Career Success

(Zazen music plays in the background, and Rama speaks to the beat of the music.)

Zen Master Rama here today with you, discussing career success.

Next to meditation itself, next to the practice of zazen, I really can’t think of anything more important than the development of your career—because nothing has a greater effect on your awareness level. Whether your career is in the work force or your career is retirement and hobbies, looking after a family, a nation, a universe, it’s all the same. We’re talking about the major focus of your life, your time. Whether it’s 40 hours a week, 60 hours, 80, 20, your career affects your awareness far more than you realize.

It is very important to be successful, successful in the sense that your career raises your awareness. It adds energy and power, clarity, beauty and stillness to your life. And it’s not a distraction from your enlightenment. If your career is lowering your personal power or your approach to it, then it’s got to change.

Let’s face it, you just can’t go on like that. It doesn’t make any sense. Plus, you’ve got to pay the bills, maybe buy that new dress or that latest hot car, or help provide funds to aid others in their enlightenment. I mean, it’s up to you.

For the next 45 minutes or so, we’ll be talking about ways you can become more successful in daily life—here with Zen Master Rama, Zazen in the background, from their album, Urban Destruction.

(Zazen music ends.)

Today is the 8th of January, 1987. I’m in Los Angeles, second largest city in America, land of many careers. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are the major metro centers of America where people work and live. There are many others. Boston is an interesting place at the moment in terms of career success because it has the lowest unemployment in America—because of the computer industry.

Careers—what we do with our lives. My career—I’m a teacher. I teach people the arts of enlightenment—how to become conscious, powerful, successful, at peace with themselves; how to move from one world to another, through different dimensional planes, and to explore and experience the different parts of this vast creation; how to become selfless; how to become everything or nothing, or just to be the moment; how to reach that still point between the turning worlds, where everything is one, or to play in the multiplicity. I’m a trainer. I train people at different levels, depending upon their interest and their natural talents for studying perception and the various arts related to perception—one of which is Zen Buddhism.

It has been my observation, having been teaching for about 18 years now in this particular lifetime, that one of the greatest mistakes that people make who pursue self-discovery, in my opinion, is they neglect to work on and develop their careers. There is a popular notion that those who seek enlightenment, self-discovery, empowerment, should abandon the things of this world, the pursuits of this world—careers, cars, homes, clothing, material possessions, associations with others, relationships—and that they should withdraw from the world and only meditate and attain enlightenment, that all these other things are a hindrance to enlightenment. I disagree with this. It is not correct.

There are different pathways that lead to enlightenment. We could say that everyone’s life is one of the pathways that lead to enlightenment. Your life is a pathway that leads to enlightenment. Sometimes you may walk in the direction of enlightenment—conscious enlightenment. Sometimes you might walk away from it. The path runs in different directions. But each life and each lifetime that we go through is a journey, a search, an experience, a struggle, a success, a failure. Different things. Different words we use to describe that which is beyond description.

In my travels over the last 18 years of teaching different forms of self- discovery—Zen, mysticism, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, Tantric Buddhism, different forms of self-discovery that I’ve taught in different lifetimes—I’ve met many people, as I said, who neglect career. I meet them, and their lives aren’t centered at all. They’re all over the place. They don’t have much money. They’re undisciplined. They have a spaced-out look in their eye, and they’re interested in enlightenment. And their chances of becoming enlightened in this lifetime or any future lifetime are very small, unless they change the way they live and look at life.

It is possible, of course, to renounce everything and attain enlightenment. But most of the people that I have encountered really don’t want to renounce; they wish to run away from responsibility and hard work. Or they are simply misguided souls. Somebody told them that is what you’re supposed to do, and they believed it.

There are lifetimes where one does go off into the Himalayas and meditate in a cave and not have many material possessions—no tape players to listen to tapes with, and so on. But this is not really one of those lifetimes for most people who are in self-discovery on the planet Earth. Our earth has changed, and our time of retreat is still there. There is a time to get away from things, to go up into the mountains by yourself for a few days, or to walk in the desert or the forest, or to be at the beach in the winter when there’s no one there.

You can be alone, too, in the city streets, among the crowds. We are all alone. But we pick up so many vibrations from others that it’s hard to still the mind and to know what are our feelings. It is good to get away. I think at least once a month you should take a weekend by yourself with no one else and just be by yourself—preferably not in your home because we set up so many patterns in our homes. We need to step outside of that.

