“Arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is reached.” –Swami Vivekananda
The beauty of the spiritual journey lies in its endless capacity to permeate every aspect of our lives. So, let’s contemplate a theme not often directly addressed in spiritual discourse, a crucial yet often overlooked topic on the path of Self-discovery: competence and excellence. Interwoven with our daily tasks and duties, these qualities are the kernel of our practice, and especially in the true spirit of Karma Yoga.
The virtue of competence, diligence, and excellence transcends cultural and religious boundaries. Each tradition, in its unique way, encourages us to bring forth our best in our actions for inner growth and the betterment of humanity.
When we dive into the depths of the Heart, a deep yearning emerges—a longing to manifest the Divine in every gesture, every word, every act. Within this profound aspiration, the call for competence and excellence unfurls.
Competence and excellence are not mere strategies to climb the ladder of success. In the infinite space of the soul, they resonate as echoes of our pure intention to be ever more truthful, sincere, and aligned with our Real Nature. Excellence is the outward expression of an inward alignment with Spirit.
Any great spiritual master or sage, such as Ramana, Ma Anandamayi, Ramakrishna, St. Francis, and St. Teresa of Ávila, displayed perfection in their actions, smiles, devotion, and presence.
All Names of God in all traditions comprise perfection: Perfect Purity, Love, Trust, Truth, Compassion, Beauty, Grace, etc. When the threshold of perfection reveals itself, we are no longer a person; the confines of the little self dissolve. There is no “me” or “you” in this sacred unveiling—only profound surrender to the Infinite Heart. Excellence is not “ours”; it is universal and divine.
Upon the Heart’s deep touch, every genuine aspirant naturally blossoms, embodying excellence in all the yogic paths: impeccable action (Karma Yoga), flawless devotion (bhakti), profound wisdom (jnana), absolute clarity (Raja Yoga), etc.
In this confluence of competence and Heart-centered intention, we discover Karma Yoga’s profound mysteries, beauty, and joy.
What elevates Karma Yoga from mere action to sacred duty? The answer lies in Self-remembrance and how we perform our tasks. Let’s explore this unique opportunity to turn the mundane into the miraculous, to raise every responsibility to an act of devotion.
When infused with deep presence and longing for perfection, duty becomes a yajna, a sanctified offering.
Competence and excellence in Karma Yoga aren’t about external validation or success. They’re about aligning our actions with the rhythm of the Universe, transforming the ordinary into the magnificent, and making every moment of work a holy offering.
While we deeply treasure the silence of the Spiritual Heart, our journey in this realm equally summons us to manifest our insights with passion, integrity, quality, and accuracy. Of course, this isn’t a burden but joyous play—a dance revealing the Heart’s beauty in the world.
Planting the Seed
Competence means not just doing our job but doing it with the utmost skill, discipline, dedication, and grace. Imagine planting a seed. The mere act of planting is beautiful. However, sowing it with care in nourishing soil, ensuring it’s at the proper depth, watering it according to its needs, and seeing that it gets adequate sunlight transforms this simple act into a profound ritual. That’s the touch of competence. Inevitably, carelessness leads to the withering and death of the plant, of life in general. And this is also a way to break non-violence, ahimsa.
Conversely, excellence takes our competence and raises it to the realm of the extraordinary. It’s the aspiration to let every task we engage in shine brightly, not for praise or recognition, but as a testimony of our unyielding love for the Divine.
At Hridaya, while we delve deep into the non-dual teachings and the awareness of the Eternal Present, it’s also essential to realize that every act stemming from this awareness can and should be a confession of its depth.
Detachment vs. Carelessness
Sometimes, people confuse carelessness with detachment. When being genuinely detached, we are peaceful and grounded. Our soul is free of binding desires even when actively engaged in the world. We act with purpose and clarity.
In carelessness, we are simply evading responsibilities or acting out of laziness or indifference. Mistakenly avoiding or neglecting tasks, we confuse apathy or laziness with genuine spiritual detachment. Disengaging from worldly duties or not caring about outcomes leads to a lack of appropriate effort, endeavor, and competence in our actions.
Silence Meets Skill
In the profound silence of the Self, there is an unmatched purity and simplicity. How can we carry this serenity into our dynamic life, ensuring each act resonates with this depth? Through the harmonious blend of silence and skill, of depth and dynamism.
The Art of Competence and the Pursuit of Excellence
Spiritual life isn’t just an invitation to witness the Divine but also a call to embody and express its attributes. Competence and excellence are like the two oars of a boat navigating the river of life toward the ocean of the Absolute.
Competence is a sincere attempt to make each action a mirror reflecting our most profound truths and values. It’s about aligning our efforts with the innate transparency of the Spiritual Heart.
