‘Work is worship’ is one of the truest proverbs. The idea contained in the saying is this that all labour, manual or otherwise, is full of dignity and nobility. It equals work with prayer. It emphasizes the point that empty verbal prayers are not as valuable as real achievement in any fields.
Many people in the present generation, however, have a mistaken idea that manual labor is the means of the power man’s livelihood and has something undignified about it. The higher and the middle classes in our country are apt to look down upon the manual work done by the poorer classes to earn their daily bread.
Though in these hard days when the struggle for existence is getting keener and keener, the old ideas about respectability are fast giving place to new ones, yet educated young men are still very slow in appreciating the dignity of labour. They would rather starve than earn their living by honest labour by taking to humble pursuits like dairy-farming, poultry farming etc., in which illiterate people have so far been generally engaged.
Now, when we talk of dignity of labour, we mean manual work such as has to be done by the cultivator, the artisan or the craftsman. But why should physical labour is regarded as less respectable than mental labour? Is not the very production of food we eat dependant on the hard and tough labour of the farmers.
The problem of good supply is the most vital question of the day in our country. All other questions arise only after this question has been satisfactorily solved. But such is the hold of customs and old practices in our society that the man who works continually day and night, in sun and rain, to produce the corn which keeps us alive, is looked down as mere ‘labour’ by the self-styled ‘higher’ classes.
In the western countries and the U.S.A., people do recognise the dignity of labour. There is no servant class in the West. The people of the higher classes, ladies and gentlemen, have to do their household work themselves. They do not feel any insult in this. It is only in backward countries like India that this theory has to be continually preached. There are too many people in our country yet who consider it beneath their dignity to do their own purchases from the market or brush their own shoes or wash their own clothes.
Such a false idea of dignity is not only foolish but is also positively harmful in the sense that it shows a mentality that makes us despise the so-called lower classes. This mentality should first be overcome before we can expect to take steps to produce further lo make us for the wrong we do to those who serve us.
We should recognise the fact that all labour is saved. The labour in the field and the artisan in the workshop may have a nobler mission in life than the most learned statesman who makes the laws of the land. He has nothing to be ashamed of, if only he be true to himself and performs his duties rightly put upon him by God.
No profession by itself is high and low, dignified and undignified. It is the way in which we pursue it, that makes it sacred or otherwise. Even since the beginning of history man has been struggling hard to improve his lot. He has fought against the forces of nature all these centuries.
And he has already controlled or conquered many of these forces. He has toiled hard and suffered a lot. He has done very heavy tasks, although hard physical labour is not considered respectable. Again, the achievements of science in various fields are the fruits of continued human effort. Man, a small weak creature, is today the master of the world.
Why? Because he has worked hard. He has never remained satisfied with what he has achieved. He has always gone on advancing into new fields. His spirit of enquiry is unlimited. His energies are, of course, limited. But he has tamed the air and the sea and the land; he has conquered the animal world, he has solved numberless difficult problems, he has increased his spiritual and mental powers. How has he done this? By constant work.
In ancient times sages and saints used to give us the world and retire to the forests for meditation and silent prayer. They prayed to solve the mystery of the universe. They undertook severe physical hardships. And some of them obtained peace through enlightenment. They succeeded in their own way.
The modern man cannot give up the world. His method of prayer is different. Old religions cannot satisfy him. They cannot solve his problems. So the new religion that he follows is that of worshiping through work. All labour is regarded as dignified in the present age in every progressive country of the world.