Sometimes it’s good to go away with others or to spend some time at home alone. It is good to take a weekend and just you, or you and your dog, head out into the wilderness. Rent a cabin someplace or go camping. Stay in a hotel on some nice, warm, secluded island, whatever it might be, but around no one you know. And don’t spend too much time talking with others—walk by yourself. Be by yourself. It is important. It will help you in your search for stillness and perfection. That is absolutely true.

We live in a world of careers. We live in a world of billions and billions of people. And work, as Sri Krishna points out in the Bhagavad Gita, is a necessary path for everyone in attaining enlightenment. Because it’s something that we all do. Some people work very hard at not working. That is still their work. We all work. Work is what you do when you’re not sleeping (Rama laughs), or actively engaged in sports, unless sports is your line of work, how you pay the bills. I would say, after you’re retired, you’re still working—you’re working at not being bored, you’re working at being bored. And if you’re smart, you never retire. Oh, you may retire from that job you’ve had for many years, but you’ll pick up another career for yourself of some type, whether it’s volunteer work or writing a book, doing something.

It is necessary to be occupied almost all the time, to have your mind focused on something because otherwise, you get very spaced out. There are many variant psychic forces and powers that roam through the worlds that are just like bacteria. You can pick them up. If your immune system is in a very low state of power, you can pick up things that would never bother you otherwise, and you’ll get sick and perhaps die. If your immune system is very strong, of course, you can walk through worlds of microbes, which we all do all the time, and not become sick—our immune system is helping us.

The immune system for a person who seeks enlightenment is focus. Focus is absolutely necessary. There are times when we go beyond focus, in deep meditation or in our activities, where the suchness of something, the nothingness or everythingness of something becomes manifest, and we are one with it—we see our oneness with all things and all beings.

The path, the fast path, the short path that leads to that, is focus. The power of focus is absolutely essential. To stop all thoughts, you have to have tremendous power of focus, to reach the still point between the turning worlds, nirvana. You must have tremendous power of focus, tremendous concentrative power, to direct your life and not allow all these variant forces, different vibrations, to enter in you. If you’re just spaced out and you have no purpose in life, you pick everything up. Everybody else’s thoughts will come into your mind. Everyone else’s desires, psychically—you’ll attract them. You’ll be drawn to things that you could care less about and think thoughts, disturbing thoughts, that you don’t need. So it’s necessary to be focused. This is the raison d’etre of career.

Intent is all-important. Your intent determines what happens to you inwardly, in a karmic sense. Two people can be working at the same job, side by side, at an office. One person is working just for a paycheck. Another is working because they see work as a way to develop the power of focus, to perfect their being, to pay for their life here on earth, to fulfill whatever their earthly needs are, and also to make more money to utilize to aid others in their search for enlightenment, or to donate to the United Way or Audubon or the National Geographic Society, Amnesty International, whatever your favorite cause might be. My favorite cause, of course, is the enlightenment of others. I think that’s the best place to put money. You get the highest “yield” in terms of karma (Rama laughs) on your money.

One person is just working for themselves, for their own pleasure, or to avoid unpleasantness—not having a place to live, not having clothes. Some think that the material world will make them happy. They think that if they can buy more and have more—a bigger house, a bigger car, fancier clothes, better trips—that it will make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference at all. You can be rich or poor; it doesn’t make a bit of difference. Everything depends upon your state of awareness. If your state of awareness is low, then all the material success in the world won’t help. If your state of awareness is high, then in poverty, you’ll know no poverty. Naturally, the Zen Master Rama philosophy is—have a high state of awareness and material success. The two really, in my opinion, go together because if you’re in an empowered state, then you should be able to draw the power of material success through you.

Material success is not something that will bind you—unless you become attached to it—any more than poverty will liberate you. But some people have a very strange idea that material success does not coincide harmoniously with self-realization, which is absurd. Material success is as much a part of this universe as anything else. The aversion to material success, or the clinging to it, is an attachment that brings about pain and suffering and separates one from the natural realization of enlightenment. Those who seek poverty or who avoid wealth, or who are afraid of poverty and exclusively seek wealth—they’re equally hung up.

We live in a world where money is necessary. You can’t just go out and roam the forest and the cities, at least in America. Money also helps you, as I said. Naturally, you can use it to aid others in their enlightenment process, or in any way that you choose, but money is also very useful in this particular world to buy you space. In the old days, there were not too many people on the planet, and you could roam around in the forests and woods. Today everybody owns the forests and woods, and there are “No Trespassing” signs.