Competence isn’t a mere skill but wholeheartedness, a profound awareness of the flow of life.
Competence is the pursuit of perfection in action, and this aligns perfectly with Karma Yoga’s call for dedicated and dutiful performance.
In the face of the most daunting and challenging tasks, our perseverance isn’t solely fueled by inner resolve. Instead, the gentle undercurrent of Trust and Love guides us forward. Through humble persistence and such tender, unwavering dedication, we gracefully blossom into competence.
Competence is mastery and, therefore, leads to the sublime qualities of a yoga master.
What Brings Competence?
Just as we approach meditation with sincerity and depth, shouldn’t our work, our service, mirror that same intensity and devotion?
When guided by the spirit of Karma Yoga, competence elevates actions to a form of worship. Every step taken with competence is a dance, and every endeavor infused with excellence is a song of the Heart.
Fuel for the Divine Lamp
Through Self-Inquiry, we light the lamp of awareness that illuminates not only our souls but the hearts of all beings. Competence and brilliance in our practice, teachings, and interactions represent the fuel for this lamp.
Why Not Merely Sincere Intent?
A sincere intent serves as a foundation. However, just as the purest gold glitters brightly only when polished, purity of intention wields the power of transformation and inspiration when coupled with proper skills and wisdom. Competence in our practice guides us to touch not just the periphery but plunge deep into the boundless ocean of the Self.
Through competence, our actions are well-intended, well-performed, and adequately implemented, which makes our service more impactful and transformative for ourselves and the world. When competence becomes our ally, every task transforms into a harmonious flow of love, duty, and devotion.
Competence Is Not about Competition
The task is not to become competitive or overly critical of ourselves. Instead, it’s about refining our practice, ensuring that every action, every conscious breath, and every moment becomes a symphony of love dedicated to the Heart.
As we perfect our practice and actions, seeking competence not for the sake of selfish proficiency but for profound reverence to Divine Existence, we align more closely with the sublime rhythms of the Universe.
It is a universal spiritual principle that actions should be performed with competence, diligence, and a commitment to quality, whether in service to God, humanity, or the path of Self-realization.
It Is the Truth That Reveals the Truth
Each conscious, competent, and loving act is like laying a stone on the path, guiding us closer to our True Essence. The quality of our actions clearly shows the degree of longing for Self-revelation. “It is the truth that reveals the Truth” tells us that sincere engagement with relative or personal truths (our genuine experiences, insights, wholehearted acts, and realizations) leads us to the more profound, universal Truth. By aligning with our personal truths and acting accordingly in the spirit of purity, we open the door to recognizing the greater Truth that pervades all of existence. The path to universal understanding is paved with sincerity, passion, and authenticity in our experiences, actions, and behaviors.
Excellence is the deep resonance we feel when our actions align with the infinite expanse of the Heart.
Excellence is about the internal alignment of action with intention. It’s about approaching each task, big or small, with our entire being. In spirituality, competence and excellence are less about proficiency and more about wholeheartedness.
Such brilliance isn’t about perfectionism or external praise but the purity of our intentions, the honesty of our offering, and giving the best of ourselves in every moment.
Sages have often emphasized “par excellence.” In its infinite depth, the Heart does not want us to tread the path half-heartedly, but with vigor, discipline, passion, and a commitment to Truth.
Therefore, the real meaning of excellence includes an unwavering faithfulness to Truth, Love, and Freedom.
The Sun’s Excellence Is Its Brilliance
Just as the sun doesn’t withhold its brilliance, we must not hold back from expressing the divine wisdom of Hridaya, the Spiritual Heart. Excellence is the spontaneous unfolding of the Heart’s wisdom and grace into our actions, which infuses each task with love, presence, and utmost clarity.
Flawlessness in Spiritual Practice
In the sacredness of Self-Inquiry, the whispers of the Heart beckon us towards excellence and competence, urging us to be present, awake, and fully engaged in every moment.
In our practice, excellence isn’t about achieving the perfect asana or mastering a particular meditation technique. It is about the depth of our presence, the quality of our awareness, and our sincere commitment to the path. It is about being wholly present, whether in deep meditation, Karma Yoga, or walking in nature. With each spiritual practice (and even “mundane” activity), it’s an aspiration to rise to the highest frequencies of our being, where we echo the words of the sages, “I am That.”
Witnessing Universal Perfection
The Cosmos is an obvious pointer to the grandeur of divine excellence—from the precise orbit of the planets to the meticulous design of a flower. As non-dual aspirants recognizing this perfection in the world around us, such perfection becomes a mirror, reflecting our potential for excellence. We are thus inspired to express our inherent perfection, the same perfection reflected in the Universe’s vast expanse.
