Work is Worship

October 27, 2009

The general view is that work is done in the office, the factory or the fields and worship is done in a temple or a church or a mosque. The feeling is that we work to earn money and we worship to get the blessings of God. However, the proverb ‘Work is Worship’ combines the idea of work and worship.

Work, the dictionary says, refers to physical or mental effort spent to produce or accomplish something. And the word ‘worship’ comes from the old English word ‘worth-ship’, which means giving worth to something.

So when the wise ones said ‘work is worship’, they meant doing what we do with the sense of worthiness or respect. When we understand that all work – big or small – is valuable and do it with reverence, then our work becomes worship. Work is worship, thus, speaks about the right attitude towards work.

All great people accomplished noble deeds, discovered new things, invented new products only because of their right attitude towards work. Edison, for example, held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions. All these were possible because of his worshipful attitude towards his work.

The mother at home works with the same attitude. Whether it is sweeping or cleaning the utensils or preparing food, she does it with love and care. Cooking, cleaning, sweeping may be lowly tasks but the mother with her worshipful outlook towards work changes daily chores into joyful jobs.

In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas performed a grand ceremony called ‘Rajasuya Yaga’. Kings were invited from all over the country to attend the function. Each member of the Pandava family was assigned some work. Lord Krishna was given the task of washing the feet of the guests who came to the ceremony. He, the great Lord Himself, washed the feet of the guests with His own hands and set a perfect example.

Thus, it becomes clear that work done with the sense of worthiness or respect is worship.


An Idle Brain is the Devil’s Workshop

September 17, 2009

The proverb ‘ An idle brain is the devil’s workshop’ is from H. G. Bohn’s, “Hand-Book of Proverbs,” (1855). The word idle comes from the old English word  ‘idel’ which means ’empty, void, useless’.

The proverb has two key phrases: idle brain and devil’s workshop.  When one is idle, he or she is not working or is not active or is doing nothing or is passing time aimlessly. The person is thus lazy and without purpose.

An idle brain means that the person is mentally slothful. The brain has no work to do and as such gets easily distracted. In such a situation, the brain becomes the workshop of wrong ideas and thoughts.

The story of the ‘Idle Monkey and the Wedge‘ from the Panchatantra is a fine example of the proverb. Long ago, a merchant was building a temple in the middle of his garden. The workers  partly sawed a log of wood and fixed a wedge in it so that it does not close up and left for  lunch.  An idle monkey was watching this and having nothing to do got down from the tree and pulled the wedge. The  wedge came off and trapped monkey into the rift of the log. The monkey was killed instantly.

Thus it is important to keep the mind constructively occupied so that it will become God’s workshop. The proverb however does not refer to those moments when we spend time leisurely doing nothing.

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Variety is The Spice of Life

July 27, 2009

The keyword in the proverb is spice.

We all know spice is a vegetable material of many kinds, fragrant or aromatic and pungent to the taste, as pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, cloves, etc., which are used in cookery and to flavor sauces, pickles.

Spice adds flavour and taste to food. As such, food without spice is bland and usually tasteless.

What is true of food is true of life too. Variety, like spice, enriches or alters the quality of life in a small but significant degree. It gives zest,  a mild flavoring and more importantly a relish, a hearty enjoyment of life.

A change in routine, a new approach, a new idea, a new venture or adventure, a vacation or an avocation, a new hobby or a new pet or a game, all add flavour to life. Else life will be dull and monotonous.

We all need healthy change in order to avoid becoming mechanical. Already most of our daily routines have made us automatons. We have to come out of the rigmarole, once in a while and feel alive and human. This is possible when we take a detour from the beaten track.

A word of caution however: Just as too much of spice can spoil the taste of food, so also too much variety can, in fact, hamper the quality of life.

It is said in Sanskrit that Ati Sarvatra Varjayet. This means that we should at all times give up excesses. Positively stated it means that moderation is the royal road to health and happiness.

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Related information about ‘Variety is the Spice of Life

The proverb is taken from the poem The Task written by William Cooper(1731-1800). He was one of the most widely read English poets of his day. There are five books in the poem:


The Proverb is from the Book II: The Timepiece. Here is the context

“Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour. We have run
Through every change that fancy, at the loom
Exhausted, has had genius to supply,
And, studious of mutation still, discard
A real elegance, a little used,
For monstrous novelty and strange disguise.”

The complete poem is available at “The Project Gutenberg“.

How To Write a Proverb Expansion or Expansion of an idea?

July 10, 2009

Expansion of an idea or expansion of a proverb is simple and straightforward. It involves 5 easy steps. They are:

Step 1: Understand the symbol of the words in the proverb: Most proverbs or ideas are symbolic. The name of place or animal or thing or person stands as a symbol of some quality. We have to try to understand that in the context of the proverb.

For example take the proverb, ‘Rome was not built in a day‘. Here the noun ‘Rome’ is the name of a place. We also (should) know that Rome was a great city. So what does Rome stand for? It stands for Greatness or success. (Remember it was a great city).

Or take the example of  ‘All that glitters is not gold‘. Here we have the noun ‘gold’.  It is the name of a thing. We know that gold is a precious metal. So what does gold stand for? It stands for precious.

Step 2: Substitute the meaning in the idea or the proverb: Take the two previous examples.

‘Rome was not built in a day’ and ‘All that glitters is not gold’. Now substitute the symbols we found out earlier in the sentences. What do we have?

  1. ‘Greatness or success was not built in a day’
  2. ‘All that glitters is not precious’

The proverb is now decoded and ready for understanding.

