that he become a great scholar, so that people should come to study under him, just as they went to study under Raibhya and his scholarly sons. But Indra replied, "If you want to become knowledgeable, you should focus on your studies, rather than trying to please me and get the boon of wisdom from me."

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But Yavakrīta would not listen. He resumed his austerities and penance, hoping that Indra would eventually get impressed and bless him with knowledge. One day, Yavakrīta went to the River Ganga to take a bath, when he noticed an old man throwing handfuls of sand into the river current. When Yavakrīta asked him the reason for doing so, the old man said, "People have a difficulty crossing the river. Therefore, I am constructing a bridge across it by throwing sand into the water."

Yavakrīta was amused, and said, "But you cannot construct a bridge this way because the water will keep washing away the sand that you throw. Instead, you need to work harder and put in more effort and materials to construct the bridge." The old man replied, "If you can become a scholar without studying, I too can construct a bridge with just handfuls of sand."

Yavakrīta realized that it was Lord Indra who came disguised as the old man to teach him that worship alone cannot result in scholarship. He therefore apologized to Lord Indra and started studying diligently. As a result of his hard work, Yavakrīta too became a great scholar in the course of time. This story also shows that we should work hard to study if we want to become knowledgeable. Prayer is not a substitute for hard work!

Story: Guru Nānak prefers the Roti of Hard-Working Lālo than the Delicacies of Bhāgo Guru Nānak once visited the village of Saidpur.[4] Everyone was eager to serve him. It happened that Malik Bhāgo, a rich landlord of Kṣatriya caste and an official of the local Pathan Nawab, was giving a feast. He had invited all religious and holy men to join in the feast. When he came to know that a saint was staying at the house of Lālo, Malik Bhāgo sent a servant to invite Guru Nanak to join in the feast. The Guru declined the invitation, but when Malik Bhāgo sent his man repeatedly requesting the Guru to come, the Guru finally went to his house.

Malik Bhāgo asked the Guru, "Why do you refuse my bread and eat at the house of a low-caste Hindu, though you are a holy man of high-caste?" The Guru replied, "I have no caste, for me all men are equal. Then why did you decline to join my feast?" asked Malik Bhāgo. Answered the Guru, "Do you really want to know?" Bhāgo said, "Yes, I want to know why you preferred Lālo's simple bread to my food." The Guru asked Bhāgo to bring some of his food and asked Lālo to do the same. When the food was brought by both, Guru Saheb took a piece from Lalo's food in one hand, and a piece from Bhāgo's food in the other. When he squeezed his hands, from Lālo's food oozed out drops of milk and from Bhāgo's food, drops of blood.

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The Guru said, "Now you see why I declined to join your feast; your food is blood stained because you have accumulated your wealth by exploiting the poor, while Lālo earns his bread by the sweat of his brow and shares his earnings with the needy." Malik Bhāgo was much ashamed at this and became speechless. He fell at the Guru's feet and prayed for mercy. All the people gathered there, bowed in humility before the Guru.

The Guru looked at them with a loving glance and said, "That which belongs to another is unlawful and as dirty as eating the flesh of the dead. A Guru showers his grace on those who refrain from eating the dead. The flesh of the dead does not become lawful by breathing God's Name over it. Nor do we attain salvation by merely reciting the holy verses."

Moral of the Story: A poor, honest and hard-working man's food is worthy more than that of a rich man who is dishonest, miserly and who exploits others.

Story: A little help to a self-respecting beggar changes his life One day Ishwarachandra Vidyāsagar was walking down a street. A beggar boy approached him and said, "Please give me 1 paisa so that I can buy food and fill my stomach." Vidyāsagar asked, "What if I give you 2 paise?" The boy said, "Then I will buy food for my mother." Vidyāsagar asked, "What if I give you 1 Rupee means 64 paise in that time?" The boy replied, "I will use the money to buy goods and then sell them at a higher price elsewhere. With my profit, I will be able to feed myself and my mother the fruit of my hard work honorably." Ishwarachandra Vidyāsagar was very pleased to hear the reply of the self-respecting boy and gave him one Rupee as donation.

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After several years, Vidyāsagar passed by that area once again and saw that a new shop had come up in that area. The owner, a young boy, stepped out and fell at the feet of the great scholar. The boy said, "You might not remember me. But your donation of Re 1 that day enabled me to start my own business. It is due to your help that I can now earn my bread honorably and do not have to beg others for it."

Story: Doctor Dhanvantari feigns ignorance to make his student learn through hard work A good teacher always pushes students to work hard, so that they learn even more and excel. Here is a beautiful story from the Hindu medical tradition illustrating this principle. When our teachers push and challenge us, we must not regard them as mean or as being too demanding because their behavior is for our own benefit.

Dhanvantari is considered as one of the founders of Ayurveda, the school of Hindu medicine. One day, he got a boil on his back. He summoned his favorite student Vāgbhatta and said, "My boil can be cured with the help of a herb found in the forest close by. I will describe that herb to you. Go to the forest and fetch that herb." />

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Vāgbhatta left for the forest, where he kept searching for the herb his Guru had described. He did not find the herb although he kept searching for three months. However, in his search process, he was able to study hundreds of other plants very closely. He returned to his Guru and told him of the failure of his search. Dhanvantari asked him to describe the herbs he had looked at and their properties.

As the student described the hundreds of herbs that he had seen and studied, the Guru's eyes gleamed with joy. He then took Vāgbhatta to a nearby field and found the herb promptly. A paste of the herb was applied and Dhanvantaris boil healed. After a few days, Vāgbhatta asked him, "If the herb grows so close in the field, why did you send me to the forest? You would not have suffered all this time had you told me where it grows." Dhanvantari replied, "You are my most promising student. I deliberately sent you to the forest because I knew that you will research numerous other herbs and get some idea of their medicinal uses. For that purpose, I was willing to bear the pain from my boil for a few months."

Notes & References

  1. Atharvaveda 20.18.3
  2. Mahābhārata 3.32.42
  3. Mahābhārata 12.27.31
  4. It is now called Eminabad in Pakistan.