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Transforming Passion into Profession

The problem on successfully Integrating the self into society has been a challenge throughout the ages. However, recognising its importance, many of the ancient civilisations have devised elegant frameworks to address the issue. Of the many frameworks, we explore here two of the systems developed by India and Japan.

In Japan the concept is called Ikigai, and it is a Japanese term that roughly translates to “reason for being.” Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is, above all else, a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical.This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

To discover your Ikigai, you must first find what you’re most passionate about. Then, you find the medium through which you can express that passion. Finding your ikigai means that you are doing something that a) you love, b) the world needs, c) that you are good at and d) that you can be paid for

However, there’s a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work. Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfillment, and balance in the daily routine of life. The fundamental truth of Ikigai is that nothing is siloed. Everything is connected.


In the Indian context, the framework used is that of Puruṣārtha. It is a composite Sanskrit word from Purusha and Artha . Purusha means "primaeval human being as the soul and original source of the universe".Artha in one context means "purpose", "object of desire" and “meaning”. Put together, etc words literally mean an "object of human pursuit”.


Indian scholars recognized and have debated the inherent tension between renunciation and Moksha on one hand, and the active pursuit of Kama and Artha on the other. This has led to the concepts of Pravrtti and Nivrtti, with the former meaning "giving or devoting one's self to" external action, while the latter means "withdrawing and restraining one's self from" external action in order to focus on one's own liberation. Artha and Kama are Pravrtti, while Moksha is Nivrtti. Both are considered important in Hinduism.

Indian scholars offered a creative resolution to the tension between "action"-filled life and "renunciation"-driven life, by suggesting the best of both worlds can be achieved by dedicating oneself to "action with renunciation", that is when "action is without attachment or craving for results". Action must be engaged in because it is Dharma, that is, it is good, virtuous, right, a duty and a moral activity, and not because of one's craving for the results or material rewards without any consideration for Dharma. This idea of "craving-free, dharma-driven action" has been called Nishkam Karma in Bhagavad Gita.[Other Indian texts state the same answer to tension between "pursue wealth and love" versus "renounce everything" Purusarthas, but using different words. Isa Upanishad, for example, states "act and enjoy with renunciation, do not covet”

By realizing how to apply some of these time tested frameworks to our lives we can decode the ancient mysteries of converting our passions into our professions.

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