Some of the highest vibratory places one could visit to renew and recharge one’s spirit, places where the earth’s energy is very strong, have become very expensive. They are the domains of the rich. Because the rich figured out a long time ago that certain neighborhoods have more power and by living in them, more power comes through you than in other neighborhoods. So true! The earth is not the same everywhere. Certain powers are available in one part of the earth that are not available in another part of the earth. The rich realize this, and they live in these places and they use that power to stay rich, or become wealthier, or for their children to be wealthy.

People who seek enlightenment can live in those neighborhoods and use that same power, not simply to become wealthy, but to advance their awareness field. The power is not simply the power of material success. It is plain, strong power that can be used for any purpose—to become rich, to become famous, to become notorious, to become enlightened, to become selfless. It requires money to live in these places.

Also, there’s a certain beauty and refinement that is often found in our world, and it’s expensive, in a sense. It shouldn’t necessarily be so. Beautiful clothes shouldn’t necessarily be more expensive, but they are. It is just the way our economic system is. In other words, clothes can have a refined vibration. An ochre robe can be extremely refined, and so can a wonderful satin gown or a silk brocade coat.

What matters is the vibration. The way our world is set up, a higher economic priority is given to things that bespeak a greater refinement. That’s just the way it was decided. It could be the other way around. It is just a determination that was made, to make money.

There are certain things that are nice to have—a nice car that will get you where you need to go, that has a nice vibration so when you ride in it, you don’t feel terrible. A nice place to live with good energy, the best that’s available. Clothing that’s refined and will suit your purposes. The ability to travel and get away from your area and go out into natural areas to renew yourself. And, of course, money to study enlightenment.

Some people wonder why one charges for the study of enlightenment. They harbor the idea or belief that all teachers should teach for free. Obviously, these people have never been teachers and don’t know too much about teaching, particularly in the twentieth century. Teaching meditation is a very expensive hobby, I must say. To book halls, security services, accounting services, advertising, insurance, on and on and on, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, just to do a couple hundred nights of meditation a year. To make it available to people is very expensive.

If you don’t really care about anybody knowing, then you can just teach meditation and put up a couple of little posters around your block. But if your aim is to open the door to as many people as possible, then you need to step into the world of advertising, which is a very expensive world.

In my own budgeting of my corporation, our largest budget issue is advertising. Because that is how we let people know that they can learn to be enlightened and become aware. So it is necessary to have a certain amount of money to study enlightenment. When you go to Japan and you visit the monasteries, the Zen monasteries, one of the first things that is required is that you bring a donation. They even have special envelopes. It reminds me of the Catholic Church. When I was in Japan recently, visiting some other Zen masters, it was necessary, even as a visiting Zen master, to bring the proper offering for the monastery—because they have to pay for those monasteries. The upkeep is fantastic. The monks have to be fed, and so on and so forth.

Only in America do people seem to have this funny idea about enlightenment and money. Most teachers, of course, have a charge, an admission fee, a seminar fee, something. They don’t try to become rich with the money—how absurd. They use it just to pay the bills. Money expresses a level of commitment. In other words, as you work and you pay the bills, the bills for your car and your clothes and your insurance and the place you live and your medical bills and some entertainment money and travel money—you should also be working to pay for your enlightenment.

Studying enlightenment is like going to a university. You don’t think for a minute about paying tuition to go to the state university, let alone an expensive school like Harvard or MIT or Stanford or the University of Chicago. To study enlightenment requires a commitment. Part of that commitment is a person’s willingness to go out and work to make money to pay for their own way. An exceptional person, of course, will pay even more, will give even more because they not only want to just pay for their own way, they wish to make enlightenment more available to others.

Another good reason for working is so you can make some money to help pay your way in your study of enlightenment. There are lots of good reasons to work.

Career success depends not only on having the right intent, which from a spiritual point I’ve just gone over, but once you’ve come to these realizations, you say, “Yes, there are very good reasons to work and have a career. Even if I have enough money, I could always make more and aid others.”

When you’re traveling in the Orient, there are the sutras of Buddha placed in your hotel room, just as in a local hotel or motel there’s a Gideon Bible placed by the Gideons free of charge. They are placed there by a wonderful man who decided that it would be very nice for people to be able to read the works of Buddha. He dedicated his life to creating a very large corporation in Japan, and he works many, many hours, more than he needs to, personally, just to have those books printed and placed in hotel rooms for travelers through the bardo, voyagers through eternity, so they can read the words of an enlightened one.