Embracing Excellence Is an Act of Love
Therefore, the endeavor for excellence and competence never comes from a place of ego, but from a deep well of love and a yearning to truly live the teachings of the Spiritual Heart. Excellence isn’t a destination but a continuous journey. Each step is taken with love; each act is a wonder of the Heart.
Excellence—A Continuous Surrender
“In the realm of the Heart, excellence isn’t an achievement but a continuous surrender.”
Spiritual practice thrives in surrender and detachment, which does not mean apathy and inaction. It implies deep faithfulness, a perfect alignment with the Heart. In this spirit, we should approach life with competence and excellence. By doing so, we refine not only our techniques but the very quality of our consciousness.
The Blessings of Competence in Karma Yoga
The Necessity of Competence
Rabbi Tarfon used to say, “The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, but the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.” Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, 2:15-16) reminds us of the values of diligence and dedication to our duties and the vast spiritual work ahead.
In the heart of our spiritual journey, where Stillness meets action, lies the sacred path—the yoga of selfless service. Our dharma, our righteous duty, is to do the best we can, from our level of consciousness, with the means we have. In Karma Yoga, every action done competently becomes a silent prayer, showing our love for the Divine.
The Quality of Our Offerings
Karma Yoga is, at its core, an offering of our actions to the Divine. When we offer something, it is a gesture of respect and reverence, a longing to provide the best. Competence ensures that our offerings are of the highest quality and is a way of showing respect and reverence. It’s like giving your greatest gift to the Divine, not a hasty, careless offering.
The Ego’s Dissolution
Competence, when paired with the spirit of Karma Yoga, means that we perform actions efficiently but without the ego’s interference. It’s not competence for personal glory but competence for the sake of rightful action. When we work competently, we can minimize errors that arise from personal shortcomings, ignorance, personal drama, narcissism, or negligence. By being competent, we reduce the chances for our ego to interfere with our tasks, which means the work remains a selfless act.
Emphasizing Dharma (Righteousness)
When we are competent, our actions support the standards of morality and righteousness. Developing and honing our skills helps us align our efforts with the highest standards and holy meanings. In contrast, incompetence can lead to chaos, harm, reactivity, or misalignment from our duties, which is not in line with dharma.
Continuous Inner Growth
Karma Yoga in itself brings inner growth and evolution. By seeking competence, we nourish curiosity, passion, and wonderment, and thus, we remove our boundaries and aim for continuous improvement, which is at the core of spiritual growth.
Focus, Discipline, Perseverance, and Awareness
Competence requires focus, discipline, perseverance, and awareness, which are central to many spiritual practices, including yoga. When practicing Karma Yoga, being competent means being more mindful, persistent, and present in our actions. In this way, we’ll be less distracted by peripheral, secondary concerns. The discipline, diligence, and attention required for quality work allow us to be fully present in our activities. This state of concentration and wholeheartedness is congruent with the spirit of Karma Yoga, making our duties a profound meditation in themselves.
Devotion in Action
Karma Yoga isn’t just about doing our duty; it’s about doing it with proficiency so that the results are of higher quality. Thus, we make sure that our actions yield the best possible outcomes for ourselves and others. Offering poor, low-grade work or effort doesn’t align with the spirit of Karma Yoga, which emphasizes devotion in action. Proficiency can transform even mundane tasks, elevating each activity to a joyful prayer.
Incompetence often leads to mistakes, a self-sabotaging sense of impotence, helplessness, weakness, and even depression. It leads to suffering or harming ourselves or others. We minimize potential harm and enhance overall well-being by attempting to be competent in our actions.
A sense of inner harmony and equilibrium comes when the mind isn’t agitated by doubts about our abilities or regrets over errors.
Dropping the Attachment to Results
When competent, we have more confidence in our abilities, making it easier to let go of anxieties about outcomes and align more intimately and naturally with the principles of Karma Yoga.
The Joy of Serving
While Karma Yoga emphasizes detachment from the results of our actions, it’s natural to derive a sense of peace, enthusiasm, and fulfillment from performing our duties well. Competence ensures that our actions are effective and meaningful.
The Soul’s Longing
Our soul aspires for Truth, Purity, and the highest expression of Love. When we infuse our work with quality and mastery, we align our actions with this aspiration.
Harmony with the Universe
When we perform our duties efficiently and proficiently, we reduce chaos and imbalance in our surroundings. This external harmony is congruent with the internal balance that Karma Yoga seeks to cultivate. The result is an alignment of our individual will with the divine, universal will. A job well done resonates with the beauty of the Universe, creating ripples of positivity in our community and environment.
Practical Steps to Cultivate Competence
“When you know who you are, when your mission is clear, and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will, no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.” –Native American Proverb
Let’s allow each asana and each meditation session to be an offering—endeavoring not just for a longer duration but for depth of love and clarity of awareness. When done competently, any act becomes a more refined offering to the Universe. It’s not about technical perfection but about dedication.
Elegance and Grace
When we practice asanas, we don’t just aim for the flexibility of the body but for the elegance and grace that comes with true mastery. In meditation, we don’t merely seek moments of peace but aspire for the profound space where the Heart reveals its secrets. In the depths of the Heart, everything becomes simple, pure, and full of grace.
Mindful and Loving Actions
Whether practicing yoga, working in an office, or simply walking, we infuse each act with mindfulness and love.
The Touch of Wisdom
When we speak, let’s do so with the wisdom of the silence we have touched; when we prepare food, cook with the love that our heart holds for the Divine; when we teach, let it be with the competence that reflects our genuine understanding.
Not Being “The Best” but Giving Our Best
Let our drive for competence be rooted in the sincerity of intention, iccha, in the enthusiasm and aliveness of our soul, not just in the discursive mind and ego. It’s not about being “the best” but giving our best.
Embrace the beginner’s mind. Let’s remain open to refining our understanding by joyfully yearning to learn and grow, thus continuing to blossom.
The spiritual path is one of continuous learning and revelation. Let us remain humble students, always eager to refine our Self-knowledge and practices.
Practices and Attitudes for the Hridaya Community
The journey towards competence and excellence isn’t a solitary one. As a community, we support, inspire, and uplift each other.
Let’s set the intention to weave the threads of competence and excellence into the fabric of our daily lives.
Let our collective aspiration for excellence be the beacon that guides seekers from around the world to the sanctuary of the Heart.
Let’s inspire one another in this sacred endeavor. In every class, every gathering, and every solitary moment of reflection, let’s cultivate a space to deepen our competence. Let’s challenge ourselves to learn more profoundly, practice more sincerity, and live with more consciousness.
Let’s create an environment where we, as a community, can lovingly guide each other through compassionate feedback toward proficiency and brilliance, always coming from a place of love and genuine care.
Let the thorough care of one become the motivation for another. Let our shared allegiance to excellence in our work be the gentle tremor, spanda, that accompanies our Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreats, meditation sessions, and Heart-centered interactions.
Let’s Redefine Work
As members of this sacred community, we have a remarkable opportunity. Let’s redefine work not as mundane tasks but as our unique expression of devotion. Let the genuine spirit of Karma Yoga flow through each word we say, every project we undertake, and every soul we embrace. In this way, we’ll elevate our environment and community, serve others with a more significant impact, and deepen our communion with the Heart.
Pointers for Reflection:
Regarding Formal Practice
- In Hatha Yoga, are we merely practicing asanas, or are we genuinely feeling, aligning, witnessing, surrendering, and integrating the body, cosmic energies, mind, and spirit?
- In meditation, are we merely sitting, or are we diving deep into the cave of the Heart with a sharpened focus, trust, and passion?
Regarding Action and Karma Yoga
- When we engage in our work, train, serve, or only interact, are we merely executing a task, “completing chores,” or are we pouring our heart’s essence into it? Do we infuse our tasks with the same love, dedication, and precision that we grant our most profound spiritual practices, thus embodying the spirit of Karma Yoga, turning every action into a selfless offering?
- As we work, are we doing just enough to get things done, or are we serving as if it’s a direct, abundant offering to the Divine?
- In our responsibilities as teachers, coordinators, or helpers, do we operate merely from obligation, or do we see ourselves as vessels of divine service, aiming for competence in every duty, immersing ourselves in them as a form of devotion?
- When we share teachings or insights, are we merely speaking, boasting from our egos, or are we transmitting with depth, clarity, and precision?
- As we collaborate and interact, are we being transactional, or are our exchanges imbued with love, care, and the spirit of selfless service?
- In our interactions within our spiritual community, are we merely chattering and communicating, or are we genuinely connecting, imparting, sharing, uplifting, and illuminating?
- When we organize or prepare a space for welcoming other spiritual seekers, are we merely arranging and fixing things, or are we creating a sanctuary where hearts can open?
May we inspire and uplift each other, not just in our sadhana but in our selfless service. Let our work be a dance of devotion, where every step is taken with grace, precision, and an unconditional love for Truth.
May our Karma Yoga be like a gentle hand that uplifts and supports all who come to the embrace of Hridaya.
May our practice, actions, and life be as profound as our heart’s intention, iccha, and may excellence ripple out, touching hearts near and far.
In the Heart’s eternal embrace of Love,