Step 3: Look for a story or anecdote or example or illustration: Now that you have understood what the proverb stands for or what the proverb means, we should look for a suitable example to illustrate it.

Where do we get these stories? There are plenty of them. Aesop’s fables are ideal. So are the tales of India, the Panchatantra.

We can also look for example from today’s world. We could, for example, for the proverb ‘Rome was not built in a day’, talk about the effort put in by Barack Obama to achieve greatness, and that it took many years to build it, that it did not happen overnight.

Step 4: Look for similar proverbs or ideas: “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success” by Napoleon Hill is similar to ‘Rome was not built in a day’; so is the proverb ‘Do not judge the book by its cover’ similar to ‘All that glitters is not precious’.

Step 5: Sum up the paragraph: Use summing up words or phrases to indicate that you have finished the expansion and intend to sum it up. You could use ‘Thus’ or ‘In fine’ or ‘So’ or ‘The proverb advises that’. Let the reader know that you are signing off.

So we have 5 Steps on ‘How to do expansion of an idea or expansion of a proverb’:

Step 1:  Understand the symbol of the words in the proverb
Step 2:  Substitute the meaning in the idea or the proverb
Step 3:  Look for a story or anecdote or example or illustration
Step 4:  Look for similar proverbs or ideas
Step 5:  Sum up the paragraph

This is how I do expansion of an idea or expansion of a proverb.

If you have anything to add or any question to ask, please feel free to leave a comment.

Related post from Komarraju Venkata Vinay

Expansion of 16 popular Proverbs

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

July 2, 2009

Broth is thin soup of meat.

If we allow a cook to make the broth, he prepares it according to his knowledge and experience of making it. If it is not good he can rectify it and make it better next time. On the other hand, if too many cooks are allowed to make broth, the result can be disastrous. One will say one thing and another cook will say another thing totally contradictory. The result: a spoilt broth.

In much the same way, a task that requires one person should not be assigned to many. There is every chance that they may not get along well. The results will be bad. In addition it will not be possible to hold any particular person responsible for spoiling the task.

Any job needs a certain amount of discipline and coordination. This is possible only if the experts are limited in number. For instance take an office that has too many officers bossing over their subordinates. In such a case the quality of the job that the subordinates do suffers because of different and conflicting directions that are given by the bosses.

Likewise an army with too many generals will be unable to attack properly. A team with too many captains is most likely to lose.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Ati sarvatra varjayet‘. It means that too much is always bad. The phrase ‘too many cooks’ in the saying can refer to anything in excess.

The proverb advises moderation in everything. Therefore, only the required number of people, with their duties specified, should handle a job if that job is not to duffer in quality.

As You Sow, So You Reap

July 2, 2009

The source of the proverb is the Bible:’ What so ever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’.

The religious meaning of the proverb is that one will be rewarded or punished according to whether one leads a virtuous or a sinful life. Accordingly, happiness or misery in our life is the result of our own deeds.

In an extended sense, the proverb suggests that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. Every action of ours has a result. Good actions produce good results where as bad actions produce bad results. The results are proportionate to the efforts men put in.

A person who sins throughout life one cannot expect salvation. A student who wanders throughout the year cannot think of topping in the examination. In much the same way, a farmer’s labours and his seeds are returned to him in the form of the yield of his crop. The output of the farmer is dependent on the quality of the seeds and the manner of the sowing.

Every discipline has its own character and demands and until one fulfils them he cannot reach anywhere. Rise and success in life demand labour, industry, toil and effort. A good result is a manifestation of intense efforts that have gone into its making. A lazy person cannot achieve anything good as long as he does not exert himself enough.

Madam Curie is known today because of the intense effort she and her husband put in. Florence Nightingale ‘s name we lovingly recall because of the love and care with which she nursed the wounded soldiers. Hitler creates terror in our hearts and is abhorred to this day.

The lives of Dharmaraja and Duryodhana are fine illustrations of the truth of the maxim.

Thus, it becomes clear that ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

July 2, 2009

This proverb is a reference the well-known fable of the hare and the tortoise. While the hare, over-confident of success, took things too easy, the slow-moving tortoise plodded steadily on and managed to win the race.

We should not be discouraged by the size of the task we have to do. If we do it little by little and steadily, we can achieve success.

Take the case of a student who labours ‘eighteen hours’ a day near the examination. He cannot ensure brilliant results that could have been certain even by ‘six hours’ a day study.

Anything done in a hurry cannot have solid, deep and firm foundations. It is the slow and constant labour that brings results.

On the contrary haste and rashness are almost always negative and destructive. They reflect an unplanned attitude. A man in haste is practically a half-blinded man, often impulsive and headstrong. Such a person is sure to lose in the marathon race of life that can be only won slowly and steadily. For as the Latin proverb says,’ if haste is at all to be made, it should be made slowly’.

For example, a businessman should be patient and calm-minded. He should look in all directions before striking a bargain. If he is in a hurry, chances are that he may not consider all aspects fully and thus stand to lose.

‘Hurry’, a Russian proverb says,’ is only good for catching flies’. The work done coolly, calmly with a balanced mind often last longer and proves fruitful than that done by working against the clock.

Thus while doing anything we must not forget that nothing worthwhile can be achieved in a single day or overnight and that every achievement takes time. Patient and persistent effort will beat the labours of a spasmodic (irregular) Hercules.

The following quotation of the Greek philosopher Ovid sums up the ideas: ” What is harder than rock or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Only persevere.”