Focus. It is necessary to have a strong, strong focus. Work will give you that focus. Naturally, a person who approaches career for these reasons will draw from a deeper level of their being. In other words, if your intent is not just to work to make money to pay the bills and to avoid the pain and suffering that would come from not having money, but your intent is to work because it will aid you in perfecting your awareness, make you strong, teach you more about concentration, enable you to live in the environment you need to succeed in the study of enlightenment; if your motive in working is to work for the welfare of others, to make money for your own enlightenment process; if your motive for working is because you get a kick out of it, because it’s fun to work, it’s exciting—it doesn’t really matter what your work is. It is exciting to do well at something, it empowers you, it is an enjoyable feeling—then you will be working from a very deep level.

In other words, your intent is most important. You will pull a very deep level of power when you’re working not just for yourself per se, in the way that most people do, but you’re working for your enlightenment, to make it possible, to pay your way, to pay the bills while you study enlightenment, to pay for your enlightenment classes, to aid others in their enlightenment, to have the things you need to enable you to refine your awareness and exist happily and to further your self-discovery. You need a job. You need a career. You need a focus. Otherwise, you’ll just pick up lots of strange psychic energy all the time because you’re not focused.

There are billions and billions of people on the earth, and they’re all like radio transmitters and they’re transmitting thoughts and energies and impressions, most of which are not directed towards enlightened states of mind. If you’re not focused all the time, if you don’t always have a task before you, you will pick up these energies—unless you’re meditating. Career, then, is absolutely essential. It’s a wonderful way to develop all kinds of good karma and to perfect yourself.

What I’m saying is, what is most important is your intent. Think about these things and see if they make sense to you. And if they make sense to you, adopt them as policies in your inner life. If you do, you’ll find that work will no longer be a four-letter word. It will be a three-letter word—fun. It is not what you do, it is why that determines the karmic result. The karmic result, meaning if you work for these reasons, you’ll find that your work will be pleasant. You’ll go into a very high state of consciousness while you’re doing it. You’ll actually enjoy it tremendously. And you’ll do better at it because you will seek to bring a level of perfection into your work that others don’t. Most people want to do minimum work for maximum money, and then they want to get away from work and go “enjoy themselves.” Of course, they really don’t enjoy themselves, do they? They are pretty unhappy most of the time.

On the other hand, people who work because they want to bring about perfection, not just to their work but to themselves, see their work as an extension of themselves. They are not worried about running as soon as 5 o’clock comes. The point is to do a good job because that will empower you. To do a poor job will make you weaker.

Sometimes you have to draw a line. You don’t want to work all the time and neglect your meditation, neglect your athletic development, neglect the practice of martial arts or other arts, neglect just going out and having a good time, going hiking, going to a movie, having fun, being with people you enjoy. But if you seek enlightenment, if you wish to raise your mind into other worlds, worlds of light, peace, perfection, power, joy, knowledge and balance, then career is a very important item on your agenda. And as I’ve indicated, the place to start is [asking] why we do something.

You need to think this out in your own mind. I have given you some ideas. If they make sense to you, adopt them as policies and start to dwell on these reasons. Feel them out. Write them down. Make them part of your life. Then approach your career from that standpoint, and you’ll see—you will have a very different career. You are much more apt to be successful. You will be successful.

In other words, just to adopt these ideas and live them is career success. Your career now will bring about a high level of empowerment. That is the success. The success is not promotions or making lots of money. That, of course, inevitably will happen to someone with this attitude because the best workers in the world are people who are studying enlightenment, who are using their careers as vehicles for their enlightenment. They are going to do a better job than anybody. Because, of course, you meditate each day and you’re developing your mind in ways that most people can’t imagine, you bring a full mind and one-pointed focus to your work and a level of creativity that comes from your meditation, which will make you absolutely great at what you do.

Now, the next question that comes up, of course, is what to do, what to do. Now that you know why you need to work, and, obviously, you know how to work, and that’s perfectly—giving it your very best without attachment to results, just doing it for the sake of the work and having a ball doing it, drawing the power from your zazen practice, your daily meditation, the clarity from that practice, from your study with the teacher, with the Zen master, and from your daily experiences in life—and bringing it all to your work. Obviously, that’s how one works. Now you know how and why, what do you do?

