What Can Swami Vivekananda Teach Us About Working In an Office?

A book that reimagines Swami Vivekananda's teachings for today's times.

3 min read
What Can Swami Vivekananda Teach Us About Working In an Office?

What teachings would Swami Vivekananda have for your everyday life in contemporary times? Journalist Anshul Chaturvedi's new book The Vivekananda Handbook for Everyday Living reimagines and puts together Vivekananda's wisdom as a guide that could help you through your personal and professional life today.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

What Can a Monk Teach Us about Working in an Office?

Can Vivekananda be a reference point to handle work? This is a topic that I have been obsessively engaged with for a couple of decades. My colleagues have sometimes wondered whether a practitioner of an ‘otherworldly’ philosophy can have inputs relevant to the practical, everyday issues of the workplace. But in the span of my mid-level career, Vivekananda has been a very relevant guide, often offering more practical and sustainable suggestions than life coaches and HR experts.

He may have not been an entrepreneur or a teacher of management theory, but the fundamental truths he taught with such fire and passion have a surprisingly high degree of relevance in our workplaces – zones where our ambition, impatience and anger can sometimes make us resentful far quicker than is justified, more so when things don’t go our way. He doesn’t write a road map on how to find your way, but he can help you manage yourself when you don’t have one.

Young people just starting out at work have to battle emotional, social and psychological challenges that the initial years bring. The older worker, on the other hand, if not enthroned on a plush swivel chair in a corner cabin, has to take care not to be caught in a cynical, self-defeating mindset. Vivekananda helps both the young and the old battle their demons.

I began my career at a very average salary in a very small organization with a very non-glamorous job. I was not from IIT, IIM, St. Stephen’s or JNU, and so when I tell young people who pass out of blue-chip institutes and join nationally renowned brands that I envy them because my first job was so different from theirs – they think it’s just an old person rambling in the ‘Oh-our-life-was-so-much-harder-than-yours’ tone.

It was, but that’s not the point. The point is that across my 25 years in salaried jobs, I have faced the same questions, issues, dilemmas, happiness and heartbreak, conflicts, people battles, gratitude, thanklessness, anger, frustration and validation as most of us do as we chart out our professional lives. Almost without fail, Vivekananda has been there to calm my mind whenever I was unsure or felt unsettled.

Cover of The Vivekananda Handbook for Everyday Living.

(Photo Courtesy: Bloomsbury)


I approach many basic life questions from a Vivekanandacentric prism. Given that over half our life is spent at work anyway (even when we are in Work from Home mode for a bit, it’s not as if work takes any less of our time and mindspace), many of his life lessons and work lessons tend to merge into each other over time. I turned to Vivekananda when faced with questions about work, without really planning to, but they worked so well for my mental clarity that, thereafter, I felt little need to turn to management experts. While some of his answers worked for me perfectly, as they were, others I understood in my own context. As I processed them, I was then able to go beyond and find my own answers.

Some of them may work for you, too.

The basic clarity of his thought and the fundamental truths that he taught are surprisingly relevant to contemporary workplaces – that, more often than not, have difficult choices, conflicting views, long hours, just about adequate money, flak, gossip, alignments… you know the story. These, I categorize as the skirmishes of the work zone. Then, there is also the big battle of competing, addressing your own irrelevance and obsolescence, and staying ahead in the rat race.

Once in that race, ambition and impatience often get the better of us, keeping us edgy, envious, and even resentful of the relative success of others. Vivekananda softly points out the irrelevance of it all.

The Vivekananda Handbook for Everyday Living by Anshul Chaturvedi

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Price: Rs 499

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