I’m a college student, 19 years old, from India. I’m naturally good in academics, especially maths and computer science. I’m doing an engineering degree and plan to go into academic research, out of respect for my late father’s wishes. I don’t have any inclination to pursue other activities like dance, music, art, business etc. But I still feel doubtful whether I have chosen the correct path, career-wise. How do I know which career I should choose, such that it facilitates my spiritual growth?
—N S, India
Paramhansa Yogananda counseled that one’s natural talents can certainly be indicative of the direction to go in one’s career. I was born into a family of accountants and — without any encouragement from my father — found myself, owing to the press of circumstances, taking a degree in accounting. Like you, I too found that work came to me easily. And yet I too was more interested in my spiritual life. But I had at the time the necessity, like most, to earn a living and to establish myself. It turned out that my skills were very useful to my spiritual service to the worldwide work of Ananda — and continue to be helpful even though I have long ago relinquished such activities as a primary part of my life.
The fact that you have the skills in math and computer science and are not strongly inclined in other directions suggests that, for the time being, and until Divine Mother suggests otherwise, this is a good direction for you. It is common among college graduates that what they learned in school has less and less relevance to what they do for a living in later years. School builds competency; relationships; specific thinking and learning skills; and self-confidence.
Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Vivekananda and finally Paramhansa Yogananda — all modern day rishis — counsel us at this time in history that the way of spiritual growth is to bring God into one’s daily life and not to escape from ordinary life (as was common in past centuries). Yoga is the art of being mindful of God’s presence in every moment. Krishna in the Gita counsels us to offer every thought, word, and deed at the feet of the Beloved.
The more you unite your consciousness with the Divine Will the more your duties in life will be energized and elevated. As Swami Kriyananda taught us, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it (with what attitude and intention).”
India is fast “coming up” and regaining her footing among the nations of the earth and for the material benefit of her people. You may end up playing your part, but hopefully you will maintain and nurture the great treasury of spiritual attunement that has sustained India since millennia. It is no coincidence that Divine Mother has not abandoned India but has sent a lineage of avatars during these transitional times.
So be of good cheer: it is not either-or. We can grow spiritually even as we perform our rightful duties on this earth: with joy, excellence and yet without attachment to the results (nishkam karma). You are greatly blessed even to ask such a question and to have such choices. Go forward in faith and in joy!