It really doesn’t matter, but it does. You can do anything. You can be doing housework, you can be lifting boxes all day, you can be running the government, teaching people to be enlightened, teaching college algebra, composing music, it doesn’t matter. But it does. It doesn’t matter in the sense that all work is the same. If your motives are high and noble and your work is hard and you do a good job, then whatever the task is in your life—whether it’s doing your laundry, working out, singing, dancing, playing or, of course, your career focus, whatever it is will benefit you. It doesn’t matter what you do—but it does, in that there are some careers that will develop your mind more than others. And in the study of enlightenment, it is most important to develop your mind and your body.

Some people are professional athletes, professional dancers. They use the body. Working on their bodies continuously will aid them in their enlightenment because the discipline of the body and the focus required will also aid them in developing the mind and their focus of the mind. In other words, the mind is a muscle, in a sense, and as you exercise it, it becomes stronger. There are certain exercises that will make your mind stronger and will enable you to direct your attention in more specific ways so that enlightenment will be easier for you. Work with the body helps. If you don’t work with the body, if that’s not your profession, then it’s a very good idea to become involved with sports and athletics in your free time. It really helps you develop a power of concentration, and it makes you strong, and you need to be strong to deal with this world and the powers and forces of this world that block enlightenment.

In addition to this, it’s nice to pick a career that really taxes your mind. As you use your mind in new and creative ways, not just doing routine tasks, you’ll find that your mind will develop and become stronger, which will aid you in your meditation and your self-discovery. Also, it’s good to pick a profession that will give you enough money to give you the economic freedom to go where you need to go and do whatever you need to do and have whatever you need to have. [You are] setting up your life as a field of energy or power so you can go to the seminars, travel when you need to, have the kind of car you need—all the things that I discussed with you earlier.

I recommend for many people the study of computer science. Obviously, it’s a smart career choice. It is our country’s number one business now, and it will only become more so in the coming times as the economic climate of the world changes. Our natural resource, in America, is the mind. It is certainly not cheap labor. The mindset used in computer science is very similar to the mindset we use in Zen and in the more advanced stages of self-discovery. Programming will aid a person in developing their mind and will aid their meditation, in my opinion. If you’re not familiar with the world of programming, you might take a simple course in it. Then there are two ways to plunge into it. One is to go to a short-term computer school where you go for six months or nine months or a year, either during the day full time or in the evenings. They usually train you in business programming to get your first job. The other approach is the traditional academic approach, and that’s to go out and get a B.S. in it [computer science] or a master’s or a doctorate, or whatever.

I find that people who have pursued programming are doing much better in their meditation. Also, I’m very fond of law, the study of law, the study of medicine and the arts—in other words, music, dance, things like this. In each of these instances, the mindset, the developed mindset necessary—along with the arts, I would include sports—is very helpful to one who is practicing meditation. It can be anything. It can be clerical work, it can be sweeping the floor, it can be absolutely anything. But in my opinion, if you seek to develop the mind fully, which is necessary for the enlightenment process, you will be even more benefited if your career is related to computer science, law, medicine or the arts.

Again, under the arts I classify acting, sports, martial arts, dance, singing, all of those things—the creative arts. In the creative arts, you draw a special power. The discipline required is awesome—to be an actor or an actress, to be really good, not just another one waiting on tables. To be a singer, to be a musician, to be a professional football player or basketball player, to be a karate teacher, to be a painter and to be successful at it, to be able to pay your way with it—in other words, to have that level of discipline in your art so you don’t only enjoy it personally, but you can market it. To be commercial requires a lot of discipline, to be successful in the competitive world of the arts.

Obviously, teaching is another profession that aids one to develop the mind—all types of teaching. Writing, any field where you’re really taxing the mind, science, naturally, of all types. I just happen to be partial to computer science. But any type of science—architecture and so on—any study where you’re using the body or mind intensively and constantly pushing yourself forward to new forefronts of knowledge—these will aid you the most. But pick anything. It doesn’t matter. Pick whatever makes you happy and will fulfill your economic necessities.

What is most important is your intent. If your intent is proper and you pick from among the choices available to you what seems most exciting and also practical—one that you can actually go out and do and succeed at—then you will find career success. Career success will come to you. Career success is an inner feeling, a stillness that will come to you. Not because of what you do—that is important—but because of why you do it and how you approach it.

Use that career to develop yourself. Have fun with it. Dedicate your activities and your career to eternity, to enlightenment.

So this is Zen Master Rama, encouraging you to make money and to become enlightened. The two are not necessarily different. And most of all, to have fun with whatever you do because we’re only here for a while, and then we’re someplace else. So you might as well be perfect. There is really not all that much else to do here that’s exciting, except to become perfect in every possible way, shape, manner and form.

Good luck. You’